Civil War Sutlers and Their Wares (review)
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360CIVIL WAR HISTORY It is difficult to make logistics interesting; they seem to defy literary grace with their emphasis on statistics and uninspiring but very necessary items, such as the number of hogs available for the army. But such figures ultimately decide the fate of armies of nations, and they must be considered. Goff has written in a clear and often admirable fashion, and he is to be commended for it. Confederate Supply has placed an academic confirmation on many of the things that our intuitions have been telling us must be so, and for this we should give thanks and recognition . It is a good book and provides a needed analysis of why the Confederates could not win. Archie P. McDonald Stephen F. Austin State University CtDtZ War Sutlers and Their Wares. By Francis A. Lord. (Cranbury, N. J.: Thomas Yoseloff, 1969. Pp. 162, $8.50.) "John Smith, you are a cruel man. John Smith, you are an unkind, thoughtìess man; you are a bad man in every respect; you are the worst man I ever heard of; John Smith, you are a S-U-T-L-E-R!" Those lines from a popular play convulsed Washington audiences in the 1860's; Abraham Lincoln laughed so hard that he literally fell out of his chair. If audiences a hundred years later fail to appreciate the humor, there is little wonder, for even students of the period have only a passing acquaintance with the subject of Francis Lord's latest book, the army sutler of the Civü War. As unfamiliar as he may be to modern readers, to Civü War troops the sutler was as familiar as the proverbial army mule, and even less reverently treated. Mistrusted, despised, and maligned as he was by most of his contemporaries, Civil War armies probably could not have gotten by without him, for it was the sutler who supplied die troops with such essentials as soap, stationery, tooth brushes, needles, thread, and much of tiieir clothing. He also supplied them, more or less under the counter, with a number of items that, judging from Dr. Lord's descriptions, they would have been better off without: patent medicines such as Lane's Indian Remedy for Smallpox , effective only in producing nausea, "whetiier used as a gargle, eyewash , or internal remedy"; liquor strong enough to win from the soldiers such appellations as "redeye," "rot gut," or "tangle-foot"; butter rancid with age, "petrified" sausages, or cat and dog meat pies at 25 cents per ounce. It is this ubiquitous, but little-known figure that Dr. Lord has rescued from a century of obscurity. This study, as the audior himself remarks , is long overdue. We can thank Dr. Lord for introducing a subject too long neglected, but we can only wish that he had done his work more skillfully. Simple errors in punctuation, usage, and proof-reading exhaust the reader's patience—a count revealed thirty-eight such errors in the space of seventy-five pages. Generous readers may overlook such book reviews361 flaws and may even forgive Lord's elementary style, his uninspired use of sources, and his shocking abuses of syntax. But the volume suffers from two shortcomings much more serious. First, except for materials contained in an extensive appendix, research adequate only for an article has been inflated into a book. Thus a book of 162 pages, discounting preh'minaries, blank pages, and appendix, yields barely sixty pages of narrative. The reader is ever conscious that research has been stretched to the limit to fill up space, sometimes with information that reveals more of Dr. Lord's knowledge of the Civil War than it does of the business of sutling. Even then, several chapters fail to achieve as much as four pages in length. One of them, just short of two pages and grandly entitled "Confederate Sutlers and Supplies," consists mainly of a lengthy list of patent medicines, almost none of which, die author is constrained to admit, were available in the Confederacy, at least not from Confederate sutlers, who existed more in theory than in practice anyway. The second principal shortcoming is that the book is not directed to a clear...