restricted access Rebel Watchdog: The Confederate States Army Provost Guard (review)
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BOOK REVIEWS185 loudly as his words, for he became personally involved in a wide array of activities that included insurance, publishing, lumbering, textile mills, and railroads. His ambition to make money led him at times into actions that his critics believed were unethical. A poor businessman, he piled up debts for which creditors took him to court to secure payments. He also used his public offices to promote his personal interests. Although no one ever proved that he broke the law, he sought confidential information that could benefit him, and he lobbied to protect his interests. In the eyes of his critics, he shamelessly abused his public trust. But the critics always constituted a minority, and until his death in 1904, Gordon remained one of the South's best-loved men. That popularity enabled him to serve a term as governor in the 1880s, and return to the Senate for a final term in the 1890s. Ralph Lowell Eckert has written an able study of a complex man who influenced his era as well as reflected many of its values. Gordon represented the epitome of a New South Bourbon who failed to address the pressing needs of his constituents. He followed an approach to government that had the hallmarks of fiscal conservatism, which bordered on niggardliness, and a laissez faire outlook, which opened the door to economic development, while demonstrating little concern for public schools, prisons, and benevolent institutions. Eckert has written an evenhanded account that explores all phases of Gordon's career and that discusses his strengths as well as his shortcomings. While an absence of sources blocked him from examining in detail some of Gordon's controversial activities—his involvement with the Klan and questionable business activities—Eckert made excellent use of manuscripts, reminiscences , newspapers, and government records. He produced a well-written biography that provides a balanced treatment of a man who played an important role in the Civil War and the postwar South. William F. Holmes University of Georgia Rebel Watchdog: The Confederate States Army Provost Guard. By Kenneth Radley. (Baton Rouge and London: Louisiana State University Press, 1989. Pp. xvii, 340. $29.95.) This book, written by an officer of the Canadian Army, derives its title from the radio terminology used for military police in his country's service. Wishing to explore one of the less-known aspects of the Southern side of the Civil War, he has investigated the men who, among varied duties, sought to prevent straggling and desertions, hunted spies and the disloyal, guarded many military prisoners, and enforced martial law in Richmond and other cities. Self-evidently engaged in a labor of love, he has searched through a great mass of original sources, published and 186erra war history unpublished, and the relevant secondary works. On this he has based a narrative composed with flair—even to the inclusion of epigrams and literary references. However, his sources present problems. There is no central archival collection because, unlike the Union, the Confederates did not create a separate Provost Marshal's Department. Instead they assigned officers and men to provost duties for varying periods of time. To locate these individuals, the author has laboriously compiled what are probably most of the specific references to provost activities in the voluminous literature of the Confederacy, including memoirs, the Southern Historical Society Papers, and the Confederate Veteran. There are the obvious questions concerning the accuracy of some of these recollections. Radley has also used some manuscript collections and expresses the belief that seeing more would be "unlikely to yield significant data" (xvi). Still, although he has made heavy use of The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (1880-1901), more information could have been obtained from the unpublished material in the National Archives. On a minor level, it might be noted that while the author regrets his inability in seven years of research to locate for the provost "some distinguishing badge or device" (xvi), a Confederate detective's badge was in a public depository. (See William A. Tidwell et al., Come Retribution... [1988, p. 131].) There are also organizational difficulties. The author presents his material topically according...