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Book Reviews EDITED BY CHARLES T. MILLER B-Il University Hall Iowa City, Iowa Kentucky Cavaliers in Dixie: The Reminiscences of a Confederate Cavalryman . By George Dallas Mosgrove. Edited by Bell I. Wiley. (Jackson, Tennessee: McCowat-Mercer Press. 1957. Pp. xxvi, 281. $6.00. ) the wbitinc of scobes of civil wab books and the reappearance of old ones in modern dress are characteristic of the 1950's. Like the sack style and rock 'n roll, aspects of this trend are often deplored by people who consider themselves discriminating. One wonders whether the numerous volumes in question are really worth the shockingly high prices asked by publishers and retailers in this bizarre decade. Would they have been issued or reissued on the basis of scholarly contributions, without vanity or money as an overriding motive? If the flood of Civil War titles is not to recede before the end of the centennial in 1965, wary readers may betake themselves to literary mountaintops—there to await the inevitable recession while communing with the Sandburgs and the Freemans. Kentucky Cavaliers in Dixie is a happy exception to the absence of quality for which many old and new books in the field have been adversely criticized. George Dallas Mosgrove's literary skill ranges from above average to superior. The fact that he was a dedicated soldier, familiar with the history of Morgan's Raiders, and himself a participant in their exploits, clothed him with a mantle of authority when in 1895 he produced his reminiscences of a Confederate cavalryman . Originally brought out in a limited edition, his work ultimately became a collector's item. Now, for the first time in over half a century, it is made available to substantial numbers of persons interested in The War. Here we have the color and the drama and also much of the brutality and bitterness of fighting. The halcyon days at Camp Buckner and the wholesale slaughter of Negroes at Saltville epitomize the sunshine and shadow of contrasting experiences. It is a far cry from the handkerchief-waving girls, rushing out 343 344CIVIL W AB HISTOS Y from the sheltered precincts of the Oxford Female Academy, to the frozen bodies of dead soldiers seen by Kentuckians on their march toward Front Royal—lying stark and stiff on the roadside, "piteous and ghastly in the dim moonlight." Mosgrove 's method is not a usual one. Accounts of campaigning in East Tennessee, advance and retreat in the Bluegrass State, and General John Hunt Morgan's capture, escape, "betrayal," and death are interspersed with pen portraits of officers and enlisted men who were the author's comrades-at-arms. Humphrey Marshall, William Preston, and John C. Breckinridge are portrayed, together with the "lithe, graceful" Henry L. Giltner, the "witty and immensely popular" Sam Duncan, and Thomas E. Moore who is characterized as an "officer sans peur et sans reproche." "When Knighthood Was in Flower" might well have been the caption placed at the head of more than one chapter, for Mosgrove was an incurable romantic. Not only Shakespeare, Cervantes, Hugo, and Lamb but Sir Walter Scott and Theodore 0"Hara are quoted in various parts of the book. So many of the officers are described as "handsome" that it is something of a shock when the reader finds the adjective occasionally omitted from the laurel-wreathed tributes. Most of Morgan's men were exemplary, by Mosgrove's standards. Their cause was the right one, their purpose the pure one, their conduct the heroic one if he is to be believed. Yet if Captain Bart Jenkins was "a military genius," Captain Edward O. Guerrant "Chesterfieldian," and General Basil W. Duke "a veritable Prince Rupert or Henry of Navarre," few Civil War books devote comparable space to quartermasters, sergeant majors, commissaries, and assistant surgeons. There was a "Mudwall" as well as a "Stonewall" Jackson. And balance is restored somewhat when one learns that gallant Confederates did not always win, and especially when Mosgrove's pervasive humor offsets his emphasis on the chivalric. "What in h—11 does all this mean—going into camp in the presence of the enemy?" one of "Cerro Gordo" Williams' troopers demanded. His comrade nonchalantly replied, "Strategy, my...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 343-344
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
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