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88CIVIL WAR HISTORY Massachusetts, served four years in the Army of the Potomac. In 1872 Robert transcribed their war letters, later added a connecting narrative drawn from memory and published documents, and then published the collection in 1913. The entire volume is reprinted here. The book is principally valuable because the four brothers collectively experienced most phases of army life and at least one was present to chronicle each major Virginia battle. John H. Carter described garrison life as a heavy artilleryman. Eugene Carter, a West Pointer, as an officer of the Provost Guard, was privileged to spend much time around headquarters. Surprisingly, this advantage produced few personal glimpses or original insights into army leadership. The best writer and most sensitive observer of the four was Robert, who, with his brother Walter, served in the ranks of the Twenty-second Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. The descriptions of his emotions on nearing the front, the terrible conditions of battle, and the plight of the wounded streaming from the lines rival in intensity the Red Badge of Courage. The accounts of Gettysburg and die Wilderness fighting are particularly vivid. As with most soldiers at the lower military level, the boys were more concerned about food, filth, and rumors of troop movements than with the larger issues of the war, and the letters are oppressive in repetition of daily life. Only McClellan's removal from command elicited sustained political comment, and suggests the mutinous feeling in the army. There are glimpses of developing cynicism as the killing mounts. An amputated arm is used for a football and, in his narrative, which is more frank than his letters home, Robert describes a night spent among halfexposed corpses from a previous battle. As a work about and by common soldiers, the book ranks with those of Warren Lee Goss and John D. Billings. But its present publication in this form is questionable. For the general reader, much tedious and repetitive detail needed to be removed. The book was not edited and the index is poor. For the research library requiring the full text, microfilm is more practical. Michael CC. Adams Northern Kentucky University Sfop the Evil: A Civil War History of Desertion and Murder. By Robert I. Alotta. (San Rafael, California: Presidio Press, 1978. Pp. xviii, 202. $14.95.) In Sfop the Evil, Robert I. Alotta argues that executions for desertion during the Civil War reflected a sinister web of party politics, political ambition, and economic class struggle. Implicated in his investigation are figures as prominent as President Abraham Lincoln to those as obscure as a Lieutenant William M. Hobart. Alotta constructs his BOOK REVIEWS89 indictment around the court-martial proceedings which convicted and sentenced to death a Pennsylvania volunteer, William H. Howe, who had deserted from his unit and who had killed one of three men attempting to apprehend him. That the military authorities executed die sentence in spite of evidence which Alotta claims challenged the guilty verdict leads him to conclude that Howe's "court-martial was a travesty" (p. 170). Howe's execution occurred, according to Alotta, because die Army needed a scapegoat, an example to intimidate others contemplating desertion. Moreover, Alotta asserts, the execution had to be conducted quickly because Howe's court-martial contained so many irregularities that disclosure might have threatened Lincoln's prospects in the forthcoming election. Notwithstanding Alotta's argument that Howe suffered unjustly, he fails to substantiate his charges that the government and military authorities used executions maliciously. Nor does he link successfully Howe's execution to the questions he raises aboutpolitics, ambition, and class. Instead, Alotta's reconstruction of the events actually suggests that Howe received significant due process. The judge advocate general's office dismissed his first court-martial conviction because of procedural violations, and Howe did have the benefit of a second court and professional legal counsel. Abraham Lincoln, moreover, had the opportunity to review the case after his February, 1864 order staying all executions because of desertion, and still the President endorsed die sentence. This is not to imply that Howe should have been executed, for the very description Alotta provides of the hanging accentuates the barbarism of capital punishment. Alotta, of course...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 88-89
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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