- Letters Home: Henry Matrau of the Iron Brigade, and: An Irishman in the Iron Brigade: The Civil War Memoirs of James P. Sullivan, Sergt., 6th Wisconsin Volunteers (review)
- Civil War History
- The Kent State University Press
- Volume 40, Number 3, September 1994
- pp. 262-264
- View Citation
- Additional Information
2Ó2CIVIL WAR HISTORY war, had a short but memorable career in Congress, and then followed the glory road, rising to the rank of major general despite a lack of military training . His 1862 service in Arkansas marked the first sustained attempt to place an entire state on a total war footing. Hindman sanctioned guerrilla warfare, enforced his own version of the draft, and ruled the state by martial law decrees . He created a host of enemies, becoming perhaps the Confederacy's most notorious violator ofcivil liberties. Defeat at Prairie Grove in December 1862 effectively ended Hindman's experiment. Later, he urged the recruiting of slaves into Confederate armies in support of his friend Pat Cleburne. In the field he distinguished himself at Shiloh and Chickamauga but quarreled with first Bragg and then Hood. At the war's end, he fled to Mexico, where he failed to prosper. After returning to Arkansas, he did not endear himself to President Andrew Johnson (whom in 1861 he had attempted to capture), and he remained unpardoned although politically active at the time of his assassination in 1868. Obviously, there is plenty to work with despite a lack of family correspondence. Although the authors provided a balanced account of Hindman's life, drawn mostly from secondary sources, the personality of this diminutive fireeater remains shrouded. Among the most urgent unanswered questions is how sincere Hindman was in 1866-67 m urging biracial cooperation. Although the authors were reasonably diligent in their research, they missed the (misnamed) Alexander Papers at Columbia University which contain every scrap of paper from Hindman's period of rule in Arkansas. Since his experiment in total war is perhaps the most important phase ofhis military career, this omission is to be regretted. A few typographical errors appear, and Mercer University Press provided a dust jacket photograph suggestive of Louisiana rather than Arkansas. Family photographs are reproduced, and the index is useful. Michael B. Dougan Arkansas State University Letters Home: Henry Matrau of the Iron Brigade. Edited by Marcia ReidGreen . (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1993. Pp. xvii, 166. $22.50.) An Irishman in the Iron Brigade: The Civil War Memoirs of James P. Sullivan , Sergt., 6th Wisconsin Volunteers. By William J. K. Beaudot and Lance J. Herdegen. (New York: Fordham University Press, 1993. Pp. xii, 189. $27.50.) These slim volumes are must-buys for specialists and anyone interested in the Army of the Potomac, the war in the east, or human courage. Neither man mentioned the other, though both served in the 6th Wisconsin, Companies G (Matrau) and K (Sullivan). The sons of immigrants, they recited the same BOOK REVIEWS263 irreverent soldiers' grace before meals, were underage and small when they went off to save the Union, and stuck it out to the end. They did not fight initially to free the slaves, but they gained sympathy for blacks and came to believe that slavery must be destroyed. Both men saw their first serious combat at the Brawner Farm and fortunately missed Antietam, Matrau because of illness and Sullivan because of a wound at South Mountain. They were also at Fitzhugh's Crossing, the terrible first day at Gettysburg, and the final campaigns in 1864-65. Born in 1845 near Watervliet, Michigan, Henry Clay Matrau's sixty-three unpublished letters have been ably edited by his great-granddaughter. They span exactly four years, from his basic training in July 1861 at Camp Randall, Wisconsin, to his return there in 1865. Matrau reenlisted in December 1863 for the bounty and furlough home but, more important, also because he wanted to finish what he had started, like many in the regiment. He was never wounded. Matrau liked McClellan and Hooker, but he criticized other generals and was depressed by early defeats. After Fredericksburg he wrote, "Who is to be blamed for this enormous sacrifice of human life I leave to a more competent judge than I am. Soldier's are all discouraged. We think that this war is never going to be ended by fighting for the North & the South are to[o] evenly matched" (39). In September 1864 he admitted, "Politics dont trouble us here in the Army much. The most...