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book reviews323 Because this book is in large measure concerned with the mundane, it would almost certainly not be well received by undergraduates coming to the Civil War afresh and ready for battle. It is, however, likely to be enjoyed by confinned Civil War enthusiasts of all stripes. It would be going too far to say with one this book's dust jacket promoters that Willett is "a first-class storyteller"; but he certainly is a capable storyteller—and, in a time when it almost takes an act of the will to wade through much that passes for historical writing, that is no small thing. Preston Jones Sonoma State University Tarnished Angels: The Courts-martial ofFifty Union Colonels and Lieutenant Colonels. ByThomas P. Lowry, with a foreword byWilliam C. Davis. (Mechanicsburg , Pa.: Stackpole Books, 1997. Pp. xviv, 272. $24.95.) Since 1994, Thomas P. and BeverlyA. Lowry have been preparing a computerized index of the 100,000 Union soldiers of all ranks court-martialed during the Civil War. Some 24,000 records had been indexed by March 1997, and at that point the project aspired to completion by June 1998. The courts-martial of the first fifty colonels and lieutenant colonels from those 24,000 are the focus of Thomas Lowry's study. Why focus only on colonels? Colonels were overwhelmingly volunteers— only two of Lowry's fifty were regular army; only ten had any prior military experience—and Lowry uses them to examine the handling of command responsibility and the Union army's management of the conflict between freedom and authority. He uses the categories of insubordination, conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, failure of leadership, cowardice, and a miscellany to examine the trials of these colonels. Lowry admits to a "metapurpose" (8) of examining the human side of the Civil War. In this respect, Tarnished Eagles complements his earlier successful work, The Story the Soldiers Wouldn 't Tell. The courts-martial provide a vehicle for examining the lives and military careers ofthese fifty individuals who would doubtless otherwise remain obscure, and Lowry skillfully uses the meager trial records and the military and pension records of these colonels to construct their stories, their human side. He does not probe these courts-martial as trials. If this is a study of "military discipline," (8) as Lowry asserts, then there ought to be more attention to the procedures and conduct of the trials, the large number of acquittals, and the persons preferring the charges than to the idiosyncratic or unsavory character and personalities of the accused. We learn from Lowry's tables that over 50 percent of these trials resulted in acquittals, but we do not learn why. The records are inadequate, as Lowry admits, to answer the crucial question: Who preferred the charges? In the introduction, Lowry asserts provocatively that colonels misbehaved proportionately more than privates. Not 324civil war history until more than two hundred pages of stories later, in the epilogue, does Lowry address this "most remarkable finding" (222) of the study. Because a full regiment had roughly 900 privates and one colonel, he says, there ought to have been about 18 colonels court-martialed in a study of 16,044 privates of the courts-martial under study. Instead, 105 colonels and 71 lieutenant colonels were court-martialed. Lowry offers several explanations for this excess ofcourtmartialed colonels. One, a "statistical problem" (224) stemming from the theoretical size of a regiment and the steady decline in actual size, undermines the "finding." So, colonels might not have more misbehaving at all, but investigating regimental sizes is beyond the scope of his study. This kind of speculation instead of analysis characterizes the book. It does, however, complement Lowry's interest in human nature and human foibles— the metapurpose. There are thirty-two pages of introduction, epilogue, and appendices and 207 pages of descriptive stories. The discrepancy suggests that this study of courts-martial might have been better presented as a speculative article posing hypotheses with samples from the first cases. The "findings" could then emerge as a book after detailed analysis of the completed index. Lowry asserts that this study of "military discipline" opens a "whole new avenue into our understanding...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 323-324
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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