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288CIVIL WAR HISTORY Letters to Vermont: From Her Civil War Soldier Correspondents to the Home Press, Vol. 2. Edited by Donald H. Wickman. (Bennington, Vt.: Images From the Past, 1998. Pp. xiv, 211. $30.00.) The second volume of Letters to Vermont is comprised of letters written by six Vermont soldiers to the Rutland Herald. The correspondents are relatively diverse in age, education, and previous profession. They achieved a variety of ranks during their generally lengthy service in the Union army and together saw action as infantry, artillery, and cavalry. The letters cover the time from the initial mustering of troops in Vermont to the fall of Richmond. As in the first volume, published earlier in 1998, the letters are distinguished by their candor; opinions of officers and speculation on strategy are offered freely. The soldiers provided home-front readers with descriptions of the mundane details of camp life and terrifying experience of battle alike but at times write thoughtfully and eloquently on the subject of their purpose. The soldiers had no sympathy towards slavery, and one admits, a bit apologetically, "Some may call me a 'rabid abolitionist.'" However, a far greater crime to them than slavery, it appears, was secession. These soldiers fought and wrote with a burning conviction that, as one put it, "The fate of the nation is at stake." Wrote another, "What have we to live for, and be proud of, as citizens, if the Union is broken up?" Serving in units comprised of men from the same locales, the soldiers portrayed here were driven most of all by a combination of the desire to maintain their honor and a youthful faith in one's immortality. The book also provides a revelation about the oft-told story that a black brigade was the first to enter Richmond when the city fell; one correspondent proudly writes that such a brigade tried, but that the "practiced double quick" of his own outfit caused "the darkies ... to fall behind." Wickman adds that this account comes from a soldier given to embellishing stories of his service. Enthusiasts of the common Civil War soldier's experience will enjoy Letters to Vermont. Wickman has done an excellent job compiling, editing, and illustrating both volumes. Through essential background on the correspondents' lives before and after the war, and scattered commentary on their service, Wickman skillfully knits each one's letters into a single narrative. The soldiers went on to a variety of careers after the war; these letters remain as testament to the most exhilarating years of their lives. Paul Searls University of Vermont ...


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