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Gallantry Conspicuous Conspicuous Gallantry Conspicuous Gallantry The Civil War and Reconstruction Letters of James W. King, 1 1th Michigan Volunteer Infantry The Civil War and Reconstruction Letters of James W. King, 1 1th Michigan Volunteer Infantry Edited by Eric R. Faust The Civil War and Reconstruction Letters of James W. King, 1 1th Michigan Volunteer Infantry The Union states of what is now the Midwest have received far less attention from historians than those of the East, and much of Michigan’s Civil War story remains untold. The eloquent letters of James W. King shed light on a Civil War regiment that played important roles in the battles of Stones River, Chickamauga, and Missionary Ridge. King enlisted in the 11th Michiganin1861asaprivateandrosetotherank of quartermaster sergeant. His correspondence continuesintotheeraof Reconstruction,whenhe tried his hand at raising cotton in Tennessee and Alabama and found himself caught up in the social and political upheavals of the postwar South. King went off to war as an obscure nineteenyear -old farm boy, but he was anything but average .His letters to Sarah Jane Babcock,his future wife, vividly illustrate the plight and perspective of the rank-and-file Union infantryman while revealing the innermost thoughts of an articulate, romantic, and educated young man. King’s wartime correspondence explores a myriad of issues faced by the common Federal soldier: the angst, uncertainty, and hope associated with long-distance courtship; the scourge of widespread and often fatal diseases; the rapid evolution of views on race and slavery; the doldrums of camp life punctuated with the horrors of combat and its aftermath;the gnawing anxiety while waiting for mail from home; the incessant gambling, drunkenness, and profanity of his comrades; and the omnipresent risk of death or crippling disability as the cost of performing his duty, to preserve the Union. “In this wonderfully edited collection,Eric Faust has provided us with a captivating glimpse into the life of James W. King, a member of the Eleventh Michigan, who chronicled his war experience in eloquent letters to his sweetheart, Jenny.At the same time, King detailed the social ramifications of Reconstruction during his time in the South after the fighting halted. This volume is a welcomed and needed exploration of one man’s life dramatically altered by the defining hour in our nation’s history.” — Brian Craig Miller, editor of “A Punishment on the Nation”: An Iowa Soldier Endures the Civil War (The Kent State University Press, 2012) “Eric R. Faust has done a service to everyone interested in the Civil War by editing his ancestor ’s letters. Those of us who have been able to access the letters at Western Michigan University have found them to be a treasury of information on every aspect of the Civil War era. King served in the major battles of the Western Theater and spent a brief but dangerous time in the postwar South as a farmer. He returned to Michigan to recover his fortunes through the political alliance of the GAR and the Republican Party. He was an outstanding example of the Civil War soldier and veteran.” — Leland W. Thornton, author of When Gallantry Was Commonplace: The History of the Michigan Eleventh Volunteer Infantry, 1861–1864 and Professor Emeritus, Glen Oaks Community College, Centreville, Michigan “When nineteen-year-old James King went to war in 1861, he reflected on his great-grandfather ’s heroics during the American Revolution. He believed‘one brave man could impact the course of a great war.’ King was right. In November 1863, he was among the first Yankees to reach the top of Missionary Ridge—an action that warranted a Medal of Honor, had his application not been a victim of ‘bad timing.’ Beyond the battlefield, King’s letters to his sweetheart Jenny chronicle a soldier’s struggles, experiences, and opinions. Eric R. Faust,King’s great-great-grandson,has produced an outstanding and refreshing look at one exceptionally eloquent Yankee.” —Roger L. Rosentreter, Michigan State University Through meticulous research and careful editing , Eric R. Faust presents a story that does not cease with King’s muster out, or even with Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. King’s postwar correspondence illuminates the struggles of a soldier disabled by wounds, trying to find his place in a civilian world forever changed by war. Like thousands of other Northern soldiers, King traveled southtoraisecotton.Thelettershepennedonthe plantationdefythetimewornstereotypeof carpet­ baggersasruthlessopportunistswhodeprivedthe South of its capital and dignity after the war. A kind twist of fate boosted King to prominence in his home state...


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