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These are some reviews from a recent issue of The Civil War News:
“Burning Rails as We Pleased”: The Civil War Letters of William Garrigues Bentley, 104th Ohio Volunteer Infantry
Edited by Barbara Bentley Smith and Nina Bentley Baker
Illustrated, glossary, regimental roster, notes, bibliography, index, 226 pages, 2004. McFarland & Company Inc., Publishers, Box 611, Jefferson, NC 28640, $49.95 plus shipping.
William Garrigues Bentley was a young Quaker of 19 from Columbiana County, Ohio, when he enlisted in the 104th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. From August 1862 until mustered out in June 1865, the 104th Ohio saw a lot of hard service.
They first served in Kentucky, protecting Cincinnati, Ohio, from an expected attack from Gen. Kirby Smith, then later in skirmishes and chases against Gen. John Hunt Morgan. They later served in East Tennessee, participating in the siege of Knoxville.
Their first real battle experience came in the campaign for Atlanta. They then followed Gen. John Bell Hood’s Confederate Army into Tennessee. At Franklin, Tenn., they experienced their hardest fought struggle of the war, losing 60 men. After the battle of Nashville, they were transferred to North Carolina where they served until mustered out.
Bentley’s letters are well-written and entertaining, providing much detail on soldier life. His account of Franklin, although he was detailed to get rations just before the commencement of the Confederate attack and missed it by a matter of minutes, is especially good.
The editors are Bentey’s great-granddaughters and it is obvious that this book is a labor of love. However, most of their research was done on the Internet, which leads to some uneven entries in the glossary and in the notes.
The terms in the glossary range from simple items such as a description of a camp to other terms I had not heard before, such as “sponderlicks.” Some definitions are a little too simplistic, as well as some of the notes. For some reason I was unable to figure out, a few of the notes were written in the present tense, which was a little disconcerting.
This is one of the better letter collections I have read, but it is questionable whether their value justifies the price of this slim volume.
Robert L. Durham
Robert L. Durham is a computer specialist. A longtime Civil War buff, he is also interested in Old West history and has written articles and book reviews for Alamo Journal, True West, Journal of the Alamo Battlefield Association, and Alamo de Parras web site at www.flash.net/~alamo3
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