Saturday, July 14, 2007

Law's Alabama Brigade book review: My first book review

Mike's Book Review:

Law's Alabama Brigade in the War Between the Union and the Confederacy is a great read for any Civil War buff. In Seinfeld George asks "How do I become a buff? I wish I was a buff." If you dream of the same thing that George does or if you are a buff already this book is required for your library shelf.

There are tons of books on Hood's Texas Brigade but its counterpart in the same division hasn't recieved the same aclaim until authors J. Gary Laine and Morris M. Penny produced this book in 1996. They clearly articulate the fact that General Evander M. Law's brigade of Alabamians was as key to the Confederate army as Hood's. Law's Brigade consisted of the 4th, 15th, 44th, 47th and 48th Alabama regiments and this group of regiments was a tough group of men who caused a lot of headaches in the Union army. During the Battle of the Wilderness when Lee's Army of Northern Virginia was nearly broken in two, the brigade pushed forward to plug the gap and this act saved the Confederate army. The brigade also served at Gettysburg and was the group that helped break the Union defenses in the Devils Den. They also were part of the Confederate attack force that nearly succeeded in taking Little Round Top. The brigade also was successful at Gaines Mill in 1862 and Chickamuaga in 1863 by participating in the key assualts that resulted in Sourthern victories. Morris and Penny use a blend of primary and secondary sources and spent nearly nine years researching this book. All one has to do is examine the sources that the authors used. This is truely an original work and both Morris and Penny deserve credit for taking such a risk in authorship.

Morris M. Penny and J. Gary Laine had ancestors that fought in Law's brigade. Because of this you can tell that both men were sold into producing a text that is both informative, emotional and historical. One cannot help but feel sorry for the brigade as it makes its final march at Appomattox. The authors also refuse to take sides in the infamous rival between General Micah Jenkins and Evander Law for command of Hoods division after he recieved the wounds and transfer that took him out of the Army of Northern Virginia. Moreover, the authors also dedicate time to the little known facts and infomation about the brigade. The story of Captain Reuben Kidd of the 4th Alabama comes to mind. The regiment fought from First Bull Run to Appomattox and Kidd was an original member of this powerful fighting force. Captain Kidd was killed at the Battle of Chickamauga in September 1863. On page 149 Morris and Penny write

Kidd was "killed near the La Fayette Road by a shot in the chest." Kidd served the regiment faithfully by enlisting as a private at twenty-one years of age and working his way up to the rank of captain. Two of his comrades took Kidd's body and buried it near an oak tree. Almost three years later the pair returned to the battlefied and failed to locate the body. In fact, Kidd's body has never been recovered. At the conclusion of the book, the authors provide a "Where are they now" component which discuss what the key players in Law's brigade did after the war. Of interest is the life of Lieutenant Colonel Michael J. Bulger of the 47th Alabama regiment. Bulger was involved in veteren affairs after the war and attended a 1898 reunion of the 47th Alabama. His attendence is unique because he was 92 years old at the time. A news reporter identified him as the oldest living officer of the Confederate. This was never proven but Bulger might have been the oldest living officer that had ever donned the gray of the Confederacy. After the reunion, Bulger lived for eight more years and died on September 11, 1900. Colonel Bulger is currently honored at a website online by a decedent. Currenly this webpage is located at

By relying on the primary sources, first hand accounts and a small blend of secondary sources Morris and Penny have created a book that every historian studing the Army of Northern Virginia need to take note of. I highly recommend this book and I will assign it 4 1/2 out of five stars. As a side note the book is over 360 pages long and contains additional chapters which include the Brigade Field and Staff infomation, The organization of each regiment, a roster of officers, statistics about the size of the brigade, a listing of every battle and skirmish that the brigade was involved in, casuality lists of the brigade from Gettysburg, Chickamuaga, and The Wilderness, and finally the never before published resignation of E.M. Law which caused so much controversy in James Longstreet Corps. The book also has 48 maps on the battles and movements of Law's Brigade. This book is a great read you have to get it!

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