Fascinating Particulars About Nondescript Generals
Bruce S. Allardice, More Generals in Gray (Louisiana State University Press, 1995)
A tome devoted to biographical sketches of 137 men united only by their arguable status as Confederate generals sounds like one of the ultimate Civil War "buff books". It is a pleasant surprise to open its pages and discover no dreary catalogue of minutiae or sterile disputations about entitlement to rank. Instead, the author has condensed years of research into a series of sparkling capsule lives that reflect the wide range of characters and events in America's bitterest conflict.
Each of the subjects has some claim to having held the rank of general in the Confederate military but not enough of one to have earned listing in Ezra J. Warner's authoritative Generals in Gray. Still, however solid or dubious their entitlement to the highest rank, they form a cross-section of important and interesting Southern officers and gentlemen. They came from a variety of backgrounds. Ten were born in the North, nine in Border States, nine abroad (including one veteran of Napoleon's Grande Armée, whose unit's performance in the defense of New Orleans fell short of Napoleonic standards). Not all had embraced independence eagerly. Michael Jefferson Bulger, for instance, voted "no" in the state secession convention but nonetheless enlisted in the 47th Alabama Regiment. At Cedar Mountain, he suffered wounds to his arm and leg, binding the latter with corncobs and suspenders. At Gettysburg, he was captured after being left for dead. Following such mishaps, he ended up living to age 94, enjoying a placid post-war career as a farmer and occasional politician.
In contrast to the indestructible Bulger, Edward Gantt was a fire-eating secessionist who resigned his seat in the first Confederate Congress to raise a regiment in Arkansas. After being captured with the garrison of Island No. 10, he returned home on parole but then experienced an astonishing change of heart. In late 1863, the formerly rabid states-righter slipped across the Yankee lines and spent the rest of the war urging his former countrymen to lay down their arms.
Many more such tales are told here. The author has a keen eye for incisive facts and quotations, and his writing wastes few words. For the serious student of the Civil War, this work is a valuable reference. For everyone else, it offers hours of fascinating browsing.