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For Educators

A War of the People
Vermont Civil War Letters
Jeffrey D. Marshall, ed.; Edwin C. Bearss, fwd.

University Press of New England
1999 • 377 pp. 70 illus. 21 maps. 7 x 10"
Civil War / American History / Vermont / Biography & Letters

$24.95 Paperback, 978-0-87451-923-5

An illustrated anthology of the most revealing Civil War letters by Vermont soldiers and homefront civilians

The Civil War left no Vermonters untouched, and few families free from pain. More than 140 letters -- carefully selected from some 9000 in several archives -- convey in personal terms the combat experience of Vermonters throughout the war. Vermont raised seventeen infantry regiments, one cavalry regiment, three batteries of light artillery and three companies of sharpshooters -- nearly 35,000 soldiers in all. As a result of this impressive commitment, Vermont suffered one of the highest rates of military deaths of any Union state.

A War of the People covers the war chronologically, with editor Jeffrey D. Marshall providing running commentary on both the war overall, and Vermonters' experiences. Supplemented with maps and photographs, it includes many voices -- from privates to colonels, mothers, wives, and best friends, young and old -- writing about battle narratives, camp life, financial advice, family matters, and much more. An African-American soldier from Hinesburgh, a French-Canadian soldier who enlisted in Milton, and dozens of others record their experiences in unforgettable words. Marshall's battlefront/homefront choice of letters provides a deeper understanding of the social and political dimensions that, although secondary to military concerns, were an integral part of Vermont's war years.

From the Book:

"'This war is a war of the people,' William Young Ripley wrote to his son William after the humiliating Union defeat at Bull Run in July 1861. 'The men at Washington - will find that they are only agents in the matter,' he warned. A prominent citizen of Rutland, Vermont, and a member of his state's emerging class of industrial leaders, Ripley represented a swelling tide of dissatisfaction with the military and political leadership in Washington. Before the war ended four years later, Ripley would exchange hundreds of letters with his three sons in the army, sharing home-front reactions to war news and receiving frank assessments of the conflict's progress from the front. The story of this 'war of the people,' fought by citizen-soldiers and supported by the extraordinary sacrifices of citizens at home, unfolds in countless letters written from the battle front and the home front." -- From the Introduction

JEFFREY D. MARSHALL is University Archivist and Curator of Manuscripts at the University of Vermont.

Mon, 23 Jun 2014 12:36:05 -0500