[Marxism] Fwd: H-Net Review [H-CivWar]: Rein on Mellott and Snell, 'The Seventh West Virginia Infantry: An Embattled Union Regiment from the Civil War's Most Divided State'

Andrew Stewart hasc.warrior.stew at gmail.com
Wed Aug 7 10:45:23 MDT 2019

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Andrew Stewart 
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Begin forwarded message:

> From: H-Net Staff via H-REVIEW <h-review at lists.h-net.org>
> Date: August 7, 2019 at 12:31:16 PM EDT
> To: h-review at lists.h-net.org
> Cc: H-Net Staff <revhelp at mail.h-net.org>
> Subject: H-Net Review [H-CivWar]:  Rein on Mellott and  Snell, 'The Seventh West Virginia Infantry: An Embattled Union Regiment from the Civil War's Most Divided State'
> Reply-To: h-review at lists.h-net.org
> David W. Mellott, Mark A. Snell.  The Seventh West Virginia Infantry: 
> An Embattled Union Regiment from the Civil War's Most Divided State.  
> Lawrence  University Press of Kansas, 2019.  pages cm.  $34.95 
> (cloth), ISBN 978-0-7006-2753-0.
> Reviewed by Christopher Rein (Air University Press, Maxwell AFB, AL)
> Published on H-CivWar (August, 2019)
> Commissioned by G. David Schieffler
> Rein Review of Mellott and Snell, _The Seventh West Virginia 
> Infantry: An Embattled Union Regiment from the Civil War's Most 
> Divided State_
> David Mellott and Mark Snell's comprehensively researched work on the 
> Seventh West Virginia Infantry Regiment highlights the Civil War 
> service of soldiers from an understudied region of the war who fought 
> in the most significant campaigns in the eastern theater. Despite 
> hailing from a remote region of a new state, the soldiers of the 
> "Bloody Seventh" turned into something of a Forrest Gump of the Army 
> of the Potomac, assaulting Bloody Lane at Antietam, holding a portion 
> of Cemetery Hill at Gettysburg, and attacking the Mule Shoe at 
> Spotsylvania. Their participation in each of these engagements wore 
> the full regiment down to "a battalion of four companies" (p. 150), 
> but levies from West Virginia coupled with a veterans' furlough 
> sustained the unit through Appomattox, highlighting the Confederacy's 
> inability to do the same. While, on most levels, a standard unit 
> history of a somewhat atypical regiment (the regiment was the only 
> one from the state to be listed as one of William Fox's "Fighting 
> 300," with 14 percent of the soldiers losing their lives in the 
> conflict), _The Seventh West Virginia Infantry_ also sheds important 
> light on dissent within the Confederacy and the shifting demographics 
> in the new state of West Virginia. 
> The book is organized chronologically, beginning with West Virginia's 
> opposition to secession and the Confederacy, and early efforts to 
> organize a new state from the western counties of old Virginia. It 
> moves rapidly into the early campaigns for control of the state, 
> setting the stage for the Seventh's recruitment and muster into 
> service. Union officials initially intended the regiment to protect 
> the vulnerable line of the vital Baltimore and Ohio Railroad as it 
> wound its way up the Potomac River toward the Ohio Valley, but events 
> pulled the unit into the contest for Virginia proper, first in the 
> Shenandoah Valley but eventually on the peninsula below Richmond. 
> After suffering significant casualties at Antietam, from which "the 
> Seventh would never fully recover" (p. 85), the regiment fought at 
> Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, and throughout the 1864 Overland 
> Campaign, culminating with the Army of Northern Virginia's surrender 
> at Appomattox. A brief epilogue covers extant information from 
> veterans' postwar lives and efforts to commemorate the regiment's 
> significant service while suggesting that West Virginia was yet 
> another venue where, having won the war, the Union lost the peace, as 
> former Confederates migrated west into the Union state. 
> Alongside the standard official sources, both authors use their 
> various talents to uncover personal stories from diaries, newspapers, 
> and letters to paint a detailed portrait of a number of members of 
> the regiment. Mellott, a descendant of several soldiers of the 
> regiment, applies his legal training to unearth long-forgotten 
> sources, while Snell leverages his considerable knowledge of the 
> state and the conflict to provide greater depth and context (and, 
> presumably, to smooth out the legal jargon, though one wishes the 
> editors had mirrored the soldiers' resolve in fighting against the 
> passive voice!). The partnership generally works effectively, 
> balancing detailed evidence with broader significance in telling the 
> regiment's story. But regimental history, to remain a useful format 
> for understanding the war, must tell us something larger about the 
> war itself, and the country as it endured the trial. The book begins 
> promisingly, detailing the communities in the northwestern corner of 
> the new state that raised companies for the regiment. However, by 
> including that the regiment contained one company each from Ohio and 
> Pennsylvania, as well as eight more, largely from the far-northern 
> region of West Virginia between these two Union states, the authors 
> blur the regiment's regional identity. Was it a unit of Southern 
> dissenters who tapped into backcountry resistance to the Tidewater 
> elites that dated as far back as Bacon's Rebellion to finally give 
> Virginia's Appalachian counties the representation they craved? Or 
> was it a more typical Midwestern regiment, spawned from the new 
> industrial and economic corridor created by the Baltimore and Ohio, 
> as Kristen Wilkes's recent research suggests?[1] If the latter, what 
> light could this shed on the story of West Virginia statehood? If the 
> soldiers of the Seventh felt a stronger tie to the Union based on 
> economic activity along the older canal, and new rail corridor, does 
> that shift our interpretation of the West Virginia statehood movement 
> from one of a "radical" revolution against slaveholding elites to a 
> more "conservative" one (to borrow from Gordon Wood's 
> characterization in _The Radicalism of the American Revolution_ 
> [1991]) by new elites in the extreme northern tier of West Virginia? 
> While the authors provide much evidence to suggest the latter, the 
> work focuses primarily on the regiment's battlefield experiences, 
> leaving these broader questions largely unanswered. 
> Still, Mellott and Snell have produced a first-rate regimental 
> history that demonstrates the enduring value of military history in 
> understanding the sectional conflict. By examining soldiers' lives, 
> experiences, and sacrifices, they reveal the broad opposition to the 
> new Confederacy, even within regions nominally under secessionist 
> control. While it remains unclear if the soldiers truly considered 
> themselves "Southerners" or "Midwesterners," by highlighting this 
> dilemma, the authors force us to reconsider sectional identity in a 
> contested borderland that is receiving increasing attention from 
> scholars, and they extend this discussion geographically as far as 
> the headwaters of the Ohio River.[2] Thus, the work makes a 
> substantial contribution to several fields, including regional and 
> military history as well as the broader subfield of the Civil War, 
> and will find a ready audience among both scholars in those areas of 
> inquiry as well as among lay readers interested in the Civil War in 
> general. 
> Notes 
> Citation: Christopher Rein. Review of Mellott, David W.; Snell, Mark 
> A., _The Seventh West Virginia Infantry: An Embattled Union Regiment 
> from the Civil War's Most Divided State_. H-CivWar, H-Net Reviews. 
> August, 2019.
> URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=53706
> This work is licensed under a Creative Commons 
> Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States 
> License.

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