Like Experiencing the War First-Hand

I’m posting another review of my history of a civil war regiment, Hoffman’s Army: The Thirty-First Virginia Infantry, CSA. This one from Henry Eason, journalist, novelist, and historian.

“Hoffman’s Army…like experiencing the war first-hand”

Henry M Eason Jr

A topic as enormous as the American War Between the States (or the Civil War, if your insist) is too great to fully absorb if you read, as I have, a number of the multi-volume sets that purport to explain the whole scope of the conflict. They are bewildering in their comprehensiveness. Perhaps one of the best ways to really understand the war is to have actually lived through it as a participant. As impossible as that sounds, it is almost possible to do in Wooddell’s extraordinary book Hoffman’s Army. Sometimes, you have to put the book down for a while, because it is so real, so genuine that you are anguished by what is happening right in front of you, as though you were marching along, engaged in battle, knowing the madness. Not since Bell Wiley’s Johnny Red and Billy Yank have I been so taken by a book about the war.

I also have the benefit of knowing the author and of having walked the ground of one battlefield with him on his family’s own property in West Virginia. He is a diligent and creative researcher able to make truth come alive. Hoffman’s Army should be required reading for history students and for anyone who really wants to know what it was like to be in the war that should never have been waged–had wiser heads prevailed to surmount the economic and slavery issues that existed among the contending parties.


Henry Eason was a colleague back in the 80’s, and a heck of a journalist. Before I met him, Henry was an investigative reporter on the staff of the Atlanta Constitution Journal. Later, he was a business editor and journalist for Nation’s Business magazine in Washington, DC (where I was photo editor for a couple of years.)

Here’s a link to Henry’s Into the Pacific Fog, a novel of suspense set in San Francisco during WWII. It’s a fun, and lively read, and very well researched.

Hoffman’s Army is out on Kindle at Amazon!

I’m pleased to announce that my book, Hoffman’s Army: The Thirty-First Virginia Infantry, CSA is now available on Kindle at Amazon.

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https://www.amazon.com/Hoffmans-Army-Thirty-First-Virginia-Infantry-ebook/dp/B01I6OZJRK/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1468110725&sr=8-2&keywords=Hoffman%27s+Army

 

 

Christmas 1861 at Camp Allegheny

WooddellLandscapes

 

Christmas 1861, Camp Allegheny*

©  David W. Wooddell, December 22, 2015

Up at Top of Allegheny, the soldiers who had not fallen sick, or been wounded or killed, or were on leave of absence in Richmond or elsewhere were guarding the Staunton to Parkersburg Turnpike through the remainder of December’s frigid winter. The men were put to work during the day digging the trenches deeper, and digging proper fortifications for the artillery on Battery Hill, making embrasures for the guns and barricades to protect the gunners. Private James Hall said on December 18, “We are expecting another attack. I have been working on some batteries today. We have to sleep with our arms and accouterments fixed.”

Hall was a 20-year-old former student from the Monongalia Academy in Morgantown. The son of John and Harriet (Rightmire) Hall, he’d returned home to his father’s farm near Philippi before enlisting in the middle of May in Company H, 31st Virginia Infantry. Hall’s great ambition the first year of the war was to serve as an officer. He was elected 3rd lieutenant in June the following year, to replace one of the lieutenants killed in battle.

Hall was less than sanguine about his cold existence on Allegheny Mountain on the 25th of December, when he wrote:

“This is Christmas, and as is common there must be some amusement and festivities going on. We are amusing ourselves hovering around a fire in our tent, which smokes us nearly to death. Though last night was Christmas Eve, I did not sleigh ride much! Instead of that, we were marched out with the regiment on the mountain, to guard the batteries and artillery. We spent our Christmas Eve very gaily, sure. We are still living in our tents, but we make them tolerably comfortable by constructing rude fireplaces in them. At night we do not fare so well. Some mornings when we awaken our blankets are wet with frost, and the inside of our tent lined with hoarfrost. Many times our hair is frozen stiff by congealed respiration, and our floor is covered with snow. This is a pleasant life, sure. I was at home this time one year ago.”


* Excerpted from David W. Wooddell, Hoffman’s Army: The 31st Virginia Infantry, CSA [Baltimore: David W. Wooddell/Createspace, 2015] Available exclusively at: http://www.amazon.com/Hoffmans-Army-31st-Virginia-Infantry/dp/1515396991

 

Hall’s quotes are from: James E. Hall, The Diary of a Confederate Soldier, edited by Ruth Woods Dayton, [Philippi, W.Va.: 1961]