Gilbert TaylorSpanning the years from his enlistment to his death in 1864, Haydon's diary echoes with the rhythmic protocols of military life. He kept his journal daily, and just as dutifully performed in parade drills, inspections, campaign marches, and several skirmishes and full-dress battles. He had thrown over a law career in Kalamazoo to join the Second Michigan Infantry Regiment, a unit that ranged as far afield as the Civil War itself: First Bull Run, the Peninsula campaign (Haydon's is "the best single eyewitness account" according to Sears), Fredericksburg, then west to Vicksburg, where Haydon was shot through the shoulder. After recovery, he led a wagon train to the relief of Knoxville. Haydon's horizon extends no further than his unit, but he theorizes about its problems of command, handicaps the politicking for promotion (he rose from sergeant to lieutenant colonel), puts down threats to cohesion (he sat on courts-martial and in one entry longs for salutary death penalties), and prosaically records the daily grind of mud, boredom, and terror--and, more quaintly, incidents of his men's drinking and whoring. It seems remiss that this literate document lay unpublished for 130 years, but this is the active war collection's chance to add a work with present-tense punch.
BooknewsSomewhat older than most soldiers, Haydon, a Union soldier who fought from Bull Run to Knoxville, was also well educated. He wrote to be read. Editor Sears introduces this compilation of 20 pocket diaries and supplies contextual notes. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
- Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
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