front cover of Vietnam-Perkasie
W. Ehrhart
University of Massachusetts Press, 1995
In 1982, John Newman, curator of the Vietnam War Literature Collection at Colorado State University, said of W.D. Ehrhart: "As a poet and editor, Bill Ehrhart is clearly one of the major figures in Vietnam War literature." This autobiographical account of the war, the author's first extended prose work, demonstrates Ehrhart's abilities as a writer of prose as well. Vietnam–Perkasie is grim, comical, disturbing, and accurate. The presentation is novelistic—truly, a "page-turner"—but the events are all real, the atmosphere intensely evocative.

front cover of A Volunteer in the Regulars
A Volunteer in the Regulars
The Civil War Journal and Memoir of Gilbert Thompson, US Engineer Battalion
Mark A. Smith
University of Tennessee Press, 2020

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Massachusetts native Gilbert Thompson joined the regular army, which assigned him to the engineer battalion, a unit that provided critical support for the Union military effort in building bridges and roads and surveying and producing maps. While serving, Thompson kept a journal that eventually filled three volumes. The author’s early education in a utopian community called Hopedale left him well read, affording a journal peppered with literary allusions. Once the war ended, Corporal Thompson added some postwar reflections to create a unified single volume, which editor Mark A. Smith has carefully arranged so that the reader can clearly distinguish between Thompson’s contemporary accounts and his postwar reminiscences. An accomplished artist and topographer, Thompson illustrated his journals, adding depth to his narrative with portraits of key figures, drawings of ordinary scenes such as soldiers playing chess, and sights of the war. Additionally, he collected photographs both during and after the war, many of which are included.

Thompson’s wartime musings and postwar recollections have much to offer. Few diaries contain glimpses into the workings of a highly specialized unit such as the engineer battalion, and Thompson’s skills in depicting daily camp life in both words and pictures provide a distinctive look at the Union Army during the Civil War as well as an insightful look into the human condition. In his 1879 introduction, Thompson writes, “I wonder how I wrote as much and as well, and am thankful I was so fortunate as to have the opportunity to do so.” Students of the Civil War will feel fortunate he did.


Send via email Share on Facebook Share on Twitter