Wednesday, May 13, 2009

CWL---"... can never be whipped," Lewis Armistead, July 5 1863

"Trust In God and Fear Nothing": General Lewis A. Armistead, CSA, Wayne E. Motts, Farnsworth House Military, 5 photographs, 2 maps, notes, bibliography, 64 pages, 1994, $4.95.

Gettysburg, the 1993 film, had just followed James McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedomand Ken Burns' The Civil War when I got into reenacting with the Ninth Pennsylvania Reserves. Gettysburg Pennsylvania was a wonderland of book stores, reenactment supply vendors and art galleries. It was a time before ghosts and the Farnsworth House had a large gallery and bookstore. Now the gallery has vanished and half the bookstore is a seance room. Farnsworth house in 1993 began publishing monographs on the primary characters of the battle. "Trust In God and Fear Nothing": General Lewis A. Armistead, CSA was the first in a short series that included Buford, Pickett, Reynolds, and Meade. All were reasonably price at $4.95 and still are at the American History Store at the corner of Steinwehr Avenue and Baltimore Pike.

Wayne Motts, currently the director of the Adams County Historical Society, produced a clear, concise and well cited monograph on Lewis Armistead, brigade commander in Pickett's division. Not overloaded with tangential photographs and maps, Wayne Motts used the 64 pages to provide the relevant stories of Armistead's life, career and death. There is not pretense of chapters in this booklet; CWL frequently finds these days that booklets, such as the McWhiney Foundation's series, have nearly as much white space as narrative. Motts has covered in detail Armistead's lineage, childhood, unfinished West Point education, military experiences in the Seminole War, the Mexican War and the Civil War; each page is full and only the few photographs don't fill a complete page. CWL will note that typesetting and layout was markedly different back in the early 90s; thank you Adobe Acrobat. The 52 pages of text have 96 bibliographic notes, generally from primary sources.

The Battle of Gettysburg does not overwhelm Motts presentation of Armistead's career. His Mexican War experiences, the death of his wife, and his farewell to Hancock, are presented with the primary sources left by the participants and those present. Poignant but not overwrought is Mott's telling of Armistead's charge, wounding, and death a the Spangler Farm field hospital. Mott sticks very close to the sources which are sufficient in this instance. Indeed, Mott provides a fine, well edited example of historical scholarship that would serve an advanced high school student or an undergaduate well as a model of what historians do.

Bottom Two Photos: The George Spangler Farm which became the 11th Corps' field hospital at Gettysburg. In this summer kitchen Lewis Armistead died, more from exhaustion than his wounds, concludes Waynes Motts from an eyewitness account. In the summer of 2008, the Gettysburg Foundation bought the farm and the first rehabilitation occurred in April 2009. See the April 24 entry on Civil War Librarian for the event. (Photograph: Rea Andrew Redd, April 2009)

No comments: