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Men-At-Arms #489: Lincoln's 90-Day Volunteers 1861: From Fort Sumter to First Bull Runby Ron Field
Synopses & Reviews
On April 15, the day after the fall of Fort Sumter, President Abraham Lincoln issued a call for 75,000 volunteers to enlist for three months' service to defend the Union. Featuring specially commissioned full-color artwork, this is the engaging story of the first wave of soldiers who volunteered to defend and preserve the Union in 1861, based on detailed research in US sources, including many eye-witness accounts of their very varied uniforms and equipment.
When war broke out with the Confederate bombardment of Fort Sumter, South Carolina, on April 12-14, 1861, the regular US Army numbered just 16,000 troops, most of them scattered widely, and far from what would clearly become the main theater of operations between the two capitals - Washington, DC, and Richmond, Virginia. It was at this time Lincoln called for a three-month enlistment from volunteers. The 90-day period was, of course, entirely unrealistic, and would be followed by further and much more extensive mobilizations; but for the first few months, when Washington itself was in real danger, the defense of the capital depended on a hastily gathered army of militiamen and volunteers from those states that declared their immediate loyalty to the Union. These units were mostly entirely inexperienced, barely trained, weakly officered, and provided with the most motley uniforms, equipage, and weapons. Nevertheless, they bought the Union time during the first vital months. This period ended with the First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas) on July 21, at which only some 2,000 of General McDowell's 28,500 Union troops were regulars.
This ground-breaking study draws upon a very wide range of period sources to describe and illustrate the actual appearance of this diverse and colorful force, including photographs, eyewitness accounts in period newspapers and letters, the reports of government agents, and the records of the many manufacturers who received orders to clothe and equip their state troops. The units were composed of separate companies drawn from both wealthy and poorer communities, so varied widely in style, from copies of fashionable French uniforms to plain working-men's clothing. There were no rules at this date specifying that the North should wear blue and the South gray, and the extremely mixed appearance of both armies caused much dangerous confusion. Fully illustrated with specially commissioned artwork and rare period illustrations, this engaging account brings to life the first wave of volunteers who stepped forward to defend and preserve the Union in 1861.
About the Author
Ron Field was Head of History at the Cotswold School in Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire, UK, until his retirement in 2007. Awarded a Fulbright Scholarship in 1982, he taught History at Piedmont High School in California from 1982 to 1983. Ron was also associate editor of the Confederate Historical Society of Great Britain, from 1983 to 1992. He is an internationally acknowledged expert on US military history, and was elected a Fellow of the Company of Military Historians, based in Washington, DC, in 2005.
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History and Social Science » Military » Civil War » General