Book Review: Held in Highest Esteem by All: the Civil War Letters of William B. Chilvers, 95th Illinois Infantry


by Thomas Pressly & Gary D. Joiner, editors

Abilene, Tx.: State House Press, 2018. Pp. x, 240. Illus., maps, appends., notes, biblio., index. $39.95 paper. ISBN: 1933337710

An Immigrant’s Civil War

British born William B. Chilvers (1835-1914) arrived in America as an orphan child, settling with relatives in Illinois.

In September of 1862 Chilvers joined the newly formed 95th Illinois, the sole Briton and apparently only abolitionist in the regiment. While enduring hard campaigning, fighting at Vicksburg, Pleasant Hill, Mansfield, Brice’s Crossroads, Nashville, Mobile and many places in between, he regularly exchanged letters with friends and family, some of which survive. In his letter Chilvers offers a soldier’s eye-view of the war. While these usually depict his experiences as harsh and grim, they are also often enlightening on soldiering, social attitudes, and daily life.

More sympathetic to African-Americans than most Americans – North or South – Chilvers often speaks favorably about black troops, and decries atrocities committed against them.

In editing these letters for publication, Prof. Joiner (LSU Shreveport) and Dr. Pressly wisely didn’t overdo correcting Chilver’s often creative spelling and grammar, while adding useful references, commentary, and appendices.

Held in the Highest Esteem by All is particularly valuable for anyone interested in the common soldier during the Civil War.


Note: Held in the Highest Esteem by All is also available in hard cover and several e-editions.

StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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