by Larry Lowenthal
Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2019. Pp. xviii, 340.
Maps, notes, biblio., index. $48.00. ISBN: 0807171905
Yankees in the Heart of Secessia
Recruited by Benjamin Butler, the “Western Bay State Regiment” mustered into service in early 1862.
Soon after entering the service, the regiment was embarked for the long sea voyage to the Gulf Coast, where it and spent virtually the entire war in Louisiana and adjacent regions. The regiment served variously on occupation duty at New Orleans, in the siege of Port Hudson, on the Red River Campaign, and on internal security operations, finally ending the war at the siege of Mobile. During it’s time in the service, the regiment transitioned from regular infantry to mounted infantry and then to cavalry. The men of the 31st Massachusetts experienced mostly unglamorous service in a pestiferous environment, and lost 205 soldiers, 75-percent to disease.
Postwar, the veterans attempted to prepare a regimental history, but didn’t complete it. But they had amassed an impressive amount of primary materials, reminiscences, and so forth, and it was by working from these and other sources, that former National Parks Historian Lowenthal has written an excellent history of the regiment. Lowenthal touches on everything from the politics that surrounded the formation of the regiment to the backgrounds of the men in the ranks, has several good battle pieces, and offers tidbits about soldier life. We see the culture shock experienced by the farm boys and factory hands from prosperous New England as they encountered the poverty of rural southerners, both white and black, and there is a good deal about interactions between troops and civilians, some of them hostile and some friendly, and much more.
A Yankee Regiment in Confederate Louisiana is an excellent addition to the literature of the war.
Note: A Yankee Regiment in Confederate Louisiana is also available in several e-editions.
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