Book Review: "Burning Rails as We Pleased": The Civil War Letters of William Garrigues Bentley, 104th Ohio Volunteer Infantry


by William Garrigues Bentley, edited by Barbara Bentley Smith and Nina Bentley Baker

Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co, 2011. Pp. xii, 226. Illus., append., notes, biblio., index. $35.00 paper. ISBN: 0786444924

Burning Rails as We Pleased gives us a personal perspective on the Civil War in the West by a young man who volunteered for the Union.

Only 19 when he joined the newly formed 104th Ohio Volunteers in the summer of 1862, William Garrigues Bentley, a Quaker who felt the cause of Union and abolition more important than his faith's traditional pacifism, proved a good soldier and a devoted letter writer.  This volume, put together by two of his descendants, includes some 140 letters that Bentley wrote, mostly to family members in the course of his military service.  Like most letters and diaries from the troops, Burning Rails as We Pleased, is both personal memoir and historical resource.  The letters give the reader an infantryman’s-eye-view of the Civil War, as Bentley and his comrades join the army, learn to soldier, trudge thousands of miles across the South for nearly three years, while taking in operations in Kentucky, the Atlanta Campaign, the Battle of Franklin, and the Carolinas Campaign.  Along the way we get some idea of what camp life was like, comments and commentary on everything from commanders and strategy, rations and equipment, the passing scenary, and more besides. 

Burning Rails as We Pleased   is a useful read for anyone interested in the life, experiences, and thought of the common soldier in the war.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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