Book Review: Colonel Edward E. Cross, New Hampshire Fighting Fifth: A Civil War Biography


by Robert Grandchamp

Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2012. Pp. xii, 218. Illus., append., notes., biblio., index. $39.95 paper. ISBN: 0786471913

Biographies of Civil War soldiers are usually about generals but in Colonel Edward E. Cross, author Grandchamp reaches below the pomposities of generals to give us a biography of a regimental commander.

And Edward E. Cross (1832-1862) had a surprisingly busy and interesting life for a man who died at 31. Grandchamp, an independent scholar with a number of interesting books to his credit, has to spend five chapters filling us in on Cross’ numerous careers before the outbreak of the Civil War, as journalist, army scout, frontier businessman, even colonel in Benito Juarez’s army for a time.  Then, with the coming of the war in 1861, Cross returned home and took command of the 5th New Hampshire.  Grandchamp uses seven more chapters to follow Cross into the army, where during the Seven Days he displayed considerable skill, and then on to Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville, while he rose to brigade command in time to be mortally wounded in the Wheatfield at Gettysburg.  Grandchamp gives us a good look at the man within the framework of his times, while also helping us understand something about American culture and society at mid-century.   Unlike many biographies, we get Cross warts and all, a nineteenth century white Protestant American firm in his beliefs and his prejudices, with a fiery temper and excessive fondness for the bottle, who happened to be a loyal citizen and excellent soldier. 

Colonel Edward E. Cross is worthwhile reading not only for those interested in the Civil War, but for anyone interested in the nature of leadership.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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