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Title: The 117th New York Infantry in the Civil War: A History and Roster
Author: James S. Pula
SOPO’s Take: James S. Pula’s The 117th New York Infantry in the Civil War: A History and Roster is an extremely readable and well-written new unit history of the 117th New York, or Fourth Oneida, supplanting the original unit history written by the unit’s surgeon James A. Mowris in 1866. This eventual Army of the James regiment participated in many of the backwaters of the war in its early days but also saw major fighting at Petersburg and Fort Fisher. The author utilized numerous first-person accounts of the soldiers themselves, including Mowris’ original book as a key foundation, and improved upon it greatly. The soldiers of the Fourth Oneida would heartily approve. Excellent maps, dozens of images of the men, and a well done and well researched roster add to what was already a great unit history.
In this first modern history of the 117th New York, author James S. Pula has helped readers understand not only the battles of the Fourth Oneida, but also what it was like to be a Civil War soldier in the quiet times. Boredom, disease, physical privation, and other things caused untold misery, but news of great victories and especially news that men were going home caused joy to equal the intensity of the bad times. Pula’s book was an easy, enjoyable read which truly puts readers in the ranks with the men. Great maps and an unusually large number of images of men in the 117th New York combine with the text to create an upper tier regimental history of a heretofore forgotten Army of the James regiment. Students of the history of Oneida County, the 117th New York, and good unit histories will all want to own this book. For students of the Siege of Petersburg, there are multiple lengthy chapters on the 117th New York’s role in the Richmond-Petersburg Campaign of 1864-65, even if they left for North Carolina before seeing the final victory. This book is highly recommended if a bit pricey at $49.95.
BTC Siege of Petersburg Book Notes:
BTC Siege of Petersburg Book Sources:
“Not known to the historic pen, or platform orator,” wrote a soldier in the 117th New York Volunteer Infantry, “but the private led in the horror of the fight.”
Drawing on firsthand accounts, this history of the regiment narrates the monotony and privation of camp life, the exhaustion of long marches and the terror of combat from the perspective of the regular soldier. The operations of the 117th are fully detailed, including actions in the 1863 Suffolk Campaign, the siege of Charleston, the sieges of Petersburg and Richmond, and the conquest of Fort Fisher, North Carolina.
James S. Pula is a professor emeritus of history at Purdue University Northwest. The author of numerous books, his work has been honored with the honorary membership in the Iron Brigade Society, three Oskar Halecki Prizes, the Gambrinus Prize in History, the U.S. Army Historical Foundation Distinguished Writing Award, and the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland, among others.
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Bibliographic Info: 90 photos, maps, appendices, notes, bibliography, index.
Copyright Date: 2023
Table of Contents:
1. The National Crisis: July–August 1862 3
2. The Defense of Washington: September 1862–April 1863 22
3. Operations on the Virginia Peninsula: April–July 1863 40
4. Into the “Cradle of Secession”: July 1863–April 1864 57
5. The Bermuda Hundred Campaign: April–May 1864 73
6. Cold Harbor and Petersburg Heights: May–June 1864 89
7. The Siege of Petersburg: June–September 1864 105
8. Chaffin’s Farm and the Darbytown Road: September–December 1864 130
9. First Fort Fisher: December 1864 150
10. Second Fort Fisher: January 1865 166
11. Through the Carolinas: January 1865–April 1865 190
12. Homeward Bound: April 1865–July 1865 205
Epilogue: “Let Us Keep Alive the Memories” 212
Appendix A: Brevet Promotions 229
Appendix B: Campaigns and Engagements 230
Appendix C: Casualties in the 117th New York 231
Appendix D: 117th New York Roster 232
Chapter Notes 313
“James Pula has written one of the most enthralling, scrupulously-researched, and important Union regimental histories of the last two decades. He recreates the service of the 117th New York in sparkling detail, explaining that their service was at once typical and unusual, allowing the words of the soldiers to speak for themselves. This book is both good history and a crackling good story.”—Christian B. Keller, professor of history, U.S. Army War College
“James Pula has skillfully woven the diaries and letters of the men from the 117th New York into a comprehensive narrative of the regiment which spearheaded the final assault on Fort Fisher, North Carolina. I thoroughly enjoyed it and believe this work fills a void in the history of the forgotten places in the war.”—John Michael Priest, author of Antietam: The Soldiers’ Battle and “Stand to It and Give Them Hell”: Gettysburg as the Soldiers Experienced it From Cemetery Ridge to Little Round Top, July 2, 1863
“A magnificent new book from first-rank Civil War historian Jim Pula. Never have I encountered a better portrayal of the life and character of the common soldier in camp and in battle than in this fine-grained portrait of the 117th New York Volunteer Infantry. Not least, this painstakingly researched and handsomely written book delivers valuable insight into oft-neglected campaigns, from the contest for the eastern theater’s barrier islands and coast, to the Bermuda Hundred Campaign. A great pleasure to read and a splendid resource that enriches our understanding, I cannot see how any regimental history could better portray the reality of the resilient, devoted Union soldier than the book in your hand.”—Ralph Peters, author of Cain at Gettysburg and Judgment at Appomattox
Release Date: 2023
Pages: 344 pp., 90 photos, maps, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
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