Book Review: Against the Grain: Colonel Henry M. Lazelle and the U.S. Army


by James O Carson

Denton: University of North Texas Press, 2016. Pp. xxviii, 400. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $32.95. ISBN: 1574416111

A Forgotten Soldier-Scholar

Henry M. Lazelle (1832-1917) attended West Point (Class of 1855, a roommate of the future artist James Whistler), and was commissioned in the infantry. He and served on the frontier against Apaches and other Indians in years before the Civil War. Captured in Texas at the outbreak of the war, Lazelle was not exchanged for a very long time, and upon returning to active duty spent much of the war serving as Commissary for Prisoners of War, and later on staff duty in the Department of the Mississippi, although for a time he commanded the 16th New York Cavalry, chasing after the elusive John Mosby in Virginia.

Post war, Lazelle served for a time on occupation duty in the South, then chased Indians on the frontier, then did a tour as Commandant of Cadets at West Point, and then became editor of the Official Records for a time, perhaps his most important duty, as the project had been languishing for some time, and he put it on a firm basis. He later rose to colonel and regimental command before retiring with a promotion to brigadier general

A somewhat contentious fellow, Lazelle stood up for what he thought was right, perhaps a little more ardently than customary in the Army, which caused him some problems and, he believed, impeded his career, but he did well compared with his classmates, and ended up as a brigadier general on the retired list.

The author, the general’s several generations removed son-in-law, tells Lazelle’s story well, and weaves into it a great deal of information on life and military service in his times. While the Lazelle’s career may not have had many moments of glory, he served well, and perhaps most importantly made a major contribution to Civil War scholarship.

Note: A volume in the University of North Texas series “Military Biography and Memoir,” Against the Grain is also available as an e-Book, $26.36, ISBN 978-1-57441-625-1.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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