Book Review: The Military Memoirs of a Confederate Line Officer: Captain John C. Reed’s Civil War from Manassas to Appomattox


by John C. Reed, edited by William R. Cobb

El Dorado Hills, Ca.: Savas Beatie, 2023. Pp. xii, 180. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $19.95 paper. ISBN: 1611215145

A Confederate Infantryman's War

In 1861 John C. Reed (1836-1910) – originally "Reid" – a well-educated attorney with a modest plantation and over a dozen humans numbered among his "chattels", joined what became the 8th Georgia Infantry. By war's end he had risen to captain, a veteran of many a hard fight -- First Manassas, Antietam, Gettysburg, Knoxville, the Overland Campaign, Petersburg – to end the war at Appomattox. In the 1880s he wrote a memoir, published here for the first time, with annotations by editor Cobb, identifying people mentioned by and clarifying the meaning of many now long obsolete nineteenth century terms and phrases.

While Reed's memoir reflects a "love for the slave and slavery" (p. 2), he gives us some very personal looks at a number of battles, at time with self critical comments, such as upon first encountering a dead comrade, or his odd thoughts on seeing a wounded comrade with whom he had a law suit being carried off the field, or when having a bullet removed in a very ad hoc procedure. Reed gives us a lot of often thoughtful observations and anecdotes, some amusing, some not, about soldiers, soldiering, and combat, and he is not shy about criticizing the decisions of senior officers, right up to Robert E. Lee.

The memoir also offers a glimpse at how the war seems have softened Reed's attitudes toward African Americans. Although clearly a believer in the "Moonlight and Magnolias" version of the antebellum South, he nevertheless makes some favorable comments about the performance of U.S. Colored Troops, and seems to have favored recruiting of Black men for Confederate service. Well worth a read by anyone interested in the soldier's eye view of the war.




Note: The Military Memoirs of a Confederate Line Officer is also available in e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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