Book Review: Meade's Army: The Private Notebooks of Lt. Col. Theodore Lyman


by David W. Lowe, editor

Kent, Oh.: Kent State University Press, 2007. Pp. xviii, 518. Illus, maps, notes, biblio., index. $45.00. ISBN:0873389018

From September of 1863, Theodore Lyman, a Harvard-trained natural scientist, later the principal founder of American ichthyology, served as staff officer to Maj. Gen. George Meade, who commanded the Army of the Potomac .  Lyman's training as a scientific observer helped him fill several notebooks and numerous letters with an extraordinary amount of detail, often illustrated with little sketch maps.  He comments on the life of the army, family affairs, operations, and more. 
But it is Lyman's comments and observations about people, particularly the many senior officers with whom he came in contact, that is of immense value.  Lyman freely comments on the their character, habits, and behavior of numerous generals, and often mercilessly critiques their skills as commanders.

Lyman's observations are often surprising, and he often adds a good deal of detail about little-known events in contrast to "The Big Picture."  The notebooks published here cover the entire period of his service, but focus on the events of the Overland Campaign, the Siege of Petersburg, and the final weeks of the war. The editor has added notes, to help identify some of the people Lyman mentions in passing or to clarify occasional obscure passages, and suggestions for further reading. 

Although there is just too much material to be of use -- or interest -- to the casual reader, Meade's Army will certainly be of value to the serious student of the war.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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