Editor’s Note: This book review originally appeared last week at The Siege of Petersburg Online.
This is the third and final review for the second release of titles in the South Carolina Regimental-Roster Set series from Broadfoot Publishing Company. A significant portion of each review will show you how this particular volume compared to the others in the series in terms of regimental history length, amount of annotation, depth and print size of rosters, bibliography, illustrations, and maps. I do this to show readers just how different each volume can be. The South Carolina Regimental-Roster Set bears a striking external appearance to the H.E. Howard Virginia Regimental Histories series. These books were, in fact designed as a South Carolina answer to the Virginia unit histories. Broadfoot hopes to publish 50 volumes in this set, and has announced all 50 will be published due to the interest in the first four books. If you are interested in regimental histories, especially those from South Carolina, I encourage you to pick up these volumes immediately.
Clary James B. A History of the 15th South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment: 1861-1865 (2009). 602 pages, photos, illustrations, maps, roster, notes, bibliography. ISBN: 978-0-9797383-1-9 $45.00 (Hardcover).
With A History of the 15th South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment: 1861-1865, Jim Clary has written the most impressive book to date in the South Carolina Regimental-Roster Set series. Every one of the books in this series worth the money for the roster alone, but Clary sets the bar high for regimental histories to come. He follows the regiment faithfully to the end of the war, never condensing coverage as the Confederacy’s time grows short as so many unit histories tend to do. The maps in this book are outstanding, often showing battles down to the regimental/battery level in the areas where the 15th South Carolina was engaged, just as all good regimental histories should. If future books in this series are modeled after this one, with a full and engaging regimental history to accompany the outstanding roster, Broadfoot Publishing will have a series to rival and even surpass H.E. Howard’s Virginia regimental series.
Author Jim Clary hails from Cherokee County, South Carolina, and a reading of Dickert’s famous book on Kershaw’s Brigade led him to discover very familiar surnames in the 15th South Carolina, surnames of the people who lived all around him. This spark led to investigation of first the Thicketty Rifles (Co. F, 15th SC) and then the entire regiment. That investigation led to this fine entry in the South Carolina Regimental-Roster Set series. Though Clary’s profession is electrical engineering, his 12 year search for materials pertaining to the 15th South Carolina along with his personal connection to the regiment make him eminently qualified to write their story.
The regimental history portion of the book is first in length in the entire series, weighing in at a hefty 326 pages. Clary utilizes sources from within the regiment itself, especially Chaplain McCallum and Colonel DeSaussure. The author allows the regiment to speak for itself when and where possible, though this diminishes significantly, through no fault of the author, in the later battles of 1864 and into 1865.
The 15th South Carolina, like the rest of Kershaw’s Brigade, served in quite a few varied places throughout the war, including the South Carolina coast, with the Army of Northern Virginia, in the Valley Army in 1864, and back to South and North Carolina for the final battles of Johnston against Sherman. Raised in South Carolina, the regiment was assigned to Thomas Drayton’s brigade in late July 1862. The unit mostly missed Second Manassas due to a mistake by Drayton. He kept his brigade on the far right of the Confederate line under the mistaken belief that Union forces were off of his right flank. When the unit finally saw its first real combat at South Mountain on September 14, 1862, they took punishing casualties along with its sister unit the 3rd South Carolina Battalion. After that battle and as part of an effort to remove Drayton from the Army of Northern Virginia, the 3rd battalion and the 15th South Carolina were transferred to Kershaw’s Brigade, where they remained for the rest of the war. The 15th South Carolina participated in the fighting at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg, where they lost their beloved Colonel DeSaussure. Transferred west with most of Longstreet’s Corps, Kershaw’s Brigade fought on the slopes of Snodgrass Hill on day 2 at Chickamauga. After the failed Siege of Knoxville, the 15th spent the winter of 1863-1864 in east Tennessee. The regiment was present during the entire Overland Campaign in 1864, losing heavily, especially in officers. Kershaw’s Brigade was routed out of a redoubt on the north side of the North Anna River, and surprisingly lost no men in the famous June 3 assault by Union troops at Cold Harbor. Kershaw’s Division helped repulse an assault by Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain’s Brigade against “Fort Hell” on June 18, 1864. The 15th spent the latter half of June 1864 reacting to threatened danger from Union troops at various points in the Confederate trenches around Petersburg. They were driven back from Tilghman’s Gate with the rest of Kershaw’s Brigade on July 27 during the First Battle of Deep Bottom. In early August, Kershaw’s men were sent to the Shenandoah Valley to augment Jubal Early’s Valley Army. The only major battle they were involved in during their stay was the famous Battle of Cedar Creek. The 15th left the Shenandoah along with the remainder of Kershaw’s Brigade on November 19, 1864. The South Carolinians spent most of the rest of the war trying in vain to stop Sherman’s march through the Carolinas, and they surrendered with Joe Johnston’s army at Greensboro, North Carolina on April 26, 1865.
Just as with an earlier book on the 3rd South Carolina Battalion, this look at the 15th contains over 150 maps and illustrations. Clary utilizes maps from many different sources, including creating some of his own for the more obscure fighting in the Shenandoah Valle in 1864. Many maps from the South Carolina Department of Archives and History are also used. Taken as a whole, the maps do a great job of showing readers where the unit fought in relation to the rest of the brigade and to the enemy. Too many times, unit histories skimp on maps, especially when trying to show exactly where a unit fought in a major battle. Happily, this book’s maps are taken to the opposite extreme.
The roster, as always, is a major part of the reason this series came into existence. Those interested in the 15th South Carolina will want to own this book solely for the roster alone. Members of the 15th South Carolina are organized in alphabetical order by last name for the entire regiment. The roster is not broken down by company but company affiliation for each man is prominently noted immediately after each man’s name. Broadfoot and the author went to great extremes to procure information for the roster, including many microfilm sources not easily or inexpensively available to the average person.
The book contains 41 pages of notes and a 13 page selected bibliography, both of which provide careful readers with numerous starting points for their own research on this regiment. Jim Clary’s 12 years of research included a lot of visits to local libraries, archives, and museums, producing varied and numerous sources including unpublished letters, diaries, and manuscripts, newspaper articles from the Civil War era, and many other primary and secondary sources.
A History of the 15th South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment: 1861-1865 is the best effort yet in an outstanding series of books. Author Jim Clary pairs a readable, useful, and entertaining regimental history of the 15th South Carolina with a roster which offers about as much detail on each member of the regiment as you will likely ever find in one place. Clary reinforces his book with numerous photos, illustrations, and maps, creating his own maps in some places to make sure the text ties in nicely. Clary’s book is also notable for giving detailed and patient coverage of the often neglected early phases of the 1864 Valley Campaign as well as Sherman’s advance through the Carolinas. Readers with ancestors in the regiment or with an interest in the 15th will want to own this book. Readers looking to get into the experience of regimental histories could do much, much worse than this book. The book is incredibly attractive and well put together and is an excellent addition to my library. I look forward to more efforts in this series and hope it reaches Broadfoot’s lofty goal of covering all units from the state of South Carolina.
NOTE: This is my third review of the second release of three books in Broadfoot Publishing’s South Carolina Regimental-Roster Set series. You may be interested in my reviews of the first four volumes in this series as well as interviews with authors Mac Wyckoff and Lee Sturkey. Check out the related posts links at the bottom of this title to see more on this series here at TOCWOC – A Civil War Blog.
I would like to thank Tom Broadfoot at Broadfoot Publishing Company.