Review: An Iowa Soldier Writes Home

by Fred Ray on October 15, 2011 · 0 comments

An Iowa Soldier Writes Home: The Civil War Letters of Union Private Daniel J. Parvin
Edited by: Phillip A. Hubbart

Carolina Academic Press 2011
Paper 196 pages $25.00
ISBN: 978-1-59460-978-7 • LCCN 2011002478

An Iowa Soldier Writes Home: The Civil War Letters of Union Private Daniel J. ParvinPhillip Hubbart, a retired Florida appellate judge, transcribed 117 letters of his great-great-grandfather Daniel J. Parvin, an infantryman who fought with the 11th Iowa. The resulting book makes worthwhile reading for any student of the western campaigns. Parvin saw the elephant at Shiloh (where he was nearly killed), Vicksburg, and in the Atlanta campaign where he was seriously wounded.

Parvin was a passionate and opinionated man who poured his soul and opinions into his letters. This unusually complete collection gives us both a good look at the man, his times, and the army he fought in. Hubbart organizes the book by subject rather than the more usual chronological format, which can be a bit confusing at times but makes it very easy to find what he said about the fighting, camp life, politics, his superiors, and much more. A sociologist would find it most useful.

Parvin’s opinions would resonate today. Although he considered his primary purpose to preserve the Union he also detested slavery and considered abolition a worthwhile, if secondary, objective. His letters also oozed vitriol for the northern Copperheads, whom he considered disloyal and second only to the Confederates as deserving of harsh treatment.

Parvin could have gone home but re-enlisted in 1864. He was horribly wounded and disfigured before Atlanta, losing most of his lower jaw, but lived another sixteen years—a reminder of how tough these men were. He never seems to have regretted his decision to serve.

Overall Hubbart has done an excellent job with the book, and western theater fans will want a copy.

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