Louisianians in the Western Confederacy: The Adams-Gibson Brigade in the Civil War. By Stuart Salling. Photographs, maps, bibliography, index, 260 pp., 2010, McFarland, http://www.mcfarlandpub.com/, 800-253-2187, $39.95, paper.
Stuart Salling’s book on the Adams-Gibson Brigade of Louisianians follows the brigade as it fought in the Army of Tennessee, participating in all the battles of that army until after Nashville when it was transferred to Mobile Bay rather than being sent to North Carolina. The brigade also served as part of Joe Johnston’s army in Mississippi during the summer of 1863.
The brigade went through many reorganizations but its main elements were banded together in August 1862. The ravages of war reduced the Louisiana regiments to the point that they had to be consolidated together, and sometimes they were able to gain enough recruits to regain their individual status again. Salling does a good job of explaining the plentiful confusing command and structure changes with the regiments of the brigade.
Salling also does a good job of explaining the political infighting between Bragg and his generals. Brigade commander Daniel Adams was a Bragg supporter, in fact he received this brigade to prevent Randall Gibson, a Bragg opponent, from commanding a brigade. Adams and Gibson though appear to have gotten along quite nicely. After Bragg resigned following the battle of Missionary Ridge Adams was one of the many officers who recommended Gibson for a promotion to brigadier general, which he got. Gibson commanded the brigade in all its future actions
One of the strengths of the book is the many photos with detailed captions that supplement the main text. For example in a chapter on battle there will also appear a few photos of men who were killed or wounded or distinguished themselves in some other way during the battle. Especially in the case of casualties these men are not always listed in the main text so the photo captions help to supplement the text in a meaningful way.
The maps are another strength of the book. Usually the first map in a battle chapter will show the entire battlefield and subsequent maps will focus on the area where the Adams-Gibson Brigade fought, with many of these showing the alignment of the regiments within the brigade.
There are a few minor errors in the book. In the battle of Missionary Ridge chapter the 15th Indiana is credited with the capture of the 13th Louisiana’s flag. At the bottom of the page the flag is shown but the caption credits the 15th Illinois with the capture. The main text is right, the capture was made by the 15th Indiana. In the section on the July 22nd battle for Atlanta there is a minor editing error, “Baker and Stovall were deployed in the first line with Gibson and Baker in the second, Gibson behind Stovall and Jones behind Baker.” Clearly it was Gibson and Jones in the second line.
In the description of the fighting around Spanish Fort near Mobile the author says Gibson asked for “Negro troops” and was given them. This is a bit troubling as the author does not make clear if they were soldiers or laborers, the text does make it seem like they were soldiers. I am not well versed on the battles for Mobile Bay but I think if there was a large number of Negro soldiers in the Confederate army there it would be a major story in itself.
This is a worthy addition to any Civil War library, especially for someone who follows the war in the West. This book does a good job of providing enough details about individual soldiers without going overboard like some regimental histories do but at the same time it does a good job focusing on the larger picture of the war.
Review by Nicholas Kurtz