Our insatiable interest in the Civil War has birthed another published soldier's diary, this one unusually readable and absorbing. An Iowa boy named after the great anti-slavery ex-president was probably destined to fight for the Union when the time came. But nothing required Quincy Campbell, as he was called, to keep this full, detailed, and revealing record of life in a combat unit in the wartime South. A moralistic and rather priggish fellow, Campbell nevertheless had a sharp mind and skilled pen, and he used both to relate his experiences and those of his comrades, whom he alternately admired and condemned. What seems to have sustained him, as no doubt it did tens of thousands of others subject to such danger and boredom, was a keen sense of duty, deep religious conviction, and a tough determination to prevent the further spread of slavery. But it's the particularity of Campbell's perceptions and thoughts, rather than their interpretive utility to historians, that brings life to his words. No doubt describing his battle experiences gave order to them, and writing during the long gaps between military action helped pass the heavy days. But only the native gifts of this stolid fighting man explain the sharpness and clarity of his observations. The publication of Campbell's diary, mined previously only by scholars, now offers to all students of the war an exposure to an especially articulate soldier's impressions and thoughts, which often get clouded by reference or quotation in other books. The candid immediacy of Campbell's words will delight every student of the Civil War.
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