GONE FOR A SOLDIER: The Civil War Memoirs of Private Alfred Bellard by Alfred Bellard

GONE FOR A SOLDIER: The Civil War Memoirs of Private Alfred Bellard

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Private Alfred Bellard, an engraver's son from Hudson City, N.J., was eighteen when the rebel attack on Fort Sumter sent him off to the recruiting office and, in short order, General McClellan's Grand Army of the Potomac. Bellard's regiment (New Jersey Fifth) spent the next couple of years sloshing around the Maryland and Virginia mud at such battles as Yorktown, Fredericksburg, and Bull Run II. After being wounded at the battle of Chancellorsville, Bellard served another year in the Invalid Corps (later called the Veteran Reserves), but he'd had enough by the time his hitch was up in 1864. Back in civilian life, he eventually set to work on the diaries he had kept and his weekly letters from the front, and shaped them into a coherent notebook with his own illustrations. Donald, author of a Pulitzer prize-winning biography of Charles Sumner, has unobtrusively edited the MS. into a readable format, preserving Bellard's own remarkable spelling and grammar. Civil War buffs should not expect a general's eye-view of campaign strategies and battle positions; Private Bellard clearly knew no more than the day's orders. His lack of a perspective is both a drawback (one has trouble keeping track of the regiment's movements) and an asset (he is obviously and charmingly uninterested in inventing grand historical explanations or putting fancy labels on things). What is most fascinating are the details of day-to-day Union Army existence: the constant unabashed pillaging of the Southern countryside, the relatively casual attitude toward ""disipline,"" the sutlers who supplied necessaries and luxuries for such unconscionable prices as ""60 cents for a dozen eggs, 60 cents for a pound of butter,"" the unpopular officers ""who received a stray ball occasionly on the field of battle."" A unique and engaging document.

Pub Date: Oct. 28th, 1975
Publisher: Little, Brown