The Mexican and Civil War Letters of Brig. Gen. William Haines Lytle
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The letters of Lytle, a Union brigadier general with strong Southern ties who was killed at Chickamauga, edited by the curator of Historical Collections for the University of Pittsburgh Library System. Lytle, a general whom few but Civil War scholars and the most dedicated buffs buffs will have heard of, was an Ohio-born son of a US congressman who was raised as a Southern gentleman with strong ties to Kentucky. A volunteer in the Mexican War, he served with distinction and returned to run successfully for a position in the Ohio legislature, as well as to build his legal practice. He later ran for further office—with no success—notably, on a position of support for the Dred Scott decision, which denied blacks citizenship. When the Civil War broke out, Lytle was torn in his loyalties, but ultimately chose to support the Union. The letters compiled here offer a witty, bright look at the workings of the Union army, as well as Lytle’s relations with his family and friends. Although the descriptions of actions and life in the army are crisp and informative, one has to wonder whether readers really need to pick through the trivia of Lytle’s personal life to find the nuggets of history to which he offers testimony. Lytle’s account of his actions at Carnifex Ferry and Perryville are engaging, and his descriptionss of relations with Southern civilians are a unique facet, adding to what is known about the everyday life of Union officers and their interactions with Southerners. Well researched and clearly organized, but this one’s for the scholars, not the general reader, even among Civil War buffs.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-8131-2108-6
Page count: 264pp
Publisher: Univ. Press of Kentucky
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1999