"Lincoln's Cavalrymen" E.G. Longacre

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Jim Ottevaere
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Thu Apr 12, 2001 4:36 pm

I've just completed my first read of this new book by Edward G. Longacre, a noted writer of Civil War cavalry works. His last book, "Custer and His Wolverines" was a great disappointment, not because it wasn't well written or that it wasn't easy to read. No, it was because, as the Historian for the Michigan Cavalry Brigade Association, I found it to be little more than a collection of mostly materials that have been previously published and referenced on the "Brigade" by many others. In other words it contained nothing new and reflected a rather shallow and lazy approach to period research. In this respect his new book is even less interesting. After not too many pages I felt as though I was reading a digest version of Volumes I and II of Stephen Z. Starr's classic three volume work, "The Union Cavalry in the Civil War".

Longacre seems to have a knack for repackaging a lot of secondary research, interspersing it with a few pieces of primary material in order to create, what on the surface at least, appears to be a whole new package. This one doesn't even get to that level. The photgraphs are the same old poses that anyone who has even a mildly passing interest in the Union Cavalry, has seen, over and over again. The notes, bibliography and references section, which is an imressive 113 pages of the book's 470 pages contains almost nothing that is new and that has not already been published. This may seem like an unfair criticism in a Civil War book market that is crammed full of knock-off books on "famous" battles and personages. These others have little choice but to rehash previously published material, since little new is left to discover on the subject. But in this case there remains a large volume of unpublished material waiting for the serious researcher. In fact we thought that "Custer and His Wolverines" would have tapped into some of this material. If we were waiting for the next installment for the "good stuff" we were disappointed. "Lincoln's Cavalrymen" fails miserably.

Before you move on and forget that this book was ever published, it must be said in fairness that if the reader is new to cavalry history and to the Eastern Union Cavalry in particular, this may be an excellent alternative to diving into Stephen Z. Starr or similarly scholarly works. It is easy reading and Longacre does have an "everyman" approach to his presentation. It is neither preachy nor pompus as some others of this genre are. However, if you are a student of the cavalry, this book won't enlighten you nor will it provide anything new to ponder.
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