Kramer, Carl E. Civil War Generals of Indiana. Charleston: History Press. 2022. 140 pages, 136 pages of text. Bibliography, b/w images. ISBN 9781467151955, $23.99.
In his acknowledgements and introduction, author Dr. Carl E. Kramer, states that this book has been an off and on-again project for more than sixty years having started it while a freshman in high school in 1961. As with any student new to Civil War studies, the term “General” can be confusing at best, thus Kramer’s long-term quest for clarity.
Let’s count down the opportunities for use of the title along with Dr. Kramer. There are those who receive appointment to the rank of general (brigadier and higher). Of course, during the Civil War that could mean in the regular army or as a general of volunteers. Promotions to the rank of general were nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate.
Second, you have Brevet Generals, those receiving a sort of temporary promotion to the rank but no real promotion. These brevets were often handed out based upon some noteworthy battle achievement most often made by a colonel or maybe even lieutenant colonel. You weren’t going to be made a brevet general from the rank of sergeant. Brevets to lower officer positions were also possible during the war.
The third opportunity for using the rank of general is from State Troops. These were most often militia groups and the appointment was made by the state governor.
Finally, you have those men who were just called general. They may have received the nickname for being a local leader, maybe it was sarcastic, or perhaps they gave themselves the moniker and it stuck for whatever reason. Needless to say, these men were not generals in the way Kramer is using the term.
As has been pointed out by Andrew Wagenhoffer, the issue of determining who is a Hoosier and who isn’t is a tricky one. Then, as now, people moved around. Family members often followed each other, at times following perceived economic or educational opportunities.
In determining if a “general” was eligible for inclusion, Kramer relied heavily on the standard work in the field, Generals in Blue written by Ezra Kramer. For state level generals, he relied upon Indiana in the War of the Rebellion, a multi volume report issued in 1869 and available in a reprint edition.
Determining a tie to Indiana became more difficult for Dr. Kramer as this can mean differing things to different people. Kramer settled on three criteria for inclusion in his book. The first is birth; anyone born in Indiana who met the other criteria is included. The second qualifying criteria is for men who were born elsewhere but relocated to Indiana and spent a significant part of their lives in the state. The term “significant” is not defined and so this criterion remains vague. The final criteria that merits inclusion is for men “who arrived in Indiana early in the war, played an important role in organizing the state’s military operations and maintained a significant presence after the war.” This criterion is again vague and open to interpretation as the terms important and significant are not defined.
Ultimately, Dr. Kramer has decided upon 121 men; including 44 full United States generals, 1 Confederate general (Francis Asbury Shoup), 62 Union brevet generals, and 14 state service generals. Twenty-one generals were born in Indiana as were 24 brevet generals.
Most of the biographies are one page long. A large number of the entries contain a photo, the majority of which are from the Library of Congress. The short length of each entry makes this book appropriate to pick up and put down at your leisure. Each biography can be read in a matter of a few minutes allowing readers the flexibility to read multiple titles without worries of being bogged down. Biographies can be read in any order with no concern about being confused.
One drawback I did note is that the book does not contain end/foot notes. There is a two-page bibliography however. For me, I would have found it helpful, or at least interesting, if Dr. Kramer had listed a recommended biography (if available) for each of the entries. Brief introductions to these interesting men could leave some readers wanting more. Overall, for a book of this nature these are minor quibbles. It is also possible that the author reached his word count limit. Arcadia/History Press try to stick to specific word counts in order to keep their titles within a page limit and thus helping control price.
For those interested in the role of Indiana in the Civil War this is a book that should be considered. Available at a budget friendly price it allows for a handy reference rather than trying to find Indiana generals at random in Warner.
Arcadia Publishing has generously provided a complimentary review copy of this book. Arcadia Publishing has also published five titles I have written as of the date of this post. This review has not been influenced by these factors and is based upon my reading of the work.
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