Book Review: For Home and the Southland: A History of the 48th Georgia Infantry Regiment (by John Zwemer) : ACW

8/11/2001 • 20th Maine, Cemetery Ridge, Civil War 1862, Civil War 1863, Civil War Cannon, Cold Harbor, Little Round Top, Mag: America's Civil War Reviews

For Home and the Southland: A History of the 48th Georgia Infantry Regiment, by John Zwemer, NButternut & Blue, Baltimore, Md., 1999, $24.95.

th Georgia Infantry Regiment went into action during the Peninsula campaign and fought in almost every significant Civil War battle on the East Coast. Its soldiers endured the heavy fire from Federal cannons at Malvern Hill, participated in Lieutenant General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s flanking maneuver at Chancel-lorsville, penetrated the Union line at Gettysburg on the second day of the battle, slaughtered onrushing bluecoats at Cold Harbor and defended the line when Union engineers blew a mine under the trenches at Petersburg.

John Zwemer, a teacher in Georgia, has put together a 57-page account of the regiment’s history as well as a detailed unit roster and other useful appendices in For Home and the Southland. The book is the 13th work in Butternut & Blue’s Army of Northern Virginia series. Zwemer uses letters, newspaper reports, the Official Records and secondary materials to tell the regiment’s story. The real value in the book is its roster and statistics on losses by engagement, which will aid historians researching the regiment as well as genealogists looking for individuals who might have been members of the 48th.

The text skims over the regiment’s actions, however, and fails to put the unit’s contributions into the larger perspective of the battles it fought. For instance, the author only briefly mentions Jackson’s flank attack at the Battle of Chancellorsville and does not provide enough information about the Union regiments that the 48th attacked. Similarly, the Confederate attack at Gettysburg’s Cemetery Ridge on July 2, 1863, is not put into the context of what was happening at Little Round Top that same day. There are plenty of other incidents that Zwemer could have further examined. The author says, for example, that “the 48th provided rear guard support and stalled the Federals at Winchester, Virginia,” but he does not give any elaboration.

While Zwemer’s insights are few, they are well thought out. On the second day at Gettysburg, he explains, the 48th experienced more success, traveled farther and captured more enemy guns than Confederate forces did during Pickett’s Charge on July 3. In fact, the author argues, if the 48th had been reinforced during its assault on the Union line, it could have breached the Union line and taken the field, preventing the Confederate disaster that followed the next day.

When Zwemer does delve into a few personal stories, they are entertaining. The description of an incident at Gettysburg in which a group from the 48th surrendered to a Union captain to ensure proper treatment for their regimental commander, who had been wounded, is great reading.

Despite its briefness, For Home and the Southland will prove a valuable addition to the Army of Northern Virginia series, mostly for the information provided by the roster and the personal letters of the 48th’s soldiers.

Kevin M. Hymel