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CWT Book Review: A Small but Spartan Band

By Gordon Berg
12/26/2017 • Civil War Times Magazine

A Small but Spartan Band: The Florida Brigade in Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia

by Zack C. Waters and James C. Edmonds, University of Alabama Press

What sets Band histories is how little primary apart from other unit A Small but Spartan source material its authors had to work with and how far and wide they had to search to find it. More than 20 years of work by Zack Waters and James Edmonds resulted in this long-awaited, comprehensive treatment of the regiments that formed the Florida Brigade.

Florida was the South’s least-populated state. As a result, the authors note, “even some serious students of the war still believe [its] only real contribution to the Confederacy was as a supplier of cattle and salt.” The 2nd Florida Infantry, first bloodied at Williamsburg on May 5, 1862, was soon joined by the 5th and 8th regiments. Together they fought in every one of the Army of Northern Virginia’s major battles. After Spotsylvania, 1,200 fresh Floridians joined 275 survivors of the original brigade. At Appomattox, 64 officers and 441 men surrendered.

The brigade suffered horrific casualties: 50 percent of is effective force at Antietam and the Wilderness, and 62 percent at Gettysburg (“the highest casualty rate of any Rebel brigade during the incursion into Pennsylvania,” according to the authors). But its members had to weather accusations— unfounded, it seems—that they failed to support Pickett’s Charge on July 3, 1863. Waters and Edmonds demonstrate that most of the brigade’s men served bravely and with honor.

 

Originally published in the August 2010 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here

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