Dark Days of the Rebellion, by Benjamin F. Booth and Steve Myer, Myer Publishing, Garrison, Iowa, 1995, $24.95.
From the time the Civil War ended until around the 1960s, most material written on the war had a definite slant, either pro-North or pro-South. Even the legendary Bruce Catton was known to inform people who used the term “Confederate” in his presence, “No, no–they were Rebels.” It wasn’t until the late ’60s that books presenting the war in a more unemotional light were written with any frequency.
One doesn’t need to read far in Dark Days of the Rebellion to figure out where Benjamin Booth stood in his feelings. Originally published in 1897, Booth’s account details his experiences as a prisoner of war. He was captured in the Shenandoah Valley in October 1864 at the Battle of Cedar Creek and imprisoned first at Libby Prison and then at the prison in Salisbury,N.C.. The book fairly reeks of the hatred Booth felt for the Southerners. A good example: Throughout the entire text Booth seems flabbergasted by the fact that the Southerners he came in contact with were so upset over the burning of the Shenandoah Valley, and he finds it inhuman that they would harbor ill feelings toward him and his comrades who had been apart of Sheridan’s force.
Editor and publisher Myer has done an excellent job of editing the book, not only taking the time to point out that prisons were just as bad in the North but also providing a wealth of information to supplement the narrative. For someone interested specifically in Salisbury Prison, the occasional nugget can be found amongst the chaff of hatred. For the general reader, though,Dark Days of the Rebellion may be a little too dark in its approach to be an enjoyable read.
B. Keith Toney