"Beyond the age of information is the age of choices." Charles Eames. Hartman, Carla and Eames Demetrios. 100 Quotes by Charles Eames, p. 40.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Review: Brother Against Brother: the Lost Civil War Diary of Lt. Edmund Halsey

Chadwick, Bruce, ed. Brother Against Brother: the Lost Civil War Diary of Lt. Edmund Halsey. Carol Publishing Group. 1997. 308p.

One hundred fifty years ago, Edmund Halsey of Rockaway, New Jersey enlisted in the Union Army. His older brother, Joseph, of Virginia had already joined the Confederate Army. Both men served throughout the war and left many letters, articles and other documents that were saved by their families. On one level, this book is a simple collection of eyewitness narratives documenting the rigors of wartime and military life. What gives it value, however, is the way Chadwick juxtaposes excerpts from Edmund's diary and letters with those from Joseph and other Halseys. This combination creates a vibrant look into the turmoil, as well as the day-to-day concerns, that people throughout the North and South endured.

In the first part of the book, Chadwick provides descriptive background information covering the family's background, social standing, and contributions to Rockaway's--and by extension, New Jersey's--history and growth. Some genealogical information on the related Halsey and Jackson families is even included (but not footnoted). The prospect of uncovering genealogical tidbits about the Halseys is what enticed me to borrow this book from the library, but it was the useful background information on the Rockaway community that I found particularly valuable.

The balance of the book contains Edmund's diary, extracts from Joseph's papers, family letters, and helpful parenthetical explanations from Chadwick. The arrangement is chronological from August 30, 1862 through January 20, 1865. Many of the entries detail camp life, worries about family at home, and details about Edmund's and Joseph's military jobs. Letters from sisters and Joseph's wife, Millie, portray hardships at home.

This book is not a genealogy, but will give genealogists essential background information on the Civil War and Rockaway. The bibliography and author notes don't specify where the diary, family correspondence, and other source documents are located, but it appears the bulk of the materials are held by either the University of Virginia in the Morton-Halsey papers or the Rockaway Borough Free Public Library.

Includes photographs, selected bibliography, and an index which does not include every name mentioned in the book. No eBook edition located. New and used copies available at amazon.com, bn.com, and other retailers. And, of course, borrowing it from a library is always a wise option.

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