Sunday, February 21, 2016

Review of "Such Are the Trials: The Civil War Diaries of Jacob Gantz," edited by Kathleen Davis

Review of

Such Are the Trials: The Civil War Diaries of Jacob Gantz, edited by Kathleen Davis 
ISBN 0813809479

Four out of five stars

 Jacob Gantz was a Union soldier in the American Civil War as a member of the Fourth Iowa Cavalry unit. His actual point of origin was a farm in Jefferson County, Iowa and this is his diary of his activity in the war. Gantz suffered a severe wound in his right arm in March, 1865 and it was amputated halfway between the shoulder and elbow.
The first entry in the diary is dated March 12, 1863 and his location was Helena, Arkansas. His unit was operating in Alabama when he was wounded. The entries are very understated, even the reports of action with unit members being killed and wounded are written with no emotion. This is most clear in the last entry, where there is the phrase “. . . at 7oc they amputated my arm which was hard for me but such are the trials of war.”
 In keeping with the educational level of many people of the time, the grammar and spelling is very poor. The editor, a great-great granddaughter of Gantz, deliberately kept the entries as close to their original form as possible. Corrections are generally made only when there is a need to clarify the person being referenced.
There is nothing in the way of battle descriptions or embellishments of the action of the day. This diary also demonstrates the accurate description of war, mind-numbing routine interrupted by the sheer terror of battle. Yet, to read how Gantz describes it, there is little difference between the two.

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