Among field officers in the Confederate Army, colonels had the greatest life-or-death power over the average soldier. Usually regimental commanders who were charged with instructing their men in drill, many also led brigades or divisions, and the influence of an outstanding colonel could be recognized throughout the army.
While several books have dealt with the Confederacy’s generals, this is the first comprehensive study of its colonels. Bruce S. Allardice has undertaken exhaustive research to uncover a wealth of facts not previously available and to fill in many gaps in previous scholarship on the 1,583 men who achieved the rank of full colonel by the end of their careers—including both staff and line officers and members of all armies.
A biographical article on each man includes such data as date and place of birth, education, prewar occupation and military experience, service record, instances of being wounded or captured, postwar life and death, and available writings on the officer or manuscript collections of his papers. Throughout, Allardice follows Confederate law and surviving government records in determining an officer’s true rank, and he uses the regimental designations from the compiled service records in the National Archives as the most familiar to researchers. Appendixes list state army colonels, colonels who became generals, and colonels whose rank cannot be proved.
In his introduction, Allardice gives readers a clear understanding of the characteristics of a colonel in the Confederacy. He explains how one became a colonel—the mustering process, election of officers, reorganizing of regiments—and exposes the inadequacies of the officer-nominating process, questions of seniority, and problems of “rank inflation.” He highlights such notable figures as John S. Mosby, the “Grey Ghost,” and George Smith Patton, great-grandfather of WWII general George S. Patton, and also provides statistics on such matters as states of origin, age, and casualties.
This single-volume compendium sheds new light on these interesting and important military figures and features more standard information than can be found in similar references. Confederate Colonels belongs at the side of every Civil War historian or buff, whether as a research tool or as a touchstone for other readings.