Books of Interest: The Life of Billy Yank

Two years ago my family and I visited Charleston, South Carolina. While we were there I thought it would be interesting to visit Fort Sumter National Monument. I figured it would be interesting for my husband and myself, and at the very least my then five-year-old son would enjoy the ferry ride over to the monument. Well, my son did enjoy the ferry ride, at least the first five minutes of it. After that everything was "old news." By the time we got to the fort my son was pretty bored. As a result, my husband and I took turns alternately entertaining the child and looking around the fort.

During our visit I did manage to check out the gift shop. I picked up a tiny toy cannon for the son and The Life of Billy Yank: The Common Soldier for the Union by Bell Irvin Wiley for me. The book provides an interesting overview of a Union soldier's experience during the Civil War. It discusses the daily camp life and routine of the typical Union soldier. It also discusses the relationship and attitudes of the soldiers towards Rebel soldiers and African American slaves, fighting and battle, the all too abundant miseries of war, and profiles of the average and not so average soldier. The book includes an extensive bibliography and an index. The Life of Johnny Reb: The Common Soldier of the Confederacy, a companion book by the same author, is also available for those interested in the typical life of a Confederate soldier.

Wiley, Bell Irvin. The Life of Billy Yank: The Common Soldier of the Union. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1978, 1952.

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