Ohio History Journal

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Book Reviews

Book Reviews




Under the Flag of the Nation: Diaries and Letters of a Yankee Volun-

teer in the Civil War. Edited by Otto F. Bond. (Columbus: Ohio

State University Press for the Ohio Historical Society, 1961. 308p.;

illustrations and appendices. $5.00.)

In view of the tidal wave of Civil War publications now threatening

the reading public and the historical profession, many readers may

recoil at the prospect of fresh printings of soldiers' diaries from either

side of the conflict. This book, published for the Ohio Historical So-

ciety, is an entry in the sweepstakes for the Union point of view.

The book is composed of the letters, diaries, and reminiscences of

Owen Johnston Hopkins, an Ohio volunteer at age seventeen, from

Bellefontaine, Ohio, in the 42d Ohio Volunteer Infantry. It covers in

some degree almost all of the war in the Mississippi campaign. Hop-

kins rose from private to lieutenant in the 42d, serving in the battles

of the Cumberland Gap in 1861 and 1862 under Colonel James A.

Garfield; in the Mississippi River campaigns with the Army of the

Tennessee, climaxing in the siege of Vicksburg, of which he gives an

admirable first-hand account; in desultory guard actions in the bayou

country of Louisiana in the department of the gulf; and finally in

1864 and 1865 as a quartermaster for the 182d O.V.I. stationed in


Hopkins was not in a position to recite the war's history, or to affect

tactics and strategy, and his most rewarding comments reflect the daily

life of the common soldier in the Union army. The grumblings, forced

marches, poor supplies, bad commanders, weather, and confusion com-

mon to any such army are vividly revealed in his often humorous

descriptions of the soldiers' life. His sense of humor, well demonstrated

in his comments on his fellows and himself, later sharpened into some

talent as a cartoonist. The picture he paints of daily life on the march

or in the camp is not new, but is colorful, interesting, and often vivid.

One senses in his pages the change from boy to man.

The most refreshing note in the book is the patriotism which Hopkins

sounds, and which does not ring hollow a century later. Modern