My Remembrance of the War, etc. 1861-1865: The Memoir of George C. Maguire, c. 1893 edited by William Maguire. Newman Springs Publishing, 2019. Paper, ISBN: 978-1645315162. $18.95.
Just before the Battle of Antietam in September 1862, a soldier requested that, if he should die, George C. Maguire procure his knapsack and destroy its contents—including a cache of personal letters. The man was, indeed, killed in the looming engagement. But Maguire never “hunted him out,” and thus, he professed, “I could not destroy his letters.”
“It was just as well I guess,” Maguire reasoned, “as hardly anyone cares to read another’s letters.”
Ironically, “anyone [who] cares to read” Maguire’s words may do just that.
In My Remembrance of the War, editor William Maguire, a professor in the Department of Art and Art History at Florida International University, has not only unearthed a valuable resource, but preserved his great-grandfather’s Civil War tale.
George C. Maguire first put pen to paper around 1893 in a three-by-seven-inch booklet that was passed through his family for generations. The narrative covers Maguire’s life throughout the Civil War years.
At the outbreak of the conflict, Maguire was fourteen years old and sent to live with his sister and her husband, Salome Marsh, an abolitionist and temperance advocate. At this formative age, Maguire overheard rumors that newly elected President Abraham Lincoln might be assassinated; observed the Pratt Street Riots; and marched with his brother-in-law in a Wide Awake rally.
Salome Marsh enlisted in the Fifth Maryland Infantry, was promoted to lieutenant, and ultimately became a provost marshal in the United States Army. He was consistently accompanied by the young Maguire along the way.
During his time with the regiment, Maguire witnessed famous events including naval actions at Newport News, Virginia; the aftermath of the Battle of South Mountain; and the Union advance toward Burnside’s Bridge at Antietam. He interacted with and observed important leaders, including Benjamin Butler, Joseph Mansfield, George B. McClellan, and Clara Barton. He rode cavalry horses, interacted with people of different races and nationalities, and became fascinated by a new life away from home.
Though he was a noncombatant, Maguire shared in the experience of soldiering; he knew something of hunger and exhaustion. He was immersed in war’s horrors, and described in grotesque ways the deaths of men not much older than him. He eventually overcame his squeamishness by delivering medical goods to aid stations; finally, he served as a nurse, ward master, and property clerk at the expansive Hicks U.S. General Hospital.
William Maguire has included all of George Maguire’s original text, including simple maps and crude drawings in the author’s own hand. My Remembrance of the War offers something for history aficionados and readers of almost any interest level. This is a well-told and wonderfully curated firsthand recollection; voiced by a captivating figure, it presents an engrossing coming-of-age narrative.
Codie Eash currently serves as Operations Manager at Seminary Ridge Museum and Education Center in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He operates the independent Facebook blog “Codie Eash – Writer and Historian” and is a regular contributor to PennCivilWar.com.