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Civil War Texana: A Soldier in Hood’s Brigade

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132.     [CIVIL WAR]. STEVENS, J[ohn] W. Reminiscences of the Civil War by Jno. W. Stevens, a Soldier in Hood’s Texas Brigade, Army of Northern Virginia. Hillsboro, Texas: [Privately printed at] Hillsboro Mirror Print, 1902. [1-4] 5-213 [1, blank] pp., frontispiece portrait of author (photograph print). 8vo (24 x 16 cm), original slate blue blind-embossed cloth, gilt lettering on spine and upper cover. A few mild stains and slight wear to binding, endpapers lightly browned, one short split at upper gutter margin, otherwise fine. Association copy; front free endpaper with contemporary pencil signature: “R.A. Brantley, Somerville, June 27, 1902, Bryan.” Brantley (June 3, 1838-August 3, 1911) served in Company D, 5th Regiment, Hood’s Brigade and was a pioneer of Somerville, Texas. For a number of years he was president of the Hood’s Texas Brigade annual reunion. Laid in is Helen & Raymond Jackson’s three-page autograph letter signed (June 6, 1969) to teacher-historian Ed. A. Perkins of Albuquerque. A note in the letter states that the book came from the estate of Perkins’ daughter Edith Menning.

     First edition (based on a series of articles printed in the Picayune, a Hillsboro newspaper, see p. 4). Dornbusch II:1093. Howes S970. Parrish, Civil War Texana: A Bibliography of Outstanding Rare Books 94: “Instead of the usual battle accounts, Stevens gives a personal view of life in Hood’s Brigade, providing numerous anecdotes and colorful observations.” Not in Nevins.

     The work is a classic, both among Texas Civil War literature specifically and Civil War literature in general. Stevens, although he constantly refers to his reminiscences as those of an “old man,” nevertheless vouches for their accuracy and correctness. In the preliminaries is a statement by seven men, either his fellow soldiers in Hood’s Brigade or his fellow prisoners (also referring to themselves as “old soldiers”), attesting that the author has given “a true record.” In some ways, Stevens says, the text was difficult to write: “As I look back over the intervening years, and contemplate the scenes of that day, it brings up many sad memories. Some things in that list I could wish had never occurred, others are held as sacred memories in the mind-casket, only to be looked at occasionally, as we would look at a lock of hair or some other little trinket, once possessed by a dear one long since gone” (p. 7).

     Stevens was promptly made a captain once the war was imminent and raised a company in Liberty County; they eventually marched to Richmond as part of Hood’s 5th Company. His first significant engagement was in Lee’s defeat of McClellan in that area and in the subsequent battles which ensued as the Federals retreated to Washington. By the time the fighting reached Winchester, Virginia, he notes, “two-thirds of our brave Texas boys have gone down in battle and…their remains now lie buried in soldiers graves on the field of Sharpsburg” (p. 76). He then participated in the Confederate victories at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. In a small aside, he states that Stonewall Jackson died not from his wounds but from inept nursing that hastened his death: “But he was really killed by the kindness of his family and friends who were so devoted to him, with kindness” (p. 101).

     Stevens’ active participation in the war ended with his capture at Gettysburg on July 2, 1863, when he was miraculously left standing after practically everyone around him had been cut down: “As I now remember, about six men who had become separated from their own commands walked up to where I was standing and began firing, and the entire six were left dead at my feet” (p. 114). (That action was the Battle at Little Round Top, where the Confederates were repulsed and captured by the bayonet charge of Colonel Joshua Chamberlain’s desperate Union troops, as depicted in the film Gettysburg, based on Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels.) At this point in the narrative the most unusual aspect of the story begins, when Stevens is imprisoned at Fort Delaware and then Point Lookout, a situation that occupies several chapters and is replete with interesting details on life in federal prisons, including remarks on turncoats and the African-American troops used to guard them. In November, 1864, Stevens was paroled, and once back in Texas he sat out the war in a desk job.

     Stevens closes his work with a few chapters entitled “An Analysis of the Negro Problem, a Result of the War.” In it, he offers his reflections on how the world has changed now that the people he considers the superior Anglo-Saxon race are on a par with those he considers his inferiors. Yet he argues that overall the races are more peaceful and get along better in the South than anywhere else in the Union. He also decries the practice of lynching and states that it must stop. Finally, however, he states his belief that the younger generation born to former slaves have somehow developed degrading behaviors since the war, especially in the matter of crime, which he sees as on the increase.

     Little is known about Stevens, except that he seems to have married Sophronia Fields, and that the couple had three children.


Sold. Hammer: $750.00; Price Realized: $900.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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