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Baring the Iron Hand
Discipline in the Union Army
Steven J. Ramold
“An ambitious, thorough, remarkably well-researched, and well-written examination of discipline, military justice, and punishment in the Union Army.... It makes an important contribution to the field.”—William Skelton, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
“As far as I know, there is nothing like this work out there, and if there is, it is certainly not as deeply researched and as thoroughly argued as this. [It] provides more valuable insights into the world—at home and in camp and field—of the Northern volunteer in the Civil War.”—William B. Feis, Buena Vista University
During antebellum wars the Regular Army preserved the peace, suppressed the Indians, and bore the brunt of the fighting. The Civil War, however, brought an influx of volunteers who overwhelmed the number of army Regulars, forcing a clash between traditional military discipline and the expectations of citizens. Baring the Iron Hand provides an extraordinarily in-depth examination of this internal conflict and the issue of discipline in the Union Army. Ramold tells the story of the volunteers, who, unaccustomed to such military necessities as obeying officers, accepting punishment, and suppressing individuality, rebelled at the traditional discipline expected by the standing army. Unwilling to fully surrender their perceived rights as American citizens, soldiers both openly and covertly defied the rules. They challenged the right of their officers to lead them and established their own policies on military offenses, proper conduct, and battlefield behavior. Citizen soldiers also denied the army the right to punish them for offenses like desertion, insubordination, and mutiny that had no counterpart in civilian life.
(2009) 454 pp., 15 illus.
Steven J. Ramold is Associate Professor of History at Eastern Michigan University. He is the author of Slaves, Sailors, Citizens: African Americans in the Union Navy.
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