Three Years a Soldier combines the diary, correspondence, and literary efforts of Private George Perkins of the Sixth New York Independent Battery, beginning in December 1861 and ending December 1864. The letters and essays--never before published in any collection of Civil War material--offer extended commentary and provide additional insights on the events related in the diary. Taken together, the diary, newspaper letters, and documents tell a coherent story from the viewpoint of an educated private soldier in the Army of the Potomac. Not only did Perkins provide detailed, accurate reports of the battles and camp life of his service, but he also criticized top army leadership and offered commentaries on major personal and national issues, including his notions of the nature of courage, political issues such as the treatment of draft dodgers, and the effects of slavery. As his writings reveal, Perkins embodied the fiercely independent Northern "free laborer" whom Lincoln alwasy claimed would win the war--and whose values the war would vindicate. Over time, Perkins's writings show that his personal reasons for joining the Union army became identified with the national goals of the Union effort: he came to believe that the existence of slavery was incompatible with the achievement of an advanced, just, and noble society based on free institutions. Three Years a Soldier will appeal to scholars and Civil War enthusiasts alike. Scholars will find rich primary source documents, most never before published. Civil War enthusiasts will discover that the Perkins diary and accompanying Middlesex Journal letters document the evolution and development of combined cavalry and horse artilleryoperations.
Richard N. Griffin is a retired U.S. Navy captain who lives in Alexandria, Virginia. George Perkins was his great-grandfather.