Allegany to Appomattox
The Life and Letters of Private William Whitlock
By: Valgene Dunham
The 188th New York Volunteers was a regiment from upstate New York that formed towards the end of the Civil War in October of 1864. One of these late war volunteers was a Private William Whitlock who corresponded with his wife “Lide” throughout the course of his service. Allegany to Appomattox is a compilation of these 40 letters between the two which tell the story of the 188th. Background information and narration is provided by William Whitlock’s great grandson Valgene Dunham, the author of the book. Dunham has a background in the sciences so this is his first historical writing. The excitement that comes with this coupled with his personal connection to Whitlock can be seen in his writing.
Dunham is very detailed in his writing providing a plethora of background information surrounding the letters, which is mostly very useful but at times can seem a bit extraneous. In works such as this where we have a compilation of personal letters we often have a microhistory that tells us what the everyday experiences of soldiers were for example and this book is certainly no different. In focusing on these letters and the life of William Whitlock as our microhistory we can learn a good deal about the experiences of the 188th New York and what role they played in the Civil War. For example Whitlock chronicles his battle with a nagging cold over the course of a handful of letters which was tough to kick during the cold winter of 1864.
Dunham organizes the letters by topic in the book which does a nice job of using these letters to speak to the greater events occurring like the Battle of Hatchers Run, Siege of Petersburgh, and the Battle of Five Forks, which the 188th was involved in. Anyone interested in the individual aspect of the late years of the Civil War or looking for very detailed descriptions of those conflicts would benefit from this book.
– Joe Candarelli