William G. Putney papers  ca. 1896
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The typescript of William Putney's history of Battery I, 2nd Illinois Artillery Regiment, bound and stamped in gold with the title, was presented to the captain of the battery, Charles M. Barnett, as a Christmas gift in 1897. Putney was only the final editor and compiler of the history, which was based on the recollections, letters, and diaries of a number of men in the regiment, with snippets culled from sources as diverse as Sherman's memoirs, reminiscences from soldiers in other regiments, and popular histories. The full, and rather complex history of authorship of the volume is discussed in his preface.

In many ways, Putney's narrative is characteristic of the genre of post-war reminiscences, in its selectivity and its tendency to gloss over or reimagine certain events. It is not, however, as thoroughly sanitized as many memoirs, and presents some of the unpleasantries of military service and the war with a surprising freshness. Inclined toward a literary style, Putney balances small, humorous anecdotes, mostly personal in nature, with larger-scale perspectives on the campaigns and conflicts in which the Battery was embroiled. The intrusion of narratives drawn from high ranking officers (such as Gen. Sherman) provides some insight into the average soldier's post-war opinions on what was significant about their experience, but it is the recollections of the minutiae of service, the practical jokes played by soldiers, their everyday coping, that makes Putney's memoir so valuable.

The History of Battery I includes a roster of the battery, with brief notes on the post-war activities of each member. The manuscript maps are probably copies of some printed works rather than recreations from memory. They depict 1) Route of Battery I from 1862 to 1865; 2) military and naval operations about Island No. 10; 3) the last day of the battle of Chickamauga and the route of Battery I; 4) Chattanooga Campaign; 5) the Atlanta Campaign.

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