This article appeared in the August 2, 1866 edition of The Nation.
Andersonville prison wasn’t hell on earth; it was worse.
Two Recent Southern Books:
"Four Years in the Saddle"
Col. Harry Gilmor
New York: Harper Brothers
New York: Harper and Brother
Modesty, that sweetest grace of heroic spirits, is not, we should say, among this cavalry hero’s charms. Not in his book, at any rate, does he appear as a shamefaced person. Impudent, most people would call him, though some might say that his impudence and self-conceit are of the unconscious kind. It is true that autobiographies are seldom prepared with a view of covering up the writer’s merits. And the ex-colonel may plead that he was in a manner forced to tell his own story; that a majority of his countrymen believed him to be what he has been roundly called—a murderer and a thief; that a biography, satisfactory or otherwise, was hardly to be hoped for; that as for history, the severe muse, it is likely, will do no better for him than tell posterity that H. Gilmor was a rebel major whose command, one day in July, 1864, got between Baltimore and Havre de Grace, and, before retreating, stopped a train on the Philadelphia railroad and pillaged the passengers. And even, he might say, if the historian bestows on him a sentence more, he might, perhaps, expect a sentence that not the meekest, most self-depreciatory of men could rest content with; not improbably it would be to the effect that this Gilmor was one of those rebels whom their foes, their friends, and they themselves might all call traitors, as having not only waged war upon their country but also committed treason against their "sovereign" native State.
Whether or not he needs to brag, or knows that he is bragging, these three hundred pages are filled full with Gilmor’s tale of Gilmor’s prowess and exploits. Every Confederate general presses his hand warmly and thanks him for the abundance and accuracy of the information which he collects. He goes round and round the Yankee army and through it and back again. Every Confederate general congratulates him on the splendid dash and endurance of his cavalry. The Confederate rank and file, when he rides to the head of the column, break forth in a simultaneous cry, "All right, boys; there goes our Harry to the front." Therefore, no wonder that, with his long bright blade raised in tierce point, he rides exultingly into the battle, swearing never to be taken alive, and kills the Yankee incessantly. Sometimes he shoots the Vandal with a revolver as he rides at a gallop past telegraph posts he can put a ball into each of half a dozen posts. Sometimes the invader falls beneath his fist. But for choice he smites him with the sword. His gallant gray ranges alongside some federal; the colonel delivers a right cut at him; the foe defends by a tierce parry; with thought-like speed the colonel makes a moulinet, and the fight is won. If ever a blue-coat escapes death or captivity it is not by superior valor. Mounted on his bay mare, a splendid blooded animal, the colonel leaps two or three high fences and wide ditches; his men follow; they aid their leader, who has charged a fleeing squadron of the enemy; he rises in the stirrups and makes a cut in front at one undemoralized Yankee who shoots as he runs; but just previously he had made a rear cut and turned his sabre in tierce; it is but the flat of the blade which crashes upon the head of the Federal, therefore he is not cleft to the chin; nevertheless down he goes headlong to the earth.