Winter 1999

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A review of

Out of the Wilderness

The Civil War Memoirs of Corporal Norton C. Shepard
146th New York Volunteer Infantry, edited by Raymond W. Smith, Edmonston Publishing, Inc., Hamilton, NY

Reviewed by Virginia H. Gibbs

This small book—not quite 40 pages in extent—provides an insight out of all proportion to its size. It is a first-hand account, facutal and unembroidered, written by a young foot soldier of the 146th New York Volunteers who took part and was injured in The Battle of the Wilderness, May 5th, 1864, in Virginia. Left on the field for dead, he finally managed to reach a Confederate field hospital a few miles distant. His description of the conditions there, his treatment, and his subsequent removal are cited with dry humor, clarity, and open mindedness.

Corporal Shepard's original hand-written manuscript was found in a guest register of an Adirondack hotel of the late 1800s. The guest register was in the archives of the Yates County Genealogical and Historical Society's Oliver House Museum in Penn Yan. It was brought to light by James Folts from the New York State Archives who was working at that time on a project involving unpublished material in Yates County. The manuscript was unsigned and no clue existed as to how or by whom it arrived there. It was an item of interest but not more than that until Raymond Smith of the division of Historic Preservation of New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, himself a Civil War buff, took the matter in hand. It is Mr. Smith's private, painstaking research that established the author, his background and continuing life story, and it is due to Raymond Smith's time, energy, and talent that brings this personal account to the attention of the wider audience it deserves.

Mr. Smith has also provided the background which places the Battle of the Wilderness in historic context and has further embellished the book with photographs, prints and maps to make a unique contribution to anyone interested in New York State's participation in the Civil War. The cover picture of Corporal Norton Shepard (in his Zouave-style dress uniform) was supplied as a last minute breakthrough by his descendant Gene W. Parsons of Penn Yan and is a real highlight to this memoir.

Available from Edmonston Publishing, Inc., Hamilton, NY
on pH neutral paper for $10.95
© 1999, by Virginia H. Gibbs
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