James A. Wright was an orderly sergeant in Company F of the First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment in the Civil War. His memoir, based on his diaries and letters, is the fullest personal account of the battles, marches, and soldier life of one of the most renowned regiments in the Army of the Potomac. The First took part in every significant battle and action in the war in the East from 1861 to 1864. In remarkable detail, he describes the fighting at Bull Run, the Peninsula Campaign, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, and Bristoe Station. At Gettysburg, the First Minnesota halted the Confederate charge and suffered an 82 percent casualty rate. Wright's account of the battle is striking in its description of the horror the men felt at facing their foes, their determination to do their duty, and the shock of the loss of so many of their comrades.
With an eloquence rare in war memoirs, Wright recalls the long marches, the poor food, the inadequate shelter, the dedicated officers, the debilitating illnesses, the longing for home, and the sense of pride in carrying out the struggle to preserve the Union. For conveying what the Civil War meant to one man, it is unmatched.