The Chatfield Story: “Extensive research and thoughtful commentary…”

Edward Chatfield fortunately left to posterity several diaries and over 100 letters relating to his service from 1862 to 1865 as a private in the 113th Illinois Infantry. He was in the Vicksburg Campaign and helped guard the Corinth-Memphis sector before being captured following the disastrous Battle of Brice's Crossroads (June 1864). He managed to survive the hell-holes of Andersonville, Millen and Florence before being exchanged and returning home.
He later became a rancher in Colorado. With extensive research and thoughtful commentary, Peg McCarty, one of Edward's descendants, and her husband Terry have done a wonderful job in presenting Edward's story in proper context in a beautifully produced and well-illustrated book. Where there are gaps in the record, they utilized valuable sources, such as the unpublished memoir of one of Edward's friends who was with him throughout their captivity. Highly recommended for adding to the understanding of the experiences and viewpoints of Union soldiers in the Western Theater and as a tribute to the men in blue who suffered so much because of the incompetent leadership at Brice's Crossroads.

From John B. Lundstrom,  Curator Emeritus of History, Milwaukee Public Museum, author of "Black Shoe Carrier Admiral: Frank Jack Fletcher at Coral Sea, Midway and Guadalcanal":  
"...excellent job reporting historical material in context....

For nearly a century, the Civil War memoirs of Edward Livingston Chatfield were tucked away in a shoebox wrapped in yarn. They were unearthed in 1964 when the only daughter of the Union veteran died. Inside the box was a pile of both letters he wrote to his parents and to other family members, and his wartime diaries. Now, Civil War letters and diaries, in and of themselves, are valuable, but not that unusual. The Civil War was fought by literate soldiers who loved to both write and to receive letters. There are many such books.

What makes the Chatfield collection stand out is the completeness. Terry M. McCarty and Margaret Ann Chatfield McCarty collaborated to turn the collection into a 564 page book "The Chatfield Story" (2009, $32.99 Booksurge Publications). It is a book of significant local historical value. Chatfield is no longer a name in the local phone book, but at the time of the Civil War, he had enlisted in the 113th Illinois, signing up at the Kankakee County fairgrounds. After the war, the Chatfields moved to Colorado, where the family rose to prominence. Today there is a Chatfield High School, a Chatfield Lake and a Chatfield State Park, all there, not here.

This diary and these letters give a very complete account of the 113th Illinois. This is also one of the most meticulously researched historical books you will ever find. Two appendixes in particular make the purchase worthwhile for genealogists and local historians. The authors have compiled a list of 120 other soldiers mentioned in the diaries who served in the war. Another appendix lists the other Civil War diaries from the 113th Illinois.
This book contains the best account anywhere of the background of Kankakee County Medal of Honor winner James Henry. Elisha Johns, Medal of Honor winner from Iroquois County, also turns up in the book. Johns is difficult to find in national Medal of Honor lists because his hometown of Martinton is misspelled as Martintonk. This is not necessarily only a book for the Civil War buff.

From Phil Angelo, Senior Editor, Kankakee Daily Journal, Kankakee, Illinois:
The authors have done an excellent job reporting historical material in context so you understand where Chatfield and the regiment are and what the relevance of their service is. Blended method: the authors have interspersed the diary entries with the letters to create a comprehensive narrative of the war. It is also very good history. I have read many accounts of Civil War river gunboats. The explanation here is as good as one you will find in many naval histories. The text also has first-rate maps and a superior index, always a sign of a useful history on one of those revealing useful historical nuggets, Chatfield uses the abbreviation KKK for Kankakee before the Klan existed. So if you wonder about whether the longtime local abbreviation started with the Klan, it didn't. ....Chatfield was a literate writer. He did not struggle with the language, and the material isn't the material stilted in the romantic Victorian prose of the day. As might be expected, his diary is a bit more revealing than his letters home, because he did not want to worry his parents. Like most Civil War soldiers, his closest brush with death came as a result of illness, not bullets.

He writes about the food, the weather, and the men and officers around him. The letters reveal a deeply religious man, who thought both his life and the war were in the hands of God. Thus, among Civil War diaries, you have to put this in the first rank for its readability and believability.

Chatfield was present at two of the war's most significant events. The regiment took part in the campaign against Vicksburg. Illinois played a prominent role at Vicksburg, where half of Ulysses Grant's Army came from the Prairie State. The Illinois Civil War monument sits at Vicksburg, containing the names of all Illinois men who fought there…Overall...this is a very valuable contribution to local history, coming from an unusual corner of the world. I'm glad I read it and glad I have it.

From C. Patterson, Civil War buff, Georgetown, Texas:
The Chatfield Story: “Awesome Story...Hard to put down…” This is a fascinating story of the Civil War told thru the eyes of a young Northern soldier. His journal writing is informative, and his letters home to family are filled with heart warming and heart breaking stories. Chatfield has a way of conveying war details that make the book hard to put down. The authors have added valuable resource information that helps one understand the characters and enhances the reading of the letters.
The McCartys lay bare an improbable story of war, fortitude and survival during a little-known chapter of the American Civil War.
The Chatfield Story is a remarkable personal biography that sheds light on the inner workings of one lone Union private, but also illuminates the psyche of an entire generation. Authors McCarty meticulously annotate each letter and diary entry while providing background narrative before and after, so the reader has the fullest possible understanding of the history, events and the subject in question. Fortified with wartime maps, topographical charts and generous appendices, readers are fully armed and ready to take on this formidable lesson in human endurance, grit and determination. The book is the rare intimate biography that is historically compelling and dramatically satisfying. The story begins with Edward’s birth in Middlefield Township, Ohio, in 1842 and ends 24 years later at the close of the Civil War, following Chatfield through the Western Theater–Cairo, Memphis, Oxford, Holly Springs, Chickasaw Bayou, Arkansas Post, DeSoto Point, Vicksburg, Corinth and other key battlegrounds. Well-known in Colorado, the Chatfield story has now come into the zeitgeist through the impeccable efforts of the authors, who have painstakingly researched and documented not only one man’s life, but also the coming-of-age of a nation during its darkest hour. Chatfield’s letters and diary punctuate a lively and dynamic telling of history that is as much an American story as it is a personal memoir. But the real value of this work is that it teaches U.S. history in an accessible, engrossing way. It delivers an entertaining, educational and wholly enjoyable excursion through our shared past and one remarkable life. Easy to read, faultlessly researched and masterfully written.
Welcome / Chatfield's Letters / Letter Sampling / Chatfield DiariesPictures / Great Reviews / 113th Illinois / Battle Maps /Andersonville / About authors / Order page