Review of The Badax Tigers

Nanzig, Thomas P., Ed. The Badax Tigers:  From Shiloh to the Surrender with the 18th Wisconsin Volunteers. New York:  Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2002. ISBN:  0-7425-6019-8  384 pp. $22.95

This book is an insightful look into a company within a Wisconsin Infantry regiment, from its origins, to the end of the war. Editor Thomas Nanzig provided wonderful research into Company C, 18th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry (known as the Badax Tigers), basing it around primary sources from letters and newspaper accounts on the regiment that bring the life of the common soldiers to the forefront.

The book begins by discussing the beginnings of the Tigers in camp of instruction in Milwaukee. This is especially of interest to myself, as my thesis dealt with the subject in Illinois. I even used it in a draft chapter of the thesis that was not included in the final version. It then chronciles the company’s participation in several major engagements in the Western Theater of the war, including Corinth, Vicksburg, and Atlanta, including the end of the war.

The book centers around the letters of Private Thomas Jefferson Davis to his wife throughout the war and is supplemented by newspaper articles and reports on the regiment as well as letters written by other soldiers in the company intended for publication. Nanzig does an excellent job of combining these rich sources into a coherent story of one Federal unit during the war. This book reads like many other histories, but has the benefit of narrower focus, where the individual soldiers are able to come alive more, as they are examined against the company of roughly one hundred instead of the regiment of one thousand.

There are a couple other great things about this book in addition to the rich source material. Nanzig provided readers good analysis of the material. Further, he included several sections after the bibliography, including statistics for the regiment and Company C, an organizational chart of the 18th Wisconsin, and a roster for Company C. These provide important information for better understanding of the source material in the text.

In addition, Nanzig relies on good sources outside of the soldiers’ materials. These include works by Allan Nevins, James McPherson, as well as early works by Stephen Ambrose and the reports of the Wisconsin adjutant general during the war, which are vital to studying soldiers. These materials provide a strong scholarly background for this work.

Overall, this is an insightful work into a Wisconsin infantry unit and provides a wonderful look into the lives of common Union soldiers. It is easy to read and well-edited. Scholars and general audiences alike will find value in this work. Scholars should examine this for their own research into Civil War soldiers and should consider using this in classes on the war, as students will find it accessible and compelling. General readers will enjoy an intimate connection to the boys in blue, as they (the soldiers) write to loved ones back home, and reporters tell the story of the Badax Tigers. The Badax Tigers should be on the shelf of every library that includes Civil War material.