4v. Milledgeville, GA: Boyd Publishing, 2000–1. Hardcover. Index. ISBN 1-890307-32-7. (PO Box 367, Milledgeville, GA 31061 / <email@example.com>)
There have traditionally been three schools of thought about the antebellum State militias in the South. Some historians have treated them as a joke, a haven for those who wanted only to carouse and get drunk. Others consider it as primarily an paranoid institution organized to enforce slavery. Most historians, however, have simply ignored the militia.
In fact, says Smith, the militia system was perhaps the most inclusive and influential element in antebellum society. Nor was the period between the British evacuation of Savannah and the coming of the Civil War a time of peace, for in terms of the threat of armed violence against its people, Georgia “was in an almost constant swirl of ‘war or rumors of war’.” And he makes a very creditable effort to fill the void in the historical record. The oversized volumes in this set total more than 1,600 pages with several times that many footnotes. Volume 1 covers “Campaigns and Generals,” providing an outline of units in state service during each conflict of the period, followed by brief but very thorough biographies of the state’s military leaders. Volumes 2 and 3 are devoted to “Counties and Commanders,” giving a full table of organization at the local level and including local contextual data. Volume 4 considers “The Companies,” of which Georgia had twenty-two, with full histories of the activities of each. Smith makes every effort to let the participants speak for themselves, but his own writing style also is exceptional. This superior work is a model of its kind – and I wish there were equivalent works for other states.