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NOTE: anyone interested in the Confederate Civil War experience, unit research, or family research in the 19th century, will find this book a valuable addition to your library--your specific ancestry doesn't matter! Read reviews below to find out why. . . .
The Civil War publishing field does not lack for works on battles, regiments, and personal histories, but Dana M. Mangham's "Oh, For a Touch of the Vanished Hand" is one book that explores the Civil War from the view of a genealogist first, historian second. Mangham traces 37 of his Confederate ancestors prior to, during, and after the conflict. He tells this story not only by relating their personal stories but by weaving their experiences into the war itself. In addition, the author provides a useful guide for others interested in doing the same type of research for their own ancestors.
It is a bold task, and Mangham has left few stones unturned in order to meet his goal. . . .The sources are so well-blended that the reader seldom notices that multiple documents are required to pull together even the smallest part of the Mangham clan's story. . . .
. . .An obvious labor of love, this book also enlightens, challenges, and provokes the reader. Because of its story about the common southern man's experiences during the war and its usefulness as a guide in genealogical research, "Oh For a Touch of the Vanished Hand" presents a rare view into a diverse family's experiences during the Civil War.
Dana Mangham's achievement is substantial. He combines the skills of a historian and a genealogist, knows the historical literature well, and has done a prodigious amount of research. He has also included a short "how to" guide for others who want to research their Confederate ancestors. The book will be of interest to serious war buffs and to those with similar interests in their family histories, and it deserves a place in any library with a substantial genealogical collection.
Many of us have gotten wrapped up in the search for a Civil War ancestor, looking for the paths he walked, the people he met, the sights he saw. Some of us have done a pretty comprehensive search, enough to perhaps write a book about, if only we could find a publisher for a study of such narrow scope. But Dana Mangham, the author of this colossal family history, has done almost every one of us one better. This is a mammoth book, eight hundred pages of not-very-big print, and it is a tremendous lesson in how much we can learn about our ancestors in the Civil War if only we are willing to dig through the dust mite infected archives of materials that surround us all.
. . . If you have ever wondered how much you might be able to discover about your own forebears of the nineteenth century, there is no better example than this book of how much one person can discover.
Author Bill Bragg (Joe Brown's Army: The Georgia State Line, 1862-1865, and Griswoldville):
Despite the continued outpouring of Civil War books, few offerings attain much distinctiveness, and many have been justly described as "rehashes of rehashes."
A welcome exception, Dana M. Mangham's "Oh, For a Touch of the Vanished Hand" provides an absorbing combination of family history and unit history (with excellent advice on conducting the research for both). Mangham's book puts his examination of lineage in the service of a broader design: an explication of the Confederate side of the Civil War through the experiences of one Southern family, some three dozen of whose men served in units from seven of the seceded states. This is an exhaustively researched and lucidly written study, an exemplary achievement on all levels.
Author Garold L. Cole(Civil War Eyewitnesses: An Annotated Bibliography of Books and Articles):
From all appearances it is a magnificent work. I have read perhaps 5,000 personal narratives and have found only a handful that attempt--or are willing to spend the time--to do what Col. Mangham has done. My biggest gripe with published accounts is that either historians focus on military aspects or genealogists dwell on family relationships, economic status, and subsequent generations.
Mangham has done both and told readers how the family was a microcosm of one part of Civil War (and beyond) society. The notations, bibliography and index are painstaking. I am sure that if this work comes to the attention of Civil War scholars and gets reviewed as favorably as it should, it will be recognized as one of a kind. . . .