Review: Redlegs

The front cover of this new edition of John P. Langellier’s ‘Redlegs’.

This book is a re-issue of a title that first appeared in 1998, and is part of Pen & Sword’s G.I. series about the American soldier, his uniforms and equipment.  The blurb for this book is as follows:

“This volume examines a much-neglected aspect of American military history – the U.S Army artillerymen, named redlegs after the red stripe on their trousers. Artillery was a vital arm and proved its worth in diverse theatres of war. The photographs, most of them rarely seen in other sources, range from the Civil War and the campaigns against the American Indians through to the Spanish-American War.”

The first thing to say is that despite the typo on the front cover which states the period covered by the book to be 1861-1869, it does in fact cover the period 1861-1898!  Second this is a book about the U.S. Army’s artillerymen and not about their weapons. If one is after a detailed exposition on ordnance and ammunition, then this is not the book to consult. The development of the weaponry and its employment is covered in a brief four page overview at the start of this book which really just sets the scene and explains what the U.S. Army’s artillery was doing during the period concerned.  The bulk of the book is actually about the soldiers themselves and is profusely illustrated with a fascinating range of pictures and photographs, both colour and black and white, which show the soldiers in their uniforms and some detailed illustrations of particular items.  The book is very well produced and does justice to the subject matter.

As the blurb rightly suggests some of these illustrations appear to be quite rare and give an interesting insight into how the uniforms and personal equipment of this branch of the U.S. Army developed.  It also reminds us how the business of the U.S. Army changed over this short thirty seven year period, as a direct reflection of the process of nation building that was going on in the United States.  At the start of the period the United States was on the brink of tearing itself apart in a bloody civil war, the outcome of which had the galvanising effect of creating the strong nation we now know.  By the end of the period we see a country that is flexing its muscle and creating its own sphere of influence both in its immediate vicinity in the Caribbean and across the Pacific in the Philippines.  The illustrations in this book tracks the impact of this change on the U.S .Army, as the uniforms and equipment developed from those appropriate to fighting the rather Napoleonic battles of the American Civil War to the much more ‘modern’ battle tactics used in the Spanish-American War.  The latter brought the need to dress and equip the troops in an expeditionary force to work in the somewhat different climatic conditions and environments of the Caribbean and the Philippines, and this is also well-illustrated.

In short this is an interesting book that covers its subject matter well. Its appeal, like most of Pen & Sword’s titles, will be to a specialist audience, who like me have an interest in this period of history and/or military uniforms of the time.

Pages: 72
Pen & Sword Military
Published: 4 February 2016