From Publishers Weekly
Radley investigates a little-known but important aspect of Confederate history: the role of the provost or military police during the four years of the Civil War. The "plug uglies" were a hated feature of wartime life in the South: their varied duties included the suppression of disloyalty and subversion, which gave them a degree of control over civilians unique in American history. The provost's main task, however, was to prevent straggling and desertion in the Southern armies, a mainly unsuccessful effort that Radley contends was a major factor in the Confederate defeat. Supporting his argument well, he presents startling facts. One learns that some 15,000 stragglers were absent from Lee's thin battle line at Antietam, and that by the autumn of 1864 no less than 100,000 men had "seceded" from the war on a permanent basis. According to the author, a Canadian army officer, the only task the provost guard performed "to the satisfaction of all" was its control of the roughly 200,000 Union soldiers captured in the war. Illustrations.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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In Rebel Watchdog, Kenneth Radley draws from more than four hundred primary sources to detail the workings of the Confederate States Army Provost Guard. Sanctioned by the Articles of War in 1861 to assist the South in the establishment of discipline over the vast numbers of hurriedly organized and untrained soldiers, the provost system became one of the most highly praised and controversial components of the Confederate army. It was charged with marshalling the South's available resources for war while simultaneously accommodating the region's marked predisposition toward individualism and against any semblance of a strong central government. A masterpiece of Civil War scholarship, No Civil Wars studies collection or Confederacy reading list can be considered complete with the inclusion of Rebel Watchdog. -- Midwest Book Review