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The Life of Billy Yank: The Common Soldier of the Union Paperback – September 1, 2008


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The Life of Billy Yank: The Common Soldier of the Union + The Life of Johnny Reb: The Common Soldier of the Confederacy + Hardtack & Coffee or The Unwritten Story of Army Life
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 454 pages
  • Publisher: Louisiana State University Press; Updated edition (September 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807133752
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807133750
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #369,125 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Bell Irvin Wiley (1906-1980) was a professor emeritus of history at Emory University and one of America's preeminent Civil War historians.

James I. Robertson, Jr., is the author of many books, including the award-winning Stonewall Jackson: The Man, the Soldier, the Legend. Well known for his lectures across the country and his appearances in television documentaries, he is Alumni Distinguished Professor of History at Virginia Tech.


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Customer Reviews

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A must read for anyone with an interest in the Civil War.
Randy Cohen
Much of the discussion is anecdotal, but Wiley makes good use of census and statistical data as well.
Robin Friedman
Bell Wiley's book is a wonderful way to understand what the common soldier was like in the Civil War.
Jared Orth

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Todd E. Newman on September 6, 2002
Format: Paperback
Similar to the book, "Life of Johnny Reb", Bell Irvin Wiley has put together the life of being a soldier in the Union army. From muster to homecoming this books covers many subjects. Subjects such as northern soldier views on visiting the South for the first time, civilians, slavery, camp life and more. There was a chapter which covered Union perspective about going into battle and fighting which I found especially interesting. Chapter content is backed by letters from actual soldiers that add important weight to the quality of information in this book. I simply hated to put the book down when I read it as it had some funny situations of soldier life mixed with the hard drama of warfare. This book is a must have for those seeking to understand the Union soldier from many perspectives. It doesn't get into boring battle detail or mention officers at length which I found refreshing for a change. It simply covers just about every aspect of being a Union soldier during the Civil War and should be in everyones' Civil War library! 5 STARS!!
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Jared Orth on February 9, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Bell Wiley's book is a wonderful way to understand what the common soldier was like in the Civil War. So many books deal strictly with officers or battles that this is quite the refreshing and novel read.
There are no detailed descriptions of battles, only of the men who fought them, their emotions, and ways of life. It is a great reference for anyone who has read other Civil War books and been confused by 150 year old terms that aren't always defined in other books.
Wiley cautions the reader in the introduction that he tried to remain impartial, despite being a Southerner. I feel he did a great job reporting the facts from the thousands of letters and diaries without prideful opinion.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Peter Stines on October 22, 2003
Format: Paperback
The late Bell Wiley had an advantage that many researchers of the Civil War did not have: FIRST HAND ACCOUNTS FROM THE VETERANS THEMSELVES. Starting his research in the 1940's, Wiley was able to interview the aging veterans of the War. You can imagine what was going through these warriors minds as they recalled their past. Wiley also spent countless hours combing through letters, diaries, official documents and other papers to get his facts. Billy Yank tells the story of the Union soldiers as few have been able to capture. It covers more than just what the soldier wore, ate, used, etc. From his reasons for fighting, opinions of Lincoln, emancipation (pro AND con) officers, the Southern people, the topics are well covered. Reenactors of the conflict would benefit from this book. This is a gold mine of information for the "first person" impression. Even Southerners will gain insight into their former foes.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Rocco Dormarunno on June 27, 2004
Format: Paperback
Bell Irvin Wiley seems to have been the first historian/writer to realize that the Civil War was not just about Lee, Pickett, Grant or Stuart or any of the other guys with stars on their shoulders. The real truth about what happened on those battlefields had to do with the guys in the tattered uniforms and the rotted shoes, trying to fight with defective rifles.
As in his companion book, "The Life of Johnny Reb", "The Life of Billy Yank: The Common Soldier of the Union" is an unflinching look at the constant struggles of a Union soldier. This is a very sobering account, and some of the letters the soldiers wrote home are nothing short of heartbreaking. This is a truly admirable account of men who were more than common soldiers. I believe they were really common heroes.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Randy Cohen on December 15, 1999
Format: Paperback
Bell I.Wiley changed the course of Civil War study in the late 1940's when he wrote Johnny Reb. This work was the first to consider the experience of the average Confederate soldier. Wiley provides a nice overview of the soldier's experience by addressing why did men fight, how did they experience war, how was camp life, etc. A must read for anyone with an interest in the Civil War. Billy Yank is Wiley's follow up to Johnny Reb. It poses the same type of questions for the average union soldier.
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