I'm not sure how "common" he was, but Ted Tunnell's biography of Marshall Twitchell, "Edge of the Sword: The Ordeal of Carpetbagger Marshall H. Twitchell in the Civil War and Reconstruction"(LSU Press, 2004) is fantastic, although the heart of the book centers on his experience as a Freedman's Bureau official in Louisiana during Reconstruction.
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I assign a short biography of Abraham Lincoln in my course that covers 1848-1877, and I would like to assign a short biography of a common man or woman who lived through the war (they don't have to have survived it). So no generals, leaders or other famous folks.
It needs to be less than 250 pages and a good book for undergrads. I want to use it as an example of social history v. great man history, but I want a biography
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Great discussion. I think, too, that we need to make a distinction between drafted and pressed into service. My research on the Civil War on the lower Mississippi (Louisiana in particular) indicates a great deal of pushing liberated slaves into the ranks, willingly, unwillingly, or perhaps unwittingly. Research using original muster rolls and even the WPA slave narratives indicates the when officers had a need to fill the ranks (desertion rates were very high) they went shopping at local plantations. Need a farrier? There is one over on the Labadie place!