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Fallen Leaves

The Civil War Letters of Major Henry Livermore Abbott

American History, Biography, Civil War Era


“Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., [Abbott’s] close friend and fellow officer in the 20th Massachusetts, remembered that ‘in action he was sublime.’ Nor can anyone deny the candid eloquence that makes his letters among the most vivid I’ve read. Unlike many of his contemporaries, when writing home he seems to have seen little need to soften or prettify his descriptions of what he witnessed during three years of battle. . . . Abbott’s letters are filled with horrors and with flashes of the grim humor that helped the men get through them.”—Geoffrey C. Ward, The New York Times Book Review

Major Henry Livermore Abbott of the 20th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry was the most widely known and highly respected officer of his rank to serve in the Army of the Potomac.  He distinguished himself in every battle in which he participated, from Ball’s Bluff until the Battle of the Wilderness, where he died in command of his regiment.  Fallen Leaves is a collection of Abbott’s wartime letters to his family and friends, the majority published here for the first time.  Robert Garth Scott’s introduction contains a biographical sketch of Abbott that offers the most complete account of his life to date and, in his epilogue, recounts the details of Abbott’s final battle and death.  Also published with the letters are more than 30 photographs, many of them showing members of the 20th Massachusetts.  Abbott’s letters convey an immediacy which gives readers a sense of being part of an inner circle of friends and relatives.  This quality lends itself to fresh and compelling reading for Civil War scholars, buffs, and general readers alike.

EditorRobert Garth Scott lives in Grand Blanc, Michigan. His past publications include Fallen Leaves: The Civil War Letters of Maj. Henry Livermore Abbott (The Kent State University Press, 1991).