Book Reviews:

This is an unusual work that’s takes an interesting approach to the history of a regiment in the War of 1861-1865. Far more than a recitation of the campaigns, battles, leaders and events pertaining to the service record of the 60th Virginia Regiment, this is a living document of human interest. The author in effect opens a portal in time and introduces the reader to various members of the unit, while integrating them, with interesting vignettes, into the broader narrative of the times, both before and during the war.

The 60th Virginia was comprised of men from the counties that now lie on either side of Virginia - West Virginia border. As such they faced in battle some of their kinsmen and neighbors who served in Union units from West Virginia, making for them - as the author notes - a war that was truly “brother against brother.”

The regiment served throughout the war, including Jubal Early’s Valley Campaign of 1864. In February of the last disastrous winter of the Confederacy – with the Valley burned by Sheridan, with Lee’s starving but defiant army under siege at Petersburg, and Sherman burning and pillaging his way up through the Carolinas – the spirit of the men of the 60th Virginia remained undaunted. In “A Message from the Army of the Valley” they unanimously adopted resolutions that justify the title of this book. In Article I they resolved: “That in the beginning of this revolution we volunteered in response to the first call of our country to battle for the sovereign right of self-government, and that, after four years of subjugation, we are still firm in our determination to achieve our independence or to perish nobly struggling for it.”

The book’s large number of images of these men – some in uniform, but many taken long after the war was over – show that they were no “snowflakes” in need of safe spaces when their fortunes turned against them. They were men of iron and of solid character. In fact, Mr. Caynor’s book might well be considered a character study of the soldiers of the 60th Virginia Regiment as a history of its campaigns.

The first half of the book is comprised of the war narrative, while the second is a treasure trove of the rosters of the individual companies, with biographical sketches of most of the men. In the back of the book the names are listed alphabetically, with rank and company, to make it easy for anyone wishing to locate any given individual in the roster. The obviously enormous and detailed research that has gone into this work shows the unmistakably personal connection the author has to his subject. He is a descendant of some of the men that served in the 60th, and one could tell that his thorough, comprehensive and scholarly research has been a labor of love.

H.V. Traywick Jr.
Civil War News


The title "Independence or Annihilation" refers to the motto of the 60th Virginia, which was formed in western Virginia in 1861 and became part of the Wise Legion. Before the publication of William Caynor's book, the only reasonably complete 60th Va unit study was John L. Scott's 1997 contribution to the H.E. Howard series of Virginia regimental roster histories.

The 60th fought in the Kanawha Valley in 1861 and in the Peninsula and 2nd Bull Run campaigns of 1862 before returning to the mountains of western (soon to be West) Virginia. The regiment participated in the Battle of Cloyd's Mountain in 1864 and subsequently joined Jubal Early's army in the Shenandoah, where it battled Union forces in a long string of engagements there. The 60th's last major fight was at Waynesboro in March 1865.

In the book, the introductory chapters and the regimental organization and service history narrative together run around 250 pages, much of the last written in a format akin to a daily unit diary. Photos and illustrations are abundantly sprinkled throughout the volume. Presented after the unit history are numerous tables and appendix discussions on a great variety of related topics. The author visited a number of archives during his research, but what really stands out in the bibliography is the exceptional number of newspaper resources that Caynor examined.

Caynor's 2,011-man roster, which includes officers & staff and takes up roughly 300 of the book's 735 total pages, contains much in the way of service record details. The author also discovered 113 additional soldiers absent from Scott's 1997 roster. The roster is indexed, as well.

Andrew Wagenhoffer, editor
Civil War Books and Authors


"I will read it many times I am sure. I counted 20 family in Co. I the 60th is special to me. I see “to be continued" at the end of the book. Is it to be continued?  Thanks again for your tireless efforts in putting forth the history and sacrifices of our ancestors."

"Got the book this week and am really enjoying it.  Very well done and well researched."

"I am enjoying it, well done Bill!"

"Received the book earlier this week.  Thanks so much for your efforts."

"I am very pleased you were able to publish this work. It is obvious you spent a lot of time researching the military records of the member of the 60th."

"Really enjoying your book, well done!"

"Thanks so much for your hard work and dedication."

"This will make a great Christmas present..."

"I am enjoying the book a lot. I just ordered a copy for my son. "

  • Ashokan Farewell (Album Version) [Clean]4:08

Copies of this book can be ordered at

This is a masterpiece of several years of research in order to better understand why these men seceded from their Union. With a Cause of attaining Virginia’s sovereignty and independence, the 60th Virginia Regiment was a consolidation of southern men who utilized Independence or Annihilation as their regimental motto.

 Independence or Annihilation
Campaigns of the 60th Virginia Regiment of Infantry

This book is offered in Hardcover w/dust jacket; with 2,011 soldier's names and biographies; and 735 pages of storyline, statistics and countless photos and illustrations.

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