60th Virginia Infantry Regiment
Independence or Annihilation, “The Gallant Sixtieth”: Campaigns of the 60th Virginia Regiment of Infantry. 2 vols. By William L. Caynor, Sr. Maps, photos, footnotes, sources. Butternut, WI: Civil War Collectibles LLC, 2018.
This is the first edition of a two-volume expansion of a previous one-volume work on this subject. The author is a descendant of several members of the command, including the last commander to lead the unit in battle. Far more than a recitation of campaigns of the 60th Virginia, Volume I is a living document that opens a portal onto the times, and introduces the reader to various members of the unit, while integrating them, with interesting personal vignettes, into the broader narrative of events prior to, during, and after the war. Volume II includes detailed biographies, photos, and statistical information of the members of the command.
The 60th Virginia was comprised of men from the counties that now lie on either side of the Virginia – West Virginia border. As such, they faced in battle some of their neighbors and kinsmen who served in Union units from West Virginia, making for them a war that was truly “brother against brother.”
The regiment served throughout the war, including the first campaign in the western Virginia mountains in 1861, the bloody Seven Days Battles around Richmond in 1862, and 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 with Sherman’s army burning and raping its way up from Georgia through the Carolinas, - the spirit of the 60th Virginia remained undaunted. In “A Message from the Army of the Valley of Virginia” they unanimously adopted resolutions that justify the title of these volumes. 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 terrible war with the savage foe who seeks our subjugation, we are still firm in our determination to achieve our independence or to perish nobly struggling for it.”
The large number of images of these men in this work – some in uniform, but many taken long after the war was over – show that they were no “snowflakes” in need of “safe spaces and coloring books” when their fortunes turned against them. They were men of iron in battle and afterwards, and Mr. Caynor’s work might well be considered as much a character study of the soldiers of the 60th Virginia Regiment as a history of its campaigns. The obviously enormous and detailed research that has gone into these volumes shows the unmistakably personal connection the author has to his subject, and one can tell that his thorough, comprehensive, and scholarly research has been a labor of love.
Reviewed by H. V. Traywick, Jr., author/editor of Empire of the Owls: Reflections on the North’s War against Southern Secession (2013); Virginia Iliad: The Death and Destruction of “The Mother of States and of Statesmen” (2016); A Southern Soldier Boy: The Diary of Beaufort Simpson Buzhardt (2017); and The Monumental Truth: Five Essays on Confederate Monuments in the Age of Progressive Identity Politics (2018); as well as other works.
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
Copies of this book can be ordered at
Volume I: Amazon.com
Volume II: Amazon.com
Independence or Annihilation
"The Gallant Sixtieth"
Campaigns of the 60th Virginia Regiment of Infantry
This Two Volume Set publication is a modernized rendition of the 2017 book, “Independence or Annihilation.” Volume I is a narrative of a regiment that fought in some of the most grievous battles occupying American soil. Externally, this regiment would appear like any other, but internally, they were unique as they were on many occasions directed to the most crucial segment of the battlefield where the onslaught and overwhelming pressure were applied by their adversary. In several of these cases, their line broke, and the battle was lost. The question is why would an ordinary regiment be placed in such vital and strategic points upon the battlefield on so many occasions? The answer is uncomplicated, it’s because their commanders had faith that they could do the unthinkable. That this regiment was the best. That these few battle-hardened veterans could succeed where others couldn’t. The truth is that these men were asked to do what no mortal man could do, which is to overcome the primary focal point and assault of a battle with a regiment that never amounted to more than 600 men on the field.
This publication has loads of information and an additional case study on slavery within the members of the regiment. You will be able to easily identify the difference in the social classes of these men as well as the number of first-generation immigrants serving alongside third or fourth generation men. It is not difficult to envision the youth of America as a country, only eighty odd years after its creation, but this war, would define us.Volume II is primarily the regimental roster, biographies, statistics, and identifies locations of regimental campsites throughout the war and encompasses additional soldiers not located previously as well as more evidence related to some of its participants. This well-researched two book set was compiled to find the slightest nugget to better understand these men who elected to secede from their Union, and some of these so-called nuggets are boulders. Anyone interested in the Civil War, the Confederacy, the 60th Virginia regiment, the battles this regiment participated in, or the relationships with who was fighting and why; age, social class, education, immigrant, and occupation, will enjoy and be fascinated by this momentous work. There are no Confederate regimental books that speak to slavery or illustrate who in the regiment was associated with the institution like this one. The recognition of slavery should not be excluded from these books as it is one of the primary reasons for the Civil War. Most within the regiment never owned a slave and served with a premise of gaining sovereignty and independence for Virginia, others, primarily in leadership and higher social standing most probably had more motivations in mind.
This two volume book set is offered in an 6" x 9", Dustjacket, with hardcover binding; with 2,051 soldier names and biographies. The contents include more than three dozen soldiers not identified in the 2017 “Independence or Annihilation,” publication, and 153 more soldiers than Scott's 1997 contribution to the H.E. Howard series of Virginia regimental histories. This compilation also consists of 952 total pages between the two volumes, which contains additional biographies, storylines, statistics, and countless photos and illustrations. This published work is the definitive resource for the 60th Virginia Regiment.
“Independence or Annihilation” “The Gallant Sixtieth,” is now available and awaiting your purchase.
See Below for Book Reviews and Testimonials
"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. "
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