The Journal of San Diego History
Winter 2000, Volume 46, Number 1
Gregg Hennessey, Editor

Book Review

The Civil War Veterans of San Diego, CA  

By Barbara Palmer. San Diego: Barbara Palmer, 1998. Photos, notes, indexes, xiii +382 pp. $39.95 paper.

Reviewed by Alexa Clausen, State Historian II, California State Parks.

For both the genealogist and the historian conducting biographical research, Barbara Palmer’s The Civil War Veterans of San Diego, CA is a useful and informative work. At first glance this book appears to be a simple reference book for those conducting genealogy research on Civil War veterans who moved to San Diego. On further examination, readers will find much more. Chapter One frames a brief historical narrative about the Civil War era in San Diego and California. Rather than writing a history of this time period, however, Palmer chooses to use a series of quotes from known sources to set the tone for her research. The chapter which, includes a list for additional readings on the subject, ends with a detailed summary of each chapter.

After finishing Chapter One, readers should acquaint themselves with the format of the book because it is unlike most local history books. For example, Chapter Seven is the bibliography for Chapter One and other sections of the book, and Chapter Eight is the index. At first, the organization and design may seem confusing, but after looking through the book, it is rather easy to follow. Chapter Two is a useful reference tool, especially for anyone new to researching sources in San Diego and the region. It delineates in some detail research sources and genealogical records available in San Diego County and some regional repositories. As Palmer describes sources for local history — including library call numbers — her book evolves into a handbook for locating numerous documents in local libraries, government records and repositories. It is perhaps the first book on local history that includes such detailed information for anyone researching these subjects. Also in this chapter, the author compiles burial information available at local cemeteries. Previously, information on cemeteries has been scattered in a variety of sources. Parker’s research on the subject makes her book a “must-have” reference if one is engaged in local history involving cemetery records. Maps and photographs of various cemeteries follow this chapter.

By Chapter Three, readers might find it useful to reorient themselves once again to the book’s organization and design. Chapter Three offers to “place the veterans in context with San Diego history”( p.79). The context study is one which the author sets up a variety of demographic charts on the nearly two thousand Civil War veterans whom she documents with painstaking care. Readers might not necessarily use these demographic charts to place the veterans in a historical context; but they may find this chapter informative. For example, a researcher might find it interesting to know that 13 percent of the veterans studied were from foreign countries while only one percent was identified as Confederates. The chapter ends with a variety of reproduced images of veterans and their families. The remainder of the book contains an alphabetical listing of the veterans contained in this study, which includes considerable biographical information. Chapter Four lists those veteran’s known burial location and Chapter Five lists Civil War veterans with “burial location unknown.” If this book is used as a springboard for biographical information, Chapter Six’s listing of the states from which the veteran enlisted will be helpful.

Barbara Palmer’s The Civil War Veterans of San Diego, CA is likely to become a frequently used tool for local historians and genealogists who need biographical information, and by others who need data on cemeteries and other research sources in San Diego County. Her contribution to local history is not just a biography on the Civil War veterans in San Diego; it is also a helpful resource for researchers who need to know where to find documents in San Diego County.