Sullivan County man recounts his great-grandfather’s Civil War service in book, “Ambrose”

OK, I admit, I’m a grammar snob. I wince whenever I find the goofs that “spell check” missed. And the book, “Ambrose,” is full of them.

So why did I keep on reading? Because I never read the day-to-day, battle-by-battle story of a lowly volunteer in the Civil War – a trek that could be similar to my own great-grandfather’s service.

Ambrose Cobb was 19 when he heard President Lincoln’s call for volunteers to fight for the Union in the “War Between the States.”

Residing in Iowa at the time, Ambrose signed up, along with his friends and they became the “fighting hawkeyes” or part of the 4th Iowa, Company K.

He slogged from battle to battle for four grueling years. He served under generals Curtis, Thayer, Grant and Sherman. He was there for the Battle of Pea Ridge, the Battle of Chickasaw Bluffs, the Battle of Vicksburg, the Battle of Chattanooga, the Battle of Atlanta and was part of Sherman’s March to the Sea.

He was wounded twice and contracted malaria, and each time, after a brief recovery, he returned to his unit. When he was mustered out, he was a Sergeant.

The book, “Ambrose” is written by Sullivan County resident, Richard P. Cobb, a retired school psychologist.

He is best in describing the movements his great-grandfather was involved in as one hot spot after another challenged the Union forces.

The stifling heat, the bone-chilling cold, the downpours – none of them enough to stop the Union’s continuing onslaught of Rebel strongholds.

One poignant break in the battle of Vicksburg came when the stench of decaying bodies was so unbearable that a three-hour truce was called for members of both armies to come out from their bulwarks to bury their dead – during which time they met enemies they had known as friends before the war. Then they got back to trying to kill them.

The civilian life of Ambrose, both before and after the war is filled in with details recounted to the author by his great-aunt Helen who died at 100 years old in 2011.

His other research included letters and diaries of his relatives and extensive use of the memoirs of both Grant and Sherman and historical records from the Army Research Center in Carlisle and many other museums and historical research centers throughout the North and South.

Mixed in with the historical saga are the travels and experiences of Cobb, who, over six years, visited all of the battlefields on which his great-grandfather had fought.

He also includes his life as an extra in several Civil War movies; the most memorable is the film version of “Killer Angels,” produced under the title, “Gettysburg.”

Cobb will be at Otto’s from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday during July’s First Friday celebration.

When warned that the Fourth of July weekend might make it a weaker First Friday, Cobb countered, “It’s the perfect weekend because it’s the 150th anniversary of the Battles of Gettysburg, Vicksburg and Helena, battles which the reader will be convinced were major turning points in the War Between the States.”