Two Years Before the Paddlewheel
Charles F. Gunther, Mississippi River Confederate
Civil War - Southern History - American History
6 x 9, 350 pp.
22 Photos. 4 Maps. 11 Documents. 43 Illus.
Pub Date: 12/14/2012
Price:        $29.95


Published by State House Press

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Two Years Before the Paddlewheel

Charles F. Gunther, Mississippi River Confederate

Bruce S. Allardice and Wayne L. Wolf

Charles F. Gunther is a Yankee ice peddlar who is trapped in the South at the outbreak of the war. Presented here are two years of diaries of Gunther's experiences working on the steamboat Rose Douglas, ferrying Confederate troops and supplies.

After the war, Gunther makes a fortune in the candy business across the street from Marshal Field's in Chicago, becomes a premier collector and preserver of Civil War artifacts and Lincoln memorabilia, endows the Chicago history Museum with its Civil War collection, and goes on to hold political office as an alderman and City Treasurer of Chicago. 

In Two Years Before the Paddlewheel, readers can follow the day-by-day survival of an ordinary ice merchant turned Confederate steamboat purser during the Civil War. Gunther's day-by-day account as a civilian in military service illuminates the economic, military, social, and personal side of America's Civil War.


BRUCE S. ALLARDICE is Professor of History at South Suburban College in Illinois. He is a past president of the Civil War Round Table of Chicago. Allardice has authored or coauthored six books and numerous articles on the Civil War. His book More Generals in Gray was a selection of the History Book Club.


WAYNE L. WOLF is Professor of Social Sciences and Criminal Justice at South Suburban College in Illinois. He is past president of the Lincoln-Davis Civil War Roundtable and is the author of twenty-three books, including Heroes and Rogues of the Civil War, The Last Confederate Scout, and Soldiers, Sailors, and Scoundrels of the Civil War.

What Readers Are Saying:

"A fascinating personal story of the experiences of a Northern businessman forced by the outbreak of the Civil War to work for the Confederacy through 1862. Gunther's situation was unique in many respects, and his diaries are a wonderful addition to the historiography of the Western Theater." —Michael B. Ballard, coordinator, Congressional and Political Research Center at Mississippi State University, and Mississippi State University archivist

"A meticulously researched book of a Yankee trapped in the South – fascinating account of a neglected area of Civil War history." —Michael Moosmann, past president, Lincoln-Davis Civil War Roundtable

"Two Years Before the Paddlewheel fills a void in Civil War historiography. While Gunther's 1861 diary provides insight into civilian life in Memphis during secession and the economic impact of the war during its early months, his 1862 diary is possibly the best primary source detailing the problems of supplying Confederate troops conducting field operations in Arkansas, a region almost devoid of railroads and navigable waterways." —Lawrence Lee Hewitt, author of Port Hudson, Confederate Bastion on the Mississippi

"Long lost to history, Charles F. Gunther's diary is an important and revealing source from a uniquely interesting man. Gunther's eyewitness testimony of the opening days of the war in the western theater bring those events vividly to life. As a riverboat man, pressed into Confederate service, he ferried troops and supplies along the western waterways, though never disavowing his Unionist sentiments. His descriptions of the events, people, and places during these exciting days, juxtaposed against the historical backdrop expertly provided by Bruce Allardice and Wayne Wolf, will surely make this a go to book for historians. This is an instant classic!" —Robert I. Girardi, author of Campaigning with Uncle Billy: The Civil War Memoirs of Sgt. Lyman S. Widney, 34th Illinois Volunteer Infantry


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