There Stands “Old Rock” – Book Review

There Stands “Old Rock”, by Thomas Walterman
A Book Review by Gary Van Kauwenbergh

There Stands “Old Rock” chronicles the Civil War from the perspective of Rock County residents. With a hefty $45 price tag, I was skeptical about buying the book, but after hearing Mr. Walterman deliver a dynamic presentation in Janesville’s Tallman House, I gladly forked over my greenbacks.

This book gives reenactors an insight about what was going on at home while they’re off serving in the military. Want to stay in character while reenacting a specific battle? This book will give you what the soldiers were talking about around the campfires. Politics, taxation, recruiting, drafts and bonuses, the abolition and temperance movements are all covered. Even the severe weather and crop yields are tied into the book.

Rock County residents served in nearly every Wisconsin regiment, and it raised the majority of the members in 35 companies that served in 23 different Wisconsin regiments. All the Iron Brigade regiments had companies raised in Rock County. Specifically, they are companies D of the 2nd, G of the 6th and K of the 7th. With those companies being part of the few units of interest in the early war, and the units exploits keeping them a favorite topic during the war, the Iron Brigade gets a fair share of the ink in this book.. The information in book is presented chronologically, and although I found some of the pre-war coverage less than captivating, the book steadily held my interest once I got past the first 30 pages. There are 338 pages in the book proper, and eight appendixes bringing the total number of pages in the book up to 399.

The author does not footnote the text, but generally explains the source material he uses in a special preface, and specific sources are sometimes mentioned within the text itself. Walterman extensively uses newspapers, letters, and journals along with secondary sources such as Nolan.

Books like this really broaden a reenactors understanding of the War. Walterman’s succinct, but easy-to-read writing style lets him pack a lot of information into a small amount of text. While I wouldn’t put There Stands “Old Rock” in the “must read” category, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and highly recommend it for reenactors looking for background information to fill out their impressions.