Friday, October 23, 2015


I’ve been reading one of the early regimental histories: David Lathrop’s The History of the Fifty-Ninth Regiment Illinois Volunteers (1865). The 59th Illinois was initially called the 9th Missouri Infantry and campaigned in Missouri and Arkansas from the fall of 1861 through the spring of 1862. Its major service in the trans-Mississippi was at the battle of Pea Ridge where it lost nine men killed and fifty-seven wounded.

No doubt you are wondering about the title of this posting. It is derived from Lathrop’s book and rates as one of the most unusual passages that I’ve read in a Civil War account. He wrote:

“And it is also a fact, that there are men who have voluntarily taken upon themselves an oath to serve their country as good soldiers, who willingly allow themselves to be placed upon a footing with the veriest colored slaves in the land. The language is not too harsh. A soldier has been seen washing the feet and trimming the toe-nails of his captain, and this not only once, but habitually. The appellation given to him, and those of his calling, was ‘Toe-Pick’” (p.37).

Lathrop’s book has never been reprinted and is quite rare, however, a digitized copy is available on

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