Joseph J. Hoyle enlisted in the Confederate Army in May 1862 as a private. By the time of his death in September 1864, he was serving as a lieutenant in the 55th Regiment North Carolina Troops. The personal letters of this soldier, supplemented by the editor's overview of the events and actions of the regiment, offer a view of the common soldier as well as battlefield and camp culture. The letters also reveal, among other things, how this former schoolteacher urged his fellow soldiers forward at Gettysburg despite a sense that the cause was lost.
Jeffrey M. Girvan is the current Supervisor of History and Social Science for Prince William County Schools in Virginia. He has been an adjunct instructor at George Mason University.