The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990 Page: 268
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
B. P. Gallaway has reconstructed four years in the life of a Confeder-
ate cavalryman serving in the Trans-Mississippi by weaving a story
from papers, diaries, and letters belonging to David Carey Nance.
Since Nance only commented on those events in which he took part,
Gallaway augmented the narrative by the use of other primary and sec-
ondary sources. Gallaway developed at least one important theme: the
stark reality of war contrasted with a young man's vision of a daring
Dave Nance, born in Illinois of Kentucky parents, arrived in Texas
with his family just before his tenth birthday and when the Civil War
began had just turned eighteen. He did not rush off to join the army-
though his mother encouraged this, his father objected because of reli-
gious reasons. Perhaps the deciding factor was the bond between
Nance and his two boyhood companions, "Lonesome John" M. Sullivan
and William T. "Little Will" Stuart. When Stuart enlisted, his two com-
panions soon joined him with the anticipation that life as a gallant cav-
alier would be a romantic affair. The three young Texans enrolled in a
cavalry regiment commanded by William Henry Parsons, a former law-
yer and newspaper editor from Waco. As part of a regiment that be-
came the Twelfth Texas Cavalry, Nance fought in Arkansas and
Nance's writings were sincere, filled with a young man's straightfor-
ward view of the events surrounding him. He was direct in his criti-
cisms and honest about his feelings as he began to understand his fa-
ther's reasons for objecting and became increasingly antiwar. After he
received three wounds in the first battle in which he took part, at Cache
River, Arkansas, in 1862, Nance became convinced that war was mur-
der and promised himself that since God had spared his life he would
never kill anyone in battle. Although he remained a soldier, almost
died in a fire at a gunpowder plant in Waxahachie, and sustained two
more wounds in the Red River Campaign in 1864, he never changed
this belief. Moreover, it seems to have become almost an obsession. By
May, 1864, Nance had become so convinced that fighting was wrong
that he left the army and, without permission, returned home. Al-
though he later rejoined his regiment, he vowed never to use his gun
again in combat.
Dave Nance's personality animates this volume and makes it interest-
ing reading. His writings display a sense of humor and a youthful long-
ing for adventure mitigated by a growing devotion to God based on his
experiences with the suffering he encountered as a soldier. Gallaway, in
viewing the war through the eyes of a sensitive young man, has pro-
vided an important source in nineteenth-century social history. Signifi-
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990, periodical, 1990; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101213/m1/308/: accessed October 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.