Reminiscences of Adventure and Service. A Record of Sixty-Five Years.

A sanitized, somewhat saccharine autobiography which delves shallowly into the IPY expedition of 1881-84 ( p. 120-51), and doesn’t even mention his one-time friend Henry W. Howgate, without whom the expedition never would have happened. Although descended from British settlers from 1623, Greely was a working-class boy, educated through high school (including Latin). He enlisted as a private in 1861, served in a number of battles (incl. Antietam) before being promoted to lieutenant at age 18 to command a black infantry regiment. For the Greely Arctic expedition he emphasizes the scientific purposes of the IPY over pole-seeking adventure. At Fort Conger (p. 122) “needful relief from scientific labors was had by the celebration of festive occasions, the issue of a newspaper, the training and coddling of our dogs, the devising of contests and games. So, work and play marked our lives in the comfortable home, where well-cooked meals, warm quarters and plentiful reading matter were duly enjoyed.” Such was not the case at Camp Clay at Cape Sabine at the end of their retreat. Greely does deal with the execution of Private Henry but not the cannibalism allegations, nor with his bad relations with officers and men.

After his survival of the expedition, Greely went on to command the Signal Corps for 20 years, and had a substantial, well-connected career. Later chapters are devoted to his relations to important people, Presidents and their wives, and especially polar explorers. At the end of the book (p. 336) he talks of his determination “to give the youth of the District of Columbia a library.” which he did by raising private subscriptions for a short-lived library from 1895 to 1898 when Congress authorized a municipal library.