Thursday, November 20, 2014

Booknotes III (Nov '14)

New Arrivals:

1. Marauder: The Life and Times of Nathaniel McClure Menefee by Randall Osborne (East KY Pr, 2014).

Osborne is an expert on the Civil War in the East Kentucky and was a frequent collaborator with Jeff Weaver, who wrote extensively on the units that fought along the borderlands of E. Kentucky and S.W. Virginia. Marauder explores the colorful life and Civil War career of Nathaniel Menefee (also frequently spelled Menifee) who was a one-legged Confederate irregular fighter. This is the first full account of the Civil War activities of Menefee, who remains a relatively obscure figure outside the region.

2. The 2nd Maine Cavalry in the Civil War: A History and Roster by Ned Smith (McFarland, 2014).

Formed near the end of 1863, the 2nd Maine Cavalry was a latecomer to the war, seeing its first combat in Louisiana during the Red River Campaign and spending the rest of the war conducting raids in Alabama and Florida (mostly the latter). Health wise, they had a tough time in the Deep South during the war, suffering 334 deaths from disease and only 10 from combat.

3. Confederates in Montana Territory: In the Shadow of Price's Army by Ken Robison (The Hist Pr, 2014).

Both during and after the Civil War, ex-Confederates migrated west to Montana Territory. This book is basically a collection of their individual stories, each chapter length.

4. Antebellum and Civil War San Francisco: A Western Theater for Northern & Southern Politics by Monika Trobits (The Hist Pr, 2014).

"In just two years, San Francisco's population skyrocketed from eight hundred to thirty thousand, making it an "instant city" where tensions between transplanted Northerners and Southerners built as war threatened the nation. Though seemingly isolated, San Franciscans took their part in the conflict. Some extended the Underground Railroad to their city, while others joined the Confederate-aiding Knights of the Golden Circle. Including a directory of local historic sites and streets, author Monika Trobits chronicles the dramatic and volatile antebellum and Civil War history of the City by the Bay."

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Longacre: "THE EARLY MORNING OF WAR: Bull Run, 1861

[The Early Morning of War: Bull Run, 1861 by Edward G. Longacre (University of Oklahoma Press, 2014) Hardcover, 12 maps, appendix, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:520/680. ISBN:978-0-8061-4498-6 $29.95]

First Bull Run isn't exactly a neglected topic. In addition to a pair of recent atlases by Bradley Gottfried and Blaikie Hines, quite a number of narrative histories have been published over the years, among them books by Robert M. Johnston (1913), Russel Beatie (1961 and 2002), William C. Davis (1977), John Hennessy (1989), JoAnna McDonald (1998), Ethan Rafuse (2002), and David Detzer (2004). However, the preceding are all small to mid-sized overviews, with Edward Longacre's The Early Morning of War: Bull Run, 1861 truly the first attempt at the type of exhaustive modern treatment accorded so many Civil War campaigns and battles.

In keeping with a practice that's become de rigueur for books of this type, Longacre devotes a great deal of space (though quite a bit more than normal) to the biographical backgrounds and antebellum careers of the four army commanders involved in the campaign — Irvin McDowell and Robert Patterson for the Union Army of Northeastern Virginia and Army of Pennsylvania, respectively, and Confederate generals P.G.T. Beauregard (Army of the Potomac) and Joseph E. Johnston (Army of the Shenandoah). While so much ink spilled on the Old Army experiences of these men doesn't exactly pay off in terms of insights into how they would perform at Bull Run, it is important to understand how each found their way to high command (especially for McDowell, who was a junior officer and unexpected choice to lead the nation's premier army in the field). That Patterson is presented at length, and as a fully fleshed out historical figure rather than caricature and object of ridicule, is one among many of the book's more refreshing aspects.

With the Bull Run battle not commencing until the book's midpoint, the Shenandoah confrontation between Patterson and Johnston gets coverage roughly equal to that of Union campaign preparations in Washington and the Confederate military buildup at Manassas. The book perceptively treats its subject as a two-pronged Northern Virginia Campaign rather than a Bull Run primary operation with a supporting action in the Shenandoah. General in Chief Winfield Scott deemed it so, at least initially before his overall direction became entirely muddled. The only treatment of Patterson that rivals Longacre's in detail and analysis is the one by Russel Beatie contained in The Army of the Potomac: Birth of Command, November 1860-September 1861 (2002). Like Beatie and David Detzer before him, Longacre feels that Scott deserves more of the credit for Patterson's failure to hold Johnston in place. Patterson's timid performance cannot be dismissed (and it isn't) but Scott's unclear orders, including his constant admonitions to move with extreme caution and threats to take away Patterson's best troops, might erode the confidence of any early war army general inexperienced in independent command.

For Bull Run, fine accounts of the major fighting at Blackburn's Ford, Matthew's Hill, and Henry Hill already exist, and how much Longacre's own meticulous rendering of events enhances our deeper understanding of the battle is largely a matter of degree, alterations in detail here and there but no major rearrangement of the character of each engagement. That said, the quantity and variety of first hand perspectives populating Longacre's narrative exceeds that of any prior work by a wide margin. The amount of research material amassed by the author during his decades long search is astonishing. The bibliography alone is 70 tightly packed pages in length, with the number of unpublished document collections consulted approaching 500.

Tactical discussion is generally conducted at the appropriate regimental and battery scales, with frequent diversions describing action at the lower battalion, company, and section levels. In common with other Bull Run studies, Longacre's narrative emphasizes the piecemeal nature of the fighting (especially for McDowell, who carried the operational and tactical burden of attack) as well as the extreme difficulty both sides experienced in determining friend from foe on the battlefield. Longacre's account of the decisive Henry Hill phase of the battle certainly deserves consideration as the finest yet written.

Throughout The Early Morning of War, Longacre dutifully addresses the many myths and misconceptions surrounding the battle. The author disputes the conventional view that the railroad necessarily comprised a key component in Confederate victory, citing the inadequate equipment, poor track beds, and general mismanagement of the Manassas Gap Railroad as well as the fact that Johnston's entire command could conceivably have marched the full distance to Manassas in the same or shorter period of time that the portion that participated in the July 21 fight did (though he perhaps underestimates the fighting condition the men might have been in upon arrival). Every Bull Run study is obliged to offer an opinion on the famous "Stonewall" incident and Longacre does not come down firmly on whether Bee intended his now immortal words as positive or negative toward Jackson, though he is more amenable than most to the negative connotation. Regardless of Bee's opinion, it would be difficult to make a case against the the Virginian's defensive arrangements (though Detzer was game to try in Donnybrook), which anchored the Confederate left throughout the afternoon and made victory possible. The popular myth that a huge crowd of politicians and other civilian onlookers picnicked near the battlefield and disrupted the retreat has already been dispelled and the author briefly offers his own conclusion that only around 80 gawkers were present and they were largely gone (Congressman Ely a major exception, of course) by the time panic ensued. On the matter of the disastrous squandering of Griffin's and Ricketts's batteries atop Henry Hill, recent reinterpretation of these events has cast doubt on Charles Griffin's self serving testimony that his superior, Major Barry, ordered him not to fire on advancing Confederates, mistaking them for supports. According to Longacre, no evidence of this conversation exists beyond Griffin's claim. Every Bull Run history includes the tragic exchange and it may very well  rank high among the many examples of Civil War storytelling gold passed on uncritically by succeeding generations of scholars.

Longacre's coverage of the immediate aftermath of the battle is also strong. His account of the Confederate pursuit is the best one this reviewer has encountered in the Bull Run literature. From the high level of unit and command disorganization present in the winners, as well as the lack of logistical support necessary for continued operations, it becomes pretty clear that Confederate fantasies of following up their victory with the capture of a large proportion of McDowell's fleeing army or Washington itself were just that. The interpretation that the Union defeat at Bull Run was less of a disaster and more of a much needed wake up call to the enormity of the task at hand has gathered momentum in recent times and Longacre expresses support for this idea. In terms of omissions, post battle allegations that Union dead were mutilated by vengeful Confederates is a point of contention not addressed in the book.

Depicting the action at regimental level, the battle maps support the text's similar scale well, though a few more detailing the fighting around Henry Hill were needed. In terms of a wish list, the orders of battle might have been fleshed out more given existing resources.  Also, in terms of expansive source discussion, the endnotes are a bit spare.  Contrasting views on familiar topics are certainly noted in the main text and notes, but one cannot help but think that more could have been done to appease the more obsessive student of the campaign. Undoubtedly, creeping page length for a study already pushing 700 pages had a hand in limiting the explanatory nature of the notes.

But really, the above wishes and complaints are only nitpicks in the overall scheme of things. With its exhaustive research and fullest single volume rendering yet of the military and political dimensions of the 1861 campaign in Northern Virginia, The Early Morning of War is clearly the new standard bearer of Bull Run studies.

More CWBA reviews of OU Press titles:
* Battles and Massacres on the Southwestern Frontier: Historical and Archaeological Perspectives
* The River Was Dyed with Blood: Nathan Bedford Forrest & Fort Pillow
* Civil War Arkansas 1863: The Battle for a State (PB edition)
* Torn by War: The Civil War Journal of Mary Adelia Byers
* Columns of Vengeance: Soldiers, Sioux, and the Punitive Expeditions, 1863-1864
* Los Angeles in Civil War Days, 1860-1865
* Historical Atlas of Oklahoma, 4th edition
* George Crook: From the Redwoods to Appomattox
* Violent Encounters: Interviews on Western Massacres
* A Perfect Gibraltar: The Battle for Monterrey, Mexico, 1846
* Patrick Connor's War: The 1865 Powder River Indian Expedition (Arthur H. Clark)
* Texas: A Historical Atlas
* Civil War Arkansas 1863: The Battle for a State
* Jayhawkers: The Civil War Brigade of James Henry Lane
* Powder River Odyssey: Nelson Cole's Western Campaign of 1865 the Journals of Lyman G. Bennett and Other Eyewitness Accounts (Arthur H. Clark)
* Three Days in the Shenandoah: Stonewall Jackson at Front Royal and Winchester
* The Uncivil War: Irregular Warfare In The Upper South, 1861-1865
* The Civil War in Arizona: The Story of the California Volunteers, 1861-1865

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Smith's Shiloh's impending arrival

With any luck, Timothy Smith's Shiloh: Conquer or Perish should be greeting me at the mailbox any day now. The table of contents has recently been uploaded at the link provided. Just going from the chapter titles, it looks like the second day action begins on page 252 of a narrative running over 420 pages. As promised, that's a good chunk of text devoted to the neglected Monday fighting.

I still think Shiloh: If They Were A Million would have been a snappier title.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Booknotes II (Nov '14)

New Arrivals:

1. The Civil War in the Border South by Christopher Phillips (Praeger, 2013).

I haven't had the chance to see much of this series of introductory histories to various Civil War subjects, but liked the one that I did read (Daniel Sutherland's American Civil War Guerrillas).

2. The Bloody 7th by Glen Allan Swain, Jr. (Broadfoot, 2014).

This is one of the newest volumes from the South Carolina Regimental-Roster series.  The 7th certainly forged an enviable reputation within Kershaw's brigade.  Author Glen Swain also revealed that 8th and 20th volumes are on the way (from different authors), these last two filling out the brigade's full complement of subunits.

3. The Last Citadel: Petersburg, June 1864 - April 1865 by Noah Andre Trudeau (Savas Beatie, 2014).

It's probably safe to say that for many Civil War readers Trudeau's The Last Citadel served as their first comprehensive introduction to the Petersburg Campaign. The just released "150th Anniversary Edition" from Savas Beatie has "updated text, redrawn maps, and new material."

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Civil War Infantry Tactics

For far too long, the Civil War literature has lacked a serious book length study of small unit tactics, one that really looks into the nuts and bolts of the march, maneuver, and assault formations of the period from training manual to practice in the field to innovation spawned from the laboratory of battlefield experience. This excerpt from the catalog book description of Earl Hess's Civil War Infantry Tactics: Training, Combat, and Small-Unit Effectiveness (LSU, Spring '15) has many of the key words I'm looking for.
"Drawing on the drill manuals available to officers and through a close reading of battle reports, Civil War Infantry Tactics demonstrates that linear tactics provided the best formations and maneuvers to use with the single-shot musket, whether rifle or smoothbore. The linear system was far from an outdated relic that led to higher casualties and prolonged the war. Indeed, regimental officers on both sides of the conflict found the formations and maneuvers in use since the era of the French Revolution to be indispensable to the survival of their units on the battlefield. The training soldiers received in this system, combined with their extensive experience in combat, allowed small units a high level of articulation and effectiveness. Unlike much military history that focuses on grand strategies, Hess zeroes in on formations and maneuvers (or primary tactics), describing their purpose and usefulness in regimental case studies, and pinpointing which of them were favorites of unit commanders in the field."

Monday, November 10, 2014

Wittenberg: "'THE DEVIL'S TO PAY': John Buford at Gettysburg - A History and Walking Tour"

["The Devil's to Pay": John Buford at Gettysburg - A History and Walking Tour by Eric J. Wittenberg (Savas Beatie, 2014). Hardcover, maps, photos, notes, appendices, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:219/287. ISBN:978-1-61121-208-2 $32.95]

Unlike many other fragments, legendary or otherwise, of the massive Gettysburg campaign and battle, John Buford's famous delaying action conducted in the rolling hills and valleys west of the Pennsylvania town on July 1, 1863 has never before been the subject of a book length treatment. As you might have guessed, this is no longer true. The product of a career's worth of specialized research and an obvious labor of love, Eric Wittenberg's "The Devil's to Pay" fully documents this aspect of Gettysburg lore, as well as several other important July 1-2 feats of arms from Buford's First Cavalry Division.

Before getting to the main event, Wittenberg, the author of many eastern theater cavalry books and articles, effectively sets the scene for the great drama that was to follow. Unusual to Civil War battle histories, the author carefully recounts Buford's selection of the battlefield and June 30 placement of his line of videttes west and north of Gettysburg in the context of the military manuals of the period. This educates the reader on the nuts of bolts of Civil War cavalry responsibilities, but it also serves to highlight Buford's skill and dedication in utilizing the best practices of his profession. The textbook execution illustrates why the Kentuckian earned the nom de guerre "Old Steadfast."

The book's centerpiece is the three hour period between Buford's initial clash with the vanguard of General Henry Heth's Confederate division and the arrival on the battlefield of the Union I Corps. During this critical time interval, the Union troopers (two cavalry brigades under William Gamble and Thomas Devin supported by John Calef's horse artillery) conducted a masterful fighting withdrawal, forcing Heth to undertake the time consuming task of deploying his division from road column into line in order to make headway.  Solidly based on primary sources, Wittenberg's methodical reconstruction of events is clear and presented at a level of tactical detail that should prove satisfying to demanding readers.  With contemporary Union source quotations dominating the narrative, my only complaint (a minor one) surrounds the author's general reluctance to temper some of the rampant partisan hyperbole and odds exaggerations present.  With so much mythology surrounding the morning encounter, one wishes the author hadn't waited until the end of the book to remind readers that Buford directly fought only two out of Heth's four brigades before the arrival of Reynolds.

The martial achievements of Buford's division after the arrival of the I Corps infantry were perhaps even more impressive than the much more heralded early morning action.  Wittenberg's chapter title of "Gamble Saves the First Corps" hints at the importance he attaches to the cavalry's efforts at keeping the Confederates from decisively turning the southern flank of the Union army.  Gamble's troopers first slowed the enemy advance then, at Seminary Ridge, offered the kind of stubborn resistance not often seen when dismounted cavalry faced first class veteran infantry.

Even then, their day wasn't over.  In the waning moments of the first day's battle, Buford's exhausted division was ordered into the fields west of the Emmitsburg Road, where their imposing line of battle was credited with extinguishing any further thoughts the Confederates might have had of continuing their offensive against the gathering Union host atop Cemetery Hill.  Faced with difficult tests at three major junctures on July 1, the First Division passed each challenge with flying colors.

Two more chapters cover the balance of Buford's Gettysburg experience, which comprised picketing the extreme left of the Union army during the night of July 1-2 and skirmishing with Confederates in Pitzer's Woods on the morning of the 2nd.  Ordered south to Westminster after being relieved by III Corps, the division was not present on July 3.

Spread throughout the book are 17 maps at a variety of scales, all of which are effectively linked to the narrative. Typical of the publisher, the book is well stocked with photographs both familiar and rare. On the downside, there's a noticeable number of typos. The four appendices address a variety of subjects.  Appendix A is an order of battle, B tackles the myth of Buford's cavalry being armed with Spencers (they weren't), C explores the proper military terminology for the morning fight on July 1 (with the modern term "covering force action" being the author's preferred label), and Appendix D examines the question of whether Lane's Confederate brigade formed squares or not when it faced Buford late on the 1st (the evidence is doubtful but inconclusive). Finally, the book offers a battlefield tour of Buford sites complete with detailed walking and driving directions, photographs, and GPS coordinates.

Most Civil War students are familiar in at least a general way with the significance of John Buford and his cavalry in the Union victory at Gettysburg, but "The Devil's to Pay", with its robustly detailed narrative of events and sharp analysis, puts a definitive stamp on the subject. In addition to being another incomparable contribution on the part of the author to the Gettysburg Campaign bookshelf, the study also argues powerfully for the placement of Buford among the top echelon of Union cavalry commanders.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

A Civil War History of the New Mexico Volunteers and Militia

It would be difficult to overestimate the value of historian Jerry Thompson's research and publications to the study of the Civil War in the desert Southwest. With books like Mexican Texans in the Union Army, Vaqueros in Blue and Gray and Tejanos in Gray, he's also demonstrated a special interest in the Hispanic soldiers of both sides. With this background, I couldn't be happier that he's tackling a unit history project that I've wished for for a long time, A Civil War History of the New Mexico Volunteers and Militia (UNM Pr, Spring 2015). It's a massive book with a price to match so I hope the press is willing to send me a review copy.

From the description:
"The Civil War in New Mexico began in 1861 with the Confederate invasion and occupation of the Mesilla Valley. At the same time, small villages and towns in New Mexico Territory faced raids from Navajos and Apaches. In response the commander of the Department of New Mexico Colonel Edward Canby and Governor Henry Connelly recruited what became the First and Second New Mexico Volunteer Infantry. In this book leading Civil War historian Jerry Thompson tells their story for the first time, along with the history of a third regiment of Mounted Infantry and several companies in a fourth regiment.

Thompson's focus is on the Confederate invasion of 1861-1862 and its effects, especially the bloody Battle of Valverde. The emphasis is on how the volunteer companies were raised; who led them; how they were organized, armed, and equipped; what they endured off the battlefield; how they adapted to military life; and their interactions with New Mexico citizens and various hostile Indian groups, including raiding by deserters and outlaws. Thompson draws on service records and numerous other archival sources that few earlier scholars have seen. His thorough accounting will be a gold mine for historians and genealogists, especially the appendix, which lists the names of all volunteers and militia men."

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Dozier (ed.): "A GUNNER IN LEE'S ARMY: The Civil War Letters of Thomas Henry Carter"

[A Gunner in Lee's Army: The Civil War Letters of Thomas Henry Carter edited by Graham T. Dozier (University of North Carolina Press, 2014). Softcover, photos, notes, bibliography, index. 367 pp. ISBN:978-1-4696-1874-6 $39.95]

Students of the campaigns of the Army of Northern Virginia have undoubtedly encountered the name Thomas Henry Carter here and there in their readings. Of the many talented young artillerists that occupied the lower and middle command levels in Lee's army, Carter was regarded as one of the finest. Fortunately, those interested in Carter's life and wartime experiences now have an excellent resource in A Gunner in Lee's Army: The Civil War Letters of Thomas Henry Carter edited by Graham Dozier of the Virginia Historical Society (where the original documents reside).

At 31 years of age, Thomas Carter began the war as a battery commander, leading the King William Artillery during the Peninsula, Maryland, and Fredericksburg campaigns. Promoted rapidly from major and then lieutenant colonel, he was a battalion commander at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. In 1864, now Colonel Carter served in the Overland Campaign and was 2nd Corps Chief of Artillery during Jubal Early's Shenandoah Campaign. The next year, he found himself in the Richmond-Petersburg siege lines, ultimately following the army to its demise at Appomattox and surviving the war.

The Carter correspondence, 103 letters nearly all of which were written to his wife Susan, exhibits all the qualities of the best candidates for publication. The writing is voluminous and frequently touches upon the type of subjects most interesting to readers and scholars alike. Letters often open or close with talk on personal business matters, reminding readers yet again of the many non-traditional plantation and farm management duties thrust upon wives when their husbands went off to fight.  Home matters aside, Carter writes about his own war experiences in some detail (especially later on).  He also frequently commented on military bureaucracy, slavery, and politics while also freely offering pointed assessments of the strengths and shortcomings of his fellow officers*. Though it's unstated if he ever made his position public, Carter told his wife he supported arming slaves to fight in the Confederate army in exchange for immediate manumission. In his writings, he could be very critical of the Confederate government and its president, projecting deep frustration toward how the army was raised, organized and run.  Lamentations surrounding discipline, mainly the lack of it among members of the Confederate government and military, is a common theme throughout. Carter's disgruntlement with the army boiled over during the series of 1864 disasters in the Shenandoah, his letters praising Union army discipline while at the same time denouncing the independent spirits of his fellow Confederate officers and the infantry they commanded as destructive to unit cohesion and effectiveness. 

It should be mentioned that large coverage gaps exist in the letters. The absence of correspondence for long periods of time encompassing the Seven Days battles, Gettysburg, and the Overland Campaign is doubly unfortunate given the significance of those events.

Editor Graham Dozier performs well all the tasks expected of the job. While he transcribes the letters largely as is, the footnotes are numerous and extensive. Like all top quality edited letter collections, the breadth and depth of Dozier's own research is on par with that found in original manuscripts, his work in this regard clearly demonstrated in the editorial narrative and notes. The first chapter comprises a fine biographical essay for Carter, his pre-war life one rather typical of a member of his class. With two prestigious medical degrees, Carter nevertheless passed on a career in that profession in favor of managing his father's estate with its 100 slaves. Dozier also provides narrative introductions to each of the seven chapters covering the war years, always keeping the reader abreast of Carter's personal activities during each campaign and battle (whether covered by the letters or not). He concludes the book with an account of Carter's life after the war, when the Virginian carved out new occupations in education and railroad arbitration while remaining active in Confederate veterans organizations.

The Carter letters collected in A Gunner in Lee's Army comprise an exceptionally informative primary resource for those researching the mid-level command structure of the Army of Northern Virginia's artillery arm. On top of the significant intrinsic value of the correspondence, Graham Dozier's expert editing considerably enhances the scholarly merit of the material.

* - Carter has nothing but positive things to say about Earl Van Dorn (affectionately calling him "the Earl", which I've never come across before), but then again he never served with him in the West and Trans-Mississippi!  Carter also frequently praises D.H. Hill, Robert Rodes, and Robert E. Lee, though he criticizes Lee for being too soft on underperforming subordinates (the command discipline issue again). Carter was very protective of the artillery's reputation, successfully obtaining a retraction from Jubal Early, who found general fault with his command's performance during repeated defeats at the hands of Phil Sheridan's army in the Shenandoah. Carter's observation that Richard Ewell appeared "pale", "thin", and "feeble" at the outset of the Gettysburg Campaign might add fuel to the notion that physical limitations lay behind Ewell's rather passive behavior during the battle, at least to a greater degree than typically conceded (by most estimations, Ewell's amputation recovery seems to have gone well).

More CWBA reviews of UNC Press titles:
* Nature's Civil War: Common Soldiers and the Environment in 1862 Virginia
* A Field Guide to Gettysburg: Experiencing the Battlefield through Its History, Places, and People
* Kennesaw Mountain: Sherman, Johnston, and the Atlanta Campaign
* With a Sword in One Hand and Jomini in the Other: The Problem of Military Thought in the Civil War North
* The Civil War in the West: Victory and Defeat from the Appalachians to the Mississippi
* Shifting Loyalties: The Union Occupation of Eastern North Carolina
* West Pointers and the Civil War: The Old Army in War and Peace
* Fields of Blood: The Prairie Grove Campaign (link to author interview)
* A Savage Conflict: The Decisive Role of Guerrillas in the American Civil War (link to author interview)
* In the Trenches at Petersburg: Field Fortifications and Confederate Defeat
* The Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864
* Shenandoah 1862: Stonewall Jackson's Valley Campaign
* Lincoln and the Decision for War: The Northern Response to Secession
* Trench Warfare under Grant & Lee: Field Fortifications in the Overland Campaign
* Plain Folk’s Fight: The Civil War & Reconstruction in Piney Woods Georgia
* Retreat from Gettysburg: Lee, Logistics, and the Pennsylvania Campaign
* Field Armies and Fortifications in the Civil War: The Eastern Campaigns, 1861-1864

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Booknotes (Nov '14)

New Arrivals:

1. An Irrepressible Conflict: The Empire State in the Civil War by Robert Weible, Jennifer A. Lemak and Aaron Noble (SUNY Pr, 2014).

From the publisher's description: "A companion to the award-winning exhibition of the same name, displayed at the New York State Museum from September 2012 to March 2014, An Irrepressible Conflict includes reproductions of objects from the collections of the New York State Museum, Library, and Archives, as well as more than twenty-five different institutions across the state. Among the many significant objects are a Lincoln life mask from 1860, the earliest photograph of Frederick Douglass, the only known portrait of Dred Scott and a bronze medal given to the defenders of Fort Sumter by the City of New York."

2. The Fighting Fifteenth Alabama Infantry: A Civil War History and Roster by James P. Faust (McFarland, 2014).

With only brief chapter narratives covering the 15th's many campaigns and battles, a very limited bibliography, and much of the page space devoted to detailed casualty lists for each battle and a unit roster, this one doesn't sit among the fuller treatments available from the publisher's catalog of Civil War regimental roster studies.

3. The Civil War: The Story of the War with Maps by M. David Detweiler (Stackpole, 2014).

Perhaps the accompanying text is okay, but the content and design of the color cartography in this book is decidedly uninspiring, none of its qualities matching those found in the best modern atlases. A subject newbie might find it acceptable.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Spring 1865: The Closing Campaigns of the Civil War

Unlike Ameer on the gridiron, Nebraska's academic publisher hasn't exactly been killing it during the Sesquicentennial (though acquiring Gettysburg Magazine was a bit bold). It's been such a long period of time since they released a new title (a true original volume, not a paperback reprint) from their Great Campaigns of the Civil War series that I was wondering if it went defunct. Apparently not, as spring 2015 will see the publication of Spring 1865: The Closing Campaigns of the Civil War. This is the first output from this series since 2008's Counter-Thrust (the best of the bunch, in my opinion) and it will also mark the return to the Civil War world of Perry Jamieson.

"In Spring 1865, Perry D. Jamieson juxtaposes for the first time the major campaign against Lee that ended at Appomattox and Gen. William T. Sherman’s march north through the Carolinas, which culminated in Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’s surrender at Bennett Place. Jamieson also addresses the efforts required to put down armed resistance in the Deep South and the Trans-Mississippi. As both sides fought for political goals following Lee’s surrender, these campaigns had significant consequences for the political-military context that shaped the end of the war as well as Reconstruction."

Sounds like it might be worth a look.

Monday, November 03, 2014

"Civil War Chicago: Eyewitness to History"

Ohio University Press's Civil War in the Great Interior series does fine work in presenting readers with all-embracing selections of published and unpublished Civil War documents on a state by state basis, the whole accompanied by expert editing. From the same publisher and similar in presentation style, Civil War Chicago: Eyewitness to History edited by Theodore J. Karamanski and Eileen M. McMahon (Ohio University Press, 2014) narrows the documentary subject focus even further. The editors, both professors at nearby universities and published authors of Chicago history, are well placed to know where to find interesting materials (obscure or otherwise) as well as interpret them.

The volume is packed with newspaper articles, letters, diaries, memoirs, speeches, government papers and more related to every conceivable home front and military topic directly related to Civil War Chicago. Among the many themes addressed are the 1860 election, early war enlistment fever, Chicagoans and the battlefield, Chicago as Confederate prisoner of war camp, opposition politics in the city, labor and management in Chicago industry, class and ethnic tensions, and, finally, events surrounding the end of the war. There's even a select history and photographic tour of Chicago's Civil War memorials and other sites. In addition to curating the documents, Karamanski and McMahon also contributed book and chapter introductory essays that are substantive enough in their own right to together comprise a quite comprehensive short form Civil War city history.

This is a really impressive documentary immersion project. With no shortage of Midwestern candidates, perhaps Civil War Chicago can be the first title in a new city series.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

The Civil War Guerrilla

One of the better developments in the Civil War literature over recent years has been a deeper and more nuanced appreciation of guerrilla fighting as something more than a rear area irritant (though the strategic implications of irregular warfare overall remain hotly debated). University Press of Kentucky's spring 2015 catalog will contribute to the topic in the form of The Civil War Guerrilla: Unfolding the Black Flag in History, Memory, and Myth, an essay compilation edited by Joseph Beilein and Matthew Hulbert. In it the editors "assemble a team of both rising and eminent scholars to examine guerrilla warfare in the South during the Civil War. Together, they discuss irregular combat as practiced by various communities in multiple contexts, including how it was used by Native Americans, the factors that motivated raiders in the border states, and the women who participated as messengers, informants, collaborators, and combatants. They also explore how the Civil War guerrilla has been mythologized in history, literature, and folklore."

Kentucky's website also mentions a new Ebook Loyalty Program that makes physical copy owners eligible for a free electronic edition. This isn't quite the same thing, but I've often thought that a good way to encourage direct ordering from university and private presses would be to simultaneously offer a free or nominally priced e-book copy with the purchase.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween

from Zombie Jeff Davis

Casting about the web for the creepiest contemporary drawing,  I found I couldn't better this one from Harper's Weekly, which first came to my attention as the cover art for 2011's Weirding the War.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Booknotes VIII (Oct '14)

New Arrivals:

1. John Wilkes Booth: Beyond the Grave by W.C. Jameson (Taylor Trade Publishing, 2014).

Alternative folklore abounds surrounding the deaths of famous and infamous historical figures (for the Civil War, John Wilkes Booth, Jesse James, and Bloody Bill Anderson come to mind), with some believing these men escaped their traditionally accepted fates and went on to live quieter lives elsewhere. This book, written by a distant relative, posits that the Lincoln assassin "was never captured but escaped to live for decades, continue his acting career, marry, and have children." What I think of this stuff you can probably guess.

2. The Ordeal of the Reunion: A New History of Reconstruction by Mark Wahlgren Summers (UNC Press, 2014).

With much of the current crop of Reconstruction era studies concerned primarily with the unrealized promise of full black citizenship in the decades following the Civil War, Summers "goes beyond this vitally important question, focusing on Reconstruction's need to form an enduring Union without sacrificing the framework of federalism and republican democracy. Assessing the era nationally, Summers emphasizes the variety of conservative strains that confined the scope of change, highlights the war's impact and its aftermath, and brings the West and foreign policy into an integrated narrative. In sum, this book offers a fresh explanation for Reconstruction's demise and a case for its essential successes as well as its great failures."

3. Lincoln and the Power of the Press: The War for Public Opinion by Harold Holzer (Simon & Schuster, 2014).

Lincoln the politician was always closely entwined with the newspaper press. He wrote editorials and even owned a paper at one point. Much is written about Lincoln being on the sharp end of press barbs, but he used the medium himself to attack his enemies and promote his own message. Though New York's Big 3 editors (Greeley, Bennett, and Raymond) are singled out for special attention, Holzer's thick tome attempts a wide ranging examination of the relationship.

4. The West Point History of the Civil War by the U.S. Military Academy (Simon & Schuster, 2014).

Among the section contributors to this new history are Neely, Glatthaar, Woodworth, and Hess so readers can expect reliably authoritative text. The full color maps are clearly inspired by Esposito's classic West Point atlas, but the unit scale (mostly division and higher) will disappoint many. More than anything else the book's look and feel reminds one of the American Heritage volume updated with current scholarship.