Friday, August 11, 2006

"Of Savage Fury: The Battle of Richmond, KY"

(Of Savage Fury: The Battle of Richmond Kentucky by Anthony Hawkins, Hawkins Historical Publications, 2006, photos, maps, color plates, bibliography, casualty tables, pp. 408. $30 softcover/$40 hardback. )

When the Ripe Pears Fell
, written by the late D. Warren Lambert and published by the Madison County Historical Society (now OP), is widely considered to be the definitive treatment of the Battle of Richmond, Kentucky and Of Savage Fury author Anthony Hawkins does not seek to supplant it, but rather augment it. By his own estimation, the author spent five years researching and compiling the most complete Union and Confederate casualty list (K,W,M) for the Battle of Richmond to date. Hawkins' research has also led him to construct three hand-drawn battle maps that show regimental positions not detailed in any of Lambert's maps. The author has also found primary source materials not consulted by Lambert and integrated them into his narrative.

Of Savage Fury contains a great number of officer photographs to go along with short bios. For flag enthusiasts, some nice full-color plates of various battle flags are inserted throughout the text. Some of the book's visual elements are certainly out of the ordinary. Most authors would not include officer portrait drawings by their 8 year old sons, but these are actually quite interesting in a Picasso-esque way.

The problems I have with the book are mainly with technique and presentation. Hawkins has obviously done some research, but he needs to lend credibility to his work by providing notes. A more balanced account (the narrative is written largely from the Confederate point of view in terms of content and attitude) would be helpful as well. The book is a bit of mess in terms of presentation. The printer does not employ double justification and instances of spelling errors, incorrect word usage, and improper noun capitalization are innumerable. The entire text is in desperate need of a copy editor.

In the end, Of Savage Fury is an idiosyncratic and flawed work that nevertheless contains useful material. There is definitely some good stuff in the book, and hopefully a future edition can remedy its shortcomings.

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