Sunday, December 06, 2009

Bragg: "GRISWOLDVILLE"

[ Griswoldville by William Harris Bragg (Mercer University Press, 2009). Softcover, maps, photos, drawings, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:158/189. ISBN:9780881461688 $30 ]

First published back in 2000, William Harris Bragg's Griswoldville was reissued in September in a new paperback edition. Equal parts biography, town history, and military study, Bragg's book employs an unusual, but well executed, approach.

The book begins with the peacetime story of Samuel Griswold, a Connecticut-born landowner and industrialist, who later founded an industrial village approximately ten miles east of Macon, Georgia. Originally a successful designer and manufacturer of cotton gins, Griswold would eventually convert his business to the making of arms -- the Griswold & Gunnison revolver (patterned after the 36 caliber Colt "Navy") -- when war broke out.

Twice in 1864, first during General George Stoneman's disastrous raid and later amid Sherman's March, Griswoldville was threatened by Union forces. Eventually, the settlement was burned to the ground. Those background events are covered in brief by Bragg, but several chapters are devoted to the November 22, 1864 Battle of Griswoldville, a bloody defeat of a numerically superior force of Georgia militia at the hands of a veteran and well positioned Union infantry brigade. The author's tactical narrative does not treat the events of the battle in great detail (as opposed to the flawed, but worthwhile, Fields of Gray by Gary Livingston), but it will suffice for most readers.

The volume is very attractive, almost bursting with 97 full-page maps, photographs, and drawings, many of which are published for the first time. Although this leaves the reader with something over 60 pages of main text, this is not an overview study reliant on previously published works. Bragg's work is strongly based on a range of primary source materials and his notes are extensive.

An informative snapshot of the social, economic, and military history of a small but important Georgia town, Griswoldville should appeal to both dedicated Civil War students and local history enthusiasts. Recommended.

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