Friday, November 29, 2013

Wise's Forks update

As an admirer of Mark Smith and Wade Sokolosky's “No Such Army Since the Days of Julius Caesar” Sherman’s Carolinas Campaign: from Fayetteville to Averasboro, it's good to finally read some concrete news on the progress of their current collaboration, a history of the Wyse/Wise's Fork battle in North Carolina. Last month, Sokoloski posted this update. It sounds like the project is still a great deal short of completion, but it's good to know that they're still diligently plugging away at it.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

'The Civil War in the American West' bibliography

The Civil War in the American West

This compilation by Gordon Chappell has been substantially enhanced since my last viewing.  I would love to see even more critical commentary, especially for the more obscure works, but it's a great list-in-progress nonetheless.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Sutherland: "AMERICAN CIVIL WAR GUERRILLAS: Changing the Rules of Warfare"

[American Civil War Guerrillas: Changing the Rules of Warfare by Daniel Sutherland (Praeger, 2013). Hardcover, photos, appendices, notes, bibliographical essay, index. Pages main/total:123/175. ISBN:978-0-313-37766-2 $37]

Daniel Sutherland's American Civil War Guerrillas is one of the newest volumes from Praeger's Reflections on the Civil War Era series, volumes intended to provide "strong syntheses that also include new material and provide fresh arguments. Aimed at public library and general readers, these books should also be useful as classroom readings for college students." This book certainly fits the mold, and, given that Sutherland has already published arguably the finest single volume overview and analysis of the guerrilla aspect of the Civil War, Praeger could not have selected a better authorial candidate.

American Civil War Guerrillas is a brief study, but effectively addresses at varying length the full range of issues surrounding the subject. The book begins in 1861, with the initial formation of small guerrilla bands, explaining where these groups emerged and what motivated them. Personal concerns like neighbor grudges, local defense, desire to avoid national service, and revenge/retaliation were omnipresent, but Sutherland also raises the important point that guerrilla warfare as understood at the time was deemed by many an honorable, albeit romanticized, mode of fighting. This was especially true in the South, with its tradition of irregular war heroes from the Revolution like Francis Marion. Another chapter discusses the daily existence of the Civil War guerrilla -- how they dressed, how they were armed, and how they operated.

With the 1862 Partisan Ranger Act, the Confederate government attempted to give legal status to guerrillas and place them under some semblance of control. The legislation backfired, however, with masses of men avoiding, or deserting from, the regular service to join free bands of irregulars. These men operated under fewer and fewer constraints as the war progressed, eventually plunging huge areas of the Border States and South into civil chaos. Sutherland also documents the progression of counterguerrilla policy from the Union perspective, one that eventually codified formal terminology for irregular fighters and defined punishments (the Lieber Code). Also discussed in the book is the Union army's use of local control measures like banishment, hostage taking, fine levying, property assessments, imprisonment, and extreme measures like summary death sentences and the burning of towns thought to harbor bushwhackers and their supporters.

While the 'turning point' mythologizing of 1863 events like Gettysburg and Vicksburg is no longer a given, Sutherland believes the year to be the negative tipping point in the strategic value of guerrilla warfare to the Confederacy. The widespread incidence of lawless depredations committed by guerrillas upon the civilian population regardless of allegiance combined with the enormity of the Union army's retaliatory capacity and willingness to use it together resulted in plummeting home front morale and confidence in the Confederate government. In the midst of social chaos, some pro-Confederate communities even came to welcome order-sustaining Union occupation as the lesser of two evils. In American Civil War Guerrillas, Sutherland holds firmly to the idea originally developed in A Savage Conflict: The Decisive Role of Guerrillas in the American Civil War (UNC Press, 2009) that guerrilla warfare and it consequences were a factor in Confederate defeat no less decisive than any other single cause. It remains a powerful theme in this book.

The final chapter traces the ultimate defeat of Confederate guerrillas, from a combination of military defeat and withdrawn local and Confederate government support. The epilogue recounts the various means by which surviving partisans and guerrillas defended their wartime deeds (though not all felt the need or obligation to do so), and the degree of success these ex-irregulars had in shaping the historical perspectives of later generations.

Complaints with the book are primarily a product of inherent space limitations. Clearly a study designed to cover the entire breadth of guerrilla topics in little over 100 pages will be forced to compress, generalize, and omit. While individuals like "Tinker Dave" Beatty are indeed mentioned, more emphasis on the employment of pro-Union guerrillas would have been welcome and discussion of whether Union leaders ever attempted to justify their own use of guerrillas is missing. Also, while Sutherland does at least outline the vast extent of the guerrilla conflict, the text constantly returns to Missouri and Virginia. In his wonderfully educational bibliographical essay, the author appropriately explains the reasons behind this. Unlike the other studies in the series which are synthetic works employing primarily secondary sources, this book does not have the benefit of a deep literature to draw from, analytical scholarship on the subject of guerrilla warfare being only a recent phenomenon; the unavoidable consequence of this being that the author was forced instead to go to primary sources, the vast majority of which are products of Quantrill and Mosby associates. Though reasonably mitigated through explanation, the situation inadvertently ends up reinforcing the distorted and outdated popular image of Civil War guerrilla warfare as mostly a 'Mosby and Missouri' thing (especially for those general interest readers most likely to skip over the book's notes and source essay).  Sutherland also remains less interested than subject scholars like Robert Mackey in categorizing the operators of Civil War irregular warfare.  However, whether this is a critical omission or simply a recognition that such messy subject matter does not lend itself to defined classification is in the eye of the beholder.  I would also liked to have seen Sutherland address the debate between historians Mackey [yes] and Clay Mountcastle [no] in their respective scholarship over whether the Union army developed an effective military strategy deserving of credit for the eventual defeat of the pro-Confederate guerrilla menace. 

In considering the overall value of American Civil War Guerrillas, however, the significance of the concerns listed above pale in the face of the book's many strengths.  As a scholarly primer on Civil War guerrilla warfare, Sutherland's study takes first prize.

Booknotes III (Nov '13)

New Arrivals:

1. Confederate Slave Impressment in the Upper South by Jaime Amanda Martinez (Univ of NC Pr, 2013).

This is a social and political history of the Confederate policy of obtaining slaves for use as labor on fortifications. The book "challenges the assumption that the conduct of the program, and the resistance it engendered, was an indication of weakness and highlights instead how the strong governments of the states contributed to the war effort." Going further, Martinez "argues that the ability of local, state, and national governments to cooperate and enforce unpopular impressment laws indicates the overall strength of the Confederate government as it struggled to enforce its independence."

2. Theophilus Hunter Holmes: A North Carolina General in the Civil War by Walter C. Hilderman III (McFarland, 2013).

Hilderman, the author of a good study of Confederate conscription in North Carolina, here offers a military biography of one of the state's highest ranking sons. Holmes spent most of the war out west, so there's quite a bit of content devoted to his Trans-Mississippi commands, including a fairly lengthy chapter on Helena.

3. Brigadier General John Adams, CSA: A Biography by Leslie R. Tucker (McFarland, 2013).

According to Tucker, very little in the way of personal papers exist for Adams, who is probably best known as one of the Confederate generals killed at the Battle of Franklin. The result of this is that only around 1/4 of the book is devoted to the Civil War, the rest covering his wide ranging antebellum army career. McFarland also appears to have adopted an improved binding and wrapper material for their softcovers.

4. New Haven's Civil War Hospital: A History of Knight U.S. General Hospital, 1862-1865 by Ira Spar (McFarland, 2013).

"This history of the hospital's construction and operation during the war discusses the state of medicine at the time as well as the administrative side of providing care to sick and wounded soldiers."

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Best Civil War Books of 2013

No, I'm not referring to my annual CWBA list (that will come later) but the one from the Winter 2013 issue of Civil War Monitor magazine.  In it, six illustrious persons plus me were asked by editor Terry Johnston to select a "Top Pick" and an "Honorable Mention" [my two are on pages 68-69].  I'll not spoil anything so check your mailbox or newsstand.

The adjunct sidebar listing the ten best-selling Civil War books of the year is interesting in that it speaks to the enduring, if flagging, heft of the traditional marketing and distribution model for bookselling.  The first eight were far and away among the most prominently featured titles in my local Barnes & Noble store this year. #9 is a complete ('baffling' might be a better descriptor) surprise and #10 an entirely pleasant one.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Booknotes II (Nov '13)

New Arrivals:

1. Washington Brotherhood: Politics, Social Life, and the Coming of the Civil War by Rachel A. Shelden (UNC Pr, 2013).

Shelden examines the political culture and social life of the legislators in D.C., showing how personal relationships helped guide the country through the political crises of the early and mid nineteenth century. Presumably, she traces the reasons behind the breakdown in this cooperative intersectional social atmosphere in the years prior to secession.

2. When the Wolf Came: The Civil War and the Indian Territory by Mary Jane Warde (Univ of Ark Pr, 2013).

I've never taken a close look at Warde's previous work, so I don't know what to expect from this one; however, it's been sometime since someone attempted a full length survey history of the war years in the Indian Territory. I can't say I would recommend much among what's come before, so I welcome Warde's new and up to date effort. If the title sounds familiar, you're probably thinking of White & White's Now the Wolf Has Come: The Creek Nation in the Civil War.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Book collecting ain't what it used to be

When it comes to Civil War book collecting, Paul Taylor always has something interesting to say.  Check out his latest commentary on the current state of the lifestyle.  [While you're at it, take a look at his new book about Civil War Detroit titled "Old Slow Town". I have a copy and it looks good.]

My own collecting bug is geared toward modern books -- from the Centennial period to today -- and I've always considered it an intellectual and aesthetic investment rather than any kind of financial one. Paul's comment that the peak period of collecting was the mid-1990s, before internet tools broke down the traditional forces propping up prices, has the ring of truth to it.  I recall a dealer remarking in a 2005 article somewhere that a good Civil War book collection valued at $200,000 in the 90s was only worth $40,000 a decade later.   Going on ten years more, the value gap has undoubtedly only widened further.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Meier: "NATURE'S CIVIL WAR: Common Soldiers and the Environment in 1862 Virginia"

[ Nature's Civil War: Common Soldiers and the Environment in 1862 Virginia by Kathryn Shively Meier (University of North Carolina Press, 2013) Hardcover, 2 maps, photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:164/232. ISBN:978-1-4696-1076-4  $39.95]


Major and minor fads are always running a waxing and waning course throughout Civil War scholarship and publishing. A current climber is "environmental history", perhaps most recognizable in book form by the recent works of Lisa Brady, Kelby Ouchley, and Megan Kate Nelson*.  One might reasonably question whether environmental history has the legs to develop into a truly distinctive force in the Civil War literature, but the practice thus far has yielded points of interest.  While its own content could rather easily fit into existing categories, Kathryn Shively Meier's Nature's Civil War nevertheless eagerly attaches itself to this new interpretive school.  Meier's book offers useful insight into the common soldier's difficult task of maintaining personal health amid the dual stressors of a harsh natural environment and a system of official army care which seemed a disorganized, uncaring, and frequently incompetent bureaucracy to those used to the loving attentions of home and family.

Nature's Civil War is a brief work that nevertheless takes on some large topics. To give readers an idea of what 1860s soldiers expected out of medical care, Meier provides a brief rundown of the competing positions of official and unofficial medicine in the nineteenth century United States. This section documents the debates within states over the need for professionalization in the form of formal schooling and licensing and within the medical establishment itself between traditional physicians and those practicing controversial offshoots like homeopathy. One of the more relevant points raised is the author's contention that the majority of private soldiers had never been under a doctor's care at any time during their pre-military lives, thus they already possessed a foundation of self reliant expectation when it came to treating sickness and maintaining general health.

Meier's focus is not on the health services rendered through official military channels, but rather the steps taken by individuals or small groups to keep their bodies in fighting condition -- a concept she calls "self-care". Her sample of correspondents is not a scientific one, but it's large enough to present insightful anecdotal data. Meier's chosen time period (1862) and geographical area (the Shenandoah Valley and the Virginia Peninsula) are astutely selected to examine self-care issues related to the environment. The spring of 1862 was after the time when soldiers occupied massive training camps filled with those lacking immunity to childhood diseases often lethal to adults but before the creation of efficient medical and hospital systems with the ability to handle common camp ailments of environmental origin.

Meier's documentation of health self-reporting in the correspondence home of soldiers fighting in the Valley and in the Peninsula provides points of comparison between the presumably healthy Shenandoah air and the sickly Chickahominy swamps. Contrary to what was believed at the time to be true, Meier finds no evidence through her self-reporting sample that southern soldiers had any advantage over Union troops in terms of local climate and disease "seasoning". Official U.S. government research (see Appendix 1 chart, pg. 154) also had some interesting findings pertaining to the health of Union soldiers in both locales. While Peninsula soldiers were indeed much sicker during the summer, during the later winter/early spring months Union soldiers serving in the Valley had the higher rate of illness (a situation Meier attributes to exposure to greater extremes of weather). The effects of sickness on the conduct of the Peninsula Campaign by both sides is beyond the scope of Meier's book and remains an understudied and underappreciated aspect of the campaign's historiography.

The previously mentioned concept of self-care is really the heart of the book. Meier describes the attempts by soldiers, in camp and on the march, to look out for their own health, often in direct defiance of the regimentation imposed by the army. While the author does delve into the specifics of self-care, including those related to shelter construction, campsite selection, and the seeking of natural remedies and outside sources of food, I was expecting an even larger collection of concrete examples given the centrality of the theme.

One of the most intriguing sections of the book is the short chapter on straggling. The idea that straggling (to be differentiated from falling out of the ranks with the intent to desert) was an essential component of self-care in 1862, before adequately prepared Union and Confederate medical, ambulance, and hospital systems were in place, is one of Nature's Civil War's more thoughtful contributions. However, this is largely conjecture until someone publishes a focused scholarly study of straggling. Meier recognizes this, duly putting out an appeal for someone to take on such a project. The author also powerfully calls for a change in the literature's traditional definition of a "seasoned" Civil War soldier, from that of a passive survivor with good fortune to one involving a successful implementation of self-care techniques of health and survival. Though erratically focused for such a short work, often seeming like several different research interests loosely combined and lacking a unifying theme,  Nature's Civil War does contribute more than enough interpretive heft to Civil War soldier studies to make it worthy of recommendation.


*. - Flora and Fauna of the Civil War: An Environmental Reference Guide (LSU, 2010) by Kelby Ouchley; Lisa Brady's War upon the Land: Military Strategy and the Transformation of Southern Landscapes during the American Civil War (Georgia, 2012); and Ruin Nation: Destruction and the American Civil War [link is to my review] by Megan Kate Nelson (Georgia, 2012).


More CWBA reviews of UNC Press titles:
* 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

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Outside review of Hood on Hood

Having selectively read only around 60% of Sam Hood's aggressively revisionist John Bell Hood: The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of a Confederate General (Savas Beatie, 2013), I'll not be formally reviewing it here and have mostly avoided comment. However, the critical views, both positive and negative, expressed in Zac Cowsert's recent "Emerging Civil War" review so closely match my own that I thought I would mention it here for those that may have been wondering what I thought about the book.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Robison: "MONTANA TERRITORY AND THE CIVIL WAR: A Frontier Forged on the Battlefield"

[Montana Territory and the Civil War: A Frontier Forged on the Battlefield by Ken Robison (The History Press, 2013). Softcover, photos, illustrations, bibliography, index. 156 pp. ISBN:978-1-62619-175-4 $19.99]

Though studies related to the Civil War years in the states and territories of the Far West remain few are far between, a small number have appeared recently, including a Pacific Northwest military history, a look at Lincoln's connections to Oregon County, and a survey of Civil War California. The newest example, Ken Robison's Montana Territory and the Civil War, is probably the first of its kind, a book length treatment emphasizing the Civil War origins of a mineral rich region organized in May 1864 from portions of existing Idaho and Dakota domains.

The format is a bit unusual. Montana Territory in the Civil War is not a popular narrative history nor is it a formal documented study. A short introductory section of the book describes the formation of the territory and its economic contribution to the Union war effort, but the great majority of the text consists of an extensive series of biographical sketches of individuals associated with the governance, settlement, and economic development of the territory.

Robison begins his collection of biographical vignettes, many of which have been previously published elsewhere, with those appointed territorial governor. As historian Richard Etulain and others have noted, Lincoln appointees had a spotty record of leadership in the Far West, and the situation in Montana was no exception. For the first 20 years of the territory's existence, all governors save one served in the Union army, and Robison highlights the unwillingness of many of these men to share the political process with conservative Democratic majorities in the legislature.

Thousands of Civil War veterans emigrated west to Montana (at least 6,200 by current count) during and after the war, and Robison profiles in his book eight men -- officers and enlisted soldiers, Union and Confederate -- who became prominent or colorful Montana residents. Other groups that served the Union cause, from black soldiers and sailors to female nurses and spies, are also represented, as are a number of Union generals that fought in Montana during the Indian Wars of the mid to late nineteenth century. The book concludes with a look at Civil War monuments erected in Montana and how the war was commemorated during the reconciliation period.  According to Robison, one of these granite structures is exceptional for being the northernmost monument honoring the service of Confederate soldiers.

Montana Territory and the Civil War does leave a great deal of room for a more in depth, scholarly examination of the Civil War years in Montana, one that documents and analyzes the civilian wartime experiences of the settlers and miners, their undoubtedly diverse attitudes toward the war raging far to the east, and the spectrum of their interactions and relationships with political leaders and the army. The main value of Robison's book, I think, is its attempt to awaken modern Montanans to their state's Civil War roots and connections, a common goal of many Sesquicentennial inspired projects. One wishes the author the best of luck with that very worthwhile endeavor.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Epic Chickamauga trilogy

Having neither the spare room available nor a clinically diagnosable hoarding instinct, I'm not one to keep every single Civil War book that I acquire in one manner or another. Taking into account both personal interest and shelving limits, for many subjects I am content to have the best available treatment and good riddance to everything else. If something better comes along, it's out with the old and in with the new. In the military campaign sphere, Chickamauga for me is pretty much 'keep the best, chuck the rest'. With the latest Savas Beatie newsletter announcing the first volume of David Powell's trilogy -- The Chickamauga Campaign—A Mad Irregular Battle: From the Crossing of the Tennessee River Through the First Day, August 22-September 19, 1863 -- it looks like some shelf cleaning is in the future [the Chickamauga atlas, of course being immune]. In my opinion, if the tale of Chickamauga is to be told in epic fashion the person for the job is either William Glenn Robertson or David Powell, and the fact that the latter is actually doing it is a source of great satisfaction.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Booknotes (Nov '13)

New Arrivals:

1. Those Who Fought: Allegheny County, Pa., and the Gettysburg Campaign by Arthur B. Fox (Mechling Bookbindery, 2013).

Similar in presentation to Fox's earlier Our Honored Dead, Allegheny Co., Pa., in the American Civil War, Those Who Fought focuses its attention on the county's contribution to the Gettysburg Campaign. It provides numerous capsule biographies of individuals as well as a unit by unit reference guide to the various actions fought by companies raised in the county, the latter also paying close attention to numbers, equipment, and casualty data. The volume is also handsomely illustrated.

2. Don't Hurry Me Down to Hades: The Civil War In The Words of Those Who Lived It by Susannah Ural (Osprey, 2013).

3. The Maps of the Bristoe Station and Mine Run Campaigns: An Atlas of the Battles and Movements in the Eastern Theater after Gettysburg, Including Rappahannock Station, Kelly's Ford, and Morton's Ford, July 1863-February 1864 by Bradley Gottfried (Savas Beatie, 2013).

It was a surprise, albeit a pleasant one, that these campaigns emerged this early (#5) in the S-B atlas series. The mouthful that is the book's Victorian-era style title and subtitle tell you exactly what you get. Outside of the H.E. Howard series books and the Tighe Bristoe Campaign study, coverage of the long period between the end of the Gettysburg and the beginning of the Overland Campaign remains sparse. Looking forward to reading this one and enjoying the maps.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Fox: "STUART'S FINEST HOUR: The Ride Around McClellan, June 1862"

[Stuart's Finest Hour: The Ride Around McClellan, June 1862 by John J. Fox (Angle Valley Press, 2013). Hardcover, 7 maps, photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:266/344. ISBN:978-0-9711950-5-9 $31.95]

JEB Stuart's famous June 12-15, 1862 "Ride Around McClellan" has been discussed in book chapters and articles*, but, until now, has escaped the type of modern full length treatment accorded so many other great Civil War mounted raids. More important than its status as a publishing "first", John Fox's Stuart's Finest Hour on many levels meets or exceeds the expectations of a demanding readership. It's not a placeholder until something better comes along.

Those familiar with Fox's earlier works, especially his excellent micro-history of the Confederate defense of Fort Gregg in 1865, will recognize the same level of sound research and serious historical narrative presented in a spirited manner. All aspects of the planning and execution of the raid, as well as the Union response, are meticulously detailed in the text. Rather than mighty clashes with the enemy, the operation's salient features were those of movement and misdirection. With a handful of picket clashes to go along with a battalion-sized skirmish on the afternoon of the 13th near Linney's Corner, fighting was on a decidedly small scale. The descriptive depth of the writing seems to indicate on the part of the author an intimate knowledge of the raid route and surrounding landscape. A good set of maps produced by George Skoch lays out Stuart's marching route, but the book also contains an extensive collection of modern photographs of sites associated with the raid. Unlike those found in many Civil War studies, the images in Stuart's Finest Hour are both professionally composed and crisply reproduced on the page.

Celebrated as it may be, the conduct of Stuart's raid is not without its critics (then and now), and Fox does a fine job of evaluating the validity of the various claims. As one example, the size of the raiding force (estimated at 1,200 riders and 2 cannon) is regarded by some as too large, suggesting that a few scouts could have gained the same amount of information in a much stealthier manner.  In their minds, the unnecessarily large scale operation jolted McClellan to an earlier recognition of the vulnerability of his right flank and logistical network north of the Chickahominy River. While these claims have some merit, Fox is persuasive in arguing that there is too much benefit of hindsight in these complaints.  The weakness, to the point of almost non-existence, of the Union cavalry screen was not known at the time and possible betraying of future plans is an inherent risk of any reconnaissance operation.  Further, the Union commander was already well aware of the exposed nature of his lines of communication and has already taken initial steps to prepare a James River logistical base.

The decision to attempt a ride completely around the Army of the Potomac is perhaps the issue most open to reasoned debate. In his main text as well as in Appendix C, Fox weighs the merits of turning back at Old Church versus continuing forward. The author presents a solid argument that both options were similarly fraught with danger. Turning back at Old Church would force Stuart into a dangerously narrow path closed off closely on the right by the Pamunkey River.  The chosen alternative of continuing forward also involved potentially serious terrain obstacles, with the added risk of requiring a river crossing without the benefit of a bridge or known ford.  Additionally, the deeper the Confederates plunged into the Union rear the easier it became for even slow moving enemy infantry to cut off the Confederate return to Richmond.   The longer ride also greatly increased the amount of time it would take to get the vital intelligence gained in the operation back to Lee, narrowing the window of opportunity to exploit the situation. Fox constructs a reasonable defense of Stuart, but it is difficult to shake the feeling as the reader that the Virginian's decision to ride a complete circuit around the Army of the Potomac was a foolhardy one that had no business succeeding as well as it did. The evidence presented in the book makes it pretty clear that even a minimally competent Union response to the raid almost could not have failed to capture or destroy a significant part of Stuart's command, if not force a complete surrender.

The picture of the opposing commanders presented in the book could not be more different. On the Confederate side, Lee made clear what was expected of Stuart; though, as later in the war during the Gettysburg Campaign, he left important details open to wide interpretation. Stuart himself was an active leader, keeping his command firmly in hand and not panicking in difficult situations. His policy of selecting units containing men familiar with the area to be traversed paid dividends on several occasions. On the other hand, with the exception of brave actions on the company level, the Union effort was bungled from top to bottom. Fox shares the conventional wisdom that McClellan misused his cavalry. In some ways, this judgment is unfair. In the spring of 1862, it was still unclear how to deploy cavalry for best effect and the Cavalry Reserve was at least organized on paper in the manner later employed by both armies. However, there is no doubt that the man selected to command the cavalry of the Army of the Potomac was not equal to the task. In addition to neglecting to adequately screen the Union far right, Philip St. George Cooke was paralyzed by indecision when news of the raid reached him. Instead of attempting to rescue the floundering Cooke with transparent expectations, McClellan unhelpfully inserted another command layer, placing Cooke under the direct oversight of unsympathetic V Corps commander Fitz John Porter. When Cooke did move, he moved at a snail's pace, refusing to leave the protection of his supporting infantry. As a result, Stuart was never challenged at any point by Cooke or anyone else for that matter, the Confederate general's most serious opponent not the Union army but the flood stage Chickahominy. Unlike many Civil War figures unfairly scapegoated for failures either real or perceived, the opprobrium heaped upon Cooke by contemporaries and later historians alike appears fully deserved.

One of the most famous events linked to the raid is the death of Confederate Captain William Latane at Linney's Corner. The officer's death inspired a popular poem by John R. Thompson and the painting The Burial of Latane became an iconic image. Curiously, Fox does not reproduce either in the book, but he does author an appendix documenting the transport of Latane's body from the battlefield and his subsequent interment. Other appendices comprise orders of battle, an analysis of the decision to continue the raid beyond Old Church, a reassessment of conflicting accounts of the route used during June 12, and a link to an online driving tour.

Complaints are few and comparatively insignificant. Fox is a fine writer of military history, but some passages speculating on the thoughts and emotions of the historical actors for dramatic effect are a bit much. Also, the modern tour route mentioned above as available online [here] is a bit skeletal in its features compared with similar efforts in other books. At this time, interested parties are best served by consulting the General's Tour feature of the Mewborn article cited below. But these are minor quibbles with what is an excellent account of an event that has been relatively neglected in the literature. Stuart's Finest Hour is highly recommended reading for students of the 1862 Peninsula Campaign, the command exploits of JEB Stuart, and Civil War cavalry operations in general.

* - arguably the best is Horace Mewborn's 1998 Blue & Gray Magazine feature article "A Wonderful Exploit: Jeb Stuart's Ride Around the Army of the Potomac."