Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Review of Driver - "THE CONFEDERATE SOLDIERS OF ROCKBRIDGE COUNTY, VIRGINIA: A Roster"

The Confederate Soldiers of Rockbridge County, Virginia: A Roster by Robert J. Driver, Jr. (McFarland 800-253-2187, 2016). Softcover, photos, bibliography. 359 pp. ISBN:978-1-4766-6411-8. $49.95]

Robert Driver is the author of a dozen unit histories and reference books on Virginia and Maryland Confederate infantry, cavalry, artillery, and sailors. His latest volume, The Confederate Soldiers of Rockbridge County, Virginia, is an exhaustive roster of those soldiers, sailors, and marines that were either from Rockbridge County, lived in the county for a long period of time before or after the war, or were from elsewhere but joined units organized in Rockbridge County. All ranks are represented in the book, from anonymous private soldiers to famous generals like Stonewall Jackson.

The main source of roster data are the Compiled Service Records for each individual, but these are far from complete. As Driver notes in his introduction, the amount and quality of surviving CSR and muster roll information varies greatly between units, and, for many, the records are silent for the last few months of the war. On the other hand, according to the author, Rockbridge County has the best collection of county records in the state when it comes to its Confederate soldiers, and Driver made extensive use of those materials, as well. To enhance even further the informational value of the rosters, Driver also did extensive manuscript research of his own in addition to consulting census records, town and city archives, newspapers, periodicals, and published resources of all types (including all volumes of The Virginia Regimental Histories Series).

Roster entries most often contain birthplace and date, date of death and burial site, some physical attributes, education level, military service and employment headlines, and affiliations with notable organizations and institutions. Below is a randomly chosen example of what one might typically find:
"Page, Robert Powell, Jr. Pvt., 1st Rockbridge Arty. b. Chapel Hill Dist., Clarke Co., 8/26/46. Att. Oak Grove Academy, Millwood and Episcopal HS, Alexandria. Enl. Gordonsville 5/1/64. Detailed as courier for Col. Thomas H. Carter through 12/31/64. Paid 7/20/64. 5'10", fair complexion, blue eyes, light hair, student. Surrendered Appomattox CH 4/9/65. Farmer, grain and feed merchant, Boyce. On board of supervisors, Clarke Co. and president of Clarke Co. Horse & Colt Show. Senior Warden, Christ Episcopal Ch., Millwood. Member, J.E.B. Stuart Camp, Confederate Veterans, Berryville. d. Berryville 7/26/13. Bur. Old Chapel Cem., Clarke Co." (pg. 232)
There is less information for some individuals and a great deal more for others. Though not a regular accompaniment to the roster entries, a number of photographs are also present in the book.

These kinds of reference book projects don't receive much popular acclaim, nor do they often grace award nominee lists, but they can be invaluable tools for those conducting serious research. You might think you'll never need them, until you do, then their existence is a time and labor saving godsend.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Booknotes: The Chickamauga Campaign - Barren Victory

New Arrival:
The Chickamauga Campaign - Barren Victory: The Retreat into Chattanooga, the Confederate Pursuit, and the Aftermath of the Battle, September 21 to October 20, 1863 by David A. Powell (Savas Beatie, 2016).

"Magisterial" is an greatly overrused descriptor in book marketing, but it would be difficult to argue against the appropriateness of applying the term to David Powell's Chickamauga Campaign trilogy, which just finished up with the publication of Barren Victory. The final volume picks up where Glory or the Grave ended, on the night of September 20th, with one wing of the Union army having fled the battlefield earlier in the day and another having just completed a heroic defensive stand around Snodgrass Hill. In addition to describing the remaining fighting in intricate detail, Powell will undoubtedly tackle the most enduring controversies of the great battle's aftermath (ex. what was Rosecrans's state of mind after his defeat and what could/should Bragg have done to follow up his victory) with his typical fresh thinking. "In addition to carefully examining the decisions made by each army commander and their consequences, Powell sets forth the dreadful costs of the fighting in terms of the human suffering involved."

The narrative portion of the book runs 134 pages, making it the shortest by far of the trilogy's entries, but there are numerous lengthy appendices. The first, comprised of Union and Confederate orders of battle with annotated numbers and casualty analyses for both sides, is alone worth the price of the book. Others include a standalone treatment (with Steven Wright) of a September 21 cavalry clash between Wheeler and a Union brigade of Kentucky cavalry, another look at the controversial Rosecrans/Garfield/Dana relationship, and the October 22 strength return for Polk's Corps. The trilogy's bibliography also appears here in the final volume. Among other impressive attributes, it has perhaps the largest collection of cited manuscript sources that I've ever seen for a single project, which isn't too surprising given the scale involved and the research reputation of the author.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Author Q & A: M. Jane Johansson on Albert Ellithorpe and the First Indian Home Guards

Jane Johansson is professor of history at Rogers State University and kindred spirit with CWBA when it comes to all things Civil War in the Trans-Mississippi. Her previous books include Widows by the Thousand: The Civil War Correspondence of Theophilus and Harriet Perry, 1862–1864 (2000) and the award-winning Peculiar Honor: A History of the 28th Texas Cavalry 1862-1865 (1998). Prof. Johansson's newest book Albert C. Ellithorpe, the First Indian Home Guards, and the Civil War on the Trans-Mississippi Frontier is scheduled for release in November of this year from LSU Press and is the subject of this interview.


DW: Hi Jane. How did you “discover” the Ellithorpe journal?

MJJ: In the late 1990s, I accompanied a group of students on a tour of the Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield. At that time, a treasure trove of artifacts and documents collected by Dr. Thomas P. Sweeney were on display in a small, privately operated museum adjacent to the park. Among the items on display was Albert C. Ellithorpe’s journal, opened to his description of the skirmish at Locust Grove in the Indian Territory. Since I live only fifteen miles from Locust Grove his account fascinated me, and the memory of his journal stayed with me. In 2011, I rediscovered his journal on the Community & Conflict: The Impact of the Civil War in the Ozarks website. In the intervening years, Dr. Sweeney’s collection had been purchased and became a part of the holdings of the Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield. Entranced, I scrolled through the digital images of his journal and impulsively decided that I wanted to edit and publish it.


DW: As an introduction, can you tell us a little about who Alfred Ellithorpe was and how he found his way into joining an Indian Home Guard regiment?

MJJ: Albert Chapman Ellithorpe grew up on a farm first in Vermont and then in Upper Canada. At about age 15 he migrated to the village of Chicago where an older brother worked for a newspaper. Ellithorpe would spend much of his life in Chicago; by the time he died in 1907, Chicago had become one of the largest cities in the United States. The young Ellithorpe plunged into business ventures, first as a carpenter and then as a carriage maker. With the assistance of another inventor, he developed a pulverizer that was used to crush rocks for one of the early street paving projects in Chicago. When the California Gold Rush began, he left his wife and daughter and joined in the frenzy to make a fortune. He didn’t strike it rich, but Ellithorpe did secure enough money to expand his carriage business. Not long before the beginning of the Civil War, a larger gold rush occurred in the Colorado Territory, and Ellithorpe journeyed to the Rocky Mountains where he made mining claims, marketed a revamped pulverizer, and became at least a part owner of a Denver newspaper. When the war began, he returned to Chicago and started publishing a newspaper with an antislavery slant to it. Additionally, he helped raise the 13th Illinois Cavalry and expected to receive a commission as either lieutenant colonel or major. The slots were filled by other men, however, and, after a physical confrontation with the colonel, Ellithorpe had to find another regiment. Connections with Senator Jim Lane and Major General Samuel R. Curtis led to a commission as a first lieutenant in the spring of 1862. Soon after, authorities ordered him to Kansas to help organize the First Indian Home Guards.


DW: An increasing number of scholars have placed new emphasis on the unique tri-racial nature of the fighting along the settled frontier of the Trans-Mississippi theater. What was the ethnic composition of the 1st IHG?

MJJ: Caucasians held the top commissioned and staff slots in the First Indian Home Guards with Muscogee Creek and Seminole Indians making up the majority of the company officers and enlisted men. Eight companies were comprised of Muscogee Creeks and the other two companies consisted of Seminoles; all were refugees, driven out by a Confederate force in the winter of 1861. Approximately 25-30 African Creeks and Seminoles enlisted and served in a dual role as soldiers and interpreters. These African Americans were the first to be officially mustered into the U. S. Army during the conflict.


DW: Beyond the inherent rarity in the published scholarship of an Indian Home Guard officer writing about his wartime experiences, were there some other distinctive features regarding what Ellithorpe chose to write about that drew you in?

MJJ: Ellithorpe’s personality and life story definitely attracted me to his writings. As I worked on his writings, I became increasingly impressed with his accuracy and careful observations. His writing style was straightforward with little of the “purple prose” that so often characterizes accounts of that time. Ellithorpe was also blunt in his opinions, and it’s obvious that he was not shy in expressing them outside of the pages of his personal journal. Although he was proud of his war service, unlike many Civil War veterans the war does not appear to have been the central part of his life. He was a man of great energy who had a variety of successful business ventures before and after the war. The fact that he witnessed the growth of Chicago from a village into a major city was appealing as well. Always inventive, Ellithorpe developed safety devices for the elevator after Chicago’s Great Fire when the city’s center was being rebuilt by talented architects. Mostly, though, the content of his journal and newspaper articles attracted me. His writings reveal the nature of warfare in the Border region during a time when the conflict there was transitioning into an almost exclusively guerrilla war. Ellithorpe focused on the ugly, gritty nature of the fighting there, but he also documented corruption, political maneuverings, and the plight of refugees. Regrettably and puzzlingly, he failed to write in much detail about the Indian peoples in his unit although he was obviously proud of their fighting abilities.


DW: Matthew Stith’s very recently published study Extreme Civil War (LSU, 2016) made fairly extensive use of Ellithorpe’s writing. Have any other scholars (that you know of) made use of this particular source material (the journal and Chicago Evening Journal articles) in their work?

MJJ: Matthew Stith has used Ellithorpe’s writings more than any other scholar thus far. William L. Shea used Ellithorpe’s journal effectively in Fields of Blood: The Prairie Grove Campaign. Gary Zellar also utilized the journal in his article about African Creeks in the First Indian Home Guards and in his larger study of African Creeks. Additionally, Annie Heloise Abel quoted from some of Ellithorpe’s correspondence in her classic study, The American Indian in the Civil War.


DW: You’ve mentioned before that it was not your intention for the book to serve an additional purpose as something of a unit history of the First Indian Home Guard regiment. Given that no regimental studies of the Indian Home Guard formations exist at this time, were you able to incorporate at least some elements of a standard unit history into the book’s main text or notes?

MJJ: In my introduction to chapter two, I write about the organization of the First Indian Home Guards and its participation in the First Indian Expedition. Ellithorpe served with the First Indian Home Guards from its organization in the spring of 1862 until the following spring, and his writings (plus my notes) serve as a basic history of the regiment for that time frame.


DW: Very good. It seems unlikely that source material abounds regarding Ellithorpe’s unit and the men that served with it. Can you briefly describe what range of sources you were able to uncover during your research (and perhaps a couple examples of resources you found most interesting)?

MJJ: Source material about the First Indian Home Guards definitely does not abound! Newspapers contained some tidbits of information about Indian troops. More importantly, some valuable information was found in the National Archives collection, “Letters Received by the Office of Indian Affairs, 1824-1881, Southern Superintendency.” Fortunately this vast collection is available on microfilm, and I was able to see the pertinent reels at the University of Oklahoma’s library. Several of Ellithorpe’s letters were in this collection along with Indian agent reports that had some useful information about the organization of the regiment and preparations for the First Indian Expedition. The Office of Indian Affairs and the War Department tussled over control of the Indian Home Guards regiments and argued over the proper time to try and return the refugees to the Indian Territory. "Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs for the Year 1862" had some fascinating, but poignant, descriptions of Indian refugee camps in southern Kansas. The report also tabulated the number of refugees in Kansas and described attempts to relieve the suffering of these peoples. Ellithorpe filed charges against his commanding officer, Stephen H. Wattles, and 1st Lieutenant George W. Dobler and accused both of fraudulent activities. The court-martial records for both of these cases included detailed accusations. Dobler was cashiered from the service. Wattles stole money from some of the regiment’s African American interpreters, but somehow managed to stay on as commander of the regiment until the end of the war.


DW: As a follow up and final question, do you think enough source material exists to construct a reasonably good 1st IHG unit study?

MJJ: Writing a full history about the First Indian Home Guards would require some creative research skills, and I’m not certain the project would be all together successful. Although there are useful documents in the Official Records, the main problem is one that Ian Michael Spurgeon experienced while researching Soldiers in the Army of Freedom: The 1st Kansas Colored, the Civil War’s First African American Combat Unit; the challenge revolved around finding primary sources that detailed the experiences of the men in the ranks. Spurgeon successfully used pension records to help fill in some details about the men that served in the First Kansas Colored. Pension records as well as compiled service records do exist for the soldiers of the First Indian Home Guards, but I did not use them in the Ellithorpe project so I can’t personally speak for their utility. Government officials uncovered fraudulent activity regarding the payment of bounties and pensions to these veterans which is discussed in "Alleged Frauds Against Certain Indian Soldiers," an 1872 government publication. Some useful material, particularly regarding the postwar period, could perhaps be mined from that source. A digital copy of this is available as part of the Utah American Indian Digital Archive. Edwin Cassander Manning served as a lieutenant in the First Indian Home Guards, however, his memoir, Biographical Historical and Miscellaneous, has little in it about his wartime service. Ellithorpe’s writings are by far the best available in regard to the regiment.


DW: Thanks for your time, Jane. Best wishes for the success of Albert C. Ellithorpe, the First Indian Home Guards, and the Civil War on the Trans-Mississippi Frontier, and I hope it serves to awaken a wider public awareness and interest in the Indian Home Guard units and their Civil War.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Caught in the Maelstrom

A recent Savas Beatie newsletter mentioned in the "under contract" section that they will be publishing Clint Crowe's Caught in the Maelstrom: The Indian Nations in the Civil War, 1861-1865, a project based on the author's dissertation. The study will center on the Civil War experiences of the Five "Civilized" Nations that were settled in Indian Territory during the antebellum period. Follow the link above to read the book description [I would make one significant correction to it, though, with the Seminoles providing soldiers to both sides, not just the Union forces. Call it getting right with John Jumper]. I don't expect the book to actually be released next year but will keep an eye out on its progress. A modern, full-length study of this kind has been long overdue.

On a related note, next week I will be posting my Q&A with Jane Johansson. It will discuss her new book, the edited writings of officer Albert Ellithorpe of the First Indian Home Guard.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Booknotes: Apostle of Union

New Arrival:
Apostle of Union: A Political Biography of Edward Everett
by Matthew Mason (UNC Press, 2016).

Edward Everett of Massachusetts is best known today as the long-winded headline speaker at the Gettysburg National Cemetery (or whatever the official name was for it at the time) dedication on November 19, 1863 who found himself upstaged by Lincoln's brief remarks. But the man deserves to remembered more for his long and distinguished political career. In addition to being a noted orator, he served his home state as U.S. Representative, U.S. Senator, and Governor. He was also Millard Fillmore's Secretary of State for a brief period during the administration's final months. As Ambassador to Great Britain, he held the nation's most important foreign diplomatic post, as well.

Apostle of Union explores in full Everett's life in politics, with special concentration on his stances on weighty national issues related to slavery and Union. From the description: "By charting Everett's changing stance toward slavery over time, Mason sheds new light on antebellum conservative politics, the complexities of slavery and its related issues for reform-minded Americans, and the ways in which secession turned into civil war. As Mason demonstrates, Everett's political and cultural efforts to preserve the Union, and the response to his work from citizens and politicians, help us see the coming of the Civil War as a three-sided, not just two-sided, contest."

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Booknotes: Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and the Petersburg Campaign

New Arrival:
Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and the Petersburg Campaign: His Supposed Charge from Fort Hell, His Near-Mortal Wound, and a Civil War Myth Reconsidered by Dennis A. Rasbach (Savas Beatie, 2016).

On June 18, 1864, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was grievously wounded during an assault on the Petersburg defenses. Not expected to live, he was rewarded with a field promotion to brigadier general, but he and his mustache survived (of course) to finish out the war and contribute to the JLC legend. The traditional interpretation, with an assist from Chamberlain himself, is that his command attacked the sector of the Dimmock Line called Rives' Salient. In 2014, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources erected signage on the supposed spot of Chamberlain's wounding, which has since sparked controversy over the accuracy of its location [there are some debates online, which you probably google search and find yourself].

Using primary sources from both sides (including Chamberlain's own writings) and claiming to finally set the record straight, Rasbach's book exhaustively argues for a different location, nearly a mile away from the modern placard. In addition to the narrower focus on Chamberlain's role in the battle, the volume additionally serves as a broader history of the Fifth Corps involvement in the June 18 attack itself (at least that's what it looks like at first glance). Typical of the publisher, the text is accompanied by many photographs and 33 maps. A detailed walking tour of the ground is also included. Unfortunately for authors with the best of intentions, these kinds of books tend to draw knee-jerk reactions from those that have only read the title. One might imagine some JLC admirers carelessly assuming that Rasbach is impugning Chamberlain's honor by accusing him of untruthfulness, but the author really does claim that the general's mistake was an honest one.

If this stuff still sounds interesting to you, be sure to check out Brett Schulte's extended interview with the author on his fine website The Siege of Petersburg Online.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Review of: Beilein - "BUSHWHACKERS: Guerrilla Warfare, Manhood, and the Household in Civil War Missouri"

[Bushwhackers: Guerrilla Warfare, Manhood, and the Household in Civil War Missouri by Joseph M. Beilein Jr. (Kent State University Press, 2016). Hardcover, maps, photos, illustrations, notes, appendices, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:208/297. ISBN:978-1-60635-270-0. $34.95]

In both the scholarly and popular Civil War literatures, the Missouri bushwhacker is still commonly portrayed as a nihilistic outlaw, a hyper-violent societal misfit who all too often seemed to enjoy the act of killing. This enduring stereotype is emphatically rejected by historian Joseph Beilein in his book Bushwhackers: Guerrilla Warfare, Manhood, and the Household in Civil War Missouri, a thoughtful and uncommonly empathetic study that earnestly seeks a deeper understanding of the guerrilla fighter and his connection to the home front, a military and societal dynamic that the author terms the "household war."

In Bushwhackers, Beilein formulates a well developed response to Civil War historians (among them the highly respected Michael Fellman and Daniel Sutherland) whose scholarship has generally characterized the guerrilla conflict as internally divisive and a degenerative influence on southern society. For the local level in Missouri, Beilein instead finds that the guerrilla conflict more often acted as a binding process between fighters and area inhabitants, bringing together blood and marriage kinship groups as well as new "guerrilla family" relations, the latter a tight community connection forged through shared grievances or politics. Guerrilla family members often included wealthy male Confederate sympathizers of non-military age, war widows, and other female heads of household. Neither of these contrasting approaches to the subject, however, can convincingly account for the entire sweep of guerrilla war experience, illustrating just how problematic it can be to generalize about the "inner war" fought within the Border States and Confederate South.

In his study, Beilein presents an interesting comparison between a guerrilla logistics network created in the border counties of Missouri (for the purposes of the book, he calls this the "Fristoe" system) and one developed in the state's interior (the "Holtzclaw" system). He finds that Fristoe border network bonds (named after a prominent family of supporters) were far more geographically concentrated (within a single county) than Holtzclaw's more dispersed support nexus. Beilein's in-depth research into guerrilla chieftain Clifton Holtzclaw's three-county household supply line clearly demonstrates that the wider geographical extent of his "guerrilla family" network in central Missouri made his band much more elusive to Union authorities. While the infamous Order No. 11 was effective in dealing with the border county guerrillas, Holtzclaw's band remain active until war's end. The differences between the systems as outlined in the book are stark, but what's less clear is just how typical each network was to the border and central sections of the state.

As effective as Union quartermasters were in supplying their armies in the field and brush, the foodways chapter in Bushwhackers indicates that the guerrilla household logistical network worked even better, with fresher and better food offered in abundance by various female-headed (and to a lesser degree older male-headed) farms. For his study, Beilein examined a number of guerrilla groups, but once again the Holtzclaw system proved most illustrative. The author identified 32 households (the research data is well arranged in the appendices) across three counties as primary suppliers to Holtzclaw's band. Pre-war census data clearly showed that, when local suppliers were used on an alternating basis, small guerrilla groups would face no shortages and the civilian providers would also suffer minimal hardship in the process. Beilein's additional point that the Confederacy's conventional war, with its active front more distinctly separated from the home front, was far less attuned to the household war is well taken, but his suggestion that Robert E. Lee's opposition to guerrilla war may have been grounded in "vanity" (i.e. if his army dissolved into small groups, Lee could not have maintained his lofty command position) isn't terribly compelling.

Another fruitful comparison between the Confederate conventional soldier and guerrilla involves contrasting ideals of masculinity. According to Beilein (and others), the masculinity of the soldier was defined by his relationship with his comrades in the ranks, and he wore a uniform to represent this corporate association and identity. Guerrilla masculinity, on the other hand, was defined by fiercely individual expression and the reciprocal relationship between men and women. The guerrillas protected their female supporters from Union soldiers, militia, and outlaws while the women in turn supplied the needs and wants of the guerrillas. Perhaps the most visible intersection of the two above mentioned pillars of bushwhacker masculine sensibility was the famous and flamboyant guerrilla shirt, which was created by female allies and worn as a highly individualized badge of identity. In the discussion, Beilein also hints at some of the symbology surrounding specific embroidered features like flowers. Constructed from heavy cloth material and endowed with numerous pockets (to store extra ammunition, revolver cylinders, etc.), the oversized shirt was also a highly practical item for use in the field, especially on horseback.

At the time, Missouri guerrillas were universally described as excellent horsemen often riding atop thoroughbred horses. Horse ownership and equine maintenance both being expensive, this trait also had class implications, with many guerrillas coming from leading families that made mastery of the horse an important early element of manhood. Indeed, residents of those counties with the highest concentrations of guerrilla activity also had the state's most established horse culture (stretching all the way back to their colonial Virginia forbears). The high ratio of horses per white person in these counties made it relatively easy for fighters to swap worn down mounts for fresh ones. The author is probably correct that other scholars have taken this aspect of the guerrilla war largely for granted, and his quantitative research on horse ownership, among its other aspects, marks this particular section of the book as a more serious attempt at quantifying and understanding horse culture and its connections to the war than prior studies, which have been largely anecdotal in nature. Antebellum paramilitary experience fighting Indians, protecting the border during the Kansas troubles, and conducting slave patrols also prepared the fighters for the Civil War in the brush. The guerrillas therefore began the conflict with a tactical and material advantage over their opponents. The book's position that the balance between improved and unimproved land in Missouri perhaps represented the war's best environment for effective guerrilla operations is similarly credible, with the former providing more than enough food, shelter, and fodder for both fighters and civilians and the latter more than enough densely wild terrain to hide small insurgent groups.

At least in the context of the border/frontier guerrilla, the book persuasively revives the stereotype (somewhat discounted of late) of a southern fighter more comfortable with horses and firearms than his northern opponent. Frontier southern horse and gun culture (additionally fostered through the aforementioned slave patrols, border warfare, and Indian conflicts) allied during the war with the emergence of the perfect instrument for brush warfare in the form of the Colt revolver to the make the Missouri guerrilla a particularly deadly fighting machine. The book's gun culture argument is plausible in the main, weakened only a little by the author's admission that few fighters possessed pistols at the outset of the conflict (instead obtaining them later on through other means, including capture).

In places, Beilein's blanket criticisms of the existing literature can seem a bit unfair. His suggestion that "the military scholarship has not acknowledged that the guerrillas were fed by their friends and family" (pg. 86), instead supposing that guerrillas were primarily sustained through plunder, does not strike one as an entirely accurate assessment of the diversity of views expressed in the published work on the guerrilla conflict. Also, as good as the book's analysis is as a whole, it unravels a little bit at the end. In the final chapter, Beilein's claim that "(n)early the entire native-born white population outside the city of St. Louis held Southern sympathies" (pg. 176) is a considerable exaggeration. While many Missouri volunteer units were indeed filled with German immigrants or citizens from other states like neighboring Illinois, recruits from all across the state swelled the ranks of many others. The author's point that disaffection within the ranks of the compulsory Enrolled Missouri Militia represented significant pro-Southern feeling among the populace is accurate to a degree, but the several instances of active EMM collusion with the enemy (or even switching sides altogether) cited by Beilein and others in the literature did not represent the normal state of affairs, nor should the EMM be viewed as sufficiently representative of citizen allegiances as a whole. The Missouri State Militia, a full-time force funded by the federal government and tasked with fighting guerrillas, countering Confederate recruitment drives, and assisting with regular operations, is ignored entirely in Beilein's assessment, as is the Provisional Enrolled Missouri Militia (a select offshoot of the EMM). With an average effective total strength of something less than 10,000, the MSM organization was the primary counter-guerrilla force in the state from 1862 onward, and, contrary to Beilein's claims that the general unreliability of Missouri's internal security forces required the services of outside regiments (like the 2nd Colorado Cavalry), many of these militia regiments proved to be ruthlessly dedicated and effective guerrilla hunters. Beilein additionally appears less convinced than his fellow scholars have been of the dubiousness of the Missouri secession ordinance. With the better evidence arguably on the other side, the book's seeming lack of appreciation of the true breadth of political allegiances among native-born Missourians somewhat undermines the chapter's attempt to portray guerrillas not as societal "outliers" but as the true representatives of the household war in the state.

The study's coda includes an interesting discussion of the fate of guerrilla William C. Quantrill's bones, and contained in the appendices are both raw data and quantitative analysis related to Beilein's fairly large sample group of 122 Rebel households with 884 white members. Spawned from this extensive collection of material is the book's substantive study of the contrasting Fristoe and Holtzclaw guerrilla support networks mentioned above.

A largely effective counterpoint to some of the celebrated recent works that have attempted to synthesize the scholarship of the irregular conflict and develop broader themes designed to explain its nature, Bushwhackers reopens much of the debate to divergent views and certainly enriches the literature as a whole. Joseph Beilein's fascinating study is probably also the closest thing we have to a cultural history (social and material) of the Civil War guerrilla, at least the Missouri variety. It is highly recommended.


• For more CWBA reviews of KSU Press titles, go HERE

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Five books on the Battle of Antietam (after all, today is September 17)

1. The Gleam of Bayonets: The Battle of Antietam and Robert E. Lee's Maryland Campaign, September 1862 by James V. Murfin (1965) .
I don't count myself among Sears's legions of fans and Hartwig hasn't gotten to the battle itself yet, so we'll go with Murfin. Originally published during the Centennial, this groundbreaking study set the bar for Antietam studies and inspired a new generation of scholars and enthusiasts alike.
2. The Maryland Campaign of September 1862. Volume 2: Antietam by Tom Clemens (2012).
Antietam veteran Ezra Carman diligently assembled a mountain of firsthand accounts of Antietam and the Maryland Campaign as a whole, and his narrative and maps form the basis of their modern interpretation. Clemens is in the midst of completing his own epic editing trilogy of the Carman manuscript, with Volume 2 covering the Antietam battle (thus its inclusion here).
3. Unfurl Those Colors: McClellan, Sumner, and the Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign (2008) and Opposing the Second Corps at Antietam: The Fight for the Confederate Left and Center on America's Bloodiest Day (2016) by Marion V. Armstrong.
The Armstrong volumes go hand in hand (they examine roughly the same events, alternating side and perspective), so I've included them both here. Together they offer perhaps the clearest and best account of the series of collisions (after the Hooker and Mansfield assaults were spent) along the Confederate left and center.
4. The Maps of Antietam: An Atlas of the Antietam (Sharpsburg) Campaign, including the Battle of South Mountain, September 2 - 20, 1862 by Bradley Gottfried (2012).
In this volume, you'll find the most extensive map study of the battle to date.
5. A Field Guide to Antietam: Experiencing the Battlefield through Its History, Places, and People by Carol Reardon & Tom Vossler (2016).
Many fine Antietam tour books have been published over the years, but Reardon & Vossler's guide is both the newest and the best. The beauty and utility of its presentation, as well as the volume's breadth of coverage and depth of content, are all unsurpassed.

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Battle of Charleston and the 1862 Kanawha Valley Campaign

It appears that Terry Lowry's serially delayed (it's original pub date was fall 2013!) book The Battle of Charleston and the 1862 Kanawha Valley Campaign (35th Star Pub) will finally be released next month. Hopefully, this is firm. Everyone has their favorite areas of interest, and one of mine is early war happenings in western Virginia. Lowry is the master of obscure West(ern) Virginia military topics done right, and this one is right in his wheelhouse. Almost entirely overshadowed by some skirmishing between Lee and McClellan in Maryland, the campaign has never had a full treatment before now, and I am confident Lowry will do it more than justice. It looks like the publisher is giving the project the red carpet treatment, too. I will certainly be looking to pick up a review copy right at release.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Review of Puckett & Kelley - "CIVIL WAR ARKANSAS: A Military Atlas"

[Civil War Arkansas: A Military Atlas by Randy Puckett and Ron Kelley (Arkansas Toothpick Publishing, 2016). 8.5x11 softcover, intro, color maps, 2 appendices, index. ISBN:978-1533614599. $39.95]

In 1864, Confederate Lieutenant Colonel H.T. Douglas directed captain and Chief of Topographical Engineers of the District of West Louisiana and Arkansas Richard M. Venable to created a detailed military map of the state of Arkansas. The end result was an impressive achievement of cartographical art and skill (scaled at 1 inch=4 miles), completed in two 35-inch x 77-inch sections. It likely represents the best single map of Civil War Arkansas produced during the war. Found on Venable's person when he was captured by Union forces, the map currently resides in the National Archives (RG 77: drawer 123, sheet 15).

Randy Puckett and Ron Kelley's Civil War Arkansas: A Military Atlas is a full-color, complete digital reproduction of the Venable map. It was no easy task, as scanning the original and georectifying the data was a painstaking process that took several months in itself. The book sections the map into 147 squares using a grid system, with the scale of each block being a bit more than three miles to the inch for a total of roughly 400 square miles of coverage. Each grid square gets its own 8 1/2 x 11 inch page in the book, the oversize presentation making the map details and labels easy to see and read. Beginning at the top left corner of the Venable map, Puckett and Kelley's block reproductions proceed from left to right and down (with a typewriter-style return). Each county is assigned a different color, aiding user orientation as the reader moves across the map from page to page. Located in the legend, "Cartographer's Notes" are also added to each block. These are topically diverse, but most commonly are used to provide modern references to antebellum names and places.

Map features encompass a range of structures, cities and towns, roads, railroads, political boundaries, hills, mountains, and prairies. To manage the clutter that would occur if all water features were exhaustively included, only rivers, lakes, and major creeks appear. Only four battlefields are noted, but some military camps and forts are indicated on the map. Of the last, only those few deemed important to the Confederate authorities at the time the map was created in 1864 were included, so the map is not useful as a general survey of Arkansas battles and fortifications (nor was it intended to serve such a purpose).

Readers will readily notice that the amount of cartographic detail vastly increases as one moves south along the book's grid network. By 1864, all but the southern reaches of Arkansas came under at least nominal Union control, and Venable's topographical team was only able to personally reconnoiter around 29% of the state. In this area, surveyed roads are specifically marked and traced as "reconnoitered," and other public roads, settlement roads, and trails are also separately categorized. The type and number of man-made structures—churches, cemeteries, houses (labeled by owner name), schools, post offices, businesses (e.g. stores, tanyards, gins, mills, salt works, factories, shops, and distilleries), landings, ferries, and bridges—appearing on the map also increase exponentially the farther south one goes.

The pages are not numbered, so cross-references provided in the appendices and index refer instead to the grid coordinates. To help readers easily find any given settlement, the authors compiled a useful town and municipality appendix for the book. Another appendix divides the map into large sections and effectively contrasts the modern and 1864 road networks by placing an interstate, U.S., and state highway overlay on top of the antebellum system. The atlas concludes with a full index.

This project was obviously a labor of love on the part of Puckett and Kelley, one that any great enthusiast of Civil War cartography should appreciate. Some readers might be a bit disappointed that the authors did not add a great deal of new material to their maps, but the stated objective all along was to stay as faithful to the original Venable map as possible. Anyone researching the Civil War hardly needs to be reminded that the examination of history operates hand in hand with the study of geography, and Civil War Arkansas: A Military Atlas is a remarkable new tool to assist in these endeavors.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Booknotes: The Civil War Letters of Alexander McNeill, 2nd South Carolina Infantry Regiment

New Arrival:
The Civil War Letters of Alexander McNeill, 2nd South Carolina Infantry Regiment
edited by Mac Wyckoff (Univ of S Carolina Pr, 2016).

After just a quick sampling of the material, it's easy to see why Mac Wyckoff, an author or editor of many books (including a regimental history of the 2nd South Carolina), was enamored enough with the correspondence of Alexander McNeill (Company F, 2nd South Carolina, Kershaw's Brigade) to edit his letters for publication. McNeill's lengthy and erudite letters number in the hundreds and span the entire war, offering a mountain of primary source material [the book is over 650 pages in length]. Expounding on a variety of non-military topics in his letters to fiance and later wife Almirah, he also "fulsomely reported his experiences and thoughts on a soldier’s life during this war, describing combat, camp life, the building of winter quarters, the marches, company election of officers, weather, food, and morale. McNeill chronicled his experiences at First Manassas (Bull Run), Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Chickamauga, and other battles." As the description notes, with lesser available Confederate firsthand source material for the war's final months compared with other periods, McNeill's detailed record of his end game observations with Lee's army and in the Carolinas is all the more valuable.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Booknotes: South Carolina in the Civil War and Reconstruction Eras

New Arrival:
South Carolina in the Civil War and Reconstruction Eras: Essays from the Proceedings of the South Carolina Historical Association edited by Michael Brem Bonner and Fritz Hamer (Univ of S Carolina Pr, 2016).

Beginning in 1931, hundreds of essays have been published by the journal Proceedings of the South Carolina Historical Association. Twenty-three have been selected for inclusion in this volume, representing a "treasure trove of scholarship on an impressive variety of subjects including race, politics, military events, and social issues." They are divided into five categories: “The Politics of Secession and Civil War”, “On the Battlefront”, “On the Home Front”, “Emancipation, Race, and Society”, and “The Politics of Reconstruction." Topical concentration has obviously changed over the decades, and the book's selections represent the kinds of things current academic scholars are interested in most, so the subsections are not weighed equally. For instance, while seven essays discuss Reconstruction politics, there are only two battlefront articles. It should also be mentioned that all of the Proceedings articles published since 2002 are freely available online at the SCHA website, so the book's selections end at 2001.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Review of Bisbee, ed.: "CAPTAINING THE CORPS D'AFRIQUE: The Civil War Diaries and Letters of John Newton Chamberlin"

[Captaining the Corps d'Afrique: The Civil War Diaries and Letters of John Newton Chamberlin edited by John Bisbee (McFarland 800-253-2187, 2016). Softcover, maps, photos, notes, appendices, bibliography, index. 210 pp. ISBN:978-1-4766-6449-1. $29.95]

Born in Vermont in 1837 but raised in the Empire State, John Newton Chamberlin was a teacher and farmer in Cayuga County, New York when he decided in September 1861 to enlist in the 75th New York Volunteer Infantry regiment. After six weeks of training, the unit left New York City harbor on the steamer Baltic, bound for Florida. It is at this moment that Chamberlin's correspondence begins, his wartime letters and diary edited by descendant John Bisbee and published in Captaining the Corps d'Afrique.

Arriving at Santa Rosa Island, the 75th and their Union comrades at Fort Pickens faced off the Confederates across the water at Pensacola, before the enemy evacuated the area in early 1862 (their presence in the interior required after a series of military disasters in Tennessee). Even at this very early stage of the war, Chamberlin's letters home advocated emancipation as a war measure.

In September 1862, the 75th was transferred to New Orleans, where Chamberlin noted the organization of black troops in the city. Sick with mumps, he missed the 1863 Bayou Teche operation, so he must have gleaned information from comrades and the rest of the army grapevine for his accounts of the battles fought at Bisland and Irish Bend. While expressing distaste for Ben Butler's rumored corruption while in charge of the department, Chamberlin's letters direct even more disapproval toward Nathaniel Banks's kid glove treatment (in his view) of area merchants and planters who professed loyalty to the federal government. The recovering Chamberlin finally rejoined his regiment in the field at Port Hudson, with the siege operation phase of the campaign already underway.

In July 1863, after the fall of Port Hudson, Chamberlin was approached by Major George D. Robinson to join the newly organizing 3rd Regiment of Engineers, Corps d'Afrique as the captain of Company E. He readily accepted. Curiously, Chamberlin mentions that he preferred the transfer to a black unit over staying in the 75th, as he had witnessed there the intense jealousy and lack of appreciation felt among those in the ranks for new officers promoted from within. Whereas some officers of black units undoubtedly viewed the position primarily as a fast-track opportunity for gaining shoulder straps and escaping the drudgery of the ranks, it's clear from his own writings that Chamberlin possessed a genuine, if highly paternalistic, enthusiasm for emancipation and the bringing of black soldiers into the fight.

The men of the 3rd Engineers were trained for road construction, bridging operations, clearing river obstructions, building earthwork defenses, as well as other duties typical of Civil War pioneer detachments, and Chamberlin proved to be an able chronicler of their wartime service. During its first operation, the regiment acted in the capacity of pontonniers, accompanying the September 1863 Texas invasion that was famously thwarted by a tiny force of Confederate defenders at Sabine Pass. Other tasks performed that year included clearing sunken hulks from Vermilion Bayou and constructing fortifications at Berwick City.

In spring 1864, the 3rd Engineers left Berwick City and joined the ill-fated Red River Campaign. They played important roles in a number of key events, including the bridging of the Cane River and the dam construction at Alexandria, and these moments are recounted in Chamberlin's diary and letters. He also offers a vivid picture of the destruction meted out to the town of Alexandria when the Union army and navy exited the region in defeat.

After a period of further training, the engineers were next sent to Dauphin Island off Mobile Bay for repair work on captured Fort Gaines. From there, they returned to Florida for a time. Chamberlin describes in his diary the December 1864 engagement at Pine Barren Creek, one of the few pitched battles that the engineer unit participated in during its service. In closing out the war, Chamberlin and his men constructed batteries and redoubts during the 1865 siege operation that finally seized Mobile.

In addition to containing descriptive accounts of military events, Chamberlin's letters also discuss the important political and social issues of the day in a thoughtful manner. They convey a great deal of support for the temperance movement, with drunkenness one of several reasons cited by their author for wanting to leave the 75th New York. Like many Union soldiers, Chamberlin shared with family and friends his view of the home front "Copperhead" movement as a stab in the back to the fighting men in the field. For Chamberlin, Lincoln's re-election in 1864 was essential to finishing the war. While assigning much of the blame for the conflict on wealthy slaveholders, Chamberlin's letters do view the institution of slavery itself as a national sin, with both sections shouldering blame for the perpetuation of slavery and for the secession crisis. He was also deeply conflicted over the war's destructiveness, expressing more than the typical degree of soldier empathy for the sufferings of the South's civilian population. While Chamberlin did not consider blacks his social or intellectual equal, he actively worked toward their betterment by creating company schools, using his own personal funds to purchase supplies. In his private letters to family and friends he also communicated considerable worry over what would happen to his men in the post-war South, especially after seeing how the Johnson administration was handling civil rights for freedmen.

In the process of editing the material for publication, John Bisbee conducted more than adequate research of his own, with his supporting narrative and notes offering useful background and context for Chamberlin's writings. While the volume doesn't examine Chamberlin's pre-war life to any great degree, and epilogue does discuss his sad fate. Though able to work and raise a family, chronic ill health (presumably the result of lingering complications of the tropical disease, or diseases, he contracted during the war) and severe episodes of depression plagued Chamberlin, ultimately leading him to take his own life in 1880.

The publication of Civil War writings of white officers that led black units is an uncommon event, made even more rare with Captaining the Corps d'Afrique by the specialized nature of the unit involved. John Newton Chamberlin's detailed diary and letters comprise perhaps a unique firsthand record of the service of black engineers in the western and Trans-Mississippi theaters, with the eloquence of the writer's political and social commentary an added benefit to the modern reader. Well read Civil War students are always looking for something fresh and new, and this volume certainly possesses those sought after qualities.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Booknotes: A Savage War

New Arrival:
A Savage War: A Military History of the Civil War
by Williamson Murray and Wayne Wei-Siang Hsieh (Princeton Univ Pr, 2016).

As a matter of course, every book traversing well traveled ground covering a big subject vows to deliver new views and fresh ideas, but they all too often fail to deliver on these promises. Nevertheless, I get a positive vibe from A Savage War and am greatly looking forward to reading it. The description is fairly shy about disclosing how the book breaks from convention. Some excerpts: "Murray and Hsieh paint indelible portraits of Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, and other major figures whose leadership, judgment, and personal character played such decisive roles in the fate of a nation.", "(t)hey show how this new way of waging war was made possible by the powerful historical forces unleashed by the Industrial Revolution and the French Revolution.", and "(t)hey also examine how the Army of the Potomac, the Army of Northern Virginia, and the other major armies developed entirely different cultures that influenced the war's outcome." The title seems to suggest the authors are not as convinced as Mark Neely and others have been regarding self-imposed limitations on the war's destructiveness. The talking points sheet that accompanied the review copy indicates that Murray and Hsieh are in the "first modern war" camp and the differing field army culture element mentioned above will be a major theme. They also appear to join the consensus in decrying Lee's lack of strategic understanding (a misguided reading of Lee's responsibilities, in my opinion) and praising Grant's.