Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Various things

1. The next volume (#5) in SIUP's Civil War Campaigns in the Heartland series will be The Tennessee Campaign of 1864 but we'll have to wait until December to see it. If laudanum quaffin' or trench assaultin' lesson teachin' is mentioned in any of the essays gaskets will be blown.

2. I finally got a hold of West Virginia historian Terry Lowry and asked him about his long delayed book The Battle of Charleston and the 1862 Kanawha Valley Campaign. It's finishing up now but probably won't be out until summer. Now I can quit bothering the publisher (35th Star) every six months, although it's their own fault after publicizing a Fall '13 release date.

3. I posted earlier about an upcoming paperback edition of John Hennessy's classic FBR tactical account The First Battle of Manassas: An End to Innocence, July 18-21, 1861. Since then, the cover art and book description have come out, confirming that it is indeed a revised edition. A while back, the author answered someone's retweet of my query regarding the nature of the new book, stating (IIRC) that around 30 pages of new material was being added.

4. Empire and Liberty: The Civil War and the West edited by Virginia Scharff got an early release from University of California Press last month. I've mentioned before that it's an Autry National Center exhibit companion book. It contains quite a broad collection of Trans-Mississippi West and Far West subjects and themes.  I haven't seen it myself, but here's the TOC if you're wondering exactly what's in it:

Introduction - Virginia Scharff
1. The Price of Slavery across Empire: Family, Community, and Loss in Texas - Brenda E. Stevenson
2. The Frémonts: Agents of Empire, Legends of Liberty - John Mack Faragher
3. Beecher’s Bibles and Broadswords: Paving the Way for the Civil War in the West, 1854–1859 - Jonathan Earle
4. Liberty, Empire, and Civil War in the American West - Durwood Ball
5. When the Stars Fell from the Sky: The Cherokee Nation and Autonomy in the Civil War - Kent Blansett
6. On the Edge of Empires, Republics, and Identities: De la Guerra’s Sword of the War and the California Native Cavalry - Daniel Lynch
7. John Gast’s American Progress: Using Manifest Destiny to Forget the Civil War and Reconstruction - Adam Arenson
8. Empire and Liberty in the Middle of Nowhere - Virginia Scharff
9. The Not-So-Free Labor in the American Southwest - Maria E. Montoya
10. After Antietam: Memory and Memorabilia in the Far West - William Deverell
11. “You Brought History Alive for Us”: Reflections on the Lives of Nineteenth-Century Diné Women - Jennifer Denetdale

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Booknotes (Mar '15)

New Arrivals:

1. Young General and the Fall of Richmond: The Life and Career of Godfrey Weitzel by G. William Quatman (Ohio UP, 2015).

The title implies an eastern theater emphasis, but Quatman covers Weitzel's entire military career at length, with his biography quite advanced past the mid-point of its war coverage before Weitzel even joins the Army of the James. I'm concerned about the "keen research into archival sources" claim in the description as there's no evidence of it in the bibliography, which is only 4 pages in length and comprised almost entirely of published materials.

Well. One book arrival in two weeks. Much like last summer, this winter's anemic input is stressing the machinery. CWBA is a one-man operation that nevertheless insists on consistent output. What this has meant is 1-2 reviews per week basically uninterrupted for 10 years! Essential to the smooth running of this system is a large, regularly replenishing pool of review candidates of all sizes from which to choose. Interesting 150-200 page length studies are a godsend to my ability to bank enough reviews for much needed breaks and also to allow enough breathing room to take on occasional monster tomes [like David Powell's almost 700-page Chickamauga vol. 1]. I keep an internal master list of book prospects projecting roughly 6-8 months into the future and the Bell Curve-y first half of 2015 is not helping my newfound crankiness:

JAN - 1
FEB - 2
MAR - 7
APR - 15
MAY - 5
JUN - 2

Friday, February 27, 2015

Smith: "SHILOH: Conquer or Perish"

[Shiloh: Conquer or Perish by Timothy B. Smith (University Press of Kansas, 2014). Hardcover, 20 maps, photos, OB, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:441/602. ISBN:978-0-7006-1995-5 $34.95]

The major Shiloh studies, classic works from Edward Cunningham, James Lee McDonough, Wiley Sword, and Larry Daniel, all have particular strengths and weaknesses, but none are truly satisfying and none offer more than a cursory summation of the battle's second day. Considering the stature of Shiloh and what happened on April 7, 1862 the latter point seems an unfathomable oversight. Thankfully, Timothy Smith's Shiloh: Conquer or Perish has finally bridged this gap in our understanding of the battle, a two-day bloodbath that shocked both sides into a realization of just what the Civil War might ultimately cost in human lives and destruction.

In crafting Shiloh, Smith thoughtfully draws upon extensive terrain expertise attained through years of studious contact with the ground as a Shiloh National Military Park ranger. The triangular shape of the battlefield progressively narrowed the fighting front the closer it approached Pittsburg Landing, but the topography within — a massive hourglass shaped expanse of table land bounded at its wider base by the deep, rugged ravines formed by the Shiloh and Locust Grove branches of Owl and Lick creeks respectively and at its narrow neck by Tilghman Branch and Dill Branch — perhaps channeled and influenced the course of events to an even greater degree. The SW-NE oriented offensive corridor, called the "Shiloh Divide" in the book, essentially rendered the Confederate battle plan of using a grand left wheel movement to push the Union army away from its Pittsburg Landing base and trap it against the flooded bottomlands of Owl and Snake creeks an impossibility.

The author of very well received Corinth and Champion Hill battle studies, Smith wields considerable skill in the art of writing battle narrative. The descriptive sections of the Shiloh text drill down to regimental and battery levels of tactical detail and the reader is guided seamlessly from one end of the line to the other and from each major phase of the battle to the next. The human element is not ignored but operational and tactical considerations trump other concerns over most of the book's course. For instance, unlike many authors of studies matching this type, Smith does not feel compelled to delve into the background of every officer the reader meets along the way. The book does discuss the devastating environmental impact of the fighting as well as the attendant property destruction and economic ruination of the local inhabitants. Post-Shiloh burials and the plight of the wounded of both sides are also addressed.

Shiloh's twenty maps are at their best in tracing battle lines and thoroughly documenting the position of each battery and regiment within those lines.  The high density of unit position and movement information tends to limit terrain representation. As an example, roads, field boundaries, camp sites and streams are properly delineated but contour lines tracing the extent of the ravines and points of higher ground that shaped the character of the battle so much are absent. Also, a few more maps were needed, as some fairly significant gaps in coverage exist and clarity is often hindered by incorporating too much back and forth action on a single map.

The most unprecedented contribution of the book to Shiloh historiography lies in its complete treatment of the second day's fighting. Smith's account of Monday's events is every bit as meticulously rendered as his April 6 narrative. He features in full the three major phases of the contest, along the way arguing powerfully for a revisionist reassessment of the resiliency and combat effectiveness of a Confederate army often portrayed in the literature as being too tired, weakened and disorganized from the previous day's battle to offer more than token resistance on the 7th.  Beauregard's Army of the Mississippi not only absorbed every offensive blow from the combined Union armies of Grant and Buell but also frequently counterattacked with effect, only withdrawing when turned on the far left by Lew Wallace's fresh Army of the Tennessee division. Significant cracks only appeared after three lines of defense were maintained, when both Confederate flanks became badly overlapped by superior numbers and Beauregard's army finally reached the limits of human endurance.

Shiloh has more than its share of enduring controversies. Matters conclusively reexamined in recent books and articles are only briefly summarized. General Lew Wallace has been roundly criticized throughout history for dragging his feet and getting "lost" on the way to the battlefield on April 6. Citing the modern consensus that Wallace was not lost and did not travel at an unreasonably slow pace, Smith quietly but firmly puts this old canard to rest. Another such issue revolves around the traditional role assigned to the Hornets' Nest fighting. The interpretation shared by Smith and others like the late Edward Cunningham that the Hornets' Nest fighting was a post-war construct that in truth lacked an exceptional impact on the course of the battle seems largely persuasive. On the other hand, the revisionists need to be careful that they don't excessively minimize its impact, after all it was the Hornet's Nest resistance (right in the middle of the battlefield on the coveted table ground) that ultimately tied down so many Confederate brigades for so long that no time remained in the day to organize a reasonably strong attempt to breach Grant's "Last Line." One can justifiably contend that any assault on that well posted position was bound to fail given the level of disorganization in the Confederate ranks but the Hornet's Nest probably deserves the distinction of at least eliminating the opportunity for a throw of the dice. If Prentiss and Wallace had simply fallen back with the rest of the army there most assuredly would have been a major afternoon attack on the Last Line [in all probability it would have failed but we'll never know for certain].  Smith raises new questions as well. His contention that the surprising and powerful Sherman-McClernand "Crossroads" counterattack was a key and largely unappreciated element in blunting the Confederate offensive on the 6th appears to have serious merit.

Smith draws an interesting distinction [but is it a distinction without a difference?] on the age old question of whether Grant was surprised at Shiloh.  It's beyond argument that the Confederate attack was a strategic/operational surprise, but the author deems it worthwhile to consider that there was an absence of tactical surprise.  With the Confederates so slow to get their first line into striking position after being discovered by Major Powell's famous dawn patrol, the Union camp's outpost divisions of Sherman and Prentiss were both fully deployed by the time they were assaulted.

Did Don Carlos Buell's Army of the Ohio "save" Grant?  The record seems clear that total victory by the Confederates was already an impossibility on the 6th before advance elements of Buell's army arrived on the field. However, given Smith's convincing account of the vastly underappreciated resilient combat punch of Beauregard's army on the 7th, it's equally evident that the badly battered Army of the Tennessee alone could not have driven the Confederates from the field on Monday and might even have been defeated themselves.

On the Confederate side, Smith disagrees with those that believe victory was in sight late on April 6 when Beauregard unexpectedly ordered his army to stand down. Given the lateness of the hour, the extreme state of Confederate disorganization, and the natural and material strength of Grant's artillery-studded "Last Line," the author concurs with Beauregard's controversial decision. Smith instead centers any condemnation of Beauregard on the Confederate commander's unforgivable neglect of army reorganization and preparation during the night and also for his too free abandonment of the shortest line and best defensive terrain. The southern army would pay dearly for this dereliction of duty on the 7th.  To his credit, Beauregard recovered quickly in the morning, managing throughout the day a surprisingly formidable series of defensive positions.

On the death of Albert Sidney Johnston, Smith does not believe the general's fall was a decisive factor in the failure to defeat Grant on April 6. With the planned grand left wheel already fatally derailed at the time of Johnston's mortal wounding, it's a reasonable assessment but one wonders whether Johnston might have had his army positioned better, more effectively concentrated, and at a heightened state of readiness at dawn on the 7th.

Shiloh's bibliography has the expected proportions and is heavily weighted toward the immense number of manuscript collections consulted by the author.  With no other appendices present beyond minimally detailed orders of battle and notes comprised only of source citations, it appears that burgeoning size (the book runs over 600 total pages) precluded the presence of more supplementary information and the kind of explanatory endnotes that serious readers crave. Nevertheless, none of these concessions distressingly weaken the scholarly achievements of Shiloh.

When it comes to Shiloh books, good options abound and different readers will always have their sentimental favorites but Smith's exhaustive and uniquely complete study is the first truly great treatment and is unquestionably the new standard bearer of Shiloh battle histories. 


More CWBA reviews of UP of Kansas titles:
* War's Desolating Scourge: The Union's Occupation of North Alabama
* Corinth 1862: Siege, Battle, Occupation
* Lincoln and the Border States: Preserving the Union
* Punitive War: Confederate Guerrillas and Union Reprisals
* A Gallant Little Army: The Mexico City Campaign
* The Rifle Musket in Civil War Combat: Reality and Myth
* Guide to the Atlanta Campaign: Rocky Face Ridge to Kennesaw Mountain
* Bloody Bill Anderson: The Short, Savage Life of a Civil War Guerrilla
* Civil War St. Louis
* The War Within the Union High Command: Politics and Generalship During the Civil War
* Bleeding Kansas: Contested Liberty in the Civil War Era

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Civil War and Reconstruction in Indian Territory

Nebraska will be publishing The Civil War and Reconstruction in Indian Territory edited by Bradley R. Clampitt in 2015. The publisher's book page gives it a December release so it may be some time yet before more information emerges. I am assuming it's a volume of original essays. If so, the book would be the first scholarly essay collection to appear since 1974's The Civil War Era in Indian Territory edited by LeRoy Fischer [I don't count Cantrell and Harris's Kepis & Turkey Calls: An Anthology of the War Between the States in Indian Territory (1982) as it's just composed of Chronicles of Oklahoma journal article reprints with some added original bridging material from Cantrell].

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Your book is "too detailed"

One of the basic rules of reviewing is realizing it's not all about you. You may be within the target audience but you are never the sole target of the author. You need to imagine uses of information that are beyond your own needs and wants and be capable of appreciating their value to others. The core act of reading a 400-page scholarly history study alone should commit any prospective reviewer to at least a basic level of prep work and framing of expectations.

These are such easy principles to follow but they're beyond many "reviewers" who unfortunately possess the additional need to express their particular views publicly. Ratings on e-commerce sites usually aren't even worth discussing, but I've noticed an uptick (granted, an unscientifically measured one) in recent years of some of our best authors receiving poor marks for being "too detailed."

Step on down Earl Hess and get your 1-star review for being too good and David Powell you get two of them.

Scott Patchan, Tim Smith, Richard Sommers and Eric Wittenberg, yours are similar in thoughtlessness but a bit more generous in star rating.

It's not all bad. It does show that your books have broad enough appeal to snag bycatch in your paying customer nets and there are often plenty of 5-star raters willing to bury the outliers.


P.S. Michael and I are of the same mind on this.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Zimring: "TO LIVE AND DIE IN DIXIE: Native Northerners Who Fought for the Confederacy"

[To Live and Die in Dixie: Native Northerners Who Fought for the Confederacy by David Ross Zimring (University of Tennessee Press, 2014). Cloth, photos, 12 tables, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:320/479. ISBN:978-1-62190-106-8 $59.95]

According to the U.S. census of 1860 approximately 350,000 individuals of northern birth resided in states that would form the new Confederacy. How these men and women integrated into southern society before, during, and after the Civil War is the subject of David Ross Zimring's To Live and Die in Dixie: Native Northerners Who Fought for the Confederacy. For his study group Zimring selected 303 men and women, with every state in the North represented. All were born and raised into early adulthood in the North, most relocating singly to the South while in their 20s and 30s. Additionally, to eliminate prior associational bias, very few had any previous personal, family or professional connections outside their birth section during the time they lived in the North1. Availability of source material (ex. diaries, letters, etc.) explaining their thoughts and actions2 was a key selective factor as well. Extrapolating core beliefs from historical writings can be open to wide interpretation but the innumerable examples and excerpts selected by Zimring in the text clearly indicate close familiarity with the key ideological arguments and common rhetorical phrasing employed by period partisans of both sections.

Given the U.S.'s traditional latitudinal migration patterns, why many Northerners moved south instead of west is an important question to ponder. Naturally, the answer varied from person to person (sometimes the reason, as today, was as simple as desiring warmer weather), but Zimring unsurprisingly finds opportunity to be the primary motivation. Compared to the North, there was less competition for professional services and skilled labor in the South and persons could earn far more money in the South for the same work and, being welcomed throughout the entire section, relocation options seemed limitless. Heading into unsettled western territories was a far riskier proposition. Most of the adoptive southerners comprising the book's sample pursued middle class positions like lawyers, businessmen, doctors, and newspaper editors. While the author perhaps exaggerates the native educational deficiencies of the region, teaching and tutoring were a common gateway to personal success among northern migrants, with the added bonus that women were paid just as well as men. Native northerners found so much prosperity that they were often overrepresented in the southern middle class. Army officers also sometimes found southern postings appealing enough to adopt them as their new home [Zimring's sample includes almost 40 of these men].

Where many modern scholars interpret northern transplants as commonly seeking to transform their new surroundings, Zimring instead sees a very elastic form of sectional identity within his sample. Few native northerners went south with permanent settlement in mind and rather than chauvinistically striving to impose superior northern culture and institutions on a backward region most instead adapted themselves to their new surroundings. Certainly the whole range of state and sectional identities existed among the transplants, with some adamantly retaining northern roots and culture while others felt over time that they no longer recognized the section they grew up in, but the majority of those that stayed came to consider themselves southerners by choice.

With the vast majority of the sample group having no prior exposure to slavery and none expressing desire to own other human beings prior to leaving their homes, confronting slavery was undoubtedly the most jarring experience for the newly arrived emigrants. Mostly conditioned by their upbringing to be either anti-slavery or indifferent to the institution, Zimring argues that complete immersion into the slave society (or society with slaves) environment combined with shared racists beliefs eased the transition for many to the pro-slavery view. Contrary to the hopes and expectations of northern abolitionists and intellectuals, transplanted southerners were typically changed by their surroundings, not the other way around. Adoptive southerners were among the few Americans with extensive experiences of both the slave South and free North and many came to consider themselves uniquely qualified to pass judgment on the institution. For them it was less about slavery being a positive social good or irredeemable evil and more about it being an issue of practical necessity for the economic survival of the section. Of Zimring's sample, 109 owned slaves in 1860 and more than half of these were raised in New England so northern background did little to preclude slave ownership.

Native southern unionists have received far more attention in the Civil War literature than native northern Confederates and when the latter are mentioned it is typically in the narrow context of the affect of southern marriage on the issue of transferred sectional loyalty (the case of Confederate general John C. Pemberton being the most popular example cited). Zimring sees the issue as far more complex. In his sample, only 47 of 303 individuals remained pro-Union while 248 became Confederates. The author divides the motivations for the latter group into issues of presumed personal "necessity" (ex. marriage, along with economic and other social pressures) and ideological "conviction," finding evidence for the latter more compelling. Many of Zimring's adoptive southerners considered themselves the perfect impartial adjudicators of sectional misconceptions but there was no such balance of views in most of their speeches and writings, which overwhelmingly portrayed the South as victim of northern wrongs. Their defenses of slavery and states' rights, their fears of northern dominance and invasion, and their cries against abolitionists and personal liberty laws were as strident as those of any native southerner. A sizable sub-grouping did remain pro-Union (around 20%) but the arguments and rhetoric of the vast majority were not those typical of northern unionists but rather closest in expression to that of the southern unionist who believed the South's rights were best protected within the old system.

One of Zimring's chapters offers an illuminating series of individual stories highlighting the military and civilian Civil War contributions of male and female adoptive southerners. Far from a disillusioning experience, army service tended to reinforce their Confederate loyalty and identity. Two-thirds of Northern Confederates served in the armed forces and Zimring interestingly points to their disproportionate presence in the high command of the western theater during the first half of the war — Pemberton and Roswell Ripley at Charleston and Pemberton (again), Martin L. Smith, Franklin Gardner, Johnson Duncan, Mansfield Lovell, Charles Clark, and Daniel Ruggles in the Mississippi Valley. The strength of Confederate nationalism has been much debated in the literature and the scale of sacrifice of adoptive southerners documented by the author seems to reinforce those scholarly interpretations that accept the existence of a strong Confederate national identity. How these Northern Confederate soldiers reacted to being in northern POW camps provides more insight into whether devotion to the Confederacy was conviction or coercion. Out of 30 men from Zimring's sample sent to POW facilities in the northern states, only 3 took the oath of allegiance for release back to their families in the North (and one later broke the oath).  The willingness of the rest to endure the horrific conditions of these camps offers powerful evidence of the strength of their Confederate identities.

How did native southerners view their adoptive southern neighbors?  Scholars often portray southern whites as deeply suspicious of northerners in their midst beginning with the rise of the Abolitionist movement, their hostility reaching hysterical proportions during the turmoil of the 1850s, but the testimony of those from Zimring's sample offers a much grayer picture Most northern born emigrants found the initial atmosphere of social exclusion to be only a thin shell, rather easily broken once the new arrivals demonstrated a willingness to fit in rather than impose outside values. Blanket hatred of Yankees was largely abstract in expression, quickly melting away under personal contact.  However, under the war's invasion conditions fear and hostility broadened with the families of unionist adoptive southerners and even some Northern Confederates subjected to increased scrutiny and abuse. It didn't help that many of the generals mentioned above failed in their high profile missions and some observers, like government clerk and diarist John B. Jones, constantly railed against Northern Confederates being placed in positions of responsibility. Jefferson Davis had no qualms about placing Northern Confederate generals in charge of critically important posts like New Orleans, Vicksburg, and Port Hudson. Among the civilian population and men in the ranks, competence, not birthplace, seemed to be the primary concern and it was really only after disastrous defeat and the inevitable search for scapegoats that northern origins became an issue, with Zimring using the Pemberton and Lovell examples among others to good effect.

After the war, one might expect many Northern Confederates to leave the economically devastated South or if they stayed suffer blame from their neighbors but Zimring found that three-fourths of the surviving individuals from his sample remained in the South with their attitudes and experiences essentially the same as those of native southerners. In general, they resumed their prior careers in middle class pursuits and were unapologetic Confederates who reaffirmed their southern identities. Only twenty left for the North, never to return.

Without any detailed methodological explanation of his sampling technique, it's unclear how truly representative Zimring's small group of 303 individuals is of the nearly 350,000 northern born persons residing in the South in 1860, but the author views his pioneering study primarily as a comprehensive starting point rather than a definitive treatment. In a way, the issues raised in the book are casually analogous to the classic nature (i.e. northern formative upbringing) vs. nurture (i.e. southern then Confederate environmental exposure) debates of the natural and social sciences. To Live and Die in Dixie argues powerfully for a general reassessment of the qualities of sectional identity and loyalty in nineteenth century America, one that stresses "fluidity" and ready adaptation over rigid belief systems set in place by the social environment dominating an individual's formative and early adulthood years. In social history inquiries like this one all evidence is selective to some degree but there's little doubt that Zimring is asking the right questions and discovering answers worthy of both deep consideration and further research. Every serious Civil War student should read this book.


Comments:
1 - Zimring uses the term "adoptive southerner" to mean anyone born and raised above the Mason-Dixon Line and who moved south of that line during or after early adulthood. "Northern Confederates" refers to adoptive southerners who joined the Confederate movement.
2 - Much of the data referred to in the book is usefully arranged into 12 tables in the book's appendix, with statistics related to the sample group's northern, antebellum South, Civil War and Reconstruction era lives. The names of all individuals used in the study are also included here, along with select vital stats.


More CWBA reviews of UTP titles:
* To Retain Command of the Mississippi: The Civil War Naval Campaign for Memphis
* Confederate Generals in the Trans-Mississippi - Volume 1: Essays on America's Civil War
* Rethinking Shiloh: Myth and Memory
* Ruined by This Miserable War: The Dispatches of Charles Prosper Fauconnet, a French Diplomat in New Orleans, 1863-1868
* The Knoxville Campaign: Burnside and Longstreet in East Tennessee
* To the Battles of Franklin and Nashville and Beyond: Stabilization and Reconstruction in Tennessee and Kentucky, 1864-1866
* Confederate Generals in the Western Theater, Vol. 3: Essays on America's Civil War
* Confederate Generals in the Western Theater, Vol. 2: Essays on America’s Civil War
* Great Things Are Expected of Us: The Letters of Colonel C. Irvine Walker, 10th South Carolina Infantry, C.S.A.
* Confederate Generals in the Western Theater, Vol. 1: Classic Essays on America’s Civil War
* Crimson Confederates: Harvard Men Who Fought for the South
* Yale's Confederates: A Biographical Dictionary
* The Battle of Shiloh and the Organizations Engaged
* The Final Battles of the Petersburg Campaign: Breaking the Backbone of the Rebellion
* Echoes of Thunder: A Guide to the Seven Days Battles
* Little to Eat and Thin Mud to Drink: Letters, Diaries, and Memoirs from the Red River Campaigns, 1863–1864
* Earthen Walls, Iron Men: Fort DeRussy, Louisiana, and the Defense of Red River
* Through the Howling Wilderness: The 1864 Red River Campaign and Union Failure in the West

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Booknotes III (Feb '15)

New Arrivals:

1. Civil War Biographies from the Western Waters: 956 Confederate and Union Naval and Military Personnel, Contractors, Politicians, Officials, Steamboat Pilots and Others by Myron J. Smith, Jr. (McFarland, 2015).

In researching his many books about Civil War naval operations along the inland waterways of the western theater, Smith has accumulated a vast amount of information on military and civilian figures both well known and obscure. Civil War Biographies from the Western Waters is a unique and valuable compilation of these profiles.

2. Year of Desperate Struggle: Jeb Stuart and His Cavalry, from Gettysburg to Yellow Tavern, 1863-1864 by Monte Akers (Casemate, 2015).

This is the sequel to Year of Glory: The Life and Battles of Jeb Stuart and His Cavalry, June 1862-June 1863 (2012). Along the complexity spectrum, my initial impressions put the Akers works closer to popular military histories than the deeper monographs from subject experts like Eric Wittenberg.

3. Heroes for All Time: Connecticut Civil War Soldiers Tell Their Stories by Dione Longley and Buck Zaidel (Wesleyan Univ Pr, 2015).

From the publisher: "This book presents the war straight from the minds and pens of its participants; rich passages from soldiers’ letters and diaries complement hundreds of outstanding period photographs, most previously unpublished. The soldiers’ moving experiences, thoughts, and images animate each chapter. Written accounts by nurses and doctors, soldiers’ families, and volunteers on the home front add intriguing details to our picture of the struggle, which claimed roughly 6,000 Connecticut lives."

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Jomini's "The Art of War"

Dover Publishing's The Art of War by Antoine-Henri, Baron de Jomini (1779-1869) is an unabridged 2007 reprint of the 1862 J.B. Lippincott edition translated by Capt. G.H. Mendell and Lt. W.P. Craighill. In their all too brief preface, Mendell and Craighill note that the practice of following maps while reading the text is an essential component of studying military history.  Appreciating this dictum, the publisher has reproduced in their paperback edition the 3 original pull-out maps in reduced, but still clear, size at the rear of the book. Apart from this format change, the content of the 2007 and 1862 editions is the same.

The Art of War is a work of remarkable breadth, from top level national strategy discussion all the way down to the proper deployment of battalions on the battlefield. Jomini begins with an overview of war and politics, defining the different types of war (invasion, intervention, civil, religious, etc.) before moving on to national military policies, institutions, command structures, and culture.

As many disagreements revolve around semantics, Jomini is very meticulous about defining terms in his section on strategy. His military nomenclature includes key words like theater of operations; bases of operation; strategic lines and points; decisive points; objective points; zones and lines of operation; and strategic lines of maneuver. He also brings into the discussion how depots, frontiers, forts, entrenched lines and camps, and bridgeheads relate to operations.

In the chapter on grand tactics and battles, Jomini takes great pains to differentiate between lines of battle (the positions occupied by battalions — the regiment being the rough scale equivalent for American Civil War armies — deployed with no particular object in mind) and orders of battle (the arrangement of troops with a specific movement planned). Lines of battle most often refer to the defensive posture and orders of battle offensive maneuvers. The different orders of battle (12 by Jomini's count, some examples being parallel, oblique, perpendicular, and echelon orders) are examined at length, with figures drawn for visual learning. Advice related to various types of battles, including turning maneuvers, meeting engagements, surprise attacks, and assaults on entrenched lines and forts, are also present in this section.

The next chapter takes on operational considerations like detachments, diversions, river crossings, retreats, pursuits, and amphibious landings. The logistics section offers practical suggestions on how to prepare and arrange campaign marches while also gathering information about the enemy. Finally, the author analyzes the various options for arranging lines of battle and the optimal component ratios of corps, divisions, and brigades within armies, with sections covering unit formations for each of the three main branches.

Three appendices not present in the 1838 first edition are included here.  A particularly interesting one speculates on how the proliferation of rifled arms might impact various aspects of his work. In general, naval warfare is beyond the scope of the book but the third appendix consists of a fairly lengthy, though not analytical in nature, history of sea operations through history.

Jomini constantly reminds readers that the conduct of war is more art than science and most of the "rules" he cites in his book should not be regarded as written in stone. He does demand a great deal of the reader in terms of historical and military background knowledge. Jomini pairs all of his defined terms and maxims with real world examples and though readers will be familiar with those drawn from the Napoleonic Wars others taken from the wars of Revolutionary France and earlier continental conflicts are far more obscure today. The author does employ conceptual aids where appropriate, his geometrical abstractions of theaters, zones of operation, and orders of battle being particularly helpful at getting to the heart of the matters at hand.

An interesting exercise might be to publish a new edition of Jomini in which all illustrative examples are drawn from the Civil War instead of Europe's campaigns and battles of the 18th and early 19th centuries. Civil War students reading The Art of War will likely find their minds racing to come up with applications from the American conflict. For instance, Jomini states that when an attacking side is confronted by a defender occupying a long, overextended position the center of the line is the correct target. Immediately, the 1862 Henry-Donelson Campaign that both pierced and completely unraveled Albert Sidney Johnston's western theater defense springs to mind. General Beauregard's often ridiculed order and line of battle arrangement for the Confederate army at Shiloh will find no friend in Jomini. Though dutifully citing instances where Napoleon used deep columns with success, in the Swiss's view it is not an effective practice to position corps one behind the other for a variety of reasons. The Union operation at First Deep Bottom is a textbook example of Jominian maxims related to river crossings and establishment of tetes de ponts. Though not well developed, Jomini's early industrial age opinion that small professional armies backed by a strong militia/reserve system is the best policy for national defense (massive standing armies being almost ruinously expensive) should interest critics and observers of the antebellum U.S. system. Also, for both foreign and domestic conflicts, Jomini favors what would later in the American Civil War be known as conciliatory policies over hard war, his thoughts not entirely theoretical given his observations of the Peninsular War's no holds barred brutality. On the Civil War debate over whether fixed strategic points or enemy armies should be the true target of operations, Jomini believes the proper course to lie in between, with circumstances particular to a given situation affecting the balance. It cannot be one principle or the other [note: lest one think this point an obvious one, I would refer the reader to the North & South (Vol. 11, No. 4) moderated discussion on the subject involving historians Allen Guelzo, James McPherson, Steven Newton, and Steven Woodworth].

Jomini does frequently criticize colleagues on specific points and responds to comments directed at his own work in The Art of War but he doesn't always put names to ideas and assumes on the part of the reader close familiarity with the state of the military theory literature at the time of his writing (much of it German, according to the author).  Today's audience would clearly benefit from a modern annotated edition that more explicitly differentiates Jomini from other European military theorists of his lifetime [does one already exist in English?  I don't know].  It might also be interesting to learn something about the careers of West Point translators Craighill and Mendell, not exactly a pair of household names to Civil War readers.

With the work of Jomini so frequently cited in the current Civil War literature, but too often without much in the way of meaningful analysis attached, serious students really owe it to themselves to go directly to the source and those wondering which edition to procure will find a very solid option with this one.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Stoker on Clausewitz

This isn't exactly "news" but Donald Stoker's Clausewitz: His Life and Work (Oxford) was published late last year. I don't have a copy and thus nothing to base any commentary on but I appreciated Stoker's earlier The Grand Design: Strategy and the U.S. Civil War for its rare attempt at a serious discussion of Civil War strategy and thought his new work deserved at least a mention.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Booknotes II (Feb '15)

New Arrivals:

1. Alias "Paine": Lewis Thornton Powell, the Mystery Man of the Lincoln Conspiracy, Second Edition by Betty J. Ownsbey (McFarland, 2015).

Ownsbey's Powell biography was first published in hardcover in 1993. The new description doesn't hint at what changes were made for the 2nd edition and the author's preface offers no clues either.

2. Shiloh: Conquer or Perish by Timothy B. Smith (UP of Kansas, 2014).

Yes, finally. The Smith books that I've read have never disappointed me and first impressions for this one are similarly positive (though in some ways I would have gone a different direction on the maps). I am especially looking forward to the Day 2 coverage.

3. Thieves' Road: The Black Hills Betrayal and Custer's Path to Little Bighorn by Terry Mort (Prometheus, 2015).

Subject-wise this one is stretching it for the site but everyone who sends me something at the very least gets a Booknotes mention.

4. For Slavery and Union: Benjamin Buckner and Kentucky Loyalties in the Civil War by Patrick A. Lewis (UP of KY, 2015).

A conservative Kentucky slave owner, Buckner thought his interests best served by remaining within the Union and joined the 20th Kentucky as its major in 1861. Stung by the Emancipation Proclamation, he resigned in 1863. Lewis "uses Benjamin Buckner's story to illuminate the origins and perspectives of Kentucky's conservative proslavery Unionists, and explain why this group eventually became a key force in repressing social and political change during the Reconstruction era and beyond. Free from the constraints and restrictions imposed on the former Confederate states, men like Buckner joined with other proslavery forces to work in the interest of the New South's brand of economic growth and racial control."

Monday, February 09, 2015

Rafuse, ed.: "CORPS COMMANDERS IN BLUE: Union Major Generals in the Civil War"

[Corps Commanders in Blue: Union Major Generals in the Civil War edited by Ethan S. Rafuse (Louisiana State University Press, 2014). Hardcover, maps, notes, index. 308 pp. ISBN:978-0-8071-5702-2 $45]

In Corps Commanders in Blue: Union Major Generals in the Civil War general editor Ethan Rafuse has assembled quite a collection of writers, with a good balance among armies and regions. The volume's contributors consider the corps level careers of eight prominent Union generals, most subjected to closer examination in the context of a specific campaign. There is John Hennessy on Fitz John Porter, Tom Clemens on J.K.F. Mansfield at Antietam, Kenneth Noe on Charles Gilbert at Perryville, Christopher Stowe on George Gordon Meade as corps commander, Steven Woodworth on James McPherson during the Vicksburg Campaign, Mark Snell on William Franklin in the Trans-Mississippi, Rafuse himself on Joe Hooker in North Georgia, and finally Brooks Simpson on Hancock and the Overland Campaign. Rafuse also contributes a brief but insightful introduction to the development of the corps level of command during the war and an appreciation of all the political baggage that often went with the job.

Just how consequential the political element could be is front and center in John Hennessy's essay on the rise and fall of Fitz John Porter. Much has been written about Porter's close association with George McClellan, his able handling of V Corps on the Virginia Peninsula and during the Seven Days, and the controversies surrounding his role during 2nd Bull Run that later led to his court martial and dismissal from the service. Hennessy ably highlights the main points of Porter's service and subsequent trials, emphasizing that an innocent man was convicted on politically motivated charges while also reminding readers how the general's careless speech and writings made him one of his own worst enemies.

More politically astute was George Meade, who wisely kept his Democratic convictions to himself, staying out of career killing disputes while cultivating army and politician friends who might support his professional advancement. Christopher Stowe summarizes Meade's competent six months as a corps commander in fine fashion. According to Stowe, while Meade projected an offensive mindset to his colleagues and superiors and successfully navigated the policy transformations wrought by an especially turbulent 1862-63 political period, he never fully reconciled himself to the reality of civilian criticism and interference with military commanders.

Joseph K.F. Mansfield is best known for being mortally wounded during the opening moments of his XII Corps attack at Antietam (and little else) but Tom Clemens helpfully reminds us that Mansfield was generally held in high regard by his peers. Graduating 2nd in his class at West Point, Mansfield directed the construction of many coastal defense projects as an officer in the Corps of Engineers. His Mexican War performance was highly praised and his inspection tours of army posts beyond the Mississippi River were lauded for their keen analysis and attention to detail. Unfortunately, this "staff officer" reputation could not get him a prominent field command in the early moments of the Civil War, though he was placed in command of the Department of Washington. While most Civil War writers contend that Antietam was Mansfield's first taste of command in the field, Clemens notes that the general had previously led brigade and division sized formations in SE Virginia before being assigned to XII Corps in September 1862. Ultimately, we'll never know how Mansfield would have performed as a corps commander or how high he could have risen.

In an extraordinary move to fill the command void in the wake of the murder of William "Bull" Nelson by fellow Union general Jefferson C. Davis, Charles Gilbert was promoted from captain to acting corps commander by Don Carlos Buell when Buell found existing options personally unpalatable. Kenneth Noe's essay traces Gilbert's ascent to corps command and equally precipitous fall after his abysmal performance at the Battle of Perryville. It is easy to pile on the seemingly undeserving Gilbert for his personal and professional flaws but Noe prefers to view Gilbert's failings as just one among many in a dysfunctional Union response to the 1862 Kentucky Campaign.

It is common for leaders at the top, be they army commanders or business CEOs, to play favorites with subordinates and Grant and Sherman protege James McPherson is the subject of Steven Woodworth's essay. An objective case for the rapid advancement of the inexperienced McPherson to corps command for the Vicksburg Campaign would be a difficult one to make. With his account of Grant carefully doling out responsibility to McPherson and being personally present during the biggest moments (like Champion Hill), Woodworth demonstrates the value of a professionally nurturing command atmosphere to the development of young officers. He contrasts this environment with that of O.O. Howard's initiation to corps command, a situation in which Howard was placed in difficult circumstances and made a scapegoat for failure. That said, both Grant and Sherman could act in an exceedingly petty manner toward junior officers they didn't personally like or trust, only grudgingly conceding praise when due and magnifying the significance of relatively minor foibles and mistakes. Ethan Rafuse's chapter on Joseph Hooker and XX Corps during the Atlanta Campaign highlights just such a situation. Rafuse's account of XX Corps's record during the campaign is excellent, concise and razor sharp. He makes a strong case that the military performances of Hooker and his command were among the very best in Sherman's army group. However, Sherman did not see it that way, constantly criticizing Hooker on rather weak grounds and consistently withholding praise and credit. Of course, Hooker himself deserves some responsibility for the poisonous relationship with his open criticism of his commander and foolish manner in which he allowed his ego to make him believe he could win a power struggle with Sherman.

In taking on the much maligned figure of William B. Franklin, Mark Snell deserves credit for eschewing the well trodden battlefields of Virginia to instead assess Franklin's tenure as head of XIX Corps in the Trans-Mississippi. Snell's assessments of Franklin's leadership in 1863-64 campaigns in Louisiana and Texas are fairly conventional but the author also frequently emphasizes the general's continued faith in conciliatory policies directed toward civilians caught in the path of war, an attitude in stark contrast to that of the westerners in Nathaniel Banks's Department of the Gulf. Distinct from the rest of the Red River Campaign literature which concedes to engineer Franklin no credit for the success of the wing dams effectively used to convey the navy over the falls at Alexandria, Snell reminds readers that Franklin's approval and support were key to the project.

Finally, Brooks Simpson assesses the performance of Winfield Scott Hancock during the Overland Campaign. He astutely points out that prior to 1864 Hancock didn't have any real record as a corps commander on the offensive. The general is properly celebrated as a Gettysburg hero but his role there was reactive and more of a high level "fire brigade" floater than true corps commander (direction of II Corps being largely left to John Gibbon). Hancock's handling of II Corps during the Overland Campaign introduces serious doubt as to his level of competence, questions that only increased during the ensuing Richmond-Petersburg Campaign. How much the Gettsyburg wound hampered the general's style and his ability to fulfill his duties is open to debate but Simpson also notes that Grant bears much responsibility for running II Corps into the ground with repeated placement of Hancock's men at the point of Grant's spear.

In general, the essays are not weighted heavily with revisionist interpretation or new information that might enhance or rehabilitate traditionally constructed reputations. Instead, the essays in Corps Commanders in Blue are solid, well researched glimpses into the range of intellectual, military, personal, physical and political challenges of Civil War corps command, all examined through the lens of a select group of major generals and illustrative campaigns. As so, the volume is highly recommended.



More CWBA reviews of LSUP titles:
* Gateway to the Confederacy: New Perspectives on the Chickamauga and Chattanooga Campaigns, 1862-1863
* Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln
* Greyhound Commander: Confederate General John G. Walker's History of the Civil War West of the Mississippi
* Knights of the Golden Circle: Secret Empire, Southern Secession, Civil War
* Milliken's Bend: A Civil War Battle in History and Memory
* Battle of Stones River: The Forgotten Conflict Between the Confederate Army of Tennessee and the Union Army of the Cumberland
* Granbury's Texas Brigade: Diehard Western Confederates
* The Last Battle of the Civil War: United States Versus Lee, 1861-1883
* Confederate Guerrilla: Champ Ferguson and the Civil War in Appalachia
* Lincoln and Citizens' Rights in Civil War Missouri: Balancing Freedom and Security
* War No More: The Antiwar Impulse in American Literature, 1861-1914
* Isham G. Harris of Tennessee: Confederate Governor and United States Senator
* Executing Daniel Bright: Race, Loyalty, and Guerrilla Violence in a Coastal Carolina Community 1861-1865
* Mosquito Soldiers: Malaria, Yellow Fever, and the Course of the American Civil War
* Homegrown Yankees: Tennessee's Union Cavalry in the Civil War
* John Bankhead Magruder: A Military Reappraisal
* A Wisconsin Yankee in the Confederate Bayou Country: The Civil War Reminiscences of a Union General
* Bleeding Borders: Race, Gender, and Violence in Pre-Civil War Kansas
* Jefferson Davis and the Civil War Era
* Where Men Only Dare to Go Or the Story of a Boy Company, C.S.A.
* Encyclopedia of Civil War Shipwrecks
* Walker’s Texas Division, C.S.A.: Greyhounds of the Trans-Mississippi
* The Confederate Cherokees: John Drew's Regiment of Mounted Rifles
* A Crisis In Confederate Command: Edmund Kirby Smith, Richard Taylor, And The Army Of The Trans-Mississippi
* The Fredericksburg Campaign: Winter War on the Rappahannock

Friday, February 06, 2015

To the Gates of Atlanta

Robert Jenkins, the author of The Battle of Peach Tree Creek: Hood's First Sortie, July 20, 1864, and his publisher Mercer University Press will be releasing the prequel volume To the Gates of Atlanta: From Kennesaw Mountain to Peach Tree Creek, 1-19 July 1864 next month. I had no idea this was coming or that he was putting together something of a series treatment. I hope Jenkins took to heart some of the constructive criticism of his Peachtree Creek study, which was quite a tome of messy magnificence.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Smith: "THE 2ND MAINE CAVALRY IN THE CIVIL WAR: A History and Roster"

[The 2nd Maine Cavalry in the Civil War: A History and Roster by Ned Smith (McFarland 800-253-2187, 2014). Softcover, maps, photos, illustrations, roster, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:157/238. ISBN:978-0-7864-7968-9 $39.95]

Ned Smith is the pied piper of obscure short-timer Maine Civil War units that served in the Department of the Gulf during the latter part of the conflict. In 2010 he published a roster history of the 22nd Maine (a nine-month infantry regiment) and he makes the move to the mounted arm with 2014's The 2nd Maine Cavalry in the Civil War: A History and Roster.

Its twelve companies raised during the fall of 1863 and formally mustered into federal service in January 1864, the 2nd Maine Cavalry trained in its home state during the winter months before boarding sea transports destined for New Orleans in March. Like so many other Civil War cavalry units, the companies and battalions of the 2nd often found themselves widely separated.

A battalion under Major Andrew Spurling fought well during the closing moments of the disastrous 1864 Red River Campaign, earning praise for their efforts. Unfortunately, this recognition also sowed seeds of discontent within the regiment, with the Red River veteran officers believing their distinguished service privileged them for regimental honors and promotions. Colonel Ephraim Woodman would have to contend with disgruntled field and line officers the rest of the war. Dissension among the officers, a major theme of Smith's study, was not a rare occurrence in Civil War regiments and perhaps this form of trouble was magnified for late war units like the 2nd Maine. Officers could see the end of the war on the horizon going in and might understandably be impatient in vying for public notice and promotion.

During the summer of 1864, the 2nd operated in the LaFourche District west of New Orleans for a brief period before being transferred to Fort Barrancas near Pensacola in August. With Mobile Bay just to the west and important Confederate rail connections a short distance to the north, the Pensacola enclave occupied an important strategic position. In a single day's ride, Union cavalry could reach several key enemy positions. Smith documents a number of skirmishes, raids, and other Alabama and West Florida operations that would take advantage of this. In addition to participating in the September 27, 1864 Battle of Marianna, the 2nd Maine frequently struck at the Mobile & Great Northern and Alabama & Florida railroads, which intersected at Pollard, Alabama.

The regiment continued to raid the railroads through the early months of 1865 and also scouted the eastern approaches to Mobile and its surrounding forts during the final campaign to capture the Confederate port city. At the war's close, a portion of the 2nd garrisoned Montgomery and the entire unit was mustered out in December 1865 at Barrancas.

The book's four appendices are valuable reference tools. The roster was compiled from the Maine Adjutant General's Reports and organized by company. Disease hit the men hard, with 334 men dying from non-combat causes during two years of service and only 10 men killed in action. An appendix compares disease death tolls for Maine units that fought in the Gulf to those stationed elsewhere, the result being a grim illustration of the consequences of operating in unhealthy Deep South settings. Other appendices contain court-martial records, a register of those 2nd Maine troopers captured and sent to Andersonville prison, and a list of regimental officers mustered out in Florida.

The bibliography is limited in both number and variety of research materials consulted, with references to the O.R, other official government documents, and a small number of secondary works predominating. While the study lacks home front connections and the wide breadth of rank perspectives present in many other modern Civil War unit histories, it does offer useful insights into the leadership and operations of a little known regiment and its close association with late period military events in Florida and Alabama not already thoroughly covered in the literature.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Confederate Generals in the Trans-Mississippi, Volume 2

The Spring/Summer '15 catalog from University of Tennessee Press arrived recently and contained the welcome news that Volume 2 of Confederate Generals in the Trans-Mississippi: Essays on America's Civil War  (edited by Lawrence Lee Hewitt and Thomas E. Schott) will come out in April. From the cover art, the eight generals covered are Ben McCulloch, Henry H. Sibley, Prince de Polignac, Joseph Brent, John B. Magruder, Alfred Mouton, Mosby M. Parsons (Part 2), and Richard Gano.

Also from the catalog:
* To Succeed or Perish: The Diaries of Sergeant Edmund Trent Eggleston, Company G, 1st Mississippi Light Artillery Regiment (Voices of the Civil War series).
* Service with the Signal Corps: The Civil War Memoir of Captain Louis R. Fortescue (Voices of the Civil War series).
* Memoirs of Lieut.-General Winfield Scott (Voices of the Civil War series).
* Winter Lightning: A Guide to the Battle of Stones River (2nd ed. that takes into account "changes in traffic patterns within the battlefield and new research material").