Sunday, December 4, 2016

Easy (and free) way for you to support the site

With the Christmas holiday shopping season in full swing, I wanted to mention on last time a way for you the reader to support the site in a way that is both free for you and helps me greatly. By purchasing your books, gifts, or anything else through the Amazon links and search portals on my site (or just click on the *Support the Site* tab and use the search box there), a small percentage of the total purchase price goes directly back to CWBA in the form of a referral fee.

As always, a big thank you to everyone who participates. Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Various things

Yesterday, Richmond National Battlefield volunteer Doug Crenshaw wrote a nice post on Emerging Civil War summing up the enigmas and problems surrounding John B. Magruder, Robert E. Lee, and the Confederate frontal attack launched on Malvern Hill (to read it, go HERE). I've already mentioned Crenshaw's upcoming Glendale study, but the piece referred to above also notes that Crenshaw will be contributing Peninsula and Seven Days titles to the ECW series. Though I've read and reviewed some of the volumes for the site, most ECW topics have been outside my areas of interest up to this point. This seems to be changing as the expanding crew there continues (slowly but surely) to broaden their horizons beyond already lavishly covered eastern theater events.

A source I often encounter in my Civil War in Indian Territory readings is Jason T. Harris's thesis Combat, Supply, and the Influence of Logistics During the Civil War in Indian Territory (2008). Before now, I'd only been able to access pieces of it, but it is now available in its entirety as a PDF download from the University of Central Oklahoma website [to get it, click HERE]. The thesis broadly covers the territory's military campaigns, with emphasis on those facets of warfare indicated by the title, but it also provides a useful historiographical review. I haven't had the chance to read the document in its entirety, but, if nothing else, I would highly recommend taking a look at the literature evaluation section at the beginning.

Ironclad Publishing had a relatively short life, but they published a string of very fine books. One of the best was Mark Smith and Wade Sokolosky's "No Such Army Since the Days of Julius Caesar": Sherman's Carolinas Campaign from Fayetteville to Averasboro, March 1865, which is being re-released by Savas Beatie. The publisher's December newsletter announced that the title is now at the printer, so we should expect it sometime early in 2017. Greg Michno's The Three Battles of Sand Creek: The Cheyenne Massacre in Blood, in Court, and as the End of History will be on the same boat.

Still no word on whether a print version of Charles D. Collins Jr.'s Battlefield Atlas of Price's Missouri Expedition of 1864 is in the offing. My email inquiry to the powers that be was deemed unworthy of reply.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Booknotes: The Union Sixth Corps in the Shenandoah Valley

New Arrival:
The Union Sixth Corps in the Shenandoah Valley, June-October 1864
by Jack Lepa (McFarland, 2016).

Lepa's book is a short history of the final campaign in the Shenandoah Valley in 1864, when Union general Philip Sheridan's heavily reinforced Army of the Shenandoah crushed Jubal Early's much smaller Confederate command in a series of battles that finally closed the book on Confederate side offensives in the eastern theater. As the title states, the focus is on General Horatio G. Wright's Sixth Corps (the veteran heart of Sheridan's army), and the book follows the unit through the Third Winchester, Fisher's Hill, and Cedar Creek battles. "Following victories at Winchester and Fisher's Hill the Sixth Corps campaign culminated with a remarkable stand that stopped the attacking enemy and turned what began as a disastrous defeat into a spectacular victory at Cedar Creek."

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Booknotes: Albert C. Ellithorpe, the First Indian Home Guards, and the Civil War on the Trans-Mississippi Frontier

New Arrival:
Albert C. Ellithorpe, the First Indian Home Guards, and the Civil War on the Trans-Mississippi Frontier edited by M. Jane Johansson (LSU Press, 2016).

I've written about this highly anticipated (for me, anyway) title more than once on the site and even interviewed editor Jane Johansson [link] some time ago, but now the actual book has finally arrived. The experiences of Union and Confederate Indian units that operated in the often chaotic Missouri-Kansas-Arkansas-Indian Territory borderland during the Civil War remain underexplored, as does the nature of the war fought in many of the region's darkest and most isolated corners. Never fueling the popular imagination to begin with, the contributions of the Indian Home Guard regiments to the Union war effort in this region have faded further into deep obscurity, so Johansson's editing of the Ellithorpe papers and writings is really a landmark event in Civil War publishing, one that will hopefully revive interest in these unique units and their roles in the conflict.

From the description: "Major Ellithorpe’s unit [the First Indian Home Guards]―comprised primarily of refugee Muscogee Creek and Seminole Indians and African Americans who served as interpreters―fought principally in Arkansas and Indian Territory, isolated from the larger currents of the Civil War. Using Ellithorpe’s journal and his series of Chicago Evening Journal articles as her main sources, M. Jane Johansson unravels this exceptional account, providing one of the fullest examinations available on a mixed-race Union regiment serving in the border region of the West."

In addition to chapter notes, Johansson provides biographical material on Ellithorpe and connecting passages of narrative (in the form of fairly extensive chapter introductions) throughout the volume.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Review of Foote - "THE YANKEE PLAGUE: Escaped Union Prisoners and the Collapse of the Confederacy"

[The Yankee Plague: Escaped Union Prisoners and the Collapse of the Confederacy by Lorien Foote (University of North Carolina Press, 2016). Hardcover, 5 maps, photos, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:165/245. ISBN:978-1-4696-3055-7. $34.95]

Over the winter of 1864-65, several thousand Union prisoners of war took advantage of a rapidly failing Confederate military and home front security infrastructure and escaped into the Carolinas countryside. Their daring stories, who helped them, and how both groups bore witness to and even contributed to the collapse of enemy resistance lie at the heart of Lorien Foote's excellent new book The Yankee Plague.

In the beginning, Foote describes very well the Confederate administrative chaos that ensued once it became clear that their POW camps in Georgia and the Carolinas were no longer safe from Union forces and that thousands of enemy prisoners needed to be moved using already overtaxed transport capacity. Due to poor planning, scarce resources, command confusion, and sheer incompetence, prisoners were foisted en masse upon unsuspecting, and increasingly harried, military officials. With guard details badly understrength and frequently indifferent to their duties, the open fields and other unenclosed locations that often served as new temporary camps made prisoner escape relatively easy. Far more difficult was eluding recapture and reaching friendly lines. Even with organized internal security basically non-existent at this point in the war, local citizens were able to round up many, if not most, of the unarmed and weakened fugitives. Even so, the book raises the intriguing point that the mere presence of swarms of Union prisoners must have demoralized the southern home front even further. A government that could neither prevent mass escape of military prisoners nor protect civilians from their depredations was surely on its last legs.

Once the Yankee prisoners made their initial escape, they generally had one of three options: head back toward William T. Sherman's advancing army, strike out to the coast to meet up with the navy, or take the less well guarded but still dangerous and much longer journey west to Union lines in East Tennessee. Throughout much of its length, Foote's narrative follows individuals and small groups utilizing each of the three main routes to safety [these treks can also be easily traced by the reader using the book's fine set of maps], documenting their failures and triumphs. In addition to providing personalized stories for readers to identify with, these dramatic odyssey tales very effectively serve as representative case studies of the many themes explored in the book.

One of the study's most important themes revolves around the accelerated destruction of slavery in the Carolinas and how newly assertive blacks tasked themselves with the mutually beneficial job of providing vital assistance to escaped prisoners. Federal invasion combined with civil and military disintegration at both state and Confederate levels meant that slaves could feed, shelter, supply, and guide fugitive prisoners with much less fear from traditional internal security measures like local militia and slave patrols. Slaves were already intimately familiar with the local landscape, but they also increased their usefulness as guides by using their newfound freedom of movement to pinpoint the locations of the nearest Union and Confederate outposts. As Foote shows, some slaves even banded together to coordinate picket lines of their own to direct prisoner traffic and screen the escapees from harm. In these ways, slave help was frequently essential if prisoners were to successfully negotiate neighborhood dangers of all kinds and reach ultimate safety.

One of the more intriguing sources of aid to escaped federals were the white army deserters of the South Carolina upcountry. According to Foote, written sources on these men are very scarce, but evidence supports the conclusion that hundreds of escapees were sheltered by South Carolina deserter families, who in many cases also guided and escorted federal soldiers to Union lines in East Tennessee. Exploring their motivations is difficult given the few written sources available, but the fact that these families still aided Yankees who freely professed a desire to reenter the war meant their betrayal of the Confederate cause was without qualification (at least in some cases). Given the myth of near universal support of the Confederacy in South Carolina, this dissenting group is worthy of further study. Aid provided by white Unionist families, especially women in the absence of male heads of household, in western North Carolina is also explored at length in the book.

Foote's study also makes a significant contribution to the more recent scholarly discussions of Civil War borderlands. The picture she paints of the lawless common border zone shared by East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia and the western reaches of the Carolinas is a freshly vivid one. Before they could reach the safety of Union lines, escaped federal army prisoners had to navigate an often frightening web of wary Unionists, Confederates, Cherokee Indians, outlaws, army deserters, guerrillas, and cavalry raiders. Trusted guides that could negotiate these dangers were invaluable friends.

The Confederacy's fading military situation, and how federal fugitives took advantage of and perhaps contributed to it, is another major theme. In late 1864 and early 1865, military events proved too rapid and too powerful for weakened Confederate authorities to handle. As mentioned earlier, localized administrative mismanagement made mass escape comparatively easy, but army chain of command confusion at all levels contributed heavily to the ability of escapees to reach friendly lines. In the book, this is best illustrated in a fine section describing Confederate district and department disarray in lower Appalachia during 1864-65. With Confederate military leaders uncertain of their own boundaries of responsibility and often operating at cross purposes with their colleagues in neighboring districts, hundreds of escaped POWs were able to take advantage of this lack of enemy coordination and reach friendly Union lines in East Tennessee. Free ranging federal raiders largely composed of Union men from Tennessee and North Carolina were also able to find and conduct fugitives to safety. Foote asserts that Union POWs directly hampered Confederate military operations by using up scarce rolling stock needed for the Confederate army's own transport needs, but it is also noted that Union advances (especially those army columns moving inland from the North Carolina coast) were similarly hindered by the supply needs of the mass influx of returning prisoners. How much the prisoner affect favored one side over the other during the end-stage campaign in the Carolinas is open to debate.

Foote also carries over her topic into the post-war years, documenting not only the celebrated status of many of the prisoners but also the physical and psychological challenges that lingered from their extended sufferings. The publication of escape narratives (several of them providing source material integral to this book) is discussed on multiple levels. In the context of literary analysis, remarkable parallels can be found between POW escape narratives and slave flight narratives, with real and metaphorical similarities cited both then and now. The escape narratives also greatly fueled the popular Won Cause mythology surrounding the deliberate and systematic abuse of prisoners by Confederate authorities.

At scarcely more than 150 pages of narrative, The Yankee Plague is a thin volume that nevertheless packs a very powerful scholarly punch. The author's far reaching research into diaries, letters, and memoirs, as well as census, tax, marriage, death, and military records, is impressive [this prodigious research effort also led to the compilation of a prisoner database of 2,826 individuals that should prove to be of lasting value], as is her analysis. Foote seems to operate on firmer ground when she presents Union prisoner-of-war escapees as symptoms and beneficiaries of impending Confederate collapse rather than significant contributors to the process, but that doesn't diminish the originality of her scholarship or detract from the many different and fascinating directions it takes. The Yankee Plague definitely merits award consideration and will likely earn a spot on many of this year's 'Best Of' lists.


Click HERE for more links to CWBA reviews of UNC Press titles

Friday, November 25, 2016

Booknotes: Florida's Civil War

New Arrival:
Florida's Civil War: Terrible Sacrifices
by Tracy J. Revels (Mercer UP, 2016).

This is the second volume in Mercer's new State Narratives of Civil War series, which apparently looks to provide relatively brief but comprehensive home front histories on a state level. One of the earliest states to secede, Florida was almost immediately stripped of its defenses very early on in the ensuing conflict, which must have made even the most ardent Confederate supporters question the propriety of the whole enterprise. There was a significant Unionist population and the state's internal divisions only widened as the war's privations, combined with coastal invasion and widespread guerrilla violence, took their toll. As has been examined at length in other studies, the state was a very important supplier of beef and salt to the Confederacy. In Florida's Civil War, author Tracy Revels "highlights the diverse experiences of Florida's population. Whether Confederate or Unionist, free or slave, male or female, no Floridian could escape the war's impact. A concise narrative of life on the home front, this book explores how Floridians endured the war. Women, slaves, and Unionists are considered in detail, as well as how various areas of the state reacted to Federal incursions."

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Booknotes: Paying Freedom's Price

New Arrival:
Paying Freedom's Price: A History of African Americans in the Civil War
by Paul D. Escott (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016).

For today's readership, there are many modern survey histories of the experiences of free blacks and slaves during the Civil War era and many others organized around one or more specific themes. Paul Escott's "Paying Freedom's Price provides a comprehensive yet brief and readable history of the role of African Americans—both slave and free—from the decade leading up to the Civil War until its immediate aftermath." His book "concentrates on the black military and civilian experience in the North as well as the South. He argues that African Americans—slaves, free Blacks, civilians, soldiers, men, and women—played a crucial role in transforming the sectional conflict into a war for black freedom. The chronological organization will help readers understand how the Civil War evolved from a war to preserve the Union to a war that sought to abolish slavery, but not racial inequality. Within this chronological framework, Escott provides a thematic structure, tracing the causes of the war and African American efforts to include abolition, black military service, and racial equality in the wartime agenda." The main narrative runs around 125 pages and is written in a more popular style so the book will mainly serve as a general introduction to the subject. Supplementing the main text is a fairly extensive document section and a useful bibliographic essay.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Booknotes: Artifacts of the Battle of Little Big Horn

New Arrival:
Artifacts of the Battle of Little Big Horn: Custer, the 7th Cavalry & the Lakota and Cheyenne Warriors by Will Hutchison (Schiffer, 2016).

This is a wonderful photographic artifact history of the LBH battle. Images of uniforms, weapons, maps, accoutrements, and personal items owned by participants from both sides are "presented here in vivid, high-resolution color photographs, shot from various angles with the researcher and collector in mind." At 9" x 12" oversize format, the pages amply accommodate either large single images or multiple photographs, all with helpful captions. "The photographs are catalogued under chapters devoted to the battle, Custer's 7th Cavalry, and the Lakota and Cheyenne warriors who fought them. Hundreds of photographic images accompanying the chapters are filled with informative descriptions regarding physical properties, history, origin of the items, and the stories behind them." If you're seriously into the Little Big Horn Campaign, this looks like a great volume to add to your personal collection.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Five books on the Civil War in East Kentucky

1. The Civil War in the Big Sandy Valley of Kentucky, Second Edition (2008)
by John David Preston [review].
Though primarily directing its attention toward four SE Kentucky counties, Preston's book easily offers the best information about the Civil War in East Kentucky contained in a single volume. The Second Edition is so far superior to the first that the original publication is hardly worth mentioning in comparison. In it, there are chapter length studies of all the major campaigns and battles fought in the region. The author's demographic analysis charts recruitment and political allegiance patterns, and the study usefully discusses how the region's society and politics transformed over the wartime period.

2. Contested Borderland: The Civil War in Appalachian Kentucky and Virginia (2006)
by Brian D. McKnight [review].
McKnight's fine regional study centers on the soldiers and civilians occupying the mountainous divide between East Kentucky and Southwest Virginia. The volume includes strong elements of military, political, social, and religious history. The author also describes in depth how the area's geography (especially the mountain gaps) affected how the war was conducted. You'll notice that most of the books in this list are of very recent vintage, which attests both to the resurgence of interest in the topic and the dearth of prior research and writing of good quality.

3. Marauder: The Life and Times of Nathaniel McClure Menefee (2014)
by Randall Osborne [review].
Many Confederate and Union guerrillas operated in the mountainous wilds of the Kentucky-Virginia borderland. One of the most notorious was the pro-southern Menefee, who was such a terror that he was eventually charged with murder by Confederate authorities. Osborne's biography provides the most complete picture possible of Menefee's life from the sources available. In addition to detailing the guerrilla's operations in East Kentucky, the book also expansively illuminates the larger war in the region.

4. The Most Brilliant Little Victory: Nelson's Eastern Kentucky Campaign of 1861 (2014)
by Marlitta H. Perkins [review].
In this book, Perkins offers a fine study of Union general William "Bull" Nelson's campaign up the Big Sandy River in 1861 that aggressively cleared East Kentucky of organized Confederate resistance, at least on a temporary basis. The hard war aspects of this very early operation are well documented by Perkins and the main features of the campaign's most important engagement, the Battle of Ivy Mountain, are sufficiently detailed.

5. Jack May's War: Colonel Andrew Jackson May and the Civil War in Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Tennessee, and Southwest Virginia (1998) by Robert Perry.
Early in the war, May was a company commander in the 5th Kentucky infantry regiment, and he would eventually rise to lead the 10th Kentucky Cavalry as its colonel. Perry's biography discusses May's extensive involvement in the the war in East Kentucky during several of Confederate general Humphrey Marshall's operations as well as John Hunt Morgan's Last Kentucky Raid.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Booknotes: Occupied Vicksburg

New Arrival:
Occupied Vicksburg by Bradley R. Clampitt (LSU Press, 2016).

The Union Army and Navy's year-long campaign to capture Vicksburg, Mississippi ended with the surrender of the Hill City in July 1863. However, the town's role in the conflict did not end that summer. For the rest of the war, Vicksburg was a sanctuary for black and white refugees and also an important base for further Union operations into the interior. Clampitt's study is the first one to examine the Union occupation in depth.
From the description: "In Occupied Vicksburg, Clampitt shows that following the Confederate withdrawal, Federal forces confronted myriad challenges in the city including filth, disease, and a never-ending stream of black and white refugees. Union leaders also responded to the pressures of newly free people and persistent guerrilla violence in the surrounding countryside. Detailing the trials of blacks, whites, northerners, and southerners, Occupied Vicksburg stands as a significant contribution to Civil War studies, adding to our understanding of military events and the home front."

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Booknotes: Grant Invades Tennessee

New Arrival:
Grant Invades Tennessee: The 1862 Battles for Forts Henry and Donelson
by Timothy B. Smith (UP of Kansas, 2016).

By my count, there have been three prior works dealing with Grant and Foote's 1862 campaign up the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers that I would consider major military treatments, along with a number of smaller overview histories. Among the full length studies from Cooling, Hurst, and Gott, I still consider the oldest one (B.F. Cooling's Forts Henry and Donelson: The Key to the Confederate Heartland) to be the best. Given his prior record, there's little doubt that Smith will give them all a run for their money and likely surpass them in depth and quality.

Like Cooling before him, Smith takes an expansive look at the campaign, detailing the early federal reconnaissance moves into western Kentucky as well as the Phelps naval raid in addition to the featured Henry and Donelson battles. We find in Grant Invades Tennessee the large, manuscript-heavy bibliography typical of the author, but the maps rather disappoint at first glance. Though 20 in number and with satisfactory tactical detail, the terrain depiction in the map set is very spartan (basically just roads and waterways with lots of unutilized white space). Regardless, the book has to be an insta-buy for anyone interested in the topic. In conjunction with Smith's fine Shiloh and Corinth studies, the new volume also completes a trilogy of sorts.
From the description: "Whether detailing command-level decisions or using eye-witness anecdotes to describe events on the ground, walking readers through maps or pulling back for an assessment of strategy, this finely written work is equally sure on matters of combat and context. Beginning with Grant’s decision to bypass the Confederates’ better-defended sites on the Mississippi, Smith takes readers step-by-step through the battles: the employment of a flotilla of riverine war ships along with infantry and land-based artillery in subduing Fort Henry; the lesser effectiveness of this strategy against Donelson’s much stronger defense, weaponry, and fighting forces; the surprise counteroffensive by the Confederates and the role of their commanders’ incompetence and cowardice in foiling its success."

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Review of Liles & Boswell, eds. - "WOMEN IN CIVIL WAR TEXAS: Diversity and Dissidence in the Trans-Mississippi"

[Women in Civil War Texas: Diversity and Dissidence in the Trans-Mississippi edited by Deborah S. Liles and Angela Boswell (University of North Texas Press, 2016). Hardcover, maps, photos, notes, index. 311 pp. ISBN:9781574416510. $29.95]


Women in Civil War Texas
, edited by historians Deborah Liles and Angela Boswell, explores in eleven essays (plus Boswell's introduction) a more than suitably broad range of the adult female experience of the war on the state's turbulent home front. Women of several major ethnic groups as well as those of differing social classes, political affiliations, and geographical locations are represented in this impressive collection.

It has become a common refrain in the Civil War literature that Confederate women as a whole comprised one of the breakaway republic's most outspoken support groups, and the opening chapter by Vicki Betts finds widespread confirmation of this. Another common theme involves expansion of existing gender roles during wartime, with absent men leaving farm, labor, and business management to their wives. Along this line, Dorothy Ewing's contribution makes an illustrative case study out of the situation of Caroline Sedberry, who competently managed the family's large farm well enough that it survived her husband's death and remained prosperous well into the difficult years of post-war recovery and Reconstruction.

It is self evident to say that letters served as a vital link between women on the home front and their men on the fighting front, but Beverly Rowe's essay looks at the differing things men and women wrote about and how they changed over time, as feelings about the war gradually transformed from early ebullience to late war exhaustion, privation, and despair. Another chapter on Confederate women, by Brittany Bounds, discusses how they supported the war effort (through fundraisers, aid societies, home industry, nursing care, church activities, and more) while also preserving some semblance of normality (even entertainment) in their increasingly stressful existence, as inflation soared and all necessaries were in short supply.

Obviously the lives of slave women were the most difficult of any group, with fewer coping mechanisms available to them to help mitigate the many hardships caused by the war. Bruce Glasrud uses government statistics and WPA slave narratives to discuss both the scale of slavery in Texas as well as the wartime experiences of slave women, who numbered perhaps 100,000 in 1861 (rising to more than 125,000 through the massive influx of owners "refugeeing" their slaves to Texas to escape the emancipating march of Union forces). During the war, slave duties expanded as other sources of labor dried up, leisure time fell, and punishments increased in severity. Texas society as a whole suffered from from all manner of food and material shortages, and those that occupied the bottom rung of society would be last in line to benefit from any surplus bounty. Another chapter looks at Texas Supreme Court appeal decisions related to black women before, during, and after the Civil War.

Other ethnic groups significant to Texas society are also covered in the volume. Jerry Thompson and Elizabeth Mata's contribution looks at the Tejana experience of Civil War Texas through the eyes of a number of individuals, both Unionist and Confederate. Judith Dykes-Hoffman's essay recognizes that there were central Texas women of German descent supportive of both sides during the conflict, but her own emphasis is placed mostly on the travails of dissident Unionists. While spared the arrests and executions often meted out to their menfolk, these women and their children were often forced to witness the violence firsthand and live in constant fear under the hostile rule of their Confederate neighbors. The pro-Union women of North Texas are the subject of Rebecca Sharpless's chapter, which explores their available responses (endurance or flight) to Confederate threats and intimidation.

A particularly fine article analyzes the social dissonance created by the massive influx of Confederate refugees into East Texas. In particular, Candice Shockley looks at the treatment of arriving planter class women, who were often locally scorned for their prior opulence, frequent haughty behavior, and for their perceived selfishness in abandoning their rich plantations and imposing themselves upon the suffering Texas population. While the refugees may have been paragons of the "Southern Lady" ideal before the war, the perception among many Texans was that most of these women signally failed at living up to the new ideal of the "Confederate Woman" willing to suffer all manner of privation and loss. Contrasted with this cold treatment was the kindness and generosity Texas society extended to more acceptable "displaced" persons, such as soldier wives and families.

As demonstrated by the book's final chapter, written by volume co-editor Deborah Liles, ranch women making a living on the far western fringes of settled Texas had a different host of problems, not the least of which were raiding Indians, army deserters, and outlaws. In order to survive, these frontier women banded together for protection.

The essays in Women in Civil War Texas are uniformly well researched in that they skillfully combine original manuscript research with astute synthesis of the current literature. Ably integrated into the fabric of every chapter are the stories of individual women (some well known and many others not) and how they coped with the absence of male family members, scarcities of all kinds, the need to maintain farms and businesses, and the very real threats of violence on their own doorsteps. Inclusive of various sub-groups and fairly evenly balanced between Confederate and pro-Union dissident women, this fine anthology should serve as a highly useful survey history of how Texas women were affected by and contributed to the Civil War.


Links to more CWBA reviews of UNT Press titles:
* Riding for the Lone Star: Frontier Cavalry and the Texas Way of War, 1822-1865
* Civil War General and Indian Fighter James M. Williams: Leader of the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry and the 8th U.S. Cavalry
* Antebellum Jefferson, Texas: Everyday Life in an East Texas Town
* Andersonvilles of the North: The Myths and Realities of Northern Treatment of Civil War Confederate Prisoners
* The Seventh Star of the Confederacy: Texas During the Civil War
* Texas Civil War Artifacts: A Photographic Guide to the Physical Culture of Texas Civil War Soldiers
* Spartan Band: Burnett’s 13th Texas Cavalry in the Civil War

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Army of the Potomac in the Overland and Petersburg Campaigns

The spring 1864 transition replacing seasonal campaigning in the open field between major armies with continuous, attritional combat accompanied by mass trench networks has come under increased scholarly scrutiny of late, especially for the epic eastern theater clash between Grant and Lee. Earl Hess's Trench Warfare under Grant and Lee: Field Fortifications in the Overland Campaign (2007) and In the Trenches at Petersburg: Field Fortifications and Confederate Defeat (2009) looked at the nature of this transformation and, to a lesser extent, the physical and psychological effects this new brand of warfare had on the fighting men of both sides.

Though limited to the Union perspective, an upcoming 2017 study along this vein is Steven E. Sodergren's The Army of the Potomac in the Overland and Petersburg Campaigns: Union Soldiers and Trench Warfare, 1864-1865 (LSU Press, June 2017). In it, he "examines the transition to trench warfare, the lengthy campaigns of attrition that resulted, and how these seemingly grim new realities affected the mindset and morale of Union soldiers." Though the mass casualties suffered during the Overland Campaign negatively impacted the physical condition of the Army of the Potomac and the spirit and morale of the men in the ranks, the more fixed nature of the Petersburg front combined with the protection afforded by miles of earthworks led to a "physically and psychologically regenerative" experience for the boys in blue, one that would propel the army to breakthrough and victory in 1865.
More from the description: "Comprehending that the extensive fortification network surrounding them benefited their survival, soldiers quickly adjusted to life in the trenches despite the harsh conditions. The army’s static position allowed the Union logistical structure to supply the front lines with much-needed resources like food and mail—even a few luxuries. The elevated morale that resulted, combined with the reelection of Abraham Lincoln in November 1864 and the increasing number of deserters from the Confederate lines, only confirmed the growing belief among the soldiers in the trenches that Union victory was inevitable. Taken together, these aspects of the Petersburg experience mitigated the negative effects of trench warfare and allowed men to adapt more easily to their new world of combat."

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Booknotes: At Sword's Point, Part 2

New Arrival:
At Sword's Point, Part 2: A Documentary History of the Utah War, 1858–1859
edited by William P. MacKinnon (Arthur H. Clark, 2016).

The Arthur H. Clark Company, an imprint of University of Oklahoma Press, is perhaps the premier publisher of Western Americana. At Sword's Point, Part 2 is volume 11 of their landmark Kingdom in the West: The Mormons and the American Frontier series. A massive, annotated documentary history with expert commentary by MacKinnon, the two books on the Utah War of 1858-59 are invaluable resources on the subject. Click on the link above to view the breadth of the volume from its table of contents.

From the description: "Drawing on author-editor William P. MacKinnon’s half-century of research and a wealth of carefully selected new material, At Sword’s Point presents the first full history of the conflict through the voices of participants—leaders, soldiers, and civilians from both sides. MacKinnon’s lively narrative, continued in this second volume, links and explains these firsthand accounts to produce the most detailed, in-depth, and balanced view of the war to date.

At Sword’s Point, Part 2 carries the story of the Utah War from the end of 1857 to the conclusion of hostilities in June 1858, when Brigham Young was replaced as territorial governor and almost one-third of the U.S. Army occupied Utah. Through the testimony of Mormon and federal leaders, combatants, emissaries, and onlookers, this second volume describes the war’s final months and uneasy resolution."