Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Haselberger: "'Yanks from the South!'"

["Yanks from the South!" (The First Land Campaign of the Civil War: Rich Mountain, West Virginia) by Fritz Haselberger (Past Glories, 1987) 8.5x11 Hardcover, photos, illustrations, 18 maps, appendices, bibliography. Pages Total/Main: 332/266]

Published in 1987, this oversize, dense book remains the most detailed history available of the events surrounding the Rich Mountain phase of McClellan's 1861 Western Virginia campaign. Stylistically spare, Haselberger's text is micro level campaign study. At regimental (and often company level) scale, he covers the battles of Phillipi, Rich Mountain, Belington, and Corrick's Ford along with innumerable smaller skirmishes. There's a great deal of event coverage not be found in any other study associated with this campaign.

However, Yanks from the South! is not without flaws. The most serious is the lack of footnotes. The author's assertion "that, generally, only the purists ever read or use the footnotes" is a sad and unfortunate concession to a type of reader not at all likely to read this kind of book. It really detracts from a work that should have been of more considerable value to students of the campaign. While I don't mind wooden prose (it's the meat I'm interested in), the indifferent copy editing was also a bit grating. More detailed leadership and strategic analysis would have been in order as well.

Something should be said about the structure of the narrative, too. Rather than examining the viewpoints of both sides concurrently, the author chose to employ an alternating chapter method for the Battle of Rich Mountain and Garnett's retreat. It is similar to what Warren Grabau did for his excellent Vicksburg study Ninety-Eight Days, but more successful, in my opinion. Haselberger managed the transitions better and his text is far less repetitious.

Happily, Haselberger included a number of fine maps, both original and adapted period maps. As the book covers so much ground, I only wish there were more, especially of the tactical variety. The appendices provided detailed casualty lists at various stages of the campaign and also a transcript of the inquiry into Porterfield's conduct at Phillipi.

Flaws aside, I would recommend that anyone interested in the important 1861 Western Virginia campaign read Yanks from the South!. There really is nothing else that comes close to equaling this study's depth and breadth of coverage for this particular phase of the campaign.
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Haselberger (with his brother Mark) also wrote numerous short articles dealing with small military actions in West Virginia for the journal West Virginia History. Another book length study centers on the Chambersburg Raid, and is titled Confederate Retaliation: McCausland's 1864 Raid.
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4 comments:

  1. As usual when I visit your blog I am extremely tempted to get what you're reviewing, especially in this case as this study looks incredibly interesting. Unfortunately it also has an "incredibly interesting" price!
    One for ILL I think...

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  2. Yes, it's one of those 3-figure titles on the secondary market, and it's definitely not a book for everyone's taste. I think checking it out through ILL first is a good idea.

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  3. Fritz Haselberger is my grandfather. I am so pleased that his books are still read and discussed. He devoted so much of his life to researching and writing these books, it was such a love and passion of his. It makes me happy to hear people valuing his work!

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  4. Aleta,
    Thanks for writing. I certainly do value it. Much of his work in books and articles remains unsurpassed.

    Cheers,
    DW

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