Friday, November 27, 2009

"THE BATTLE OF FRANKLIN: When the Devil had Full Possession of the Earth"

The History Press's Civil War Sesquicentennial Series has published a number of battle overviews over the past year or so. Along with Cedar Creek, Chancellorsville, and Perryville titles is James R. Knight's The Battle of Franklin: When the Devil had Full Possession of the Earth (2009. Softcover, maps, photos, illustrations, appendix, notes. 160 pages. $19.99). In it, the author recounts the missed Confederate opportunity at Spring Hill, Tennessee (November 29, 1864) and the horrific battle that followed late the next day at Franklin, weaving into it the human interest story of the Fountain Branch Carter family.

The main body of the narrative covers 110 heavily illustrated pages, which obviously precludes a detailed tactical history, but Knight writes very well and, working within the framework given, does a fine job of paring events down to their essentials while at the time time maintaining a lively narrative. His study is synthetic in nature, the notes indicating a reliance on the established book length works on the campaign from McDonough, Connelly, Sword, and particularly the newest study by Eric Jacobson*, with his own opinions offered. Knight's tone is dispassionate, and his coverage evenhanded. He does not dwell on the major controversies of the campaign, simply expressing his agreement with the lack of evidence for prior assertions that John Bell Hood was under the influence of heavy medication or was seeking to punish his army (especially Cheatham's Corps) at Franklin for the earlier failure at Spring Hill.

As stated above, the volume is well stocked with maps, drawings, and photographs (period and modern). The cartography is reproduced from other sources, the best of which were taken from a large, very detailed Battle of Franklin map (attributed to the Carter House Archives) that I haven't seen before. The appendix is a good regiment and battery-scale order of battle that provides additional information on numbers, leader casualties, and flag captures.

Knight's book is an excellent option for introducing new readers to the subject, and also will serve well those general Civil War enthusiasts looking for a quick, objective, and up to date survey of military events surrounding Spring Hill and Franklin.

* - CWBA review and interview with Jacobson.

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