Thursday, February 18, 2010

Powell & Friedrichs: "THE MAPS OF CHICKAMAUGA: An Atlas of the Chickamauga Campaign, Including the Tullahoma Operations, June 22 - September 23, 1863"

[ The Maps of Chickamauga: An Atlas of the Chickamauga Campaign, Including the Tullahoma Operations, June 22 - September 23, 1863 by David A. Powell and David A. Friedrichs (Savas Beatie, 2009). Hardcover, 120 color maps, photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, appendices, index. 337 Pages. ISBN:9781932714722 $39.95 ]

The third volume in the Savas Beatie Military Atlas Series, The Maps of Chickamauga is an impressive leap forward, both in the standards of the series and the advancement of what is known about the Chickamauga campaign. David Powell's expert narrative and cartographer David Friedrichs's clear, informative, and attractive visual rendering of his co-author's operational and tactical descriptions provide readers with the best aid yet in comprehending what is perhaps the Civil War's most complicated major battle.

With his extensive and highly regarded wargame design background and personal immersion in the study of a single campaign, one cannot imagine a better choice for this particular project than David Powell. With an atlas series that demands unusually much in the way of precision, almost 15 years of serious research on the part of the co-author confers a measure of authority on the subject. Combined with the nature of wargame design, the process of which allows for less fudging in the way of small unit composition and map placement than perhaps any other medium of historical study, readers can be more than reasonably assured of Powell's due diligence.

In pairing a page-sized map on the right side, with a full page of descriptive and analytical text on the left, The Maps of Chickamauga shares the series format with the other volumes, including its division of the action into map sets (in this case, sixteen). Not surprisingly, the bulk of the map sets cover the Chickamauga battle, but these are bookended by good general coverage of the preceding Tullahoma Campaign (Set 1) and the post-battle retreat/pursuit (Set 16).

The cartography portion of the book is composed of 120 original color creations, the best the series has offered so far. As with the other volumes, the unit scale is at regiment and battery level. Terrain details include creeks, fords, bridges, fields, orchards, woods, roads, trails, buildings, and fence lines. While precisely marked topographical lines do not underlay the action, more generalized elevation contours are present. The military detail is exquisite, with even the supporting battle lines drawn at regimental scale. Approximate times (in 15 minutes intervals in places) are provided, and operational maps are periodically inserted after a series of micro-tactical drawings to help the reader keep track of the overall ebb and flow of the battle.

The text half of the volume is documented, with end notes and bibliography included. A pair of orders of battle (Tullahoma and Chickamauga) compose the appendices. Powell also integrated his own numbers and losses research into the Chickamauga OB, an all too rare step that is always deeply appreciated by a subset of readers. The only thing detracting from the overall professionalism of the project's presentation is the large number of typos, especially in the map labels.

Given the size and importance of Chickamauga, the scarcity of essential secondary works is one of the enduring mysteries of Civil War military history publishing. Authoritative and immensely useful in making sense of the mass confusion that characterized the movements and fighting in the fields and forests of north Georgia in September 1863, The Maps of Chickamauga is the most significant contribution to our understanding of the Chickamauga campaign and battle in quite some time. This offering from Powell and Friedrichs is well worthy of placement at or near the top of a shamefully small group of canonical works on the subject. Highly recommended.

7 comments:

  1. Drew

    Thanks for your kind review. Deeply appreciate your interest in our titles.

    Tps

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  2. Drew,

    thanks for the very kind words. I do think that the wargaming background helped immensely on this project, because wargaming - at least when it is done right - forces a person (desigher, player, casual student, even) to think about the whole field, not just the narrative thread that is most dominant at the time. Certainly I tried to establish how the various actions related to each other.

    We do wince at the typos. Even the smallest makes me cringe a bit. I am looking forward to a healthy sales life for this one, so we can fix those with a second printing. I am pleased to say that it is selling very well at the park bookstore, and the staff loves it, which is certainly gratifying for all of us who had a hand in producing it.

    thanks again

    Dave Powell

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  3. I purchased the book earlier this month and totally agree w/ the reviewer comments.

    Finally, outstanding maps and excellent narrative for my next tramp of the Chickamauga battlefield.

    Mike

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  4. Totally agree w/ the reviewer comments.

    Excellent maps and narrative for my next tramp of the battlefield.

    Mike

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  5. Sounds great. I will have to pick this one up. One of my favorite campaigns and battlefields. There should be so much more written on the Battle of Chickamuaga that it isn't even funny. I wonder what happened to Larry Daniels' book on the battle?
    Chris

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  6. Hi Drew

    Thanks for the review. Really enjoy this series, 1st class material. Looking forward to other volumes and the new edition of Gettysburg in color.
    Concerning Chris's comments on Larry Daniel's book, I was wondering the same. Perhaps he will do it in the future.

    I know UNC press is going to be publishing a book on the campaign. I belive the author is Robertson. The same author did a great set of articles in Blue & Gray. The maps in the articles were great. I also think Savas is publishing a book on Forrest's Cavalry during campaign. Considering their recent publications, only expect great things from it.

    Don Hallstrom

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  7. This is indeed an outstanding book.

    Larry Daniel, I believe, is now working on Stones River.

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