As far as I know, Timothy Auten's The Battle of Wyse Fork is the first book length treatment of this fight. Using primarily the O.R. and a handful of unit histories written by participants as source material, the author constructs a mostly smooth and comprehensible account of the battle, at a moderate (brigade and regiment) scale of complexity. Bragg handled his army well and Hoke's division actually performed a fairly remarkable feat, directing three flank attacks (against the Union left, right, and left again) on successive days. Although the first Confederate attack was a surprise leading to the capture of an exposed Union regiment, Cox's divisions were able to ultimately thwart all these moves and continue their advance through Kinston to Goldsboro. Conventionally classified as a Union victory, Auten makes a good case that Bragg's delay of Cox's advance entirely fulfilled Confederate objectives, allowing Joseph E. Johnston the breathing space necessary to organize and launch one last blow against Sherman's advance.
The greatest, and most obvious, black mark against the book is the atrocious state of the manuscript. No text should ever go to print with this many instances of misspellings, sentence fragments, incorrect word usage, missing words, errors in military terminology, noun-verb non-agreement, and more. The text is a bit over-annotated, too, with many passages having multiple citations that could easily have been combined into one. The bibliography is also very limited in terms of variety of source types consulted. Admittedly, I have no familiarity with the research materials available for this battle, but I would have expected Auten to turn up at least some unpublished letters, diaries, and memoirs to supplement the official documents, unit histories, and smattering of secondary sources used.
The maps are rough, hand-drawn sketches not on par with readers have come to expect from Civil War battle histories, but they do at least offer a fairly good conception of the road network and a general sense of the positions and tactical movements of select regiments, brigades, and divisions. A pair of appendices provide orders of battle, strength estimates, and casualty information.
It's too bad The Battle of Wyse Fork exhibits all too many of the content and presentational shortcomings common to self published books. Readers will be entirely justified in skipping this study on those grounds alone, but I do feel that those willing to work harder than they should have to will in the end gain an understanding of the tactical side of the battle at a level of detail currently unavailable elsewhere in book form.
Ordering Information (supplied by author):
Payment is by check ($22) payable to:
Timothy W. Auten
250 Central Heights Drive
Concord, NC 28025
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