Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Russel Beatie's Army of the Potomac

I've had my problems here and there with Russel Beatie's Army of the Potomac books, but it is still my favorite series of recent memory, truly epic in scope and insight. In my opinion, its pages contain the best overall portrayal and analysis of the early war in the eastern theater from the Union perspective.

Between 2002 and 2007, the author was able to churn out three volumes, the first two published by Da Capo and the third by Savas Beatie:

Vol. I - The Army of the Potomac: Birth of Command, November 1860-September 1861 (2002).
Vol. II - Army of the Potomac, Volume II: McClellan Takes Command, September 1861-February 1862 (2004).
Vol. III - Army of the Potomac: McClellan's First Campaign, March - May 1862 (2007).

It has now been 5 1/2 years since Volume III was published and still no hint of when the next one will appear. Given the extraordinary ambition of the series, especially one launched so late in active life, it comes as no surprise the original pace could not be continued. Even if we never see a IV (I am hoping Beatie will at least get through the Seven Days and 2nd Bull Run), the work done so far comprises a substantial career achievement.

6 comments:

  1. I wondered what had happened to this series. I guess to have gotten to the end of the war would have taken over a dozen volumes.

    I wish that the whole story could have somehow been streamlined into 3 big volumes like its inspiration Freeman's 'Lee Lieutenants'.

    Chris

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  2. John FoskettNovember 07, 2012

    I remember thinking when this series started that it was Mission Impossible given the author's age and the intended scope. All three volumes published so far are essential. Frankly, I'd be very satisfied if we can get past Fair Oaks to the Seven Days. Anything beyond seems a fantasy.

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    Replies
    1. It is disappointing to see authors still freely ignore his trilogy. For instance, Chester Hearn's new book "Lincoln and McClellan at War" (not good, btw) doesn't include Beatie's work in its bibliography.

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  3. Hi Drew, all.

    Good to see this nice discussion and read the kind words. Cap Beatie finished his complete draft (1,000 pages) of volume 4 a couple years ago (through Fair Oaks/Seven Pines--in the most amazing original presentation of the officers and fighting ever done, IMHO). Unfortunately, Cap suffered several severe health setbacks, and publication status is up in the air as I write. I will let you know when this changes. Hopefully, it will.

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  4. Drew--You may have heard this by now, but Russel Beatie has passed away. Glad you made me aware of these books for my own research purposes. Here is Harry Smeltzer's post on Beatie' passing, and his work:
    http://bullrunnings.wordpress.com/2013/07/12/russel-beatie/

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    Replies
    1. Chris EvansJuly 14, 2013

      Hopefully Volume Four can be published eventually.

      Chris

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