Thursday, October 2, 2014

Booknotes (Oct '14)

New Arrivals:

1. Embattled Rebel: Jefferson Davis as Commander in Chief by James M. McPherson (Penguin, 2014).

Clearly intended as a companion piece to McPherson's Lincoln as C-in-C book, this one looks like another light popular history in similar vein to that one and the author's more recent naval war overview. When I'm done with it I'm sending it to Dimitri as a Christmas present.

2. The Smell of Battle, the Taste of Siege: A Sensory History of the Civil War by Mark M. Smith (Oxford UP, 2014).

Drawing inspiration from Sumter, First Bull Run, Gettysburg, Vicksburg, and Charleston (the Hunley) events, Smith "considers how all five senses, including sight, shaped the experience of the Civil War and thus its memory, exploring its full sensory impact on everyone from the soldiers on the field to the civilians waiting at home."

3. A Dog Before a Soldier: Almost-lost Episodes in the U.S. Navy's Civil War by Chuck Veit (Author, 2010).

I missed this one when it first came out, but found the author's interview on CWTR to be fascinating. In ten chapters, the book explores the contributions of naval landing parties to Civil War campaigns. As the subtitle suggests, Veit aims for detailing more obscure actions that nevertheless had great impact. For a self-published study, the book's presentation is unusually professional, including footnotes and numerous top quality maps and illustrations.

7 comments:

  1. John FoskettOctober 02, 2014

    Drew: If you do re-gift the McPherson book, I expect a few posts regarding the author's exercising "squatter's rights" on sources. The good news (hopefully) is that the book contains no generic criticisms of McClellan. The bad news is that it undoubtedly purports to assess "strategy". ,

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  2. I haven't found McPherson's recent history to be all that good. His Lincoln book wasn't entirely convincing and his naval book seemed light in its coverage. I noticed that his new one is about 320 pages. Taking away 30 or so pages for notes and an index, that is less than 300 pages on a subject that should be treated in some detail.

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    1. With the large print, wide margins, and unusual line spacing (white space like no other) it will read even shorter than that.

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    2. Chris EvansOctober 07, 2014

      McPherson seems to have lost his touch as a Civil War historian lately. His books are really rather average.

      He was on 'The Colbert Report' last night with this book. Pretty silly interview but that is to be expected.

      Chris

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  3. Jefferson Davis--the best biography in my opinion remains William C. Davis' The Man and the Hour. I have read it twice, and may read it again one day. I think it is his finest work.

    Ted Savas

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    Replies
    1. I like it, too, though it's been way too many years between the time I read it and Cooper's more recent one to say which one I prefer.

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    2. Chris EvansOctober 07, 2014

      I agree. I think Davis on Davis is a classic. One of the best books on a political leader in the Civil War. His Breckinridge was great too.

      Chris

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