[Calamity in Carolina: The Battles of Averasboro and Bentonville, March 1865 by Daniel T. Davis and Phillip S. Greenwalt (Savas Beatie, 2015). Softcover, 8 maps, photos, illustrations, appendices. 168 pp. ISBN:978-1-61121-245-7 $12.95]
With one or more existing full length studies of most of the major events associated with it, the military literature of the final stages of the Civil War in North Carolina is in a robust state of development at this point. That said, there are large numbers of readers that are interested in learning what happened between the beginning of Sherman's march through the Carolinas and the final Confederate surrender at Bennett Place but have neither the time nor the inclination to absorb the major works on the subject. This is where the Emerging Civil War series steps in, with the group's heavily illustrated short narratives and tour guides for the introductory student.
Calamity in Carolina offers its audience a capsule history of the early stages of the Carolinas Campaign, which would be a chess match between William T. Sherman and Joseph E. Johnston, before quickly moving to the main object of the book, the battles of Averasboro and Bentonville. As expected, the treatments are descriptively brief but they do zero in effectively on the most important interpretive points. The volume is profusely illustrated, with period photographs of key figures and modern images of the battle landscapes, monuments, and surviving structures spread liberally throughout. Sidebars expand on subjects mentioned in the main text and the cartography (6 campaign and battle maps and 2 tour maps) is a helpful aid. The Emerging Civil War website is a collaborative effort by many writers so it's no great surprise that several ECW colleagues were invited to pen appendices for the book. These cover topics like the impact of Sherman's March, Sherman and Joe Mower's lost opportunity at Bentonville, a short military biography of Mower, thoughts on Bennett Place, discussion of the Johnston-Sherman relationship, and finally Bentonville battlefield preservation. An annotated order of battle for Bentonville is also included.
The driving tours, one each for Averasboro (3 stops) and Bentonville (7 stops), are tied to the interpreted parts of the battlefields (ex. buildings, monuments, and markers) and are generously supported by maps and photographs. The tours hit the high points of each battle and are ideal for quick visits. The volume lacks notes and bibliography but there's a reasonable amount of assumed authority given that Davis and Greenwalt are both National Park Service historians. There is a "Suggested Reading" list containing worthy titles but it's largely a promotional vehicle and omits two of the three major Averasboro and Bentonville works (Sokolosky & Smith's excellent Averasboro study No Such Army Since the Days of Julius Caesar and Cheairs Hughes's Bentonville).
ECW crew members and publisher Savas Beatie have maintained an incredibly rapid release schedule over the past few years but have also been remarkably consistent on their delivery of content format and quality. Calamity in Carolina is another fine addition to their series.