Friday, November 13, 2015

Booknotes: James Garfield and the Civil War

New Arrival:

James Garfield and the Civil War: For Ohio and the Union by Dan Vermilya (Arcadia Pub & The Hist Pr, 2015).

In terms of historical memory, Garfield's assassination overshadowed a pretty interesting Civil War military career. Not generally thought of as an independent field commander, Colonel Garfield successfully drove Confederate forces out of East Kentucky during winter 1861-62, his Big Sandy Campaign only lightly addressed in the literature until recent years. His reward would be a brigadier's star. Garfield and his 18th Brigade arrived at Shiloh as the battle was ending and he spent a good chunk of the war's middle period sidelined by illness and court-martial duty (the Porter trial). He returned to field service as Rosecrans's Chief of Staff after Stones River, so the book covers Tullahoma and Chickamauga. Garfield resigned in December of that year and embarked on another career in national politics, one that would lead him all the way to the top. All of this is covered in Vermilya's concise study. An appendix goes into more detail about the controversial Garfield-Rosecrans relationship and another samples his oratorial skills.

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