Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Booknotes: Confederate Cities

New Arrival:

Confederate Cities: The Urban South during the Civil War Era edited by Andrew W. Slap and Frank Towers (Univ of Chicago Pr, 2015).

Confederate Cities takes readers away from the well worn paths of the plantation and small farm southern economies to the urban scene. It "shifts the focus from the agrarian economy that undergirded the South to the cities that served as its political and administrative hubs. The contributors use the lens of the city to examine now-familiar Civil War–era themes, including the scope of the war, secession, gender, emancipation, and war’s destruction." The eleven essays (plus an introduction and conclusion by the volume editors) employ a great variety of thematic approaches to the subject. You can peruse the table of contents available through the title link.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Hennessy: "THE FIRST BATTLE OF MANASSAS: An End to Innocence, July 18-21, 1861 Revised Edition"

[The First Battle of Manassas: An End to Innocence, July 18-21, 1861 Revised Edition by John J. Hennessy (Stackpole, 2015). Softcover, maps, photos, orders of battle, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:171/215. ISBN:978-0-8117-1591-1 $19.95]


The Battle of First Bull Run (or Manassas) has attracted the interest of a good number of scholars and writers over the years. In addition to a small handful of useful atlases and guidebooks, major campaign and battle works have been published on a fairly regular basis over the past 150-plus years. Robert M. Johnston's still interesting Bull Run: It's Strategy and Tactics (1913) had the limelight for decades until William C. Davis's classic Battle at Bull Run (1977) assumed the mantle of the new standard treatment. Succeeding campaign histories — Ethan Rafuse's A Single Grand Victory (2002), David Detzer's Donnybrook (2004) and Edward Longacre's The Early Morning of War (2014) — all have heightened our understanding of the momentous event's many leadership, military, political and social dimensions. But for a pure tactical treatment John Hennessy's 1989 book The First Battle of Manassas has always stood apart. Expanded, improved and essentially rewritten, The First Battle of Manassas: An End to Innocence, July 18-21, 1861 Revised Edition only enhances its already widely appreciated status.

Among the works mentioned above, Hennessy's is the one most closely focused on the battle itself, which began with a reconnaissance-in-force at Blackburn's Ford on July 18 and ended with the climactic struggle atop Henry Hill on July 21. Other books go into far more depth on army organization, the backgrounds of key leaders, the role of General Winfield Scott in the planning and conduct of the campaign, the Shenandoah wing of the northern Virginia operation under Robert Patterson, and the approach march to Bull Run. The jewel of Hennessy's book is its description and analysis of the fighting on Henry Hill and it really is unmatched. The Union commander, General Irvin McDowell, had 15 fresh regiments available to crush Henry Hill's Confederate defenders yet never more than two attacked at the same time. The ubiquity of friendly fire incidents and general inability to differentiate friend from foe affected seemingly every tactical exchange. The piecemeal attacks quickly exhausted the fighting power of the raw Union regiments, leaving McDowell with no reserve to confront the steady stream of Confederate reinforcements that eventually forced the federal army to exit the field (initially in reasonable order but later in a panic). In Hennessy's narrative there are no sea changes to existing interpretation but the clarity in the telling is exceptional. No reader will be left confused about the sequence of events and where they occurred. The new edition's fresh set of battlefield and troop movement maps certainly helps in that regard.

Much has been made of the infamous midday lull after Union success at Matthews Hill being the critical turning point in the July 21 battle. The shift in tempo allowed Confederate reinforcements to arrive in time to turn the tide but Hennessy's account clearly demonstrates that, even after the two hour delay, McDowell still had plenty of good opportunities to achieve victory. The great length of the pause remains largely inexplicable, but Hennessy views the situation in the context of inexperienced professional officers and amateur armies not grasping what "victory" meant in the immediate aftermath of the disorderly Confederate withdrawal from Matthews Hill.  The Confederate left had been bruised and turned, would they then fly? Was a face to face slugging match even part of McDowell's plan? Would it be best for the green Federals to arrange a strong defensive line and invite a Confederate counterattack. All of these were questions that needed to be answered. What seems unconscionable was McDowell's failure to come up with any kind of coordinated plan once it became clear that further fighting was necessary (but is that a fair criticism at this earliest of stages in the conflict?).

Hennessy does not address Edward Longacre's recent questioning of the truth behind the famous verbal sparring between Union battery commander Charles Griffin and his superior Major Barry that led to the loss of Union guns on Henry Hill. He does, however, share with Longacre a high regard for the battlefield accomplishments of the Hampton Legion, its brilliant performance against long odds unfairly overshadowed by the stand of Jackson's brigade. Speaking of Thomas Jackson, some Bull Run authors remain oddly open to the idea that Barnard Bee's immortalization of Jackson with the "Stonewall" sobriquet was not at all intended to be complimentary. By tracing the timing of the event and examining the existing primary sources, Hennessy can find no justification for any level of equivocation on the matter. Author David Detzer's attempt to sharply minimize the impact of Jackson's brigade at Bull Run is similarly misguided. While Hennessy makes it clear that Jackson's rock solid defense of Henry Hill did not win the battle for the Confederates, it clearly made later victory possible.

In addition to the fighting at Blackburn's Ford, Matthews Hill and Henry Hill, the book's account of the Confederate pursuit is quite good, in the same class as Longacre's. Citing the best evidence that the great majority of politicians and civilian onlookers had already left the field before general panic ensued, the author puts to bed enduring popular notions that an obstructive crush of spectators was a leading factor in causing the rout.

Hennessy's revisions encompass more discussion of the civilian experience as well as the medical crisis that arose in the aftermath of the battle, how the inexperienced medical corps of each side handled the shock of being confronted with larger than expected numbers of killed and wounded. One of Hennessy's most intriguing thoughts regarding the political aftermath of the battle surrounds the origins of the over-politicization of the Union's premier army. Three key Radical Republican leaders and future members of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War — Senators Benjamin Wade, Zachariah Chandler and Henry Wilson — were present at Bull Run and their anger and embarrassment over the defeat and retreat poisoned their trust in the eastern army and its leadership over the next two years.

When it comes to study of the First Bull Run battle, Hennessy remains king. Owners of the original should not hesitate to add the revised edition to their bookshelves and new readers will find equal delight in this repolished classic. Very highly recommended!


• For further discussion and more information about The First Battle of Manassas see my 12/9 interview with the author [here].

Monday, December 28, 2015

Booknotes: Grant Rising

New Arrival:

Grant Rising: Mapping the Career of a Great Commander Through 1862 by James R. Knight and Hal Jesperson (Lombardy Studios, 2015).

This book is an unusual new entry in the Civil War arena in that it was supported through a successfully funded Kickstarter campaign. Grant Rising (Map Study Series CW No. 1, general editor Dana Lombardy) covers the general's early military career and it:
"features techniques that portray Civil War battles in a new way, such as shaded relief topography, giving the maps a three-dimensional appearance. Plus the use of different color tints to represent command relationships makes it easier to determine which brigades reported to which divisions and corps at a glance. Using slightly different shades of blue and red also allow for easy differentiation of many units on a single map, making the action easier to understand."
In addition to Knight's narrative there are 46 maps (mostly brigade scale), many illustrations, and several order of battle sections. Grant battle and campaign treatments encompass both the US-Mexican War and the Civil War (Belmont, Forts Henry and Donelson, Shiloh, Iuka, Corinth and Chickasaw Bayou).

Sunday, December 27, 2015

B&G Vol. 32, #1

The next issue of Blue and Gray magazine (Volume 32 #1) will cover the opening moves of the 1864 Atlanta Campaign, the preliminary fighting at the gaps (Mill Creek and Dug) confronting the main Confederate position atop Rocky Face Ridge and across Crow Valley.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

CWN out, now CWB&C

According to this announcement, Civil War News is ending its run and current subscribers will receive a new magazine Civil War Battles and Commanders.
"An 80-page, full-color bimonthly, it will convey the Civil War experience and life in the field with scholarly and entertaining articles that will focus on personal leadership, critical decisions, battlefield conditions and wartime technology. High quality photography, photographs of original artifacts, period maps and documents, first-hand accounts, modern recreations and scholarly analysis will enhance the articles."
I don't know if this is good news or bad news for the readers involved. I've never been a CWN subscriber and don't have any personal opinion on the situation. It does seem like the new publication is seeking to recapture some of what early North & South tried to do.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Booknotes: The 116

New Arrival:

The 116: The True Story of Abraham Lincoln's Lost Guard by James P. Muehlberger (Ankerwycke, 2015).

Most Civil War readers have at least heard of the Frontier Guard, the self-appointed gang of early 1861 Lincoln bodyguards made up of rugged westerners led by Kansas Jayhawker and U.S. Senator Jim Lane. Muehlberger's The 116 tells the group's unique story. Appendix I includes transcriptions of the unit roll and other documents while the extensive Appendix II (comprising close to 1/3 of the book) offers biographical timelines for each member, including their pre and postwar lives. "Based on more than 500 original sources discovered at the Library of Congress, The 116 delves into the lives of these 116 men and their charismatic leader—Kansas "free state" advocate and lawyer Jim Lane. It paints a provocative portrait of the 'civil war' between Free-State and Pro-Slavery forces that tore Missouri and the Kansas Territory apart in the 1850s, and gives a vivid picture of the legal battles pertaining to the protection and abolition of slavery that riled Congress on both a federal and state level, eventually leading to the eruption of war in 1861."

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Booknotes: Wild Wolf

New Arrival:
Wild Wolf: The Great Civil War Rivalry
by Ronald Wolford Blair (Acclaim Pr, 2015).

Slick down my hair for the camera? Forget it!
Kentucky's Union soldiers and regiments have finally been getting more attention in recent years and that's a good thing. Frank Lane Wolford, a conservative Unionist lawyer from Adair County, answered the call early in the war, leading the First Kentucky Cavalry with some distinction as its colonel from 1861-1864. His enduring notoriety stems both from his clashes with Confederate raider John Hunt Morgan and the war policies of President Lincoln. Like many of his fellow Kentuckians loyal to the U.S., Wolford did not support emancipation and the recruitment of black soldiers, but he was particularly vocal in his opposition and it resulted in his removal from the service in 1864. Wild Wolf (Acclaim Press, 2015), written by Ronald Wolford Blair, is a biography that delves deeply into the colonel's military and political careers. How the usual pitfalls of biography written by ancestors are handled remains to be seen (I haven't read any of it yet). There's no bibliography present to grab a quick snapshot of the research depth but a superficial glance through the endnotes doesn't raise any obvious concerns. I definitely plan on reading it.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Bledsoe: "CITIZEN-OFFICERS: The Union and Confederate Volunteer Junior Officer Corps in the American Civil War"

[Citizen-Officers: The Union and Confederate Volunteer Junior Officer Corps in the American Civil War by Andrew S. Bledsoe (Louisiana State University Press, 2015). Hardcover, photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:240/341. ISBN:978-0-8071-6070-1. $47.50]

Much has been written about the Civil War regiment but analysis of the backbone of small-unit leadership, the company officers, has thus far evaded a similar degree of specialist study. Union manpower needs were so large and so immediate that the nation's tiny contingent of Regulars could not fulfill their intended role as cadre for the Third System's expansible army. Instead, it was common to find entire regiments composed of complete military amateurs who would all have to learn their craft on the fly. It was a rough transition but most units were able to balance democratic ideals with enough subordination and discipline to get the job done, often at a very high level of proficiency achieved only after enduring a costly learning curve. The new Confederacy had the same problems but none of the existing bureaucratic apparatus. Andrew Bledsoe's Citizen-Officers explores the wartime journeys of both Union and Confederate company grade officers (the lieutenants and captains), along the way he delves into a wide variety of specific challenges, examines officer culture, and traces early to late war differences in officer expectations and skill levels.

The study of the citizen-soldier ethos in United States history from the Revolutionary War to today is a common theme in the literature and it's certainly a major part of Bledsoe's investigation. Civil War volunteers were extremely reluctant to give up the egalitarian privileges of republican citizenship and obtaining their consent to serve at the bottom of the army's rigid hierarchical system was a hard fought struggle by the junior officer corps of the Union and Confederate armies. One of the most cherished and consequential concessions to democracy was the election of regimental officers, a subject dutifully explored in the book. It was a "right" expected by the soldiers and was widespread, though it became less so as the war dragged on. It's obvious negative consequences for competent leadership, discipline and efficiency could be somewhat ameliorated by the need to pass officer examination boards. Bledsoe, one thinks, properly points to the great army reorganizations of 1862 as the pinnacle of the institutional harm rendered by officer elections. At that time, many company officers of demonstrated ability were cast out only to be replaced by more popular men (the electioneering could be quite cynical). All too often, the new officers were less likely to impose the type of discipline that was necessary yet chafed the men's democratic sensibilities.

According to Bledsoe, the challenges experienced by citizen-officers in adapting to military culture can be difficult to analyze due to their infrequent presence (at least at a detailed level) in most wartime writings and post-war reminiscences, but many generalities can be enumerated. Fortunate was the volunteer officer who had Regular Army veterans in his regiment that could provide a model for leadership and training. Otherwise, the entire process was haphazard and chaotic. Citizen-officers and their men also found it difficult to shed their ingrained egalitarianism, a process made even harder by the fact that in many cases the officers knew their men personally from civilian life. The soldiers naturally and quite actively resisted military hierarchy. Officers most able to effectively solve these problems were those that could compromise without destroying discipline, firmly assume the habit and presence of command without being a martinet, and resort to coercion as infrequently and judiciously as possible. Different from Regular Army officer habits, the willingness to teach and the ability to explain why certain demands were made upon the volunteers was an important citizen-officer trait. It was by no means an easy task. Simply being competent, in both combat leadership and in providing for and taking care of the men off the battlefield, also went a long way toward ensuring soldier obedience, confidence and respect. If used with discretion, officers from higher class backgrounds could apply their paternalistic instincts to their leadership style with some success. Over time, strong emotional bonds could be built between company officers and men, and many leaders could further motivate their men to mutual sacrifice with appeals to patriotism.

Company grade officers of both sides developed a similar citizen-officer culture during the war. They eventually adapted to the regulations, expectations, and standards of the professionals but always with concessions to the democratic traditions of the American volunteer soldier. This modified "regularization" process became more consistent over time and served the volunteer armies well during the middle and later periods of the war, though the citizen-soldier ethos stubbornly persisted until the end. In addition to discussing many of the military cultural aspects of officer duties, virtues, responsibilities, routines, rank privileges and moral expectations, Bledsoe also keenly points out some of the material benefits (like higher pay) and symbolic tools of the office (like shoulder bars and swords).

The maturation process of citizen-officers is another important theme in the book. Early war company officers were green, uncertain in their abilities, and made tremendous mistakes. Though conspicuous courage was expected, Bledsoe maintains that many historians have overestimated its importance in the eyes of the soldiers, who equally valued competence and coolness under strain and realized that the best officers needed to stay alive to be any good to them. Regardless, dangerous and even reckless exposure on the battlefield was commonplace and casualty rates high. In Bledsoe's sample of 2,592 volunteer junior officers that served in 33 regiments between 1861 and 1865, Union officers suffered an astounding casualty rate of 43 percent and Confederates an even higher figure of 47 percent. Of course, bravery wasn't the only component in this, as Bledsoe points to officer targeting and vulnerable positions in the battle line as important factors in high officer casualties. The author also delves into some junior officer duties less covered in the literature, like file closing.

By the late war period, due both to casualties and high attrition from discharge, resignation and promotion [in Bledsoe's sample, there was 43% non-combat attrition in Confederate regiments and 53% in Union ones], the junior officer corps of the armies were largely composed of men who had worked their way upward through the ranks. According to Bledsoe, these individuals were experts in the tricks of the trade, they successfully adopted the veteran's emotional and psychological survival technique of protective callousness, and they were also capable of tactical innovation. Citizen-officers evolved with the changing nature of combat. With the continuous fighting that was a common characteristic of 1864-65 campaigns, it also became more acceptable for company officers to expose themselves only when critically necessary. Given the extreme levels of flux among the junior officer corps throughout the war, Bledsoe is probably right to reserve judgment over the issue of whether late war company officers were instrinsically "better" than their early and middle war counterparts.

Bledsoe's research sample of nearly 2,600 officers has been mentioned above but he also examined the letters, journals, diaries, and memoirs of 150 junior officers (75 Union and 75 Confederate) and mined this material for meaningful extracts which he flawlessly integrated into the text of Citizen-Officers. The pieces that describe their personal thoughts on the essential elements of the volunteer officer craft and their experiences in leading their men into combat were expertly selected and particularly insightful.

Bledsoe's quantitative research is also well expressed in the appendices in the form of pie-charts and tables. While much of the content and analysis in the main text was common to both armies, the quantitative analysis points to many differences. The typical Confederate company officer was slightly older, much wealthier, and more likely to be married with children than his Union opponent. In terms of antebellum occupations, the two most common backgrounds were agriculture (40% owned slaves) and the professions for the Confederates and skilled artisanship and agriculture for the Union junior officer corps. Bledsoe also charts officer casualties on a monthly basis as well as promotion/resignation attrition raw totals and rates for each regiment in his sample. Aggregate casualties are also graphed by month for each year of the war.

The Civil War reader of wide experience will find few truly startling revelations in Citizen-Officers but Bledsoe's study really isn't about changing popular perceptions or challenging academic consensus. It is the first book to concentrate solely on volunteer company officers in order to present a scholarly history and analysis of their collective Civil War genesis, duties, trials, evolution and combat experiences. Bledsoe's book is essential reading for anyone seeking to more fully understand the leadership of the most fundamental building blocks of Civil War armies.



More CWBA reviews of LSUP titles:
* Civil War Infantry Tactics: Training, Combat, and Small-Unit Effectiveness
* The Enigmatic South: Toward Civil War and Its Legacies
* Corps Commanders in Blue: Union Major Generals in the Civil War
* Gateway to the Confederacy: New Perspectives on the Chickamauga and Chattanooga Campaigns, 1862-1863
* Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln
* Greyhound Commander: Confederate General John G. Walker's History of the Civil War West of the Mississippi
* Knights of the Golden Circle: Secret Empire, Southern Secession, Civil War
* Milliken's Bend: A Civil War Battle in History and Memory
* Battle of Stones River: The Forgotten Conflict Between the Confederate Army of Tennessee and the Union Army of the Cumberland
* Granbury's Texas Brigade: Diehard Western Confederates
* The Last Battle of the Civil War: United States Versus Lee, 1861-1883
* Confederate Guerrilla: Champ Ferguson and the Civil War in Appalachia
* Lincoln and Citizens' Rights in Civil War Missouri: Balancing Freedom and Security
* War No More: The Antiwar Impulse in American Literature, 1861-1914
* Isham G. Harris of Tennessee: Confederate Governor and United States Senator
* Executing Daniel Bright: Race, Loyalty, and Guerrilla Violence in a Coastal Carolina Community 1861-1865
* Mosquito Soldiers: Malaria, Yellow Fever, and the Course of the American Civil War
* Homegrown Yankees: Tennessee's Union Cavalry in the Civil War
* John Bankhead Magruder: A Military Reappraisal
* A Wisconsin Yankee in the Confederate Bayou Country: The Civil War Reminiscences of a Union General
* Bleeding Borders: Race, Gender, and Violence in Pre-Civil War Kansas
* Jefferson Davis and the Civil War Era
* Where Men Only Dare to Go Or the Story of a Boy Company, C.S.A.
* Encyclopedia of Civil War Shipwrecks
* Walker’s Texas Division, C.S.A.: Greyhounds of the Trans-Mississippi
* The Confederate Cherokees: John Drew's Regiment of Mounted Rifles
* A Crisis In Confederate Command: Edmund Kirby Smith, Richard Taylor, And The Army Of The Trans-Mississippi
* The Fredericksburg Campaign: Winter War on the Rappahannock

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Riding for the Lone Star

During the huge wave of Confederate volunteerism at the beginning of Civil War hostilities, Texans developed a reputation for possessing a uniquely high level of disdainfulness when it came to countenancing the foot mode of transporting themselves and fighting on the battlefield. Nathan Jennings's upcoming book Riding for the Lone Star: Frontier Cavalry and the Texas Way of War, 1822-1865 (Univ of N Texas Pr, Feb 2016) will examine in detail this mounted martial culture.

According to Jennings (or at least his ideas filtered through the marketing lens):
"(t)he idea of Texas was forged in the crucible of frontier warfare between 1822 and 1865, when Anglo-Americans adapted to mounted combat north of the Rio Grande. This cavalry-centric arena, which had long been the domain of Plains Indians and the Spanish Empire, compelled an adaptive martial tradition that shaped early Lone Star society. Beginning with initial tactical innovation in Spanish Tejas and culminating with massive mobilization for the Civil War, Texas society developed a distinctive way of war defined by armed horsemanship, volunteer militancy, and short-term mobilization as it grappled with both tribal and international opponents.

Drawing upon military reports, participants’ memoirs, and government documents, cavalry officer Nathan A. Jennings analyzes the evolution of Texan militarism from tribal clashes of colonial Tejas, territorial wars of the Texas Republic, the Mexican-American War, border conflicts of antebellum Texas, and the cataclysmic Civil War. In each conflict Texan volunteers answered the call to arms with marked enthusiasm for mounted combat. Riding for the Lone Star explores this societal passion—with emphasis on the historic rise of the Texas Rangers—through unflinching examination of territorial competition with Comanches, Mexicans, and Unionists."
This one will definitely be on my reading list for next year.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Thompson: "A CIVIL WAR HISTORY OF THE NEW MEXICO VOLUNTEERS AND MILITIA"

[A Civil War History of the New Mexico Volunteers and Militia by Jerry D. Thompson (University of New Mexico Press, 2015). Hardcover, maps, photos, illustrations, notes, appendices, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:442/950.  ISBN: 978-0-8263-5567-6. $95]


Given its geographical remoteness (even for the Trans-Mississippi theater) and comparatively small numbers involved, the 1861-62 Confederate invasion of New Mexico has been remarkably well covered in the Civil War literature. High quality biographies, edited firsthand accounts, battle studies and campaign overviews exist in abundance. A key missing element has been any kind of systematic study of the New Mexico volunteer soldiers raised from the territory's Spanish-speaking native population. That gap has now been filled by Jerry Thompson's A Civil War History of the New Mexico Volunteers and Militia, a massive quarto tome approaching 1,000 pages in length that offers the first true history and appreciation of the over 6,000 New Mexicans (or nuevomexicanos, as Thompson prefers) that fought either in the Union army or in the ranks of the territorial militia. These men played a substantial role in both repelling the Confederate invasion and protecting the civilian population from incessant Indian raiding.

With a threatening Confederate military presence in the Mesilla Valley and the disgraceful surrender of a large body of Regulars at San Augustine Springs in late July 1861, it became clear to Union authorities that New Mexico Territory would need to raise its own troops for local defense. New Mexico Governor Henry Connelly issued a mass appeal for militia and volunteers and Colonel E.R.S. Canby moved quickly to incorporate the new recruits into his Department of New Mexico command and use them to protect towns and villages all over the territory and garrison key military installations like Forts Union and Craig.

Thompson’s organizational histories of the First, Second, Fourth and Fifth New Mexico Volunteer Infantry regiments and Third New Mexico Mounted Infantry are impressively detailed, as are his meticulously researched treatments of the many militia formations. The volunteer units most completely organized and recruited to strength by the time of the Confederate invasion were the first two infantry regiments, led respectively by Colonel Christopher “Kit” Carson (after the First's initial commander resigned) and Colonel Miguel Pino. Both the First and Second regiments would figure prominently in the Battle of Valverde.

New Mexico volunteer officers were generally drawn from the landed gentry and merchant classes of the native population, although there were more than a few German-American Old Army veterans that settled in the area who would also become useful military leaders in the new formations. Thompson's biographical profiles of both volunteer and militia officers are extensive and packed with information new to the literature. The rank and file were generally illiterate in any language so exploring their general mood and motivating factors is problematic, though the author's supposition that many enlisted in order to escape the traditional peonage system of forced servitude that persisted in the Southwest seems more than reasonable.

The author makes full use of court-martial records to explore the many discipline problems that arose among the unruly volunteers, many of these common to Civil War citizen-soldiers in general and to some extent bored and lonely frontier Regulars. Thompson carefully documents countless incidences of insubordination, indiscipline, drunkenness, desertion, murder, and corruption among officers and men that served in the New Mexico volunteer and militia formations. Union civil and military authorities also directed a great deal of attention toward rooting out pro-Confederate elements in the civilian population and this is also covered well in the book.

Thompson’s thorough recounting of the activities of the New Mexico volunteers and militia during the 1861-62 Confederate invasion adds greatly to our existing body of knowledge of those military events. Thompson sifted through a vast array of published primary source materials, government records, newspapers, diaries, letters, and other manuscript resources. Much of the original information is related to scouting and garrison duties performed by the New Mexico militia and volunteers, who also were the primary protectors of civilians targeted by Navajo, Ute, and Apache raiders. Problems of discipline, desertion, and corruption were rife in New Mexico units of all types but severe shortages in funds, clothing, and equipment did not help the situation. Battlefield performances were uneven at best but Thompson cites ethnic prejudice and professional contempt for amateur soldiers as major factors behind the poor historical reputations attached to the nuevomexicanos. After the Confederate threat subsided, these units were discharged, with many members receiving no pay or benefits.

The book description implies that Thompson primarily focuses on the Confederate invasion but nearly half his narrative covers 1862-65 Indian troubles in and around the territory and the punitive military campaigns that followed. With Union authorities tied up with concerns over the possibility of renewed threats from Confederate Texas during the rest of 1862 and beyond, raids by Indian tribes increased in intensity over the same period. By this time, Canby was gone and the much more ruthless General James H. Carleton (of California Column fame) would be in charge of the department. Mounting civilian deaths and livestock losses numbering in the tens of thousands prompted a new call for New Mexico volunteers.

The First New Mexico Volunteer Cavalry (with Carson reluctantly returning to command) would be formed in 1862 from the ashes of the defunct First and Second Infantry regiments. Later, a new First New Mexico Volunteer Infantry would be organized and its officers appointed mainly from a pool of favored California Column veterans. Numerous expeditions to chastise the Apache are exhaustively documented in the book. Detailed accounts of the 1864 Navajo War and Carson’s campaign later that year against the Kiowa and Comanche (including the November 25, 1864 First Battle of Adobe Walls) are also presented in depth and with appropriate focus on the contributions of nuevomexicano soldiers.

The volume is well illustrated with numerous photographs and drawings of individuals, towns, military posts and landscapes. The cartography is hit and miss, with excellent area maps supplemented by a rather small collection of pedestrian battle maps. Many actions have no map coverage at all. The index appears also to be limited, with a key figure like Governor Connelly absent from it altogether. The set of appendices includes an extensive roster of volunteers and militiamen (formatted in a single master list organized alphabetically by name rather than by unit), county and Indian population tables, territorial militia and department strength tables, a casualty list, some Socorro County data, a gravesite register, and an 1890 Census listing of veterans. This huge mass of reference material comprising nearly half the book will be invaluable to the work of future researchers.

A Civil War History of the New Mexico Volunteers and Militia is the most notable book dealing with the Civil War in the Far West to appear in some time and one of the most important Civil War publications of 2015. It's also a fitting capstone to Jerry Thompson's prolific body of work associated with Civil War era Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. Serious subject scholars and research institutions will definitely want to add this title to their history and reference collections. Highly recommended!



More CWBA reviews of UNMP titles:
* From Western Deserts to Carolina Swamps: A Civil War Soldier's Journals and Letters Home
* New Mexico Territory During the Civil War: Wallen and Evans Inspection Reports, 1862-1863
* Sibley's New Mexico Campaign (reprint)

Friday, December 11, 2015

Opposing the Second Corps at Antietam

I never got around to reading Marion Armstrong's Unfurl Those Colors: McClellan, Sumner, and the Second Army Corps in the Antietam Campaign (2008). No review copy arrived and my pocketbook priorities lay elsewhere at the time so it slipped away. But the reviews for it seemed to be quite positive and fans will be happy to learn that the companion study from the Confederate perspective will be released next spring by University of Alabama Press.

In Opposing the Second Corps at Antietam: The Fight for the Confederate Left and Center on America's Bloodiest Day
"Armstrong now recounts in riveting detail Lee’s command decisions and their execution in the field, drawing on a superlative collection of first-person accounts by Confederate veterans to narrate the cataclysmic struggle between Lee and McClellan.

Armstrong sets the stage with a lively recap of the political and military events leading up to the early fall of 1862 and foreshadowing the conflagration to come on September 17. Each chapter then traces a critical section of the battle, the fight for the West Woods and the bloody engagement of the Sunken Road. Armstrong augments this collection with an exceptional set of maps, which will be valued by scholars, readers, and visitors to the battlefield. These unique maps delineate troop movements in intervals as brief as fifteen minutes, bringing to life the fluid, mutable lines that characterize the glory and horror of Antietam."

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Author Q & A: John J. Hennessy on "The First Battle of Manassas: An End to Innocence, July 18-21, 1861 Revised Edition"

Way back in 1989, H.E. Howard published John Hennessy's The First Battle of Manassas: An End to Innocence, July 18-21, 1861, a slim Virginia Civil War Battles and Leaders series volume that came to be regarded by most as the finest tactical treatment of the battle. Last month, Stackpole announced the release of  The First Battle of Manassas: An End to Innocence, July 18-21, 1861 Revised Edition and John has graciously agreed to answer a few questions about it.


DW: A number of the better H.E. Howard studies have been revised and reissued recently. Was that a source of inspiration or is this something you’ve been wanting to revisit for some time?

JH: Though the H.E. Howard volumes tended to get lost among their uniform look, Howard’s Battles and Leaders series produced some fine books. I think Ted Mahr’s volume on Cedar Creek is the best that has ever been done on that battle (and it too is being re-issued), and all sorts of actions in VA received their one and only treatment as part of that series. Now that H.E. Howard has ceased operations, I am not surprised that several of the books are finding life at the hands of other publishers.

Over the years since I wrote An End to Innocence, as I came across new material on First Manassas, I tossed it into a folder with, I guess, the vague idea that I would do something with it someday. I didn’t closely track what I acquired—wasn’t sure entirely how it all might sustain or demolish what I had done in the original. When Stackpole Books came calling last winter, interested in reissuing the book, I knew it was time to find out.

I confess I went into the Stackpole project thinking a week or two of work would polish and update the book sufficiently for a re-issue, but I was wrong about that. Of course over the years I had gone back to the book to check things or prepare for a tour or article—I consumed chunks of it as a reader, and it seemed fine. When I returned to it this time, I looked at it as a writer, and suddenly I realized the writing I did 25 years ago didn’t really rise much above average. Soon I found myself rewriting huge swaths of the book. I would guess that about 70-80% is reworked. Along the way I revisited virtually every source I used in the original and wove in dozens more.


DW: You’ve said that the Stackpole edition is more rewrite than revision. Realizing that new material is likely incorporated throughout the manuscript, can you point to any areas where the new information is especially concentrated?

JH: Generally, most of the new source material that came to hand in the last 25 years confirmed the conclusions I came to when I wrote the original volume. (I suspect most historians carry an untoward secret: once you write a book about something, you secretly hope that new source material does NOT emerge that rendered your conclusions obsolete.) While new source material did not lead to any fundamental reinterpretations of the battle, it did allow for a more complete understanding of certain things (and some significantly improved passages of prose). The battle hinged on a midday lull between the fighting on Matthews Hill in the morning and that on Henry Hill in the afternoon. New source material renders that period far less placid than long presumed. Too, the roles of units like the Hampton Legion, the 2d Mississippi and 27th New York come into sharper relief.

One may rightly ask, what difference does that make? Good question. I am often struck by our penchant for accumulating detail about battles, often to a point that crosses the eyes of general readers. My answer to this question goes back to my major motivation for writing the book in the first place: to accord significance to the ground. The human experience of battle has a universal relevance. Even if you’re not interested in tactics or the ebb and flow of a particular engagement, understanding on a human level what happened on a given spot at a given moment in time has a power all its own. I most definitely wrote this book with the battlefield—and not just the battle—in mind.

Beyond a fairly rigorous reconsideration of McDowell (more on that below), the book includes brand new chapters that look at the experience of civilians and civilian spectators, as well as the aftermath of battle and how the battle reverberated across the North and South.


DW: Between 1989 and today, how has your understanding of the battle changed or evolved? Since that might be a brief question requiring a very long answer, perhaps you might just select a few examples that come to mind.

JH: One of the hard realities of life as a historian: eventually, you come to realize that almost every piece of conventional wisdom or simple truism associated with the great events or figures of our history is often incomplete, overblown, or flat-out incorrect. Manassas is replete with cherished simplicities.

Among the greatest of those is Irvin McDowell. I came to know McDowell well in my work on Second Manassas—by 1862 he had become probably the most unpopular man in America. Historians had done little but perpetuate his checkered reputation, and he has come to us as a bundle of simple facts, quotes, and supposed truisms. In the revision, he’s no rehabilitated hero, but I certainly spent a good deal of time working past the typical caricatures of him to understand better this unremarkable man caught amidst remarkable circumstances. He faced a question common to most wars (certainly we know the conundrum well in our lifetimes): what, exactly, would constitute victory? I believe that question dominated July 21, 1861, and I spend a fair amount of time exploring the question. Probably more than anything else, an improved understanding of McDowell reshapes the book.

Maybe the greatest of all simplicities related to Manassas revolves around the civilian spectators—that not only did they witness Union disaster, but they helped cause it. We see it in novels and movies and even some proclaimed books of history. As always, the reality is more complex than that—and indeed, I would argue that while the spectators certainly symbolized a nation’s attitudes and expectations, they had no impact on the battle itself whatsoever. Still, it’s a fascinating part of the story, and one that I tell much more fulsomely here than before.

Maybe the most ironic evolution of thought and research is reflected in the title: An End to Innocence. If ever there is a clich├ęd notion about Manassas, it’s that. In 1989, when I wrote the book, it seemed like an easy and obvious choice for a title—one that captured the essential simplicity of why the battle mattered. Today, I am far less convinced that the title is valid. Over the years, I have accumulated a great deal of material, and others have written fairly extensively about the expectations that shaped the campaign. I have come to believe that far more Americans saw the situation far more clearly than we have given them credit for; many envisioned a hard, even long war, with a good deal of bloodshed. Most did not foresee the immense human catastrophe that followed, but far fewer than I once thought saw the clash between McDowell and Beauregard and Johnston as an existential collision that would determine the future of the Union and the Confederacy.

Certainly the title applies still to the experience of soldiers on the field, but less so in the nation in a broader sense. But, having titled the book “An End to Innocence” back then, now, on its re-writing and re-release, there was no changing the title of it. So, it goes forth, in my mind valid still, but in a narrower way.


DW: Edward Longacre recently published a thick volume detailing the FBR campaign and battle. Can you point out places where your interpretations of events significantly differ from Longacre’s?

JH: Ed Longacre’s is a very nice book—I even said so on his dust jacket! In fact, his, David Detzer’s, and Ethan Rafuse’s all do a great job on the campaign. The difference in mine is its focus. In the original and in the rewrite, I focused pretty closely on the battle itself. That makes for a more compact book.

While I read all the new studies as they came out (and in Ed Longacre’s case, before publication), I purposely chose not to engage their scholarship in my revision. Someone could write an entire book just analyzing and reconciling (or not) the various perspectives of modern authors. I wanted to stay focused on the source material—old and new—and follow it wherever it led me. And I felt I needed to stay true to the spirit and intent of the original work. The difference in Longacre is in his scope—he takes a much broader view than I do, analyzing fairly deeply Patterson’s campaign, for example. I think that’s all for the good. Ed’s book also does a tremendous job of characterizing the players, painting some rich (and accurate) portraits.

As for major differences: I have a different approach on McDowell than the others, and on Jackson...


DW: Every FBR author has an opinion about the Bee-Jackson “Stonewall” origin story and its intended meaning. How would you summarize your own thoughts on the matter?

JH: In 1990 or so I wrote a piece for Civil War magazine (no longer in business) that looked closely at the primary sources written by men who were most likely to have heard what Bee said that day—mainly from the 4th Alabama. I am pretty sure no one has ever read that article, since I don’t think anyone who has written about the battle since has corrected the incorrect conventional wisdom on Jackson’s naming. Your readers can find an online version of the article at: https://bullrunnings.wordpress.com/?s=hennessy+stonewall+jackson

Bottom line: Bee almost certainly did not say “There stands Jackson like a stone wall, rally behind the Virginians.” That’s the version recorded by Virginians who were never anywhere near Bee when he uttered his words. Instead, his words were a bit more prosaic (read the book!), though not intended to be any less complimentary. Bee uttered his words a good deal later in the battle than the Virginians would have had you believe (long after Bee’s men had rallied), rendering the circumstances quite different from that embodied in the traditional telling (which is reflected by the inscription on the statue on Henry Hill). Bee fell mortally wounded just a few minutes after his utterance.

The popular idea that Bee disparaged Jackson with his words—“There stands Jackson like a [damn] stone wall”—is simply untrue. The circumstances don’t remotely support it. I suppose, though, that the idea will live on among those who wish to believe it, or rather those who just wish to be contrary without looking hard at the evidence. I have considered and reconsidered the evidence on Jackson’s naming twice, and I don’t think there’s much doubt about the circumstances that begot the legend—if you look to the sources written by the men who were likely witness to the event.


DW: Do you have a favorite figure from the battle (on either side) whose role you feel has been greatly underappreciated or unfairly distorted by history?

JH: If I could have ridden to the field with someone, I think it would have been Union Col. Israel Richardson’s wife Fannie, who accompanied her husband into the field and brought her beehive along. The Richardsons were newlyweds, and the Colonel rather grandly diverted government resources and energy for his new bride’s comfort. I would have loved to have quizzed her on her motivation and perceptions—and just watched, especially after the Colonel, during the retreat, left her precious horse and saddle behind. He proposed stopping the retreat to parlay with the Confederates over the issue—a bold move reflective either of fear or devotion toward his wife.

Beyond the curious like Mrs. Richardson, both sides produced figures admirable and disappointing. For the Confederates, no subordinate commander had a greater impact on the battle than Nathan Evans, who, facing incredibly difficult circumstances, acted boldly and appropriately—ultimately buying for the Confederates precious time that ultimately allowed them to craft a victory when one seemed impossible.

Wade Hampton—a man of military lineage but no experience—wielded his Hampton Legion effectively at a critical point in the battle, helping to buy time at a key moment. I’d offer that no regiment on the field fought longer or harder or with more success. Jackson’s patience shaped the battle as much or more than did his aggression. We can today see that his decision to assume a position on the rear slope of Henry Hill and then wait for the Yankees to come to him bore immense results.

I also think the combination of Johnston and Beauregard worked extremely well that day. Later they degenerated into feuding, of course, but they both performed effectively on July 21, 1861, working out problems of command as they went. Johnston, especially, deserves credit for an uncommon exhibition of humility.

While the Union army included names now familiar to us, you’re hard-pressed to name one who by his efforts stood out. Burnside momentarily panicked during the early fighting on Matthews Hill. Sherman showed great initiative in getting his men across Bull Run, but later in the day simply threw his four regiments into battle one at a time, with little impact. Indeed, no officer on either side demonstrated a greater gap between the reality of his performance that day and his ultimate performance later in the war than Sherman. O.O. Howard largely lost control of his brigade, precipitating the Union retreat—the first of three disastrous retreats Howard would be central to during the war. And McDowell: he engineered a morning success that he confused for ultimate victory, and then followed with uncertain steps that led to disaster. The battle offered little opportunity for Union stars to shine. Men like Griffin, Ricketts, Ayres, Hunt, Slocum, Franklin, Sherman, and Willcox would rise to lofty levels in this war, but not by virtue of what they did at Manassas.


DW: Authoritatively reconstructing the tactical progression of any Civil War battle is a difficult task by any measure, but the fighting on Henry Hill is often described as especially confusing. Is that accurate or do you think we can be more than reasonably confident in our knowledge and understanding of the sequence of events at this point?

JH: I long felt (and said so) that the flow of battle on Henry Hill would never really be understood, but I don’t believe that any longer. New source material really confirms our understanding of what happened on Henry Hill. The key lies in understanding the timing of a handful of well-known events—the charge of Stuart’s cavalry on the 11th New York and the capture of Griffin’s guns, for example. Once that sequence was confirmed, everything fell into place rather nicely. New sources make me even more confident of the events surrounding the capture of Griffin’s section by the Confederates—the turning point of the battle. The fight around Ricketts’s guns in the center of the hill now seems clearer, though still chaotic.

There will always be room for elaboration and clarification (it will follow in due course, I am sure). I think the fighting around the Henry House from the Confederate perspective needs some shaking out of details. The final Confederate sweep across the hill entails a few vagaries. While I understand the fighting on Matthews Hill on paper, relating it to the ground (most of it now heavily wooded) has always remained somewhat elusive. Having ready access to aerial photography has helped, but I would offer that of all the aspects of First or Second Manassas, the ground entailed in the morning fight for Henry Hill remains the most elusive for me.


DW: Are there any lingering questions about FBR that interest you yet the answers remain frustratingly elusive [ed.: we both like that word, I guess]?

JH: McDowell remains the big mystery. There is no biography of him, and no known large collection of papers that would allow us to understand him in the same way we do so many others. Instead, we are left with third-party observations (often simplistic and even unfair) that offer little insight into the workings of his mind. So far as the war in Virginia is concerned, I’d offer that McDowell is one of two major figures that we simply do not well understand (the other is Daniel Butterfield).

Details about the Confederate medical service are spare—the process the Confederates set up to move their wounded, the location of all their field hospitals, and the system used by Confederate surgeons all need illumination.


DW: Regarding the battle’s legacy, one school of thought argues that Confederate victory at Bull Run established a psychological edge for the South in the eastern theater while another rejects this view, suggesting instead that Union defeat was an ironically beneficial “shock to the system,” forcing northern society to immediately confront the enormity of the task at hand and steeling national resolve. Where do you come down on this issue?

JH: The victory at Manassas sped the transformation of white Southerners into Confederates. Most did not presume that victory at Manassas guaranteed the Confederacy, but they nearly all could now see the Confederacy as a viable entity, a real possibility. If Southern nationalism needed a confirming event, this was it. Much work remained, but the South would undertake that effort as a nation with an identity rather than as a section grasping at a possibility. In that sense, First Manassas was supremely important.

No one sensed the impact of the victory on the South more acutely than observers in the North. The North, too, now saw the Confederacy as an idea and entity to be reckoned with—thus the “shock to the system” you referenced. Editorials across the north, serious-but-hopeful in tone, described the hard work ahead. I don’t see this as the out-of-the-blue shock some claim (far more Northerners recognized the work ahead even before the battle), but no question the battle forced Northerners to reconsider their assumptions about war, effort, and the Southern Confederacy.

The other legacy of the battle derived from the painful reality of who witnessed it. Probably 50 or more members of Congress or significant government officials were among the 500 or so spectators who rode forth. While most saw little of the battle, they witnessed the retreat close up. I firmly believe that this contributed dramatically to the determination of Congress and commentators in DC to view the Union army in Virginia as suspect—setting the stage for nearly three years of antagonism between the Army of the Potomac and the government it served (an antagonism most vividly embodied in the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War). It’s one of the important themes of the war, and one distinctly Union in nature.


DW: Interesting points! Thank you very much, John, for generously taking the time to participate in this author Q&A. Readers, the title again is The First Battle of Manassas: An End to Innocence, July 18-21, 1861 Revised Edition by Stackpole Books. Both first timers and long time owners of the original edition will want to pick up a copy.

JH: Many thanks! If anyone has questions or would like a signed copy of the book, send me an email at jjh127@comcast.net.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Booknotes: Crossing Antietam

New Arrival:

Crossing Antietam: The Civil War Letters of Captain Henry Augustus Sand, Company A, 103rd New York Volunteers by Henry August Sand, edited by Peter H. Sand and John F. McLaughlin (McFarland, 2015).

Captain Sand led Company A of the 103rd NY (a.k.a. the "German Grenadiers" or "Seward's Infantry"). He campaigned with the regiment in North Carolina and Virginia before being mortally wounded at Antietam. "He penned a letter to his family in Brooklyn Heights while lying on the battlefield, and then three more before dying of his wounds six weeks later. His complete correspondence from the field, covering the first 18 months of the Civil War, paints a vivid picture of combat and life in a 19th-century German-Irish immigrant family." "His letters were collected and transcribed by his sister, Emily Isabella Rossire nee Sand, and illustrated with her own watercolors of the Antietam battlefield and sketches by their younger brother, Maximilian Edward Sand [these are reproduced in color]." The book includes all 78 letters with attached footnotes, some additional related material and a family history appendix.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Booknotes: Excommunicated from the Union

New Arrival:

Excommunicated from the Union: How the Civil War Created a Separate Catholic America by William B. Kurtz (Fordham Univ Pr, 2015).

I seem to recall at least three Catholic-themed Civil War studies published this year. "Exploring how Catholics sought to use their participation in the war to counteract religious and political nativism in the United States, Excommunicated from the Union reveals that while the war was an alienating experience for many of 200,000 Catholics who served, they still strove to construct a positive memory of their experiences in order to show that their religion was no barrier to their being loyal American citizens." Looks like a pretty broad survey. Chapters explore Catholics and the Mexican War, the Catholic response in the North to secession, Catholic soldiers, priests and nuns in the war effort, views on slavery, opposition to the war, and post-war anti-Catholicism.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Beilein's Bushwhackers

The Civil War Guerrilla: Unfolding the Black Flag in History, Memory, and Myth was one of the better essay anthologies published this year and was also the first time I'd directly come across the work of emerging scholar Joseph Beilein, who co-edited the volume with Matthew Hulbert. Beilein's next project is Bushwhackers: Guerrilla Warfare, Manhood, and the Household in Civil War Missouri (Kent St Univ Pr, Summer 2016). In it, he "looks at the ways in which several different bands of guerrillas across Missouri conducted their war in concert with their households and their female kin who provided logistical support in many forms. Whether noted fighters like Frank James, William Clarke Quantrill, and Bloody Bill Anderson, or less well-known figures such as Clifton Holtzclaw and Jim Jackson, Beilein provides a close examination of how these warriors imagined themselves as fighters, offering a brand-new interpretation that gets us closer to seeing how the men and women who participated in the war in Missouri must have understood it." Much has been written on that particular topic so it will be interesting to see what this new interpretation might be.  The book "demonstrates that the guerrilla war in Missouri was not just an opportunity to settle antebellum feuds, nor was it some collective plummet by society into a state of chaotic bloodshed [yet another counterargument to Fellman's influential thesis]. Rather, the guerrilla war was the only logical response by men and women in Missouri, and one that was more in keeping with their worldview than the conventional warfare of the day."

It also appears to be the first volume in the new The Civil War Era in the South series (Brian Craig Miller and LeeAnn Whites, Editors):
"This series offers readers the latest cutting-edge scholarship on the southern experience during the American Civil War era. While the series will focus exclusively on the South in its totality (upper, lower, and border South), books published will offer a wide range of historical topics, including politics, military campaigns, the experience of the common soldier, the hardships on the home front, and the dynamics of race, gender, and class within southern society."

Friday, December 4, 2015

Vermilya: "JAMES GARFIELD AND THE CIVIL WAR: For Ohio and the Union"

[James Garfield and the Civil War: For Ohio and the Union by Dan Vermilya (Arcadia Publishing & The History Press, 2015). Softcover, maps, photos, notes, index. 205 pp. ISBN:978-1-62619-908-8. $21.99]

James Garfield was one of five U.S. presidents born in the state of Ohio who were veterans of the Civil War. Though his popular notoriety stems mostly from being assassinated in office, Garfield had a distinguished Civil War career worthy of study. His duties as field commander and later chief of staff of the Army of the Cumberland comprise the main focus of Dan Vermilya's James Garfield and the Civil War: For Ohio and the Union.

A product of humble origins, Garfield had risen to a respected position in the Ohio State Senate before reaching the age of thirty. Most closely aligned with the radical wing of the Republican party and a strong supporter of the war, Garfield was well positioned for military service and indeed he would eventually receive command of an infantry regiment, the 42nd Ohio. A complete novice when it came to military matters, Garfield studied hard for his new job and his unit was a proficient one by all accounts by the time it entered the field.

Though among the least well known aspects of Garfield's Civil War service, his independently conducted and successful winter 1861-62 Big Sandy Campaign in Kentucky was arguably his most impressive military achievement. Appointed by General Don Carlos Buell to the lead a brigade-sized expedition, one organized on the heels of William "Bull" Nelson's earlier operation, Garfield drove the Confederates out of East Kentucky and secured the area for the Union on an essentially permanent basis. Vermilya perhaps overstates the Union share of the physical and logistical obstacles that campaigning in rugged East Kentucky imposed on both combatants (his Confederate opponent, General Humphrey Marshall, would gladly have switched places) but his overall account of the campaign, including Garfield's outmaneuvering of Marshall at Paintsville and his victory over the Confederates at Middle Creek, is quite well done. When it came to military matters, Garfield proved to be a sharp study but it remains a mystery (or at least the book did not offer an explanation) why Buell selected Garfield, a man with no military experience at any level, to lead the expedition in the first place.

Rewarded with a brigadier's star, Garfield was ordered to leave his old brigade behind and assume a new command (the 18th Brigade) in Buell's Army of the Ohio, which was then on its way to join the grand expedition developing along the Tennessee River. Arriving at Shiloh during the battle's waning moments, Garfield's men took some artillery fire before the shooting ended. During summer operations, Garfield became seriously ill and was eventually forced to take sick leave. While away, he was elected to Congress but would not be seated for another year so he searched for another army position. The quest bore fruit as Garfield would be appointed Army of the Cumberland chief of staff under William Rosecrans, replacing previous occupant Julius Garesche, who was killed at Stones River.

According to most observers, Garfield got along well with General Rosecrans and was an effective army administrator during the Tullahoma and Chickamauga campaigns. Apparently, he wrote all of the Chickamauga battle orders originating from army headquarters except the fatal one that famously sparked a tragic misunderstanding and crushing defeat. Vermilya briefly discusses, but does not make too much of, "Garfield's Ride at Chickamauga," the famous return trip to the battlefield that braved Confederate fire and fueled the Ohioan's future political career on the national stage.

In October, Garfield was dispatched to Washington to apprise the leaders there of the situation in besieged Chattanooga. Rosecrans would be replaced during Garfield's absence and Garfield would be the subject of much speculation over his role in his chief's dismissal. Many controversial historical questions can be settled simply by close timeline examination and Vermilya does just that in one of the volume's appendices. In it he persuasively lays out his case that Garfield could not be justifiably accused of having any direct role in Rosecrans's downfall. The author maintains that Garfield remained loyal to Rosecrans throughout his tenure, but surely Garfield, a thoroughly practical man who knew how Washington politics worked, should have realized the danger of regularly writing candid private letters to a powerful friend (Salmon Chase, no less) that contained potential ammunition for Rosecrans's political enemies. In December 1863, Garfield resigned from the army and embarked on the career in national politics that would define the rest of his life.

James Garfield and the Civil War succeeds in its goal of offering readers a full and thoughtfully considered appreciation of the citizen-soldier career of the nation's 20th president.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Booknotes: Forward My Brave Boys!

New Arrival:

"Forward My Brave Boys!": A History of the 11th Tennessee Volunteer Infantry CSA, 1861-1865 by M. Todd Cathey and Gary W. Waddey (Mercer Univ Pr, 2015).

At well over 500 pages in length, this is a thick regimental study, although the unit history narrative takes up only half the space. Raised in Middle Tennessee, the 11th operated in Kentucky and around Cumberland Gap in the early period of the war. They fought at Stones River, Chickamauga, and Missionary Ridge,  participated in the 1864 Atlanta and Tennessee campaigns, and finally ended their Confederate service in North Carolina in 1865. "This book takes the reader into their camps, on the march, and onto the line of battle through first-hand accounts taken from diaries, letters, and journals. Many never-before-published photographs of the soldiers, newly created battle maps, as well as an extensive biographical roster make this a valuable resource for historians and genealogists, ..." There are also organizational, casualty, and POW lists in the appendices.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Booknotes: The 11th Michigan Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War

New Arrival:

The 11th Michigan Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War: A History and Roster by Eric R. Faust (McFarland, 2015).

The 11th Michigan earned a strong fighting reputation in the Army of the Cumberland. Faust's narrative chronicles their service beginning with railroad guard duty in Kentucky and ending in the midst of the Atlanta Campaign, with detailed treatments of Stones River, Chickamauga, and Chattanooga. The maps are good and the research appears to be more than adequate. In addition to a roster the author includes some nicely presented unit statistics in an appendix.