Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Booknotes: Decisions of the 1862 Kentucky Campaign

New Arrival:
Decisions of the 1862 Kentucky Campaign: The Twenty-Seven Critical Decisions That Defined the Operation by Larry Peterson (UT Press, 2019).

This is the sixth installment (and third from author Larry Peterson) in University of Tenneseee Press's new and interesting Command Decisions in America's Civil War series, which has been releasing titles at a almost blinding clip since the 2018 publication of the first volume. With Gettysburg and Wilderness/Spotsylvania entries in the upcoming F/W catalog, the series is showing no signs of slowing down.

From the description: "By early 1862, Union forces had won successive victories in the emerging Western Theater of the American Civil War. Forts Henry and Donelson had fallen, handing control of the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers to the US Navy; the siege of Corinth had ceded rail lines to Union control; and New Orleans, the Confederacy’s prized port, had been captured by Admiral Farragut. The Kentucky Campaign was meant to reverse Confederate fortunes and recapture the Bluegrass State for the Confederacy. Though the Rebels won a tactical victory at Perryville and successfully drew Union forces away from northern Alabama and middle Tennessee, their ultimate retreat would leave Kentucky in the hands of the Union Army for the remainder of the war."

Decisions of the 1862 Kentucky Campaign: The Twenty-Seven Critical Decisions That Defined the Operation joins Peterson's previous volume (Atlanta) in marking a momentary series shift in format to higher-level coverage of longer campaigns (notice the subtitle shift in volumes 5 and 6 from "Battle" to "Operation"). The book "introduces readers to critical decisions made by Confederate and Union commanders throughout the heartland contest. Rather than offering a history of the Kentucky Campaign, Larry Peterson hones in on a sequence of critical decisions confronting commanders on both sides of the clash to provide a blueprint of the campaign at its tactical core. Identifying and exploring the critical decisions in this way allows students of history to go from a rudimentary sense of the 'what' of warfare, to a mature grasp of 'why.'"

As is the case with all of the books in the series, this one has an extensive driving tour appendix specifically focused on the decisions explored earlier in the text. There are also orders of battle for both sides.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Review - "The Fight for the Old North State: The Civil War in North Carolina, January-May 1864" by Hampton Newsome

[The Fight for the Old North State: The Civil War in North Carolina, January-May 1864 by Hampton Newsome (University Press of Kansas, 2019). Hardcover, 18 maps, photos, illustrations, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:xi,329/478. ISBN:978-0-7006-2746-2. $34.95]

With use of its port facilities, rail network, and productive farmland coveted by both sides, eastern North Carolina was an early target for Union land and naval forces. Nevertheless, interest on their part in turning newly-won coastal enclaves into bases for major inland operations against vulnerable enemy lines of communication soon cooled considerably. After the 1862 Burnside Expedition swept through the area and occupied all key points lining the coast, neither side prioritized the region. Largely stripped of troops over and above those needed for garrison duties, a sort of regional military stalemate existed throughout the war's middle period, interrupted only by the occasional raid. The military literature generally follows suit, providing thorough coverage of 1862 and 1865 events but only paying spotty attention to the years in between. However, as oddly occurs with some frequency in the Civil War literature, a very long period of neglect has been punctuated recently by a small but noteworthy burst of activity. Beginning in 2015, the beautiful to behold and astoundingly useful The Old North State at War: The North Carolina Civil War Atlas brought exceptional map coverage and much needed perspective to 1864 events in the eastern part of the state. This was followed by James White's New Bern and the Civil War (2018), a slim volume documenting the several 1863-64 Confederate attempts to capture and reoccupy the region's most strategically significant town. Examining in unprecedented depth and detail the 1864 Confederate winter-spring offensive in eastern North Carolina, a partially successful campaign that featured a stunning Confederate triumph at Plymouth and two failed attempts to capture New Bern, is Hampton Newsome's new book The Fight for the Old North State: The Civil War in North Carolina, January-May 18641.

Newsome begins with an excellent discussion of the military and political reasons behind why an early-1864 campaign in eastern North Carolina was deemed important by the Confederate high command, including Robert E. Lee (who was always loath to part with troops needed for his epic struggle with the Union's premier field army). With the main armies in Virginia still in winter quarters, what began in North Carolina as a small-scale Confederate roundup of deserters was converted into a major campaign to regain home ground long lost to the enemy. On the political front, it was hoped that major military success in eastern North Carolina might boost the reelection chances of war governor Zebulon Vance, diminish Unionist resolve, and counter increasing demoralization among Confederate supporters who felt neglected by the Richmond government. The lack of a strong response to a major raid conducted the previous year by Union general Edward Wild's "African Brigade" made the pro-Confederate populace feeling unprotected by the government and slavery in the state increasingly insecure. In addition to raising civilian morale and support for the war, the capture of New Bern and other major Union-held posts along the rivers and sounds would also open up vast areas of the state once again to Confederate commissary agents. By 1864, this was a pressing consideration.

Newsome provides extensive coverage of the five major components of the Confederate winter-spring offensive: (1) the failed February 1864 attack on New Bern (which was followed by the controversial hangings at Kinston), (2) Ransom's Raid, (3) the storming and capture of Plymouth, (4) the reoccupation of Washington, and finally (5) the second aborted attempt to seize New Bern in May. The multi-pronged land and naval attack on New Bern in February was department commander George Pickett's operation. It involved a complicated and highly ambitious plan that relied on close coordination, surprise, and river support from daring naval officer John Taylor Wood's small boat force. As Newsome's detailed account reveals, none of those elements succeeded to the extent required to achieve victory. Surprise was lost immediately by a determined Union defense of the  Bachelor Creek blockhouse and picket line while Wood's impressive capture of USS Underwriter was negated by the necessity of destroying it after the vessel proved immune to all efforts at getting it underway. A minor victory at Newport Barracks also could not be exploited. The whole operation is reminiscent of other failed Confederate attempts to capture Union river posts that were strongly defended, heavily fortified, and closely supported by the navy (ex. Helena in Arkansas and Fort Butler in Louisiana), and the author is appropriately aware of the many challenges Pickett's operation needed to overcome in order to have any chance of complete success. Of course, every military failure seeks out a scapegoat and allegations of timidity on the part of Virginia general Seth Barton served that requirement well. In retrospect, it seems highly doubtful that Barton and his brigade could have overwhelmed the strong forts and water barriers on their front and forced a general Union surrender, but others at the time seemed to believe otherwise. As overall commander, General Pickett was also held responsible, and his star sunk even further in the minds of many when he orchestrated a mass hanging of Union prisoners who had previously deserted from the Confederate Army (more on this below).

After the New Bern operation failed to achieve the desired results, a brigade-sized Confederate foraging raid was launched from Weldon. Ranging back and forth across SE Virginia and NE North Carolina, Ransom's Raid (February 24 - March 7) accumulated a massive commissary haul. As Newsome astutely notes, its consequences were more than material in nature. The renewed military  presence on ground long occupied by the enemy also demonstrated that Confederate forces were no longer willing to simply concede the loss of territory. On a grimmer note, Ransom's trail also symbolically passed through areas featured in Wild's Raid and still regularly patrolled by black Union troops, and instances of no quarter fighting near Suffolk (where the Confederates clashed successfully with a detachment from the 2nd US Colored Cavalry) presaged what would follow at Plymouth.

Though his actions would be overseen first by George Pickett and later by P.G.T. Beauregard, the key figure in the 1864 campaign in North Carolina was Robert F. Hoke. For the Plymouth attack, he would be in charge of a major operation for the first time, and his stunning victory there would earn him promotion to major general. Newsome's highly detailed account of the entire operation is well researched and thorough, easily the new standard treatment. Several chapters address the planning and execution of the movement against heavily fortified Plymouth. The final outfitting of Hoke's naval support, the CSS Albemarle, is also detailed in the book. In addition to being strongly defended and amply fortified, Plymouth had established rearward defenses facing the water approaches. To secure Plymouth's fall, many things had to go right on the Confederate side. Through the author's keen analysis of events, the Plymouth chapters reveal Hoke's strengths as a battlefield tactician and a Confederate capacity for combined operations rarely seen during the war. At Plymouth, Hoke was able to firmly manage all of his subordinate formations in the heat of battle. When any part of his attack plan bogged down, he instinctively redirected the focus of the assault without losing control of his men or the tempo of the battle. This uncommon flexibility resulted in a devastating Confederate breakthrough on the more rugged but less-fortified Union left that swept through the town itself and captured the defenders from the rear. The haul in prisoners, supplies, and equipment was immense, and Hoke's North Carolina campaign was far from finished.

The next target was Washington, which was also surrounded by a substantial and well-defended network of fortifications. Though the Pamlico River town was far from an easy target, it was nevertheless evacuated (and substantially burned in the process) before Hoke arrived. This bloodless capture placed New Bern yet again in Confederate gun sights. This time around hopes were high that things would turn out different with added support from the navy. However, the ironclad CSS Neuse was still aground in its namesake river and the refitted Albemarle was turned back in Albemarle Sound during the lesser-known May 5 naval battle on Batchelor's Bay. Concurrent events in Virginia also conspired to derail Hoke's plans, as the opening of the Overland Campaign led to the staged recall of Hoke's borrowed brigades. Though some accounts written by the Union defenders lament their weakness in the face of looming attack, the much-reduced Confederate force had little realistic chance of taking New Bern under those circumstances and the operation was abandoned.

The book's coverage of the Kinston hangings and later allegations regarding a "massacre" of white North Carolina Unionists (derisively termed "Buffaloes") and black troops after the capture of Plymouth highlight intractable wartime disagreements over which classes of soldiers would be deemed legitimate combatants by both sides and thus subject to standard POW treatment. As one would expect, Union forces maintained that Confederate deserters and black soldiers became entitled to all the rights and protections of regular soldiers once they formally donned the blue uniform, but many Confederates in positions of authority disagreed. General Pickett saw the hangings of deserter Buffaloes captured at New Bern as both just punishment and useful tool of intimidation, but the author notes that even some in the ranks of the Confederate Army were sympathetic with deserter protests that the army had been unfaithful, even deceitful, toward those men when it came to honoring their original terms of enlistment. According to many Confederate rank and file soldiers, the condemned men deserved less than capital punishment and the fact that it was a prominent Virginian meting out the harsh military justice rankled Tar Heel Confederates almost as much. On the matter of the Plymouth controversy, Newsome defers without much in the way of extensive further commentary to the now classic 1995 North Carolina Historical Review article by Jordan and Thomas2, which concluded that perhaps fifty men were killed either during the act of surrender or after capture.

Throughout the book, Newsome's narrative is supported by an excellent set of maps (18 in number) that allow readers to readily visualize military movements and events at all scales. The usefulness of the series of tactical maps for Plymouth and the two New Bern operations is particularly noteworthy. In The Fight for the Old North State, Newsome certainly adds to his reputation as an indefatigable researcher. Text, notes, and bibliography indicate both extensive original manuscript research as well as thoughtful synthesis of the available secondary literature. Readers appreciative of the high-level research and narrative interpretation skills displayed in Newsome's earlier military study Richmond Must Fall will find the same qualities here3.

Though the 1864 Confederate offensive in North Carolina failed to seize New Bern—the crown jewel of Union military posts in the department—Newsome builds a persuasive case that the operation was mostly successful when viewed in the broadest sense. It raised Confederate morale in the state, had the desired effect of chilling the ardor of Buffaloes, temporarily undermined the state's peace party movement, and likely contributed at least in some way (though the author readily admits how much so is impossible to know) to the reelection of pro-war Governor Vance. Though a complete inventory of material gains is impossible to compile from available records, it does seem likely that supplies seized both during the campaign and after the reopening of large areas of the North Carolina countryside to Confederate commissary agents met the urgent needs of the fighting forces in Virginia over the coming weeks and months. The campaign also marked Robert Hoke as a rising young star in the east, although, as Newsome acknowledges, the young general had his critics after he resumed a subordinate role under Lee for the rest of the year in Virginia.

In a narrative that details battlefield events and analyzes their military, political, and social contexts in equal measure, The Fight for the Old North State is an excellent history of an understudied late-war offensive that was a rare (though qualified) Confederate success. While racial and political violence were certainly not new to 1864, Newsome's account of the campaign also usefully portrays it as a clear, early demonstration that the coming year's increasingly frequent confrontations between the most volatile combinations of battlefield combatants would be characterized by rising levels of lethal violence. Highly recommended.


Notes:
1 - Juanita Patience Moss's Battle of Plymouth, North Carolina (April 17-20, 1864): The Last Confederate Victory is flawed but worthy of mention as the only book dedicated to that battle. Like Newsome, the author largely points to Jordan and Thomas for authority regarding massacre claims.
2 - Jordan, Weymouth T., Jr., and Gerald W. Thomas. "Massacre at Plymouth: April 20, 1864." North Carolina Historical Review 72,2 (April 1995). Newsome's limited discussion of same suggests that he is in general agreement with the findings of Jordan and Thomas.
3 - Richmond Must Fall: The Richmond-Petersburg Campaign, October 1864 (Kent State University Press, 2013). This work forms a key part of the recent renaissance in Petersburg Campaign studies.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Booknotes: "Too Much for Human Endurance"

New Arrival:
"Too Much for Human Endurance": The George Spangler Farm Hospitals and the Battle of Gettysburg by Ronald D. Kirkwood (Savas Beatie, 2019).

Basing itself upon "a massive array of firsthand accounts," Ronald Kirkwood's "Too Much for Human Endurance": The George Spangler Farm Hospitals and the Battle of Gettysburg "re-creates the sprawling XI Corps hospital complex and the people who labored and suffered there—especially George and Elizabeth Spangler and their four children, who built a thriving 166-acre farm only to witness it nearly destroyed when war paid them a bloody visit that summer of 1863." Seeking to relay a broad perspective, the personal stories of "nurses, surgeons, ambulance workers, musicians, teenage fighters, and others" are presented.

More than one hospital was established on the farm. "In addition to including the most complete lists ever published of the dead, wounded, and surgeons at the Spanglers’ XI Corps hospital, this study breaks new ground with stories of the First Division, II Corps hospital at the Spanglers’ Granite Schoolhouse."

The Spangler Farm's place in the battle itself is also discussed by Kirkwood. His book "establishes the often-overlooked strategic importance of the property and its key role in the Union victory. Army of the Potomac generals took advantage of the farm’s size, access to roads, and central location to use it as a staging area to get artillery and infantry to the embattled front line from Little Round Top north to Cemetery Hill just in time to prevent its collapse and a Confederate breakthrough."

Accompanying the main narrative is a tour of the modern Spangler Farm. The six-part appendix section includes a collection of surgeon biographies, orders of battle for the Eleventh Corps and army artillery reserve, a discussion of the contested whereabouts of the 2nd Conn. Lt. Battery, a Spangler Farm patient roster, and an interment list.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Booknotes: Union Sharpshooter Versus Confederate Sharpshooter

New Arrival:
Union Sharpshooter Versus Confederate Sharpshooter: American Civil War 1861–65 by Gary Yee (Osprey, 2019).

Part of Osprey's Combat series, Gary Yee's Union Sharpshooter Versus Confederate Sharpshooter "assesses the fighting techniques, armament, and combat record of the Union and Confederate sharpshooters who clashed in battles and sieges throughout the American Civil War." 

More from the description: "During the American Civil War, the Union and the Confederacy both fielded units of sharpshooters. Sometimes equipped with firearms no better than those of their infantry brethren, they fought in a manner reminiscent of Napoleonic-era light infantry. Siege warfare placed a premium on marksmanship and the sharpshooter became indispensable as they could drive artillerymen from their guns. They could also become expert scouts and, for the Confederacy, impressive raiders--one raid netted almost 250 prisoners. Initially, Union marksmen enjoyed the upper hand, but as the Confederates began raising and training their own sharpshooters, they proved themselves as worthy opponents."

Among its other features, the book presents three case studies that explore "the role played by sharpshooters in three bloody clashes at the height of the American Civil War--the battle of Fredericksburg, the siege of Vicksburg, and the siege of Battery Wagner." The book contains the dense collection of photographs, illustrations, maps, and original artwork that those familiar with Osprey titles of all types know and come to expect.

A trained gunsmith with a background in institutional firearms curation, Yee has considerable knowledge of the subject matter at hand. Though I haven't read it (I recall my review copy request being ignored, but I don't hold grudges!), I believe his 2009 book Sharpshooters 1750-1900: The Men, Their Guns, Their Story is pretty well regarded.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Review - "Morris Island and the Civil War: Strategy and Influence" by C. Russell Horres

[Morris Island and the Civil War: Strategy and Influence by C. Russell Horres, Jr. (Arcadia Publishing & The History Press, 2019). Softcover, maps, photos, illustrations, notes, index. Pages main/total:112/144. ISBN:978-1-4671-4173-4. $21.99]

Beginning with the Confederate bombardment and reduction of Fort Sumter in April 1861 and ending at the moment when Union siege batteries finally fell silent after the city of Charleston fell to General Sherman's advancing army in February 1865, Morris Island, South Carolina is one of those rare patches of ground that was involved in active military operations for nearly the entire span of the Civil War. This eventful history is the subject of C. Russell Horres's Morris Island and the Civil War: Strategy and Influence.

At the time of the Civil War, Morris Island, a barrier island with approximately three-quarters of a mile of water separating its northern tip from Fort Sumter, was less than four miles in length and approximately 1,200 yard across at its widest point. Because Sumter was well within the range of siege artillery placed there, Morris Island was continuously occupied throughout the war.

In a brisk narrative, Horres offers readers a fairly comprehensive overview of Morris Island's role in the conflict. The aforementioned Sumter crisis is recounted as are the island's contributions to the imposing array of batteries aimed at the fort in the harbor. After Sumter was forced into surrender with the assistance of the Morris Island guns, fortification efforts on the island switched to the seaward defenses. Disagreements arose quickly within and between Confederate military and civilian authorities on how best to defend Charleston and its harbor. These internal conflicts, which involved many generals and politicians over the course of the war, and how they affected Morris Island's defenses in particular are the subject of significant attention in the book.

In summer 1863, Union forces launched a major army-navy operation aimed at capturing Charleston. An amphibious landing on the south end of Morris Island was well executed, but the subsequent assault on the main Confederate position at Battery/Fort Wagner was turned back with heavy losses. This failed attack, of course, included the 54th Massachusetts. The book then describes the Union siege operations that eventually forced the Confederates to evacuate the island entirely.

The new masters of Morris Island then inaugurated the longest sustained bombardment of the entire war. Employing the latest siege gun technology, Union batteries repeatedly shelled Fort Sumter and the city of Charleston itself, reducing the former and much of the latter into rubble but failing to force their surrender. This 1863-65 pounding by massive projectiles only ceased when General Sherman's weakly opposed Carolinas Campaign approached Charleston from the landward side and forced the Confederates to abandon the city and its defenses.

Entire volumes, including Stephen Wise's excellent history of the 1863 harbor campaign and Chris Phelp's study of the bombardment of Charleston, have been devoted to many of the events serially highlighted in the book. Others such as James Hagy's Folly Island study and Patrick Brennan's account of the failed Union attack at Secessionville have addressed in great detail many closely associated topics mentioned in the book. Rather than incorporating large amounts of fresh information or exploring wartime Morris Island in unprecedented new detail, Horres provides a big-picture synthesis that is comprehensive in nature.

There is a tendency among authors of books of this type to overestimate the significance of their chosen subjects, but Horres joins many contemporary critics in questioning the wisdom of both sides in expending so much effort, lives, and treasure in the fight over Morris Island. In fairness though, this critical interpretation is largely formulated through the lens of hindsight. No one at the time could have predicted with certainty that Fort Sumter and the rest of the harbor fortifications could have held out under the rain of fire that they were subjected to for years on end. As Horres notes, the rapid reduction of Fort Pulaski in 1862 weighed heavily in the minds of both Union and Confederate strategists. The shocking event fostered widespread worry among Confederate authorities in Charleston over the range and offensive power of rifled siege artillery. At the same time, the success bred Union overconfidence in artillery technology quickly triumphing over fixed defenses.

However, as many other writers and historians have also maintained, Horres does see Morris Island as strategically influential in raising the national profile and acceptance (both within the military and among the general public) of black troops. While progress was made, the author does cite the mixed messages obtained from a post-campaign survey sent to commanders on the island seeking their impressions of black troop performance. The fact that some of the responses reinforced old prejudices and stereotypes (ex. black soldiers were less steady than white veterans under fire but were capable of more work and less subject to disease in the southern climate) showed that there was still work to be done and acceptance would be a process not a revelation.

Well formulated to carry out the local history mission of the publisher while also offering historiographical engagement, Morris Island and the Civil War provides readers with a finely told, highly accessible, and well-rounded discussion of the island's wartime history and significance.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Booknotes: Gettysburg’s Peach Orchard

New Arrival:
Gettysburg’s Peach Orchard: Longstreet, Sickles, and the Bloody Fight for the “Commanding Ground” Along the Emmitsburg Road by James A. Hessler & Britt C. Isenberg (Savas Beatie, 2019).

The stream of Gettysburg-related titles that Savas Beatie puts out on a yearly basis is unmatched by any single publisher. Aside from the ECW series titles, I believe their most recent Day 2 book was Schultz and Mingus's The Second Day at Gettysburg: The Attack and Defense of Cemetery Ridge, July 2, 1863 from 2015. Now the action moves south from Cemetery Ridge to Sickles's Salient with Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guides James Hessler and Britt Isenberg's Gettysburg’s Peach Orchard. From the description: "The historiography of the battle’s second day is usually dominated by the Union’s successful defense of Little Round Top, but the day’s most influential action occurred nearly one mile west along the Emmitsburg Road in farmer Joseph Sherfy’s peach orchard. Despite its overriding importance, no full-length study of this pivotal action has been written until now."

Of course, the Peach Orchard was situated atop the famous high ground that Union general Dan Sickles found so irresistible to occupy. The forward movement of his Third Corps placed it beyond close supporting distance on either flank and directly in the path of Longstreet's two attacking divisions. "What followed was some of Gettysburg’s bloodiest and most controversial fighting. General Sickles’s questionable advance forced Longstreet’s artillery and infantry to fight for every inch of ground to Cemetery Ridge. The Confederate attack crushed the Peach Orchard salient and other parts of the Union line, threatening the left flank of Maj. Gen. George Meade’s army. The command decisions made in and around the Sherfy property influenced actions on every part of the battlefield. The occupation of the high ground at the Peach Orchard helped General Lee rationalize ordering the tragic July 3 assault known as “Pickett’s Charge.”"

Gettysburg’s Peach Orchard: Longstreet, Sickles, and the Bloody Fight for the “Commanding Ground” Along the Emmitsburg Road "combine(s) the military aspects of the fighting with human interest stories in a balanced treatment of the bloody attack and defense of Gettysburg’s Peach Orchard." The book includes 26 detailed maps of all kinds supported by a collection of useful modern viewshed photographs. Hessler already discussed at length Sickles's controversial decision to form his Third Corps defensive line at the Peach Orchard sector in his award-winning 2009 book Sickles at Gettysburg, and the issue is briefly reexamined in Chapter 2.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Author Q&A: Thomas Crowl and "Opdycke's Tigers in the Civil War"

Author Thomas Crowl joins us to talk about his latest book Opdycke's Tigers in the Civil War: A History of the 125th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, which was just published earlier this month by McFarland. According to his website bio, Crowl is a "retired veterinarian and an independent scholar with a lifetime interest in the Civil War and Ohio history. He has two ancestors in the 125th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He has published articles in the Ohio History Connection's Timeline magazine, History magazine and Man at Arms. He has published one book, Murder of a Journalist, with Kent State University Press."

CWBA: Thank you for coming on to the site to talk about Opdycke's Tigers. The book description notes that your book is the first history of the 125th Ohio to be published in more than 120 years. What got you interested in the regiment, and why do you think it took this long for someone to take on the task of being its modern chronicler?

TC: My initial interest came about years ago when I discovered that I had two ancestors who served in the regiment. Subsequently, new primary source material—letters and diaries—has become available in recent years that was not available to Captain Clark when he wrote the first history in 1895. In general, I think historians today view the Civil War and its participants in a more balanced way than was possible in the 19th century. Regimental histories in general require considerable effort to write. Every battle requires examination and there are many characters to research. Writers of regimental histories are motivated not by profit, but by passion.

CWBA: How extensive is the available source material?

TC: There is probably an above average amount of this material available for the 125th Ohio when compared to other Union regiments. There is more material available today than was accessible 120 years ago. For the 125th, there are multiple diaries, field notebooks, letters, newspaper articles, and even other regimental histories that offer good source material. Some of this material has been published; more is available privately, in reference libraries, and online.


CWBA: Your introduction reminds us that Emerson Opdycke was only a captain in the 41st Ohio before organizing the 125th and becoming its colonel. Presumably, he would have needed some political connections to carry that off. How did he manage it?

TC: Colonel Opdycke was not lacking in self-confidence and he wasn’t bashful about promoting himself. He was acquainted with Ohio governor David Tod and close to state senator turned general Jacob Cox. Newspaper editors in his hometown of Warren, Ohio knew him and promoted him. Opdycke even managed to get the notorious General William “Bull” Nelson to give him a letter of recommendation.


CWBA: It is also revealed in the intro that the unit did not reach its full complement of companies, officers, and men until January 1864. What particular challenges did the regiment experience with recruitment?

TC: The trials and tribulations of recruiting are well documented in the book. In brief, there was no great horde of eager recruits for regiments in 1862 and 1863 to draw from. Most of those men who wanted to be in the army were. Furthermore, the threat of a military draft, both at the state and national levels, caused many eligible men to adopt a 'wait and see' attitude. Public opinion was just beginning to shift from one of leaving the decision to enlist to the individual to one of expecting eligible men to rally to the flag. The Emancipation Proclamation shifted the Union war aim from preserving the Union to freeing the slaves and this proved unpopular in southern Ohio, further dampening recruiting. And lastly, the peace Democrats—Copperheads—were strong in Ohio and active during this period agitating against federal enlistment.


CWBA: Broadly speaking, how did the rank and file of the 125th differ from earlier waves of Union volunteers?

TC: The soldiers in the 125th Ohio were a mix of veterans—mostly from three-month regiments and a few mustered out for medical reasons—and raw recruits. Overall, they were a less idealistic, more realistic group of men with a better notion of what to expect as soldiers. The veterans among them were invaluable in assisting the recruits as they learned the art of soldiering.


CWBA: How did the men feel about Opdycke?

TC: Emerson Opdycke was certainly an above average volunteer officer especially considering his scant education and unremarkable prewar career. His men, in general, respected his personal bravery, concern for their welfare, intelligence, and leadership skills. His detractors in the regiment and beyond could point to Opdycke’s quick temper, significant ego, and grudges when accusing him of being a martinet. Yet the 125th Ohio was a respected and reliable regiment because of him and despite his faults, and his men came to appreciate that he was a colonel who led from the front.


CWBA: The better-officered regiments often took on the best characteristics of their leaders. Was this the case with the 125th?

TC: Yes. Colonel Opdycke’s personal courage, dedication, hard work, and discipline were traits he infused into the 125th Ohio, and they helped to ensure the regiment’s success.


CWBA: The 125th’s first big battle was Chickmauga (quite an introduction to major Civil War combat!). Can you briefly describe where and how they earned the “Tigers” moniker there?

TC: During the morning of September 20, the 125th’s division commander, General Thomas Wood, ordered Colonel Charles Harker’s brigade to charge into Dyer’s cornfield in an attempt to blunt the Confederate breakthrough. Before all of Harker’s men were in position, Wood sent the 125th and another regiment charging into the enemy. The 125th Ohio followed Opdycke forward and surprised the rebels. Harker’s brigade succeeded in temporarily halting the Confederate juggernaut while a defense was organized on Snodgrass Hill. General Wood, who had few happy memories of the 20th, later wrote: “It was the heroic conduct of the 125th Ohio Infantry during the entire Battle of Chickamauga, but especially on the 20th, that induced me to give the regiment the sobriquet ‘Opdycke’s Tigers’…”


CWBA: Of course, the regiment was also involved in Opdycke’s famous charge at Franklin in late 1864. Are there any other key moments in other major western theater battles where the 125th found themselves playing a prominent role in the fighting?

TC: In addition to the charge at Franklin, the 125th Ohio was active at Chickamauga in Dyer’s field and on Snodgrass Hill. The regiment was among the first to the summit of Missionary Ridge. During the Atlanta campaign, they seized a foothold on the north end of Rocky Face Ridge, led one of the Kennesaw Mountain assault columns, and formed part of the flank of Newton’s division that repulsed General Hood’s assaults at Peachtree Creek. Prior to the Battle of Franklin, the 125th, as part of Opdycke’s brigade, formed the rearguard of Schofield’s army during the perilous retreat from Spring Hill to Franklin.


CWBA: That's a record worthy of interest. Are there any other features of your book that you’d like to mention in closing?

TC: Opdycke’s Tigers in the Civil War is first and foremost a regimental history of an Ohio infantry regiment in the Army of the Cumberland and as such will appeal to those interested in the battles for Chattanooga, East Tennessee, Atlanta, Franklin and Nashville. It offers a look at the experience of Union soldiers at the regimental level, in battle and in camp, in the western theater of the war. For researchers, there is a full bibliography and a regimental roster. Opdycke’s Tigers had a distinguished record in the war and deserve to have their history presented to 21st century readers.

CWBA: They certainly do. Thanks, Thomas.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Booknotes: Confederate "Tales of the War" in the Trans-Mississippi, Part Five

New Arrival:
Confederate "Tales of the War" in the Trans-Mississippi, Part Five: 1864-1865 edited by Michael E. Banasik & Brenda F. Banasik (Camp Pope Publishing, 2019).

If I were to compile a list of my favorite Civil War book series (maybe I should do that), Camp Pope's Unwritten Chapters of the Civil War West of the River would be on it. Edited by Michael Banasik (later joined by Brenda Banasik), it is an essential collection of annotated and richly enhanced primary source material covering a great multitude of events spanning the entire war. The capstone to Vol. VII is Confederate "Tales of the War" in the Trans-Mississippi, Part Five: 1864-1865.

As mentioned before on the site, the five-book set transcribes in full and exhaustively annotates a series of St. Louis Missouri Republican newspaper articles that were first introduced in 1885 and released over a two-year period. Inside the books "a total of 89 pieces on the Trans-Mississippi Civil War by 52 different authors have been gathered together, which probably constitutes the greatest single collection of primary material ever assembled on the Trans-Mississippi to date."

Part Five "deals with operations on the Mississippi and White Rivers; the Confederate Exodus to Mexico and the murder of General M. M. Parsons; Sterling Price's 1864 Missouri Raid; and irregular operations during the war." As expected, the book continues the tradition of assembling incredibly valuable source and reference materials of all kinds in the appendix section. The forthcoming review will discuss those goodies at greater length, but suffice it to say for now that the section includes over 200 pages of documents, biographies, extended commentary, and extensive strength, loss, and order of battle information for the 1864 Missouri Expedition.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Booknotes: Opdycke's Tigers in the Civil War

New Arrival:
Opdycke's Tigers in the Civil War: A History of the 125th Ohio Volunteer Infantry by Thomas Crowl (McFarland, 2019).

The 125th Ohio is one of those fighting moniker regiments that you are surprised to find lacking a modern unit history. Thomas Crowl's Opdycke's Tigers in the Civil War "is the first full-length history of the regiment in more than 120 years."

One of the Union Army's later-forming three-year regiments, the 125th Ohio was mustered in during October 1862. Commanded by Col. Emerson Opdycke, the Ohioans performed rear area tasks during most of their first twelve months of service. It was during their first major battle at Chickamauga that they earned their "Tigers" stripes. From the description: "Charging into Dyer's cornfield to blunt a rebel breakthrough, the Buckeyes pressed forward and, despite heavy casualties, drove the enemy back, buying time for the fractured Union army to rally. Impressed by the heroic charge of an untested regiment, Union General Thomas Wood labeled them 'Opdycke's Tigers'."

The Tigers also fought in numerous other western theater campaigns over the duration of the conflict. Four chapters in Crowl's book cover the Chickamauga Campaign, three more the operations around Chattanooga and Knoxville, and six discuss the 1864 Atlanta Campaign. The irascible Opdycke is perhaps best known for his epic charge at Franklin that helped quash the threat of a major Confederate breakthrough in the center, and that campaign in Tennessee gets extensive coverage as well.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Review - "Union Command Failure in the Shenandoah: Major General Franz Sigel and the War in the Valley of Virginia, May 1864" by David Powell

[Union Command Failure in the Shenandoah: Major General Franz Sigel and the War in the Valley of Virginia, May 1864 by David A. Powell (Savas Beatie, 2019). Hardcover, 8 maps, photos, notes, appendix, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:xii,212/245. ISBN:978161121435. $29.95]

For the upcoming spring 1864 campaigns, the Shenandoah Valley and southwestern Virginia both figured prominently in Union strategic planning in the eastern theater. While General Franz Sigel's defeat at the May 15 Battle of New Market was the period's most noteworthy military event, other columns were involved in the opening stages of what was a theater-wide Union advance. Originally, General-in-Chief U.S. Grant envisioned a three-pronged attack on the Confederate left flank in Virginia, with Sigel occupying more of a supervisory role while lower-ranking officers of Grant's choosing (generals E.O.C. Ord and George Crook) led the main columns at the fighting front. Ord would assemble a division-sized force in Beverly, West Virginia and strike southeast across the mountains toward the logistical hub of Staunton in the Shenandoah. At the same time, Crook's roughly 10,000 infantry and cavalry were to move south through the West Virginia interior and cross into Southwest Virginia with the dual mission of cutting the railroad near Dublin and burning the vital New River Bridge. The two independent strike forces would then unite with Sigel's Winchester column in the Upper Shenandoah (presumably around Staunton), disrupting the regional Confederate supply system and directly threatening the left of General Lee's army, which would presumably be locked in its own death struggle with the Army of the Potomac. Unfortunately for U.S. hopes of achieving decisive results, a command shake up and lack of resources necessitated a scaled-down operation, the result being that only two of the three planned columns (Sigel's and Crook's) actually took the field. Crook got off to a fine start. He swiftly defeated all opposing forces in his path, winning a significant victory at the Battle of Cloyd's Mountain and succeeding in both breaking the railroad and burning New River Bridge. However, Crook got spooked deep behind enemy lines and retreated after these considerable accomplishments, rendering their value fleeting and stranding Sigel in the Valley. Even if Sigel had won a victory at New Market, his command, which was already greatly diminished by numerous rear area detachments, would most likely have been too weak to exploit it.

Coverage of these events in the existing literature is actually quite good. The opening months of the campaign are well-documented in Richard Duncan's Lee's Endangered Left: The Civil War in Western Virginia, Spring of 1864 (1999). Of course, the New Market battle has received excellent modern treatments from William C. Davis and most recently Charles R. Knight. Knight's Valley Thunder (2010) has set the new standard for New Market studies. Crook's victory at Cloyd's Mountain has also received book-length treatment in the form of Howard R. McManus's The Battle of Cloyds Mountain: The Virginia and Tennessee Railroad Raid April 29 - May 19, 1864 (1991). Unfortunately, that study is long out of print and obtaining a copy on the secondary market can be a spendy proposition. Comprehensively recounting the opening stages of the campaign, but with added emphasis on Union strategic planning and execution, is David Powell's fine new book Union Command Failure in the Shenandoah: Major General Franz Sigel and the War in the Valley of Virginia, May 1864.

In addition to providing background information, the opening paragraph of the review broadly summarizes the scope of Powell's study. The historiography of the operation and the perspectives of both sides are duly addressed, but the deepest effort is reserved for strategic and operational analysis of the Union campaign. As the title suggests, the primary focus is on leadership and command, and these elements of discussion are the book's greatest strength. Those seeking the most in-depth tactical account of the New Market battle would be best advised to consult Knight's Valley Thunder from the same publisher, but Powell's own summary is more than adequately detailed in its service of the book's command analysis theme. Stressing collective failure, the narrative does a fine job of demonstrating that Sigel's considerable flaws were far from the only (and arguably not even the most significant) factor behind the operation's failure to meet its goals. The veteran response of Confederate forces to the Union incursion is not discounted, but Powell's examination reveals a series of top to bottom Union misjudgments and displays of incompetence that together went a long way toward dooming this initial stage of the 1864 Shenandoah Campaign.

Starting at the very top, General Grant is justifiably admonished for expanding the scope of the operation but failing to allocate enough troops to give all three columns the resources to complete their assigned tasks. He also inexplicably allowed Ord a last-minute transfer out of the department that threw the entire campaign off track. All of Grant's backdoor machinations aimed toward ensuring that Sigel would personally command as few troops in the field as possible backfired, which also fueled unnecessary resentment in the already touchy general.

Readers who wonder why Ord was repeatedly rewarded by Grant with favored status throughout the war will gain further bewilderment from Powell's account of the general's grossly unprofessional conduct. As mentioned above, Ord arrived at Beverly to find conditions there not to his liking. Instead of dutifully following orders and putting his less than ideal command in the best shape possible for fulfilling its important role in the three-part general advance, Ord asked to be relieved and transferred elsewhere. As a result, the Beverly column was dissolved. Why Grant, who never hesitated to shelve generals who did not meet his expectations of duty, immediately approved the last-minute transfer (and not only didn't punish Ord put gave him additional plum command assignments over the ensuing year) is inexplicable beyond reasons of blind favoritism.

Powell presents a pretty sound case that General Sigel's performance in the Shenandoah demonstrated solid strategic sense and at least serviceable operational capability. The German-American officer simply could not manage a battlefield, which required flexible thinking and calm, decisive responses to evolving circumstances. The author responds to criticisms related to the pace of Sigel's advance up the Valley by citing the need to establish and sustain lengthening lines of communication. He also maintains that a more measured rate of advance actually aided Crook by drawing Confederate forces northward, though no evidence is provided to show that that benefit was more than incidental. In terms of further criticism, the book cites Sigel's general tendency to mix up units and disperse his forces too widely in the face of the enemy. Powell opines that Sigel's gravest error made on the New Market battlefield was the counterattack he ordered late in the contest that broke up what was a fairly stable defensive line on Bushong Hill. This view is persuasive, as that ill-advised action clearly initiated the breaking up of the army, which the Confederates took complete advantage of in driving Union forces from the field in disorder.

Sigel's subordinates also made more than their fair share of blunders. Hungarian emigre general Julius Stahel comes across as mostly competent in the Civil War literature, but his performance during the New Market operation was abysmal. Sigel welcomed General Stahel's addition to his command and appointed him chief of staff. Unfortunately, Stahel also chose to remain in command of the cavalry and, even worse, micromanage his regiments from the top. Powell's New Market account reveals the general's battlefield judgment to be just as flawed as his organizational oversight. Just as Sigel did off to his immediate right, Stahel ordered an ill-timed and ill-managed charge that completely disordered his already shaky cavalry and directly led to its complete rout. In the same battle narrative, some lower ranking Union commanders who had difficulty following orders (ex. Brig. Gen. Augustus Moor and Col. George Wells of the 34th Massachusetts) are also subjected to the author's astutely critical pen.

Though most of his attention is directed toward the Union side, Powell does assess Confederate generalship, too. It could be argued that John C. Breckinridge remains one of the more overlooked political generals on either side, and Powell gives the Kentuckian high marks overall. That said, salient criticism is leveled at the length of delay involved in Breckinridge's decision to begin his attack at New Market. The charge that the overall strategic situation demanded immediate engagement is reasonable, but it is also the case that hasty attacks frequently resulted in disaster during the Civil War. Breckinridge's calculated but ultimately false hope of fighting a defensive battle that could then be turned into a successful counterstroke might well have stemmed from carefully considered experience. Even so, it could be argued with good reason that Breckinridge still waited too long before commencing his assault.

Conventional criticism and praise are also offered for some Breckinridge subordinates. Col. George Edgar's excellent tactical performance at New Market has long been appreciated by historians and the wisdom of General John D. Imboden's decision to take his Northwestern Brigade across Smith Creek and out of the main battle is again questioned. While the initiative displayed by Imboden was not necessarily misplaced, his basing his maneuver on the mere assumption that the rain-swollen creek would be fordable somewhere behind Sigel is certainly open to criticism. In the end, Imboden and his cavalry were out of position when needed most during the post-battle pursuit.

Of course, many of Powell's critical assessments remain eligible for further debate, but it can't be maintained that his conclusions lack supporting evidence. Overall, complaints about the book are few in number. A wish list might include a couple more New Market maps to better depict the battle's flow. Also, Crook's victory at Cloyd's Mountain has a size and significance that arguably make it deserving of more detailed attention than the few paragraphs of coverage it's given in the book. Those content quibbles aside, the central departure from the overall high quality of the study involves the deeply flawed presentation of the finished manuscript. Riddled with punctuation mistakes, missing words, misspellings, and more, the text should never have been published in such an unpolished state.

However, those frustrating editorial issues should not deter anyone from gaining an appreciation of Powell's insightful contribution to the late-war military historiography. Union Command Failure in the Shenandoah should be regarded as essential reading for those wishing to explore the reasons why federal forces failed to fully achieve their objectives during the early stages of 1864 operations in western Virginia and in the Shenandoah Valley.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Booknotes: Marketing the Blue and Gray

New Arrival:
Marketing the Blue and Gray: Newspaper Advertising and the American Civil War by Lawrence A. Kreiser, Jr. (LSU Press, 2019).

Just like today, Civil War newspapers survived on a combination of subscription and ad revenue. While newspapers and their practices have been studied in numerous contexts, their marketing feature has been consistently neglected until now. Lawrence Kreiser's Marketing the Blue and Gray is "the first full-length analysis of Union and Confederate newspaper advertising." During the war, papers "marketed everything from war bonds to biographies of military and political leaders; from patent medicines that promised to cure almost any battlefield wound to “secession cloaks” and “Fort Sumter” cockades. Union and Confederate advertisers pitched shopping as its own form of patriotism, one of the more enduring legacies of the nation’s largest and bloodiest war."

As one would expect from a scholarly study, the book examines the topic on a much deeper level than simple product and service promotion. The author "argues that the marketing strategies of the time show how commercialization and patriotism became increasingly intertwined as Union and Confederate war aims evolved. Yankees and Rebels believed that buying decisions were an important expression of their civic pride, from “Union forever” groceries to “States Rights” sewing machines. He suggests that the notices helped to expand American democracy by allowing their diverse readership to participate in almost every aspect of the Civil War. As potential customers, free blacks and white women perused announcements for war-themed biographies, images, and other material wares that helped to define the meaning of the fighting."

Given the great proliferation of newspapers and their high level of collective readership, media marketing also "helped readers to become more savvy consumers and, ultimately, citizens, by offering them choices. White men and, in the Union after 1863, black men might volunteer for military service after reading a recruitment notice; or they might instead respond to the kind of notice for “draft insurance” that flooded newspapers after the Union and Confederate governments resorted to conscription to help fill the ranks. Marketing the Blue and Gray demonstrates how, through their sometimes-messy choices, advertising pages offered readers the opportunity to participate―or not―in the war effort."

Monday, June 3, 2019

Booknotes: Targeted Tracks

New Arrival:
Targeted Tracks: The Cumberland Valley Railroad in the Civil War, 1861-1865 by Scott L. Mingus, Sr. and Cooper H. Wingert (Savas Beatie, 2019).

In terms of strategic importance during the Civil War, the Cumberland Valley Railroad does not rank alongside the Baltimore & Ohio, Memphis & Charleston, Mobile & Ohio, and the like, but it was a regionally important transportation asset that was attacked by Confederate forces on multiple occasions between 1862 and 1864. Its wartime history is told in Scott Mingus and Cooper Wingert's Targeted Tracks: The Cumberland Valley Railroad in the Civil War, 1861-1865.

I had to refresh my memory of where exactly this railroad ran through southern Pennsylvania and thankfully the book has a good map tracing its course from Hagerstown, Maryland to Harrisburg. Just beyond the capital it branched off in two directions. Several cities and towns of well-known Civil War import lie along this Cumberland Valley pathway, including Chambersburg and Carlisle.

From the description: "Because of its proximity to major cities in the Eastern Theater, the Cumberland Valley Railroad was an enticing target for Confederate leaders. As invading armies jostled for position, the CVRR’s valuable rolling stock was never far from their minds. Northern military and railway officials, who knew the line was a prized target, coordinated—and just as often butted heads—in a series of efforts to ensure the railroad’s prized resources remained out of enemy hands. When they failed to protect the line, as they sometimes did, Southern horsemen wrought havoc on the Northern war effort by tearing up its tracks, seizing or torching Union supplies, and laying waste to warehouses, engine houses, and passenger depots."

As mentioned before and strongly implied by the title, Confederate forces recognized the logistical significance of the CVRR and made several attempts to damage it over the course of the war. "The line was under direct threat by invading Confederates during the Antietam Campaign, and the following summer suffered serious damage during the Gettysburg Campaign. In 1864, Rebel raiders burned much of its headquarters town, Chambersburg, including the homes of many CVRR employees. The railroad was as vital to residents of the bustling and fertile Cumberland Valley as it was to the Union war effort."

Targeted Tracks "is grounded on the railway’s voluminous reports, the letters and diaries of local residents and Union and Confederate soldiers, official reports, and newspaper accounts. The primary sources, combined with the expertise of the authors, bring this largely untold story to life."

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Review - "Raising the White Flag: How Surrender Defined the American Civil War" by David Silkenat

[Raising the White Flag: How Surrender Defined the American Civil War by David Silkenat (University of North Carolina Press, 2019). Hardcover, 2 illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. 368 Pages. ISBN:978-1-4696-4972-6. $39.95]

In ones, twos, and even by the tens of thousands, Civil War soldiers surrendered in staggering proportions over the course of the conflict. By some estimates a quarter of all Civil War soldiers found themselves prisoners of the enemy at some point during the war, many more than once. According to historian David Silkenat in his new book Raising the White Flag: How Surrender Defined the American Civil War this fact alone speaks to the centrality of surrender to the Civil War experience. In an original study that combines features of modern military studies with broader social and cultural history approaches to the topic, Silkenat strongly argues that "surrender profoundly shaped both the character and outcome of the Civil War" (pg. 4).

Not surprisingly given that both sections shared a common martial history and wider American culture, the author finds that opposing combatants shared similar unwritten rules regarding "honorable" surrender. Generally speaking it was deemed acceptable to surrender when facing inevitable defeat, but first one must have already come under enemy action overwhelming enough to prove that further defense meant pointless loss of life that would in no way aid the war effort. The book examines how these 'rules' were followed or not followed during a host of well-known surrender events such as Fort Sumter, Roanoke Island, Forts Henry and Donelson, Harpers Ferry, Vicksburg, and others. Interestingly, Silkenat's survey finds differences in popular reaction between sections when it came to surrenders deemed unjustified by the dictates of honor, with northern newspapers reserving scorn for the officers in charge (though the private soldiers themselves felt shared dishonor) while many southern newspapers also blamed the men in ranks as insufficiently committed to the cause even though they had no input in the decision-making. Formal surrender had potentially serious political repercussions as well. Early on, many in the Lincoln administration feared that simply accepting Confederate prisoners of war implied a recognition of legitimacy, but those confronting such concerns soon succumbed to practicality.

While group surrenders were part of a process commonly involving reflection and negotiation, demanding surrender or asking for mercy on an individual level in the heat of battle was an entirely different matter. Silkenat justly avoids generalizing behavior patterns and expectations on this kind of spur of moment, highly emotional event. It was one of the few instances in the service when the individual soldier was entirely his own agent. When it came down to weighing sure death against becoming a prisoner, the latter was the overwhelming choice. A major difference between individual versus group or mass surrender was the almost entire lack of opprobrium heaped upon the former. Undoubtedly, the distinction was made with at least some popular recognition of the starkly different circumstances involved. Even so, some critics inside and outside the armies believed that individual soldiers surrendered too readily. While there is abundant anecdotal evidence that the exchange system that broke down over the status of black troops led soldiers to redefine the appeal of the surrender option, little hard data is offered.

A section of the book looks at Gettysburg in an atypical context. Soldiers surrendered during Gettysburg in numbers roughly equal to those killed during the war's "bloodiest" battle. Recognizing that surrender was an unusually significant part of the experience of battle at Gettysburg, Silkenat examines the fighting there from the perspective of those made prisoner. Since men from both sides surrendered in large numbers during three days of combat, the battle serves as an uncommonly instructive lens through which to examine the great variety of circumstances associated with surrendering and accepting surrender on individual and group levels.

Another chapter analyzes the concept and exercise of demanding unconditional surrender by using the case studies of two expert practitioners, generals U.S. Grant and N.B. Forrest. Silkenat sees a decided contrast between the attitudes and methods of the two, with Grant seeing the "offer of surrender as a magnanimous gesture, an opportunity to avoid bloodshed, and a route to peace" while Forrest "saw the demand to surrender as a tactical weapon, a stratagem designed to engender terror." (pg. 139). This can be a useful way to illustrate soft and hard variances in the application of unconditional surrender, but direct comparison between the two seems less fruitful given the vast gulf in stature that existed between the two in addition to their operating under completely different military circumstances as army commander and behind-the-lines raider.

As others have also postulated, Silkenat sees 1864 as a transformative period in soldier attitudes toward surrender. With the previous year's breakdown of the exchange cartel combined with widespread knowledge of the horrors of overcrowded prisons, a more general use of black troops in combat, and an overall hardening of postures toward the enemy all being parts of the new mental calculus, this hypothesis seems reasonable but supporting evidence is not conclusive. Even though certain groups (i.e. Southern Unionists, black troops, and guerrillas) had already found surrendering distinctly dangerous for some time and striking examples of more typical soldiers choosing death over surrender can be cited, troops on both sides still continued to surrender in large numbers during the great campaigns of 1864. The author vaguely refers to a decreased ratio of surrendered to killed during 1864 battles in comparison with the two previous years of fighting, but a more systemic analysis is needed.

Several chapters address the series of mass Confederate surrenders that ended the war. Multiple book-length accounts already cover well the two most prominent capitulations at Appomattox and Bennett Place, and the narrative offers a solid synthesis of the literature describing and interpreting those events as well as those that occurred further west and into the Trans-Mississippi. By now one would hope that few readers hold on to the idea that Appomattox ended the Civil War, but the terms offered there served as a model for all of the negotiations that followed and it is undeniable that news of the surrenders back east led to such widespread demoralization and desertion throughout the Confederacy that further organized resistance became impossible. Nowhere was this better illustrated than in the Trans-Mississippi. In that vast and largely intact military department where still-numerous Confederate formations were largely out of contact with their Union foes, news of the Lee and Johnston capitulations nevertheless led hosts of soldiers to take matters into their own hands. Riots spread and many officers and men simply disbanded their units, seized what supplies they could from army stores, and headed home.

Beginning his postwar analysis with the ceremonial return to Charleston harbor of the U.S. flag originally lowered at Fort Sumter, Silkenat notes a rather rapid disappearance of the word "surrender" from much of the contemporary discussion. In a kind of mutual agreement aimed equally at avoiding unseemly public expressions of triumph and shame, a growing number of Union adherents tended to portray the final Confederate capitulation in its reunion context while most defeated Confederates were able to take pride in their ultimate surrender after framing the event as the honorable conclusion to an epic struggle against a vastly superior enemy. Even so, the author finds that the very idea of honorable surrender rather quickly disappeared from the American popular and military lexicon, and it carries heavy stigma to this day. The fact that current views on surrender as contrary to American values do not affect modern assessment of the bravery and commitment of Civil War soldiers is an interesting historiographical and cultural development to which the book finds no easy explanation.

Analyzing the process through the eyes of both vanquisher and vanquished, David Silkenat's Raising the White Flag provides readers with a thoughtful, theme-based survey history of the mechanics and meaning of surrender. At all levels, the act of surrender was always more complex than simple offer and acceptance, and the study usefully examines a number of cultural, legal, political, and racial factors that went into framing attitudes and practices, all of which evolved to some degree or another throughout the course of the war. Recommended.