Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Review - " The Governor's Pawns: Hostages and Hostage-Taking in Civil War West Virginia " by Randall Gooden

[The Governor's Pawns: Hostages and Hostage-Taking in Civil War West Virginia by Randall S. Gooden (Kent State University Press, 2023). Hardcover, maps, photos, illustrations, appendix, endnotes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:xxi,198/271. ISBN:978-1-60635-457-5. $55]
The subject is largely absent from general Civil War histories, but hostage-taking was a common enough practice by both sides, particularly in contested border regions, to warrant special attention. It certainly receives that in Randall Gooden's The Governor's Pawns: Hostages and Hostage-Taking in Civil War West Virginia. Simply put, Civil War hostages were individuals arrested and held captive (most often without having been charged with any offense) in order to ensure the life and health of citizens similarly detained by the opposing side. The hostage was set free upon confirmation that the designated prisoner he was seized to protect was released and on the way home. According to Gooden, what made the hostage-taking procedure in Civil War West Virginia unique is that it was an official state program, formalized in state law and centrally administered by the governor himself.

Civil War hostage-taking did not arise in a vacuum, and Gooden's introduction provides a brief yet instructive primer on the history of North American hostage-taking, and how it evolved, going forward from the Colonial period. During tribal conflicts of the 1600s, hostages had a dual purpose. On the one hand, they facilitated communication and understanding during trade, diplomatic, and cultural exchanges, and, on the other, they were effective threats deemed necessary to ensure that negotiations were conducted in good faith. During the American Revolution and Early Republic periods, hostage-taking became more of a dual preventative and retaliatory measure practiced among all parties. Gooden describes the hostage-taking process, beginning with the Barbary States conflicts and the War of 1812, as becoming more "weaponized" during the nineteenth century. Additional background context is found in the book's able summation of the social, cultural, economic, and political differences between Virginians residing on either side of the Appalachian range and how those divides widened as the 1800s progressed. Gooden argues persuasively that all of that background combined to create an environment in which hostage-taking became widely accepted and its civil rights complications not broadly challenged after the outbreak of civil war.

As the narrative reveals, in the midst of wartime extremes (with neither the Restored Government in Wheeling nor the Richmond authorities recognizing each other's legitimacy) hostage-taking emerged organically. Along with private citizens suspected of aiding the rival government and its supporting military apparatus (or, in the case of physicians, simply prominent members of the community), local and state officials were frequently arrested during cavalry raids, security sweeps, and guerrilla attacks in the countryside. Those actions, in turn, led to retaliatory hostage-taking, with each hostage (or group of hostages) linked to the safe release and return of a specified individual.

Formal passage of West Virginia's state hostage law occurred in early 1863, and Gooden explains well the many complicated influences and pressures involved. With the state still in the middle of its birthing process, the trans-Appalachian counties became increasingly subjected to deep raids conducted by regular enemy cavalry as well as local attacks from pro-Confederate guerrillas. Out of a mixture of paranoia and legitimate safety concerns, many believed that the new state's very existence was at stake. The Confederate Jones-Imboden Raid of April-May 1863, during which a number of civilians and government officials were seized by the raiders, was frequently cited by statehood supporters as a prime example of why the hostage law was an absolute necessity. In this midst of these regular threats, statehood adherents came to consider any and all criticism aimed toward the movement as unqualified disloyalty, and the most prominent of the accused were targeted as hostage candidates.

In the book, Gooden frequently and effectively uses individual case histories to illustrate and explore larger issues, one of which was the legal dispute over federal versus state powers when it came to hostages and hostage-taking. The arrest of George W. Thompson, a former U.S. congressman, lawyer, and state judge widely respected among western Virginians before the war, took place before the state law was passed, but the resulting court action represented an important first step toward clarifying legal gray areas in regard to state and federal authority over hostage-taking matters. In securing hostages, federal military assistance was frequently required (and could not be ordered by state officials, but rather requested), but Gooden notes that after statehood was achieved West Virginia governor Arthur Boreman, in contrast with Restored Government leader Francis Pierpont, gained more standing with federal officers when it came to cooperation. Nevertheless, strained relations and jurisdictional challenges persisted throughout the war, and, on balance, Gooden concludes that most outcomes ended up on the side of reinforcing federal dominion over state powers.

The mechanisms of the state hostage law and who its targets would be are well described in the text. An individual did not have to commit any overt act against the West Virginia or United States governments in order to be arrested as a hostage, just be a known or suspected sympathizer with the enemy or critic of the statehood faction. In all of the conflict's most divided regions, coercive systems reliant upon hearsay evidence were highly exposed to abuse from accusers holding neighbor, business, family, or political grudges. West Virginia's hostage program was no different. In hostage selection, status was very important. Those having respected and influential positions in the community were most valuable as hostages. With functionality in mind, West Virginia authorities routinely tasked hostages with using their personal influence to secure the release of designated civilian political prisoners held by the enemy, an uncertain process that sometimes involved extensive travel and weeks or months of negotiation in Richmond. All in all, though there were exceptions (sometimes tragic ones), Gooden's narrative seems to convey a picture of overall restraint and a large degree of mutual acceptance among the parties to the process.

As mentioned before, the West Virginia governor was directly involved at all levels of the state's hostage system, and Gooden reveals that much of what we know about it today is owed to Arthur Boreman's detailed recordkeeping. Utilizing that treasure trove as well as a host of other primary and secondary sources, Gooden is able to assemble a geographically broad survey of the hostage law's implementation and the kinds of activities it was designed to curtail. Particular attention is paid to raiding and hostage-taking in Barbour, Gilmer, Doddridge, and Morgan counties as well the valley of the South Branch of the Potomac and the southwest border area. Indeed, in providing context for his study of hostages and hostage-taking in those areas and regions, Gooden contributes more than a little to our general understanding of the character and scope of irregular warfare in West Virginia.

Significantly, Gooden also gives voice to the victims of West Virginia's hostage system. Boreman's detailed records are great for history and historians, but they also held potential for getting the governor himself in trouble from aggrieved parties seeking redress during and after the war. Fallout from the arrest and death in custody of George Buchanon was the most prominent example of that, and his case is well documented in the book. Not charged with any offense, Buchanon was held as a state hostage for six months under shaky legal grounds. Immune to petitions from loyal citizens and Union soldiers alike who vouched for Buchanon and requested his release, the governor, who admitted that he held firm to a great degree out of annoyance at the petitioning, refused to release the sick and declining Buchanon from state custody. Eventually, the prisoner died. Buchanon's family later sued Boreman, but their legal complaints failed to gain any headway in state and federal courts.

At the end of the study, Gooden briefly surveys the contrasting postwar experiences of a small selection of former hostages, some of whom suffered from continued social and professional ostracism while others benefited from the experience by successfully using it as something of a badge of honor. Generally speaking, Gooden's findings support earlier scholarship concluding that it was often the case that prewar and wartime animosities among West Virginians greatly diminished during postbellum decades through shared economic associations that often had the additional effect of smoothing over differences between old antagonists.

The Governor's Pawns is an excellent history of a war measure that tested (sometimes sorely) the legal, jurisdictional, and cooperative boundaries between state and federal authority during the Civil War. That the hostage law emerged in the midst of a statehood movement that was itself of questionable legality only added to its controversy, and its geographical confines have limited its exposure among Civil War readers. Raising the level of awareness, Gooden's work adds significantly to the Civil War literature addressing the delicate balance between ensuring public safety and protecting the individual civil liberties of citizens. Predictably, definitive answers cannot be assigned to questions surrounding the "success" of the hostage law and whether the ends justified the means. Though detailed exploration is well beyond the scope of this study, Gooden's suggestion that deep concerns regarding the "validity and usefulness" (pg. 198) of West Virginia's wartime hostage program influenced the demise of the practice on the national level, specifically on the part of the U.S. Army, going forward seems, at the very least, to be a feasible proposition.

Monday, June 5, 2023

Ten Most Highly Anticipated Titles (second half of 2023)

As we rapidly approach the midpoint of the year and remaining gaps in the 2023 release schedule continue to be filled in, perhaps now is a good time to put together a list of ten July-and-onward titles that have piqued my interest so far (as you might recall, I did a similar thing for the first half of the year).

In no particular order:

1. I Dread the Thought of the Place: The Battle of Antietam and the End of the Maryland Campaign by Scott Hartwig (JHUP).

This one undoubtedly resides at or near the top of a great many 'most anticipated' lists for 2023. No one (except for anonymous 1-star rating guy) should be surprised if it turns out to be the leading desert island choice for Antietam enthusiasts.

2. Conflict of Command: George McClellan, Abraham Lincoln, and the Politics of War by George Rable (LSU).

Rable's more "neutral" examination of the Lincoln-McClellan relationship promises to break the mold, mainly through "reinterpreting the political aspects of their partnership."

3. Bayou Battles for Vicksburg: The Swamp and River Expeditions, January 1-April 30, 1863 by Timothy Smith (Kansas).

The next installment in Smith's series covers the campaign's extended floundering phase that preceded the dramatic cross-river breakthrough achieved below the Hill City. Though the description extols its "fresh research on the Yazoo Pass and Steele’s Bayou expeditions, Grant’s canal, and the Lake Providence effort," there's no mention of Arkansas Post. Given the dearth of major coverage, I was hoping that Smith would include it as part of the campaign.

4. A Man by Any Other Name: William Clarke Quantrill and the Search for American Manhood by Joseph Beilein (Georgia).

I would never have thought to make a "search for American manhood" the vehicle through which to better understand Quantrill, but I like everything that Beilein has produced so far and am very intrigued at the prospect of a new biography of one of the war's most controversial and hated figures.

5. Lincoln and California: The President, the War, and the Golden State by Brian McGinty (Potomac).

Any new book covering some aspect of the Civil War in the Far West automatically gets a nod of interest from CWBA.

6. War on Record: The Archive and the Afterlife of the Civil War by Yael Sternhell (Yale UP).

With this one on the way, I no longer have to wonder why no history of the creation and impact of the O.R. itself has been produced. Well, at least I am not aware of any similarly scaled antecedents.

7. General J. E. B. Stuart: The Soldier and the Man by Edward Longacre (SB).

Eastern theater cavalry books published over recent decades have renewed my appreciation for Stuart's talents (if you don't allow yourself to get too distracted by the noise, you find he was a pretty damn good cavalry general). I think I might be up for a new biography.

8. Treasure and Empire in the Civil War: The Panama Route, the West and the Campaigns to Control America's Mineral Wealth by Neil Chatelain (McFarland).

I can't find much info about this one yet (thus far, the publisher doesn't even have a book page up for it), but the appealing combination of title and author put it on the radar.

9. A Mismanaged Affair: The Battle of Seven Pines / Fair Oaks, May 31-June 1, 1862 by Victor Vignola (SB).

Newton's Howard series installment is now thirty years old, and a meatier update has been long overdue. I'm certain I join all Peninsula Campaign nerds (especially John F., Esq.!) in being anxious to find out what Vignola has in store for us.

10. The Iron Dice of Battle: Albert Sidney Johnston and the Civil War in the West by Timothy Smith (LSU).

Much of the blistering criticism, then and now, of Sidney Johnston's generalship is deserved, but I agree with those who argue that he might have been the only man who could have kept the Confederacy's squabbling western generals in line and rowing together in the same direction. As the premier modern chronicler of many of the disastrous military events that occurred under Johnston's watch, Smith is well-placed to offer penetrating views and assessments of the man and his actions.

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Review - " “The Bullets Flew Like Hail”: Cutler’s Brigade at Gettysburg, from McPherson’s Ridge to Culp’s Hill " by James McLean

[“The Bullets Flew Like Hail”: Cutler’s Brigade at Gettysburg, from McPherson’s Ridge to Culp’s Hill by James L. McLean, Jr. (Savas Beatie, 2023). Hardcover, 26 maps, photos, footnotes, appendix section, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:xix,160/239. ISBN:978-1-61121-667-7. $32.95]

As we all know by now, ultimate Union victory at Gettysburg was heavily contingent upon the ability of their advance forces on July 1, 1863 to delay Confederate advances north and west of town and secure the high ground south of it as a defensive linchpin and gathering point for the Army of the Potomac. A good deal responsible for that success, Brig. Gen. John Buford's cavalry division and Brig. Gen. Solomon Meredith's Iron Brigade have been repeatedly singled out for their actions west of Gettysburg on that day. However, the second-to-none battlefield heroics of the other infantry brigade in the First Division of First Corps are equally deserving of recognition.

The first infantry of the Army of the Potomac to arrive at the firing line on the morning of July 1, Brig. Gen. Lysander Cutler's brigade (76th, 95th, and 147th NY, 14th NYSM/Brooklyn, 56th PA, and 7th IN regiments, the last pulling train guard duty) promptly relieved Buford's hard-pressed troopers and instantly stabilized the fighting front for a brief but critical period. In maintaining ridge-top defensive positions west of Gettysburg and partnering with the Iron Brigade there and at the famous "Railroad Cut," Cutler's men badly battered their Confederate opponents while suffering frightful losses of their own. Eventually forced to yield on all fronts, Union forces funneled through the streets of Gettysburg and hurriedly carved out new defensive positions on and around Cemetery Hill and Culp's Hill. Reduced to mere shadows of their former strength, the regiments of Cutler's brigade might have expected to be placed in reserve for the rest of the battle. Instead, they were pressed into more heavy combat over the succeeding two days during which they again distinguished themselves in pivotal front line action. The key contributions of Cutler and his men to Union victory in the war's most iconic battle are meticulously recounted in James McLean's “The Bullets Flew Like Hail”: Cutler’s Brigade at Gettysburg, from McPherson’s Ridge to Culp’s Hill.

The core narrative of McLean's brigade study has a long history. Initially released in a tiny press run through the author's own company, Butternut & Blue, in 1987, a revised second printing was released in 1994. With more professional presentation and cartography, along with a bibliography the author estimates as 70% larger in size (the majority of the additions being primary sources), the second B&B edition was a major leap forward in style, content, and value. Inevitably, that edition also fell out of print, the combination of scarcity and sought-after status leading it to command stiff prices on the secondary market. Now, thanks to the author and publisher Savas Beatie, upgraders and new readers alike now have ready access to a fresh edition. It is too often the case that revised and/or expanded edition claimants are coy when it comes to fully informing prospective readers about the scale of the enhancements, but McLean, through his prefaces to the various editions (all reproduced in this latest volume), is very upfront about the matter, entering into a number of specifics. According to the author, the SB edition fixes printing mistakes, realigns the footnotes with the publisher's style, corrects errors, updates interpretations, and adds new material. The maps accompanying this brigade study have also evolved between editions, from McLean's own hand-drawn efforts, to Blake Magner's professional replacements, to Mike Priest's newest versions. Busy in the best of ways, Priest's tactical maps exhibit all of the terrain and regimental-level unit details that today's readers expect to find in books of this type.

While the opening sections of the book briefly explore the backgrounds of Cutler's regiments and of the general himself, the volume's central purpose is to provide a small-unit, tactical-scale description and analysis of the brigade's entire Gettysburg experience. Richly enhanced through eyewitness and participant accounts, McLean's brigade narrative traces the activities of Cutler's regiments during the march to Gettysburg, the fighting west of the town, the retreat to Cemetery Hill, and the July 2-3 defense of Culp's Hill. Multi-level leadership decisions along with unit movements and positions are all expertly presented and skillfully integrated into a smooth-flowing account that's very easy to follow. As referenced earlier, invaluable assistance is provided by the book's more than two-dozen excellent maps.

Gains of recent decades, which include a multitude of modern-style, micro-tactical histories of each day's fighting on every sector of the Gettysburg battlefield along with a grand host of impressively researched and designed board and computer simulations, have elevated our understanding (including that of the role played by Cutler's brigade) far beyond what was commonly known back in 1987 when McLean self-published the first edition of this study. The beneficiaries of those gains, today's well-read individuals will likely encounter this new edition already possessing a detailed and fairly strong appreciation of the contributions of Cutler's regiments, but McLean's tireless work continues to reshape awareness. Even now, McLean insists that popular misconceptions remain.

In addition to reclarifying which infantry units were first in the fight at Gettysburg, McLean's ongoing study has also built up over time a strong case that elements of both brigades (Cutler's and Meredith's) of Wadworth's division deserve credit for initiating and carrying out the movement that so dramatically turned the tables on the Confederates at the Railroad Cut on July 1. In reference to the fighting at Culp's Hill, the achievements of Brig. Gen. George Sears Greene's brigade remain first in the minds of every Gettysburg enthusiast, but McLean effectively argues that Cutler's brigade was indispensable in helping Greene hold that key position on the Union right against determined enemy assaults. In the midst of writing a multi-volume history of the 14th Brooklyn, McLean points with particular interest to places where he feels Gettysburg scholars continue to underappreciate the battlefield leadership and heroics of that regiment.

Part of a small club of which membership was not necessarily coveted, Lysander Cutler's brigade was involved in bitterly fought and heavily consequential actions at Gettysburg on all three days and was one of only a handful of Union and Confederate brigades that suffered more than a thousand casualties. McLean's study represents the preeminent chronicling of the achievements and sacrifices that produced that sublime yet devastating result, and McLean himself, through his ongoing research and writing, remains the individual most responsible for securing the Gettysburg legacy of Cutler and his men.

Friday, May 26, 2023

Booknotes: Northern Duty, Southern Heart

New Arrival:
Northern Duty, Southern Heart: George Proctor Kane's Civil War by H. Leon Greene (McFarland, 2023).

Maryland's George Kane remains one of the poster boys of Border State divided loyalties, and opinions, then and now, regarding his actions and character run the gamut. His life story is the subject of Leon Green's Northern Duty, Southern Heart: George Proctor Kane's Civil War.

From the description: "Before the Civil War, George Proctor Kane had been a businessman, thespian, political appointee, philanthropist and militiaman. During the war, as Baltimore's chief of police, he harbored the divided loyalties familiar to the border states--Southern in his sentiments yet Northern in his allegiances. As the city's top lawman, he sought to reform Baltimore's "Mobtown" image. He ensured that President-elect Lincoln, passing through on the way to his inauguration, was not assassinated(,)" and he "protected Union troops marching to defend Washington, D.C."

Kane's most controversial official act was his involvement in the burning of key bridges leading into the smoldering tinderbox that was the city of Baltimore in early 1861 (Greene believes he was "probably" ordered to do so by the mayor and the Maryland governor). In the introduction, the author seems to agree with Kane's defenders that the bridge arson was in the main a dutiful protective measure against further violent riots, its result being the saving of citizen and soldier lives.

More from the description: Because of his actions during the early-war crisis period and doubts about his loyalty, Kane "was eventually imprisoned as a Southern sympathizer, denied habeas corpus as his captors transferred him from prison to prison."

"This book recounts Kane's enigmatic public life before and during the Civil War, his Confederate activities after prison and his return to serve as mayor of Baltimore.

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Booknotes: From Antietam to Appomattox with Upton's Regulars

New Arrival:
From Antietam to Appomattox with Upton's Regulars: A Civil War Memoir from the 121st New York Regiment by Dewitt Clinton Beckwith, ed. by Salvatore G. Cilella, Jr. (McFarland, 2023).

The documented service and historical memory of Emory Upton and the regiment he led for much of the war beginning in late-September 1862 (the 121st New York a.k.a. "Upton's Regulars") owe much to Salvatore Cilella, Jr. A thick tome that was very well received by readers and reviewers, Cilella's 2009 book Upton's Regulars is the standard modern history of the 121st. In addition to editing two volumes of General Upton's correspondence written between 1857 and 1881, Cilella has also edited a collection of Upton's letters to his wife, Emily, who lost her battle with tuberculosis at a very young age. Cilella's latest contribution to this impressive body of work is From Antietam to Appomattox with Upton's Regulars: A Civil War Memoir from the 121st New York Regiment.

From the description: "Thirty years after the Civil War, the 121st New York Volunteers (Upton's Regulars) finally published a history of their regiment. Its stated author was a man who had not served directly with the 121st but had based the book on a memoir written by a survivor who had enlisted at age 15. That boy, Dewitt Clinton Beckwith, published his memoir thirty years after the war in an obscure upstate New York newspaper, The Herkimer Democrat. For years, the "origin story" lay hidden in plain sight, until editor Salvatore Cilella discovered it while researching for a regimental history."

Cilella's introduction to the book recounts Beckwith's life, Civil War service, and history of the regiment. Beckwith could be a "fabulist" writer, and the impact of that trait is also evaluated in the introduction. The Beckwith memoir, written as a series of weekly installments beginning on July 5, 1893, fills over 140 densely detailed pages. Partnering with the memoir text is the editor's voluminous collection of endnotes, the product of Cilella's own exhaustive research surrounding the regiment's history.

More from the description: "The original 53 weekly installments, edited and annotated here, richly detail the horrors and folly of war. They reveal the slow maturation of a boy thrust into almost four years of war. Beckwith was present at nearly all the historic Eastern Theater engagements from Antietam to Appomattox, including an abortive stint with the 91st New York in Florida in 1861. He describes his various Tom Sawyer-like adventures with the VI Corps of the Army of the Potomac, dealing with death, disease, loss and ultimate elation at Lee's surrender, tempered only by Abraham Lincoln's death."

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Coming Soon (June '23 Edition)

Scheduled for JUNE 20231:

Agents of Empire: The First Oregon Cavalry and the Opening of the Interior Pacific Northwest during the Civil War by James Jewell.
Heavy Marching: The Civil War Letters of Lute Moseley, 22nd Wisconsin ed. by Sara DeLuca.
Horse Soldiers at Gettysburg: The Cavalryman’s View of the Civil War’s Pivotal Campaign by Daniel Murphy.
The Governor's Pawns: Hostages and Hostage-Taking in Civil War West Virginia by Randall Gooden.
A Civil War Road Trip of a Lifetime: Antietam, Gettysburg, and Beyond by John Banks.
Muskets & Springfields: Wargaming the American Civil War 1861-1865 by Nigel Emsen.
Righting the Longstreet Record at Gettysburg: Six Matters of Controversy and Confusion by Cory Pfarr.
The Battle of Gettysburg 1863 (2): The Second Day by Timothy Orr.
In the Shadow of the Round Tops: Longstreet's Countermarch, Johnston's Reconnaissance, and the Enduring Battles for the Memory of July 2, 1863 by Allen Thompson.
Detour to Disaster: General John Bell Hood's "Slight Demonstration" at Decatur and the Unravelling of the Tennessee Campaign by Noel Carpenter.

Several of these June titles received early releases, and their Booknotes entries (for Jewell, Murphy, Gooden, and Orr) have been logged into the site already. I am reading Gooden's book right now, and it places quite an enlightening spotlight on a controversial war measure practiced by both sides. With another Gettysburg anniversary fast approaching, Old Pete will be revisited quite a bit next month, too. I would highly recommend the Carpenter book. Back in 2008, I reviewed the privately published (with very limited distribution) 2007 first edition, and I am very curious to see what SB does with it. Given the publisher's past record of revamped re-releases, I am assuming, at the very least, that it is reformatted to fit the SB style and has newly commissioned maps.

On a current note, the publication date of the revised edition of Cutrer's Theater of a Separate War: The Civil War West of the Mississippi River, 1861–1865 was pushed back so many times that outright cancellation seemed possible, but I am happy to report that it was finally released earlier this month. The first edition's problems were legion, and I will be very interested in finding out how thoroughly the text was re-vetted by UNCP.

1 - These monthly release lists are not meant to be exhaustive compilations of non-fiction releases. They do not include non-revised/expanded reprints of previously published books, special editions not distributed to reviewers, and digital-only titles. Works that only tangentially address the war years are also generally excluded. Inevitably, one or more titles on this list will get a rescheduled release (and they do not get repeated later), so revisiting the past few "Coming Soon" posts is the best way to pick up stragglers.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Booknotes: They Came Only to Die

New Arrival:
They Came Only to Die: The Battle of Nashville, December 15-16, 1864 by Sean Michael Chick (Savas Beatie, 2023).

One of the newest ECW volumes, Sean Chick's They Came Only to Die recounts the post-Franklin maneuvering of both sides, the fight at Overall Creek, the climactic two-day Battle of Nashville, and the retreat/pursuit back to Alabama and Tennessee, all of which left John Bell Hood's badly defeated Army of Tennessee with less than half the men and guns it possessed back in November.

According to the description, the brigade and division-scale maps of the Battle of Nashville (of which there are five, out of a volume total of eight) are "the most accurate maps yet made of this crucial battle." Additionally, pages are chock-full of contemporary art/drawings and period and modern photographs. There is an 11-stop driving tour of Nashville and environs, complete with detailed directions, a brief descriptive passage for each site, and photographs.

The balance of the book's extensive appendix section (B-G) addresses the war's most infamous incident of captured general officer abuse (along with the rest of victim Thomas B. Smith's life story), the Civil War and political careers of Pres. Benjamin Harrison, General Hood's postwar activities and memorialization, General George Thomas's conduct of the campaign, and the December 17 rear guard clashes fought north and south of Franklin during the retreat. The last appendix discusses Battle of Nashville preservation history and issues. Orders of battle and a Suggested Reading list round out of the volume.

Monday, May 22, 2023

Booknotes: Horse Soldiers at Gettysburg

New Arrival:
Horse Soldiers at Gettysburg: The Cavalryman’s View of the Civil War’s Pivotal Campaign by Daniel Murphy (Stackpole Bks, 2023).

Acknowledging that Gettysburg Campaign cavalry operations have already been explored at exhaustive depth through the efforts of a number of skilled chroniclers of Civil War mounted warfare, Daniel Murphy's Horse Soldiers at Gettysburg: The Cavalryman’s View of the Civil War’s Pivotal Campaign nevertheless stakes a claim for uniqueness.

In Murphy's estimation, "(m)ost cavalry treatments of the campaign and battle have focused on strategy, operations, and tactics and zoomed in on particular episodes: the Battle of Brandy Station in June 1863 (the largest cavalry engagement on American soil), Jeb Stuart’s controversial ride-for-glory that deprived Lee of important intelligence for days, Union cavalry general John Buford’s role in the start of the battle on July 1, and the cavalry battle involving not only Stuart but also George Armstrong Custer east of Gettysburg on July 3."

While Horse Soldiers at Gettysburg also recounts Gettysburg Campaign mounted operations from beginning to end, it freshly combines that well-trodden narrative with "an equestrian’s sense for what it’s like to ride and manage horses." As his author bio informs us, Murphy is "a classically trained fencer, avid equestrian, and living historian" who "has served as cavalry coordinator for several National Park Service films." Utilizing hands-on perspectives gained from those experiences, Murphy "brings a horseman’s eye to the story of the campaign: how individual cavalrymen experienced the campaign from the saddle and how horses—with special needs for care and maintenance—were in fact weapons that helped shape battles."

In the preface, the author notes that the process described above led him to "reach conclusions that varied from many standard interpretations," some minor and others more significant in nature. His overall goal is to "show the events from the participants' perspectives, with a similar practical knowledge, or horse sense, that the cavalry operated under in 1863" (pg. viii).

Friday, May 19, 2023

Booknotes: The Civil War on the Water

New Arrival:
The Civil War on the Water: Favorite Stories and Fresh Perspectives from the Historians at Emerging Civil War edited by Dwight Sturdevant Hughes and Chris Mackowski (Savas Beatie, 2023).

The Emerging Civil War collective continues to celebrate its first ten years of content creation through its ECW Anniversary Series. Its volumes collect contributor blog posts and transcriptions of podcasts and talks. Original material is also sprinkled about, and the previously published material "updated and, in most cases, expanded and footnoted." Contributors are remarkably free to explore their personal interests, so one finds "military, social, political, and economic history; memory studies; travelogues; personal narratives; essays; and photography" (pg xiv).

All series volumes revolve around a theme, with past installments addressing "Monuments and Memory," "Grant vs. Lee," 1863 Gettysburg, and 1863 Vicksburg/Tullahoma. With at least three more titles in the current pipeline (covering western theater, "Fallen Leaders," and pop culture themes), the series remains very active. The latest release is The Civil War on the Water: Favorite Stories and Fresh Perspectives from the Historians at Emerging Civil War.

Edited by Dwight Sturdevant Hughes and Chris Mackowski (with Hughes himself being a very heavy chapter contributor), the volume contains 45 standalone pieces supported by 12 maps. The description offers a good idea of topical breadth, which encompasses "fresh accounts on unfamiliar topics as well as second looks at familiar battles, ships, leaders, and events":

The "war on the water stretched from the Arctic Circle to the Caribbean in a stunning display of machine-age technologies that included ironclads, torpedoes, submarines, steam propulsion, and improved heavy artillery. Swift Rebel raiders like the CSS Shenandoah decimated Union commerce while hundreds of storm-tossed blockaders patrolled the meandering southern coastline from Hatteras to Galveston to interdict enemy commerce.

Titanic clashes erupted between seacoast fortifications and Mr. Lincoln’s warships at Port Royal, New Orleans, Charleston, Wilmington, and Mobile. Massive amphibious operations on the Virginia Peninsula, in the North Carolina Sounds, and at Fort Fisher presaged 20th-century conflicts. Farther inland, the two services invented various riverine warfare tactics that played decisive roles at Memphis, Forts Henry and Donelson, Vicksburg, Island No. 10, and elsewhere.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Review - " A Wilderness of Destruction: Confederate Guerrillas in East and South Florida, 1861-1865 " by Zack Waters

[A Wilderness of Destruction: Confederate Guerrillas in East and South Florida, 1861-1865 by Zack C. Waters (Mercer University Press, 2023). Hardcover, 2 maps, photos, illustrations, footnotes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:238/264. ISBN:978-0-88146-881-6. $39]

In step with the rest of the seceded South, Florida responded to the outbreak of Civil War in 1861 by quickly mobilizing sizable volunteer forces. However, amid the urgency, manpower was only one of a great many concerns. Florida's particular situation posed military challenges unique to the cis-Mississippi states of the newly formed CSA. In addition to lacking efficient rail connection to the rest of the Confederacy, Florida's comparatively tiny population of military-age men eligible to bear arms had to defend an immense land area circumscribed by over 800 miles of coastline. Possessing no navy of consequence and far too few heavy guns to mount a credible coastal defense, the state also struggled to obtain allotments of weapons and ammunition seized from U.S. forts and arsenals located outside its borders. Worse, as demonstrated by numerous disasters suffered along the Confederate seaboard during the war's first twelve months, the combined operations learning curve of Union land and naval forces was unexpectedly shallow. Robbed of the manpower, resources, and time necessary to render Florida forts and ports defensible, a number of key points had to be abandoned without a fight.

Making Florida's rapidly deteriorating position even more dire, the string of early-1862 military catastrophes in the West and critical threats to the Confederate capital in the East led the central government in Richmond to further strip the state's already bare stock of defenders in order to bolster the rebel nation's front line forces. Thus, through necessity (but also to a lesser extent by tradition) Florida's state government turned to guerrilla warfare for home defense. On a national level, the Confederate Congress's April 1862 passage of the Partisan Ranger Act sought to apply structure and legality to guerrilla warfare initiatives, all of which held the potential of spiraling out of control. Unfortunately for Floridians, the turn to irregular warfare and its dire consequences to lives, livelihoods, property, and infrastructure transformed parts of the state into wastelands. Zack Waters's A Wilderness of Destruction: Confederate Guerrillas in East and South Florida, 1861-1865 offers Civil War readers the first comprehensive survey of the character and scale of irregular warfare in the state. Missouri and Kentucky's guerrilla wars still garner the lion's share of scholarly and popular attention, but Waters clearly demonstrates that Florida's inner war was similarly destructive and just as widespread.

After presenting the background context referenced above, Waters immediately jumps into a narrative of events primarily descriptive in nature. Arranged chronologically into half-yearly chapters, which are further subdivided by city, town, county, or operation, the material is well organized for conveying both knowledge of events and patterns. Enormous strides have been made in the study of the Civil War's irregular conflicts, but that progress has failed to foster consensus when it comes to categorizing irregular fighters. While some scholars have developed arguably convincing models for differentiation, others reject those formulations or argue that categories are neither needed nor helpful in furthering overall understanding. Waters himself adopts the more inclusive approach, covering military actions ranging from bushwhacker-style ambushes and raids to company and battalion-scale operations conducted by regularly enrolled units (independently or in cooperation with irregular forces). Interestingly, as gleaned from Waters's accounts, small Florida bands seem to have frequently possessed a degree of artillery support mostly absent from similarly fought actions elsewhere in the country. It does appear that Florida's guerrillas were integrated into formal military structures in ways less commonly found in other Confederate states.

During the war, Union forces proved capable of successfully landing anywhere along Florida's rivers and coast. Once ashore, they seized cities and towns, disrupted key economic activities such as lumber and salt production, and liberated slaves. Many of the last filled the ranks of newly organized black units that in turn conducted military operations within the state. However, with priorities consistently placed elsewhere, Union forces rarely possessed the military or political will to hold captured posts on a permanent basis. Some strategic points, Jacksonville being the prime example, were occupied and abandoned on numerous occasions. Indeed, while its focus is on the guerrilla conflict, Waters's narrative contributes significantly to our knowledge of the wartime experiences of a number of contested Florida population centers, including Cedar Key, Tampa, St. Augustine, and the aforementioned Jacksonville.

Curiously, information provided in the book about individual bands is largely limited to scattered recordings of their activities. Several guerrilla chieftains are named, but not much about their backgrounds (beyond the South Carolina origins of several) is revealed in the text. Information about the backgrounds and motivations of the groups of men they led is similarly sparse. Perhaps the source material just isn't there to make a thorough job of it. Much of the documented information about Confederate guerrillas and their actions is provided by Union sources. This is to a large degree expected, and, within that context, the author properly frames the challenges inherent to the process of arriving at the closest approximation of the truth in light of the typically extreme bias and hyperbole involved in contemporary reporting of guerrilla activities and their results. Also as expected given their historical and historiographical stature, the operations of the band led by Capt. J.J. Dickison are most thoroughly recounted in the text.

Readers of this study might reasonably reach the conclusion that Florida's guerrilla war was the Civil War's most successful. However, while Waters's text demonstrates that guerrilla bands proved to be consistently effective in hemming Union occupation forces within city and town environs, it is also made clear that organization and support networks were not sufficient for sustained coordination. Additionally, with Union forces constantly coming and going depending on shifting priorities determined by those higher up the chain of command, attributing Confederate successes to their own actions or simply to enemy indifference becomes, in many cases, impossible to clearly assess. In the state's interior, Guerrilla fighters clearly contributed to maintaining open channels for driving Florida cattle northward to depots that would distribute beef to Confederate armies increasingly desperate for fresh food supplies. As Waters maintains, this was arguably their most strategically significant achievement. Nevertheless, there is much debate in the literature over what effect the closing of the Mississippi River by Union forces in mid-1863 had on cis-Mississippi beef supplies, with some arguing that the overall impact of early-war enemy occupation of western theater breadbasket regions was far more significant than the loss of real and potential Texas beef deliveries. Either way, from mid-war onward, the Confederate commissary was heavily dependent on Florida beef herds and, with vital assistance from Confederate guerrillas, detached conventional forces, and specialized "Cow Cavalry," those cattle shipments continued to get through despite scattered and disorganized Union attempts to establish inland blocking points. While irregulars played a major role in sustaining this vital commissary pipeline, Waters is almost certainly correct in opining that Union failure to devote the resources and leadership necessary to conclusively end the transit of Florida beef herds was a significant strategic misstep, one that would have taken relatively little additional effort to rectify.

As the book also details, Florida's pro-Confederate irregular war faced many critical internal challenges. History consistently demonstrates the reliance of guerrilla movements upon local support, but Waters's narrative reveals time and time again that white Unionists and freedom-seeking slaves both provided Union naval landing parties and occupation forces with critical intelligence regarding the activities and locations of Confederate resources, units, and individuals. Those anti-Confederate groups provided more than just information, too. Organized into military units, they served in both occupation and counterguerrilla roles. Interestingly, Waters claims that as the war progressed relations between white Floridian Unionist fighters and black soldiers, which might have been expected to improve under shared service, instead badly deteriorated, causing heavy demoralization and desertion in the former and diminished overall operational capacity. This hindrance to the Union war effort in the state is brought up on multiple occasions in the text, though not accompanied by examples. In the end, Florida could not escape the progressive civil, economic, and social breakdowns common to regions and states where divided home fronts and guerrilla conflicts were most pervasive. As the war dragged on, increasingly large numbers of draft evaders and army deserters added further fuel to the fire. As the book's title suggests, the irregular war eventually produced "a wilderness of destruction" that Florida's thinly dispersed Confederate and state militia defenders could not hope to manage let alone prevent.

Amid the volume's many strengths are some very visible drawbacks. The most noticeable flaw lies in the text's editing. Another pass-through to correct rampant typos, spelling mistakes, missing words, etc. was badly needed. Additionally, the two bare-bones maps fail to pinpoint the locations of a great many obscure places and events described in the text. Though unfortunate, these are disappointments that won't deter an overall positive recommendation.

In its lengthy investigation of the breadth, character, and significance of the irregular conflict in the state, Zack Waters's A Wilderness of Destruction: Confederate Guerrillas in East and South Florida, 1861-1865 represents a major step forward in filling remaining gaps in the military historiography of Civil War Florida. Also, for those seeking to arrive at a more aggregated understanding of the overall impact of guerrilla warfare on the Civil War's home and fighting fronts, this volume adds a fresh and important piece to the puzzle.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Booknotes: The Battle of Gettysburg 1863 (2)

New Arrival:
The Battle of Gettysburg 1863 (2): The Second Day by Timothy J. Orr (Osprey Pub, 2023).

Continuing where 2022's The Battle of Gettysburg 1863 (1): The First Day left off, Timothy Orr's The Battle of Gettysburg 1863 (2): The Second Day covers, from one end of the field to the other, the iconic battle's terrible middle day. From the description: "July 2, 1863 was the bloodiest and most complicated of the three days of the Battle of Gettysburg. On this day, the clash involved five divisions of Confederate infantry and their accompanying artillery battalions, as well as a cavalry skirmish at nearby Hunterstown. The bulk of the Union army engaged on the second day of fighting, including men from the 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th, 11th and 12th Corps."

Volume 391 of Osprey's Campaign series, the book transitions into the topic at hand by briefly revisiting the end of Gettysburg Day 1. From there, Orr provides opposing orders of battle before getting into the events of the second day. Series elements such as campaign and battle background, leadership, army composition, and preservation discussions were already covered in the Day 1 volume, leaving the vast majority of this book to be devoted to the planning and fighting of Day 2.

More from the description: "Assisted by superb maps and 3D diagrams, this fascinating work describes the tactical play-by-play, the customary “who did what” of the battle. Among the famous actions covered are Hunterstown and Benner's Hill, Little Round Top, Devil's Den, the Rose Wheatfield, the Peach Orchard, and Culp's and Cemetery hills. The critical decisions taken on the second day are examined in detail, and why the commanders committed to them."

Original paintings from artist Steve Noon dramatize key phases of the battle (at Little Round Top, the Peach Orchard, and East Cemetery Hill). The multi-color cartography created for the book is presented at regimental scale. The two map types (one traditional in style and the other a 3D-isometric depiction of units and terrain) complement each other well. Nearly every page of text has one or more photographs attached.

Finally, "Gettysburg was-first and foremost-a soldier's battle, full of raw emotion and high drama, and this work also examines the experience of combat as witnessed by the rank and file, bringing this to life in stunning battlescene artworks and primary accounts from common soldiers."

Monday, May 15, 2023

Booknotes: A Brief Moment in the Sun

New Arrival:
A Brief Moment in the Sun: Francis Cardozo and Reconstruction in South Carolina by Neil Kinghan (LSU Press, 2023).

Neil Kinghan's A Brief Moment in the Sun "is the first scholarly biography of Francis Lewis Cardozo, one of the most talented and influential African Americans to hold elected office in the South between Reconstruction and the civil rights era." Additionally, Kinghan's study "is the first complete historical analysis of Francis Cardozo and his contribution to Reconstruction and African American history. It draws on original research on Cardozo’s early life and education in Scotland and England and pulls together for the first time the extant sources on his experiences in South Carolina and Washington, DC."

"Born to a formerly enslaved African American mother and white Jewish father in antebellum South Carolina," Cardozo (1836-1903) left the country in 1858 to seek higher education abroad. Spending most of the Civil War years in Great Britain studying religion at several institutions, he returned to the United States in 1864, where he settled in Connecticut and established himself as a pastor. Cardozo returned to South Carolina in 1865. As an American Missionary Association agent, he administered an AMA school for African Americans.

As a delegate to the South Carolina constitutional convention, Cardozo formally entered politics in 1868. That same year he was elected Secretary of State, and in 1872 state treasurer. Though re-elected twice and possessing a reputation of honesty in office, Cardozo's Republican political career ended after the U.S. government terminated Reconstruction and the Democratic Party returned to power in the state. Prosecuted for fraud and conspiracy in 1877 (Kinghan describes the trial as "rigged," and others concur), Cardozo was imprisoned for seven months before being pardoned by Governor William Simpson in 1879. From there, Cardozo "moved to Washington DC, where he led an even more successful school for African American children."

In his introduction, the author outlines the three-fold goals of this project. In addition to restoring Cardozo "to his rightful place as a central figure in the history of Reconstruction," Kinghan's wishes to "attract wider public attention to [Cardozo's] significance as an exemplary African American leader in politics and education in South Carolina and in Washington, DC." Finally, through relating Cardozo's life story, the author hopes to "rewrite the history of Reconstruction from the perspective of a highly able and honorable African American political leader whose voice should be heard" (pg. 6).

Friday, May 12, 2023

Booknotes: I Am Fighting for the Union

New Arrival:
I Am Fighting for the Union: The Civil War Letters of Naval Officer Henry Willis Wells edited by Robert M. Browning, Jr. (Univ of Ala Press, 2023).

From the description: "On May 18, 1862, Henry Willis Wells wrote a letter to his mother telling her in clear terms, “I am fighting for the Union.” Since August 1861, when he joined the US Navy as a master’s mate he never wavered in his loyalty. He wrote to his family frequently that he considered military service a necessary and patriotic duty, and the career that ensued was a dramatic one, astutely and articulately documented by Wells in more than 200 letters home, leaving an invaluable account of daily life in the Union Navy."

I understand that it is to a degree a numbers game, but it still surprises me a bit, given the massive size that the Union Navy eventually reached, that published army correspondence dwarfs its naval counterpart to the degree that it does. Or maybe it just seems that way, and things are actually proportional within reason. Just judging from a brief thumb-through, the Wells letters are full of details about his Chesapeake, Atlantic, and Gulf naval service and experiences. I'm looking forward to reading them.

More from the description: "Wells joined the navy shortly after the war began, initially on board the Cambridge, attached to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, which patrolled the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. He witnessed the Battle of Hampton Roads and the fight between the ironclads CSS Virginia and the USS Monitor. Next, the Cambridge assisted in the blockade of Wilmington, North Carolina. In one instance, the warship chased the schooner J. W. Pindar ashore during her attempt to run the blockade, and Confederate forces captured Henry’s boarding party. After a short prison stay in the infamous Libby Prison in Richmond, his Confederate captors paroled Henry. He travelled back to Brookline, and soon thereafter the Navy Department assigned him to the gunboat Ceres, which operated on the sounds and rivers of North Carolina, protecting army positions ashore. Henry was on board during the Confederate attempt to capture Washington, North Carolina. During this April 1863 attack, Henry was instrumental in the town’s defense, commanding a naval battery ashore during the latter part of the fight."

Assigned greater and greater responsibility as the war progressed, Wells must have performed his duties well. More: "His exceptional service gained him a transfer to a larger warship, the USS Montgomery, again on the blockade of Wilmington. Later the service assigned him to the Gem of the Sea, part of the East Gulf Blockading Squadron. Through his hard work and professionalism, he finally earned his first command. In September 1864, he became the commanding officer of the Rosalie, a sloop used as a tender to the local warships."

Unfortunately, Wells's blossoming career did not end well. "Later he commanded the schooner Annie, also a tender. At the end of December 1864, however, the Annie suffered a massive explosion, killing all hands, including Wells(,)" who was only 23 at the time of his death. Several letters written to the grieving family by Wells's colleagues and superiors document that episode.

Eminent ACW naval historian Robert Browning edits the volume, organizing the material into chapters and contributing a brief introduction and extensive endnotes.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Booknotes: Agents of Empire

New Arrival:
Agents of Empire: The First Oregon Cavalry and the Opening of the Interior Pacific Northwest during the Civil War by James Robbins Jewell (Univ of Neb Press, 2023).

It was made clear through reading James Jewell's On Duty in the Pacific Northwest during the Civil War: Correspondence and Reminiscences of the First Oregon Cavalry Regiment (2018) that there was more than enough source material to produce a book-length regimental history of the unit. Fast forward a half-decade and we now have just the thing in Jewell's follow-up volume Agents of Empire: The First Oregon Cavalry and the Opening of the Interior Pacific Northwest during the Civil War. If I'm not missing anything, it's also the first full-length, standalone study of a Far West (Washington Territory, Oregon, and California) regiment raised during the Civil War for local and regional service.

From the description: Jewell's book "expands the historiographical scope of Civil War studies to include the war’s intersection with the history of the American West, demonstrating how the war was transcontinental in scope. Much more than a traditional Civil War regimental history, James Robbins Jewell’s work delves into the operational and social conditions under which the First Oregon Cavalry Regiment was formed. In response to ongoing tensions and violent interactions with Native peoples determined to protect their way of life and lands, Colonel George Wright, head of the military’s District of Oregon, asked the governor of Oregon to form a voluntary cavalry unit to protect white settlers and farmers."

As was the case across the vast western states and territories during the Civil War period, Oregon volunteers replaced Regular Army units sent east. They assumed many of the same roles, with the added responsibility of confronting secessionist threats both real and imagined. In performing those tasks, the "First Oregon Cavalry ensured settlers’ security in the Union’s farthest northwest corner, thereby contributing to the Union cause."