Sunday, September 18, 2005

Red River Roundup - Part 2

Gary Joiner's succinct addition to the Red River campaign literature "One Damn Blunder From Beginning to End": The Red River Campaign of 1864 utilizes the author's deep geographic knowledge of the Red River valley and of the river itself. Joiner has a background in cartography and geography and it shows. He delves into hydrological details absent in other overviews of this campaign. The discussion of the techniques that Confederate engineers employed to artificially manage water levels as a means of defense is unique. The book also explores the fortifications built for the defense of Shreveport (one of the most important Confederate logistical centers in the Trans-Mississippi) and provides a good map of these earthworks as a visual aid. Unfortunately, the brevity of One Damn Blunder precludes anything but snapshots of the campaign's battles--the descriptions are even shorter than those in Ludwell Johnson's book. Additionally, the battle maps are serviceable, but rather disappointing given the author's cartographic background. All in all, this book is a good overview but also has enough new information in it to justify its purchase even if you already own Johnson's earlier work.

Another very worthwhile book dealing with the Red River campaign that also involves Gary Joiner (this time as co-editor with Ted Savas and David Woodbury of a collection of specialist essays) is The Red River Campaign: Union and Confederate Leadership and the War in Louisiana.


  1. As you stated, Joiner's book has just enough new information to make it an important contribution to the literature on the campaign. I was frustrated by a few paths of inquiry Joiner opened without exploring them.

    The first was an issue of unrecorded Confederate troops. He mentions the possibility that there were significant numbers of soldieres waiting to be paroled who, in an ad hoc manner, joined Taylor' force at Sabine crossroads. I would have like to see this explored some more.

    The second issue is the alleged river road from Grand Ecore to Shreveport. Joiner presents a detailed view of Confederate defenses along the river south of Shreveport. I would have like to see him link this discussion to the question of whether the river road presented a viable route of advance for the US forces.

  2. That is a good question you bring up. The conventional wisdom is if Banks took the wonderful river road he would have naval support nearby and everything would be great. What we don't find is anyone examining it's real world usefulness in-depth as a "better" route than the inland paths. It is just assumed to be so. It's been a few years and I don't remember how much space Joiner devoted to the subject.


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