Wednesday, September 14, 2005

West(ern) Virginia CW Books (continued)

Terry Lowry is another West Virginian and avocational historian who specializes in the Civil War history of his native state. Besides contributing two volumes (22nd Regiment and 26th Battalion) to the Virginia Regimental Histories Series published by H.E. Howard, Lowry has written three exceptional battle histories.

At its heart, The Battle of Scary Creek: Military Operations in the Kanawha Valley, April-July 1861 is a microhistory of the titular July 17, 1861 "battle" (it was more like a skirmish) that pitted Lt. Col. George S. Patton's Confederate force against the 12th Ohio's Col. John W. Lowe. The battle was a Confederate victory, but the joy was short-lived and the overall campaign resulted in the Union occupation of the Kanawha Valley. The 1998 revised edition of the book includes a number of maps, letters, reports, and newspaper articles to accompany the text. In addition to being an excellent battle study, Scary Creek is a detailed history of the entire spring and summer Kanawha Valley campaign.

September Blood: the Battle of Carnifex Ferry (OP) is another highly recommended tactical battle study. It details both the affair at Cross Lanes (a fight in which General John B. Floyd's larger Confederate force surprised and scattered the Union 7th Ohio north of the Gauley River) and the later battle it helped to spawn at Carnifex Ferry on September 10, 1861 against a reinforced Union force commanded by William S. Rosecrans. Carnifex Ferry was another tactical victory for Floyd but a strategic defeat as the Confederate general's fortified defensive position could not be held.

Last Sleep: The Battle of Droop Mountain November 6, 1863 recounts Union general W. W. Averell's November 1863 diversionary cavalry raid, the goal of which was to damage the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad near Lynchburg or Dublin, Virginia. Averell did not achieve this objective but he did soundly defeat a Confederate force commanded by John Echols at Droop Mountain on November 6, 1863.

All of Lowry's battle studies are microtactical in nature--detailing the fighting at company and regimental level. Large numbers of period and modern photographs of the landscapes and men populate his books. Maps and discussions of the state parks associated with the latter two battles are included as well. On the negative side, as with the works of Tim McKinney, the number and quality of maps in Lowry's books are a bit disappointing. Although the period maps included are detailed and allow the reader to follow the action, tactical studies really need maps original to the work in order to fully integrate visual aids with the text. All in all, these works are excellent contributions to the West Virginia Civil War literature and are likely to remain definitive for some time to come.

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