Sunday, December 31, 2006

Added links to historical journals

See the links sidebar.

The list is by no means comprehensive, but rather just includes those journals I've found of good use recently and/or have web content helpful for research purposes (i.e. issue table of contents). The dominating presence of Trans-Mississippi and Western journals simply reflects my own personal research interests. The list will be updated periodically as more come to mind for inclusion.

BTW, G.E. Rule (of the great Civil War St. Louis website) has kindly searched through Missouri Historical Review and listed for us all the Civil War related articles from 1906-2002. See here.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Leehan: "Pale Horse at Plum Run"

[Pale Horse At Plum Run: The First Minnesota At Gettysburg by Brian Leehan. (St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2002. Pp. 243, $29.95, Hardback. ISBN 0-87351-429-7)]

Late on a hot, dusty July day in 1863, the First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry plunged down into a rock-strewn ravine south of Gettysburg and passed into legend. James Longstreet’s ferocious assault on the Federal left flank on July 2nd had just finished destroying Dan Sickles’ III Corps along with the reinforcements sent down from Winfield Scott Hancock’s II Corps. Consequently, a large gap appeared in the center of the Union line and opposite this hole stormed the Alabamians of Cadmus Wilcox’s brigade. Faced with disaster, Hancock grabbed the only infantrymen immediately available, the First Minnesota, and ordered them into the maelstrom. Their sacrifice is re-examined in exceptional detail in a compelling new book by Brian Leehan.

Pale Horse at Plum Run is a fast-paced book that comprehensively recounts the actions of the First Minnesota at Gettysburg. Though the famous charge on July 2nd rightly forms the centerpiece of the book, a stirring account of the regiment’s participation in the repulse of Pickett’s Charge on the next day is also included. The research is exhaustive and the detail extraordinary. Furthermore, the author’s approach to the subject is careful and refreshingly evenhanded. For instance, Leehan consistently avoids hyperbole when discussing the heroics of the First Minnesota on the 2nd, giving the units flanking the regiment (the 19th Maine and Willard’s brigade of New Yorkers) their proper due.

Wading through a wealth of material, Leehan uses sound reasoning and meticulous research to reinterpret the many myths surrounding the charge—from the numbers engaged and lost to the results of the charge and the circumstances of Hancock’s order. The narrative is augmented throughout with the personal letters and reminiscences of the participants, though very few are by members of Wilcox’s brigade. An opportunity to provide valuable perspective from the opposing side is unfortunately lost here (especially since many details of the charge are deeply shrouded in myth and exaggeration).

Several appendices add even more value to the book. Of perhaps the greatest interest to the general reader is the essay discussing the role of mythmaking in the understanding and remembrance of battles. Articles providing a comprehensive listing of casualties and analysis of numbers engaged are included as well. Finally, even the most casual reader is urged to examine the book’s unusually expansive endnotes, which are full of hidden gems.

Brian Leehan has created an important work that significantly increases our understanding of the role of the First Minnesota in the battle of Gettysburg. This book is highly recommended.

(Review reprinted with the permission of North and South Magazine, originally appearing in vol. 5 #7, pg. 91, reviewed by Andrew Wagenhoffer)

Friday, December 29, 2006

Bierce: "Civil War Stories"

Recalling earlier readings of "Chickamauga" and "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge", I spied this collection of Ambrose Bierce's Civil War Stories while browsing and picked it up. I am unfamiliar with Bierce's complete body of work, but each of the sixteen short stories included in this particular collection is fascinating in its own way. "Bitter" Bierce's writing is attractive in its surprising level of modernity. Infused with a deep pessimism and fatalism, these stories reject all romantic notions of combat, and the consequences of the Civil War's violence are frankly and graphically portrayed. The anguish of the deaf mute child in "Chickamauga" as he discovers the body of his mother near the battlefield

"the white face turned upward, the hands thrown out and clutched full of grass, the clothing deranged, the long dark hair in tangles and full of clotted blood. The greater part of the forehead was torn away and from the jagged hole the brain protruded, overflowing the temple, a frothy mass of gray, crowned with clusters of crimson bubbles -- the work of a shell."

is a particularly memorable, and awful, example of this. There is no heroic death or noble sacrifice, just an abrupt and often painful end to a promising life. The survivors that are willing to think about it are left to wonder if the cost was worth the gain, if there was any.

Bierce has an abused subordinate's principled disdain for the unworthy man placed in a position of great responsibility. The big men in his short stories -- General Cameron in "One Kind Of Officer", 'the general' in "The Affair at Coulter's Notch", and the 'Governor' in "An Affair of Outposts" -- are uniformly callous in their manipulation of the lives of the men beneath them.

Of course the twist ending is ruined for anyone who's seen the wonderful Twilight Zone episode, but my particular favorite will always be "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge". Several of Bierce's stories employ intentional ambiguity, but the unusual (and perhaps experimental for the period?) structure of "Occurrence" and its truly startling conclusion are delightful. As a reader generally uninterested in Civil War fiction, I was enthralled with Bierce's storytelling. That the tales sprouted from the mind of an actual Civil War veteran only enhances the authenticity of the imagery and the reader's consideration of the author's brutal examination of so many of the conflict's themes.

[btw, another story from this particular collection successfully adapted to the screen is "Parker Adderson, Philosopher". I remember being impressed by it when I viewed in on Bravo (way back when they actually showed good stuff on that awful channel).]

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

BGES monographs

As many of you probably already know, the Blue and Gray Education Society has published a number of monographs over the past few years (did they stop doing this?...the latest is from early 2005).
I'm not a BGES member, nor have I read any of these so I can't comment on them individually, but many of the titles at least sound enticing and they appear to be written by a range of accomplished authors. Scroll down through the Monograph Authors section. It appears Warren Grabau is working on a book about the Union navy. Also, having read a number of articles this past year dealing with the area described below, I was intrigued by the last person on the list, Stephen G. Smith, and his dissertation research which "concentrates on the South Branch Valley of the Potomac during the Civil War".

Friday, December 22, 2006

First Nebraska diary to be published

Marching with the First Nebraska: A Civil War Diary by August Scherneckau; Edited by James E. Potter, Edith Robbins; Translated by Edith Robbins (University of Oklahoma Press) promises to be another valuable addition to a growing volume of published primary accounts written by Trans-Mississippi soldiers.

From the UO Press website:

"August Scherneckau’s diary is the most important firsthand account of the Civil War by a Nebraska soldier that has yet come to light. A German immigrant, Scherneckau served with the First Nebraska Volunteers from 1862 through 1865. Depicting the unit’s service in Missouri, Arkansas, and Nebraska Territory, he offers detail, insight, and literary quality matched by few other accounts of the Civil War in the West. His observations provide new perspective on campaigns, military strategy, leadership, politics, ethnicity, emancipation, and a host of other topics."

This is a nice start, but someday I would love to see the publication of a full regimental history of the 1st Nebraska.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Two upcoming titles from U. of Missouri Press

(1) James Denny and John Bradbury. Where the Civil War Began: Missouri Prior to and Through 1861. Illustrations, softcover, 144pp. $29.95. February 2007.

(2) Doris Land Mueller. M. Jeff Thompson: Missouri’s Swamp Fox of the Confederacy. Illustrations, bibliography, softcover, 144pp. $14.95. March 2007.

[To read more about these view the press's Spring 2007 catalog (it's a .pdf file) and scroll down to page 9.]

From the descriptions and the length (only 144 pages each), it would be hard to imagine them as much more than overviews (with hopefully some new insights). I have been told the Denny and Bradford manuscript is quite good, and perhaps projected to be part of a series.

M. Jeff Thompson is certainly a fascinating character. A full-length biography of the "Swamp Fox" doesn't exist yet, but Jay Monaghan wrote a bio of similar length to the Mueller book above for Broadfoot titled Swamp Fox of the Confederacy: The life and military services of M. Jeff Thompson. It should be noted that Mueller is a children's book author and her book will be part of UM Press's Missouri Heritage Readers Series, "intended primarily for adult new readers, these books will also be invaluable to readers of all ages interested in the cultural and social history of Missouri".

****NOTE: I would like to know the identity of the painting that graces the cover of the Denny and Bradbury book (see above). If anyone knows please comment below. Thanks.****

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

University press blogs

The academic press blogs, at least the ones I've glanced through, don't offer much in the way of Civil War content from their contributors or authors, but I came across an interesting post at the Oxford UP site. Glenn LaFantasie, author of recent books dealing with the Little Round Top fight and Confederate Colonel William C. Oates, comments on reviews and reviewers, most particularly about a bafflingly negative one from Publishers Weekly (all the worse that it's anonymous).

Monday, December 18, 2006

Hess, Hatcher, Piston & Shea: "Wilson's Creek, Pea Ridge, and Prairie Grove: A Battlefield Guide"

[Wilson's Creek, Pea Ridge, and Prairie Grove: A Battlefield Guide, with a Section on Wire Road by Earl J. Hess, Richard W. Hatcher III, William Garrett Piston, and William L. Shea (Bison Books-University of Nebraska Press, 2006) Softcover, maps, photos, notes, reading list. ISBN: 0-8032-7366-5, $19.95 --- [Fourth volume in This Hallowed Ground: Guides to Civil War Battlefields series]]

I applaud University of Nebraska Press for taking a timeout from 'the usual suspects' and choosing to publish a tour guide for three crucial Trans-Mississippi battles, and for matching author with subject so well (Hess for Pea Ridge, Piston and Hatcher for Wilson's Creek, and Shea for Prairie Grove). Also, the decision to include a driving tour of the Wire Road was inspired. The Wire or Telegraph Road played a critical role in all of the dramas played out across the Ozark plateau in Missouri and Arkansas. By no means is it simple to trace, and this guide gives the reader the ability to follow it as closely as possible from Springfield, Missouri all the way south to Ft. Smith, Arkansas.

Aiding continuity, each tour is structured along similar lines, with each tour stop organized into the self-explanatory Directions, Orientation, What Happened, Analysis, and an optional Vignette. It's practical, and very effective. The descriptions are detailed enough to satisfy the most demanding students of Civil War battles, yet will not bog down the average nature tramper. As another nice touch, tours to places peripheral to the main battles but part of the overall campaigns are included, several of which I didn't know were marked and/or still in recognizable form. I wish I had this book the last time I visited the area.

The guides' numerous maps deserve special mention. Their level of detail is extraordinary. Elevation contours and other relevant terrain features (woods, orchards, streams, buildings, fencelines, both modern and period roads, trails--it's all in there). The majority of military movements are traced on the maps at regimental scale, similar to that found within the best of modern tactical battle studies. The only complaint I have is the up-close Pea Ridge maps do not have the actual numbered tour stop locations placed on them. However, this is only a minor distraction. They are easy enough to find following the Directions and Orientation sections associated with each stop, but a visual marker would have helped nonetheless. In general, these markers are prominently displayed in both the campaign overview map and the smaller scale maps associated with each stop.

In addition to the fine maps, a number of well chosen photographs and illustrations are included, many of which are new to my viewing. Extras placed in the rear of the book include serviceable orders-of-battle for each campaign and a very helpful guide to further reading with commentary on sources.

If this volume is an indication of the quality of all the books in the This Hallowed Ground Series, then it is clear to me this series should be considered the class of Civil War battlefield tour guides. For intellectual depth that does not sacrifice ease and practicality of use in the field, it would be difficult to imagine this guide being superseded any time soon. Highly recommended.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Another Red River book from UT Press

Wow, three over a year period from the same press. It'll be a while yet before we see Steven Mayeux's Earthen Walls, Iron Men: Fort DeRussy, Louisiana, and the Defense of Red River (University of Tennessee Press, Aug./Sept. 2007), but it's great to see more interesting Red River books coming out. There are few (if any, really) specialized works published for this campaign and so many general histories.

(ed. 12/17: see the comments section for more information on this title from the UT Press spring catalog)

Wartime property seizure

Recently, I've become more and more interested in studies that examine the treatment of civilians (specifically the subject of property destruction or seizure by the Civil War's combatants). This upcoming book, Daniel W. Hamilton's The Limits of Sovereignty: Property Confiscation in the Union and the Confederacy during the Civil War (University of Chicago Press, 2007), looks like it might be a nice overview of the policies and practices of both sides. The Library of Congress website has this for its table of contents:

Chapter 1. Legislative Property Confiscation before the Civil War
Chapter 2. Radical Property Confiscation in the Thirty-Seventh Congress
Chapter 3. The Conservative Assault on Confiscation
Chapter 4. The Moderate Coup
Chapter 5. The Confederate Sequestration Act
Chapter 6. The Ordeal of Sequestration
Chapter 7. A New Right to Property: Civil War Confiscation in the Reconstruction Supreme Court Conclusion: The Limits of Sovereignty

Rather than view wartime confiscation in isolation, I am happy to see the book plans to trace the evolution of property rights from founding through Reconstruction.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Owens: "Hier Snackt Wi Plattdütsch"

The 1861 events in Missouri are my most abiding Civil War interest. Recently, a helpful fellow on the Missouri in the Civil War board directed my attention toward a book from Robert L. Owens titled Hier Snackt Wi Plattdütsch (trans. - Here we speak low German).

Educated only in high German, I was intrigued by the language and dialect differences among the various lowland areas of German speaking Europe. Sadly, my ILL period was far too short to properly appreciate the entire book. Instead I focused on the June 19, 1861 Battle of Cole Camp (Chapter 16). The two sides were evenly matched at around 3-400 militamen per side, but the southern forces were able to achieve tactical surprise and drove off the Unionist home guards after a vicious little 20 minute fight. Losses were heavy, with the Union force suffering at least 32 killed. The victory opened the retreat route for the forces of Governor Jackson, previously routed at Boonville.

With previous works, Cole Camp is mentioned in passing or at most a sentence or two is dedicated to it. However, Mr. Owens seems to have delved deeper into the subject than anyone else and he's has done a marvelous job researching and presenting a detailed blow-by-blow account of this small battle for the reader. The tactical history is bracketed by fine summaries of both the events leading up to the battle and its aftermath. Footnoted and supported by seven fine maps, Owens' work is also enhanced by his decision to include a ream of additional detail in the appendices; including a campaign and battle timeline, geographical and meteorological data, and a casualty list. The author also discusses his management of the source material. I would recommend this fascinating book to anyone interested in the German culture and settlement of Missouri and in the Cole Camp fight (Chapter 17 also briefly discusses the effects of the later guerilla war on the civilian population).

Monday, December 11, 2006

More Joiner from UT Press

On the heels of his latest book Through the Howling Wilderness, Gary Joiner has another project with University of Tennessee Press planned for publication next year. This time it's an edited volume for the Voices of the Civil War series titled Little to Eat and Thin Mud to Drink : Letters, Diaries, and Memoirs from the Red River Campaigns, 1863–1864 (Mr. Joiner always picks such great titles!).

On another note, I see UT Press is having another 75% off sale on almost 200 titles, just in time for Christmas. Take a look. Not too many Civil War titles, though.

Recent arrivals

From Conciliation to Conquest: The Sack of Athens & the Court-Martial of Colonel John B. Turchin (University of Alabama Press) by George Bradley and Richard Dahlen.

This book's wonderfully written introduction asks some pertinent--but rarely fully considered--questions that I hope are satisfactorily addressed:

"...the questions about underlying policy presented by the times to those then in charge remain with us. Will we liberate, occupy, conquer, or punish? Why have the people volunteered? What happens when an anticipated liberation becomes an occupation of an area inhabited by a mixture of welcoming and hostile citizens? How should an army of occupation behave? What can we reasonably expect of volunteers in uniform, given due consideration of their reasons for enlisting, their training, and the level of leadership they have? Knowing what we can or cannot expect of them, is it proper, advantageous, or disadvantageous to deploy them in the troubled territory?"


Wilson's Creek, Pea Ridge, and Prairie Grove: A Battlefield Guide, with a Section on Wire Road (University of Nebraska Press) by Earl J. Hess, Richard W. Hatcher III, William Garrett Piston, and William L. Shea.

This is the first book length guide for these battles, and the organization and maps look first rate. This series is shaping up to be the best for providing value and practicality.


Lincolnites and Rebels: A Divided Town in the American Civil War (Oxford University Press) by Robert Tracy McKenzie.

My Pickens ancestors were very active East Tennessee unionists, so I have an especially focused interest in this divided region.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Lyftogt: "Iowa's Forgotten General: Matthew Mark Trumbull"

[ Iowa's Forgotten General: Matthew Mark Trumbull and the Civil War by Kenneth Lyftogt (Iowa City, IA: The Camp Pope Bookshop, 2005) Illustrated, maps, notes, bibliography, 108pp. $10]

Active in the Chartist movement, Matthew M. Trumbull was forced to immigrate from England to the U.S. as a young man. When the Civil War came, Trumbull, by then a prominent NE Iowa citizen, was commissioned as a captain in the 3rd Iowa infantry. With Iowa's Forgotten General, Kenneth L. Lyftogt has provided us with a brief but informative military biography of Trumbull. I found this book of interest, mainly for Trumbull's military activities in the historiographically neglected northern half of Missouri in 1861. The author writes of the fights at Shelbina and Blue Mills Landing in some detail. Additionally, the importance of holding and protecting the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad is not often recognized in other works dealing with the first year of the war in Missouri.

Leaving the Trans-Mississippi theater, the 3rd Iowa's exploits at Shiloh and the Hatchie (Davis Bridge) are also covered, although I would quibble somewhat with Lyftogt's account of the latter. The author also seems to have an unusually (and perhaps uniquely) high opinion of the generalship of Stephen Hurlbut.

Later on in the war, and in poor health, Trumbull resigned his commission, but recovered soon after to recruited and lead the 9th Iowa Cavalry, which to his disappointment was relegated mainly to occupation duties for the duration. Trumbull had an active postwar career as well, gaining prominence as a socialist activist in Chicago.

This slim but worthwhile volume will probably be of most interest to students of the Civil War in Missouri and Arkansas--and Iowa's prominent role in it. The author writes well and his subject is certainly deserving of recognition.

Monday, December 4, 2006

Blue & Gray article index

Here. I am glad they added this feature to the new website. The previous index only listed the feature article.

[ed. fixed the link; it should work now. thanks, Brett]

No Greater Glory

Dimitri's post about the very old (well, old as in 1980s) computer war/strategy game No Greater Glory brought back memories. I actually downloaded and played "No Greater Glory" again a couple years ago. You either have to use a really antiquated computer or tinker with an emulator. Hard to believe we thought those graphics were okay at one time. Those SSI days were a bit of a golden age. I'm not sure I trust the figures, but I read somewhere that it wasn't uncommon for SSI titles to sell 50,000 copies each.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Blue & Gray notes

I recently finished the current issue of Blue & Gray and its impressive feature article by William Glenn Robertson. I haven't read much about the Chickamauga campaign beyond the magazine articles that frequently pop up and the books by Cozzens and Tucker, but I must say Robertson's operational history of the opening moves of Chickamauga campaign (the crossing of the Tennessee River below Chattanooga) is the clearest and most detailed I've come across. The day by day, full page operational maps were also crucially helpful (B&G rarely skimps on these--but the maps in this issue were exceptionally good). I wasn't aware that Robertson was considered "the man" when it comes to Chickamauga. His focused writing and tight organization seemingly crams a small book's worth of information into an article. I can't wait for the other two planned issues.


In the book review section, it is mentioned that Richard McMurry is at work on a book about Joseph E. Johnston. No details about what its focus might be.


B&G is in the middle of giving its website a makeover, presumably adding more features.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Simon: "Lincoln and Chief Justice Taney"

John F. Simon's Lincoln and Chief Justice Taney: Slavery, Secession, and the President's War Powers is a narrative history that traces the political development of Abraham Lincoln and the legal career of Roger Taney in the context of the pressing issues of the day. In my mind, although Simon largely overcomes them, several factors seem to conspire together to increase a prospective author's difficulties in crafting this story into something compelling to a popular audience. To begin with, it is a battle of extreme unequals in terms of public memory. We have one of the most revered American presidents pitted against of one of American history's "villains", the author of the Dred Scott case's majority opinion. More than a generation apart in age and nothing much in common, there seems to have been little if any personal interaction between the two. We have no great body of personal correspondence to draw from and the only face to face meeting mentioned in the text of this book is the administration of the oath of office. Lincoln's background is well known, but Taney's long and distinguished legal career is often casually reduced to his dreadful Dred Scott ruling. While acknowledging the great harm done to the country by Dred Scott and the poor legal reasoning behind it, Simon avoids this kind of career reductionism and his lengthy and thoughtful discussion of Taney's contributions to the country's jurisprudence is perhaps his book's most original aspect.

While the legal conflicts over secession and presidential war powers do not come up until well into the book's second half, Simon does use this dwindling space to provide useful summaries of the major wartime cases to come before the Supreme Court--including Merryman, the Prize Cases, and the Vallandigham affair. In his analysis, the author is consistently fair-minded toward both of his main subjects and uses his extensive legal background to outline clearly the arguments for and against. It is readily apparent that Simon is a fervent admirer of Lincoln. Although he doesn't shy away from concerns about the president's actions (or lack of action), he consistently steps away from anything approaching serious condemnation.

I did have a few problems with the book. The unorthodox citation method employed in Lincoln and Chief Justice Taney is the same one I objected to in an earlier post (here). Also, the background material related to the progress of the war itself has many factual errors and often relies on rather outdated assessments of events. As an example, it states on page 254 that "A third of Lee's army was killed at Gettysburg, virtually eliminating any chance that the Confederacy could win the war" and "one-fourth of all Union forces lay dead on the battlefield". Sure, these things are far from the book's main focus, but they're distracting errors nonetheless.

In the end, although a broad spectrum of readers will likely find it of interest, Lincoln and Chief Justice Taney appears to be directed largely toward a general audience. Beyond the author's own insights and his informative legal biography of Justice Taney, much of what is discussed in Simon's book can be found in detailed form elsewhere in the literature. Therefore, I believe this volume's lasting usefulness will be as a balanced introductory volume to the great legal disputes of the antebellum and Civil War years.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Getting the right Sibley

I don't subscribe to it, but I thumb through Civil War Historian magazine at the local B&N when I get the chance. In the latest issue, there is a short piece about the 1862 Dakota War. This is at least the third publication that I've come across that's inserted a picture of Confederate General Henry Hopkins Sibley (famous drinker, tent&stove designer, and desert fox) for Union officer Henry Hastings Sibley. It's such a consistent mistake that it's become almost expected. Perhaps the old whiskeykeg's face isn't instantly recognizable to most people, but why has no one sufficiently questioned the fact that he's wearing his Confederate uniform in the picture? [see this Wikipedia page for the most commonly published picture of Henry Hopkins Sibley]

The most interesting tidbit I found in this relatively new magazine was a photocopy of the govt. form that requires the magazine to provide circulation data. I've always wondered about circulation numbers for the less popular "popular" CW mags. If I recall correctly, they mail issues to 8,500+ subscribers and send a few thousand more to bookstores, retailers, etc. This compares with the figure of almost 64,000 paid mail subscribers to Civil War Times. Now, if all those people actually bought Civil War books on a consistent basis we'd be in business! (BTW, if you're wondering about truly popular magazines, the same form in my latest National Geographic shows that over 4.1 million copies are mailed each month to paid subscribers!)


Have a Happy Thanksgiving, and a safe long weekend!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Foster: "Sherman's Mississippi Campaign"

[Sherman's Mississippi Campaign by Buckley Foster. (University of Alabama Press: Tuscaloosa, Alabama. 2006) Hardback, 10 maps, notes, bibliography. pp. 232, ISBN 0-8173-1519-5] $29.95

In February 1864, William T. Sherman took two infantry corps on a march from Vicksburg across the width of central Mississippi, ending up at the important railroad junction at Meridian. At the same time, a Union cavalry force under William Sooy Smith was to depart the Memphis area and travel down the Mobile and Ohio Railroad to meet Sherman in Meridian. From there a decision would be made whether to continue on into Alabama. Both wings were to forage liberally and destroy everything of military value (with particular attention paid to the rail transportation network).

An excellent, minutely detailed military study of the campaign has already been written (Margie Bearss' Sherman's Forgotten Campaign: The Meridian Expedition, OP-1987, Gateway Press), but Buckley Foster's new book Sherman's Mississippi Campaign is the first modern attempt at an in-depth analysis of the campaign. Foster marks the Meridian expedition as a crucial milestone in the evolution of W.T. Sherman's strategic thinking, a proving ground for the later Georgia and Carolinas campaigns. For this campaign, Sherman completely abandoned his supply lines and lines of communication. He stripped down his complement of wheeled vehicles, taking along only a minimal number of artillery pieces and supply wagons. The two infantry corps would advance on parallel axes; which aided speed and provided as wide an area as possible for the collection of food and forage. Any public property (and large amounts of private property as well) that could aid Confederate forces would be destroyed.

However, the one part of Foster's analysis that I am particular skeptical of is his assertion that Sherman developed a workable policy of allowing a wide latitude for destroying private property only in towns and areas deemed important to the Confederate war effort. Beyond finding no convincing evidence for it, I would object to this proposed framework in terms of both practicality and effectiveness. I don't believe the comparatively indisciplined citizen soldiers were particularly concerned with such nuances. An idea that the high command could turn the 'looting switch' on and off at their whim is unrealistic. Additionally, with comparatively little attempt to apprehend even serious looters/pillagers and no consistent application of punishment, the lack of deterrence value seriously harms the credibility of the direction from above. Then there is the question of just what constitutes property essential to the enemy war effort. While I quibble with Foster on this particular point, I commend his attempt at creating a framework of understanding for such a difficult and highly contradictory subject. In my mind, the great disconnect between evolving "hard war" policy (as nicely outlined in Mark Grimsley's Hard Hand of War) and actual enforcement is an area of study that deserves much more attention.

Beyond analyzing the larger meaning and effectiveness of the Meridian Campaign, the author (aided by a number of helpful maps) does provide the reader with a clear and concise operational military history. The blow by blow recitation of military events in Sherman's Mississippi Campaign is not nearly as detailed as Bearss' earlier account, but it's more than adequate and Foster does do a much better job than Bearss did of integrating Sooy Smiths' cavalry column into his account.

In the final estimation, Buckley Foster's Sherman's Mississippi Campaign is an important contribution to the historiography of the Civil War in the West and of the military career of William T. Sherman. Students at all levels should find much to appreciate and much to ponder.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Publisher Q&A: Clark Kenyon (Part 2)

Continuing on from Part 1 of my interview with The Camp Pope Bookshop's Clark Kenyon.

DW: You started out as a mail-order business (and of course still do mail out catalogs). Have your online operations largely overtaken the mail-order part of your business?

CK: Online sales represent the bulk of my business now. But the catalog still is important. Last year, after Catalog 41 came out, I got a tremendous spike in online sales. There had to be a connection. The problem with the paper catalog, aside from the cost of printing and mailing, is that it can’t be updated in real time like the online catalog can. But it gets people to look at the website, which can lead to sales.

DW: You’ve obviously been successful as a Civil War niche book publisher and seller. As you continue to concentrate almost exclusively on the T-M theater, what are you finding to be your biggest challenge in maintaining the viability of your business?

CK: Limited capital. I could publish more if I could finance it. But, as you say, it’s a niche. It’s a small area of a big war with a correspondingly small audience. So I’m not sure that would be a very sound investment. I’ve pondered the question for years of how to attract more people to the study of the Trans-Miss theater, and I have found that unless you had an ancestor who fought here or you yourself live here, you don’t really care. Interest in the Trans-Miss cannot be manufactured.

DW: I've read several news articles that mention used books as the fastest growing segment of the bookselling market. Do you have any desire to expand that part of your business?

CK: I just got out of the used book business (which is how I started) because it was so slow. I do maintain a catalog of what’s left of my used inventory on my website and on a couple of others. I hadn’t heard that used books were making a comeback. But maybe those articles refer to how the Internet has made it so easy to find a readable copy of a book. When I want to buy a book I don’t go the local bookstore (which is how it’s been done for centuries), I go to and get the cheapest used copy I can find. It’s simple economics. Unfortunately, it has run a lot of booksellers out of business; but that’s life. CPB can keep going because I’m small and the stuff I publish is available only from me (unless you can get it used). Gives me a little bit of a foothold.

DW: You mentioned the reasons behind the demise of The Trans-Miss. News as a declining subscription base and your need to devote your time to publishing projects. Based on your experience and with so much information available for free on the internet (and the common expectation that it be free), do you think a subscription-based newsletter of similar scope is even a viable possibility today?

CK: During the two years or so I was working on TMN I had no time for book publishing. I would have liked to do both, but one of them had to go. TMN was very difficult, not the least because I have no aptitude for journalism. It was more of a digest of stuff I had found published elsewhere. And it was expensive. Subscriptions barely paid for printing and mailing. It would make no sense today with the existence of websites, blogs, and message boards. You can do the work you do with so much greater efficiency and immediacy that I can’t see the point in a physical newsletter, unless it contains detailed instructions on how to do something that are difficult to follow in a browser window.

DW: What types of CW books do you treasure most from your own personal library at home?

CK: I wanted to collect all the books in the Iowa section of Dornbusch’s bibliography, and I almost had them all. But somewhere along the line I lost my desire to own rare books. I’m afraid I have sold them all. There’s a guy on the radio who says never fall in love with something that can’t love you back. It’s so true.

DW: Are there any Camp Pope projects in the pipeline (at least the ones you can speak of publicly) that you'd like to mention?

CK: Of course you know about my forthcoming book on the Battle of Athens, Missouri (August 5, 1861). I’m really excited about this because this is an original work of scholarship by author Jonathan Cooper-Wiele on a battle that has gotten very little attention. We’ll have some illustrations that have never appeared in print before, too.

Mike Banasik is working on a new book that is a compilation of postwar newspaper articles on the Trans-Miss from the Southern perspective. That will be a couple of years down the line. There’s been some talk of me reprinting his Embattled Arkansas, but no decision has been made.

I’m always eager to do contract work. In the past couple of years I’ve done two books for Kenneth Lyftogt, who is a teacher at the University of Northern Iowa, and these have been very successful. I get a lot of manuscripts pitched to me, but people usually want a traditional publishing relationship, where I get to pay for it. That’s pretty uncommon at CPB.

DW: I am certainly looking forward to the Athens study and want to extend my best wishes toward all your future efforts, Clark. And thanks again for your time.!

[Click here to read Part One of the Q&A with Clark Kenyon of Camp Pope Bookshop]

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Publisher Q&A: Clark Kenyon of the Camp Pope Bookshop

In something of a departure from the usual interview subject on CWBA, I thought readers might be interesting in hearing from a small publisher. Clark Kenyon, founder and sole proprietor of The Camp Pope Bookshop has kindly agreed to join us for a Q&A session.

DW: Hi Clark. Thank you for participating in the first publisher Q&A. I suppose I can start with the usual question--what got you into Civil War bookselling in the first place?

CK: Hi Drew. I’m flattered that you would want to interview me. It’s an old story: you start collecting books, you get too many, but you want more. How does one justify a hobby that takes up so much time and money? Turn it into a business. Why the Civil War? Visited Gettysburg when I was 12. You know what that does to you.

DW: Indeed. Did you realize early on that you'd be able to make a living dealing with T-M books almost exclusively? Or was it a gradual process?

CK: I might have thought I could make a living at it, but the scale is too small. The book publishing/selling business only represents about 8% of my total net income (I also have another business). So, were I to increase my volume tenfold I might be able to support myself with books alone. But the niche character of the Trans-Miss makes that unlikely.

DW: Which segment of your business—primary publishing, bookselling, contract publishing—do you find the most rewarding?

CK: I think I take the most enjoyment from designing and laying out books. I’m a little obsessive about it; I’ll spend weeks working on a book cover. (Since I have no formal graphic design training and no real artistic sense it takes that long.) But when everything finally falls into place it is very gratifying.

DW: What do you see as your greatest strength as a small publisher and a bookseller?

CK: As a publisher, that my standards are high for every book I do, not just my own. I have never produced a piece of crap for a contract job. As a bookseller, I am often complimented on the range of books I carry. People are happy that they can find so many Trans-Miss titles in one place.

DW: And, if I may add, many are available nowhere else! You are doing some really important work publishing annotated primary source materials with your series Unwritten Chapters of the Civil War West of the River (for book list go to The Camp Pope Bookshop). How did Michael Banasik’s involvement as series editor come about? Do you see the series continuing indefinitely?

CK: I met Mike in the mid 1990s when he was giving a talk at a local Civil War Round Table on his book Embattled Arkansas. We got to talking about books and the Trans-Miss, and he told me he had an idea to edit an original series of books containing primary material (diaries, letters, etc.) on the subject. He needed a publisher and wondered if I would be interested. I said yes. Our first book Missouri Brothers in Gray came out in 1998. Since then we’ve added five more titles.

Mike’s original proposal was for eight or ten titles and I don’t know if he has added anything beyond that. I suggested one title to him, Missouri in 1861: The Civil War Letters of Franc. B. Wilkie, Newspaper Correspondent, which turned out to be a very important contribution to the series. I imagine we could keep it going indefinitely.

[To be continued. Part 2 will be posted later in the week.]

Friday, November 10, 2006

Michael Burlingame

If you haven't had the chance to hear it yet, Civil War Talk Radio interviewed Michael Burlingame (the author of my favorite Lincoln book The Inner World of Abraham Lincoln) last week.

I was most interested in finding out how his multivolume biography of Lincoln was coming along. According to the author, the first two volumes are with outside readers and the final two covering his presidency are in draft form. Apparently, two publishing options are still being contemplated: all four volumes in 2008 or two volumes each in 2007 and 2008 depending on scheduling issues with Johns Hopkins Press. Considering the prices of university press books, that's going to be one pricey set.

I have another Q&A scheduled for posting next week. This time it'll be with a small publisher instead of an author. Hope you enjoy it!

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Magazine articles as book promotion

One of Eric's recent posts on Rantings of a Civil War Historian resonated with me. With commendable honesty, he speaks of writing a magazine article for the specific purpose of promoting his most recent book (the Stuart's Raid book "Plenty of Blame Go Around" that he co-authored with J.D. Petruzzi). First off, I want to be clear I am not singling out Eric with what I am about to say below because he makes an important distinction that excludes him from other 'offenders'..for lack of a better word.

Without harping on any particular magazine, I've noticed a discouraging trend in the publication of so many articles that merely summarize a book an author has recently (or even worse not so recently) published. Alternatively, a portion of a book may be converted into an article, but does not add detail from what was previously found in the book it's based on or utilize new information that has come to light since the book's publication.

I realize this complaint is a little bit unfair, because large numbers of subscribers don't read legions of books. I certainly don't mind finding these articles every once in awhile (there are many monographs I have no desire to read in book form but would gladly see summarized at article length--to keep up with the current literature if nothing else), but it's the frequency that bothers me. In the main, I pay for subscriptions to read original material articles about subjects that do not lend themselves to book-length study.

Now, getting back to Eric's post. His upcoming article is an example of what I would view as an 'acceptable' book promotion. Quoting from his post, Eric's article "will be an even more detailed treatment (my emphasis) of the charge of the 1st Delaware Cavalry, also known as Corbit’s Charge, at Westminster, MD than what appears in the book." Eric goes on to say:

"After the book was completely finished, I found a couple of additional sources, including an extremely detailed account by a trooper of one of Corbit’s men, who managed to avoid capture that proably would not have been used in the book, had we known of it then. The emphasis in the book is on Stuart’s Ride, and hence on the Confederates, and this account is very much a Union account. The nice thing about the article, therefore, is that it permitted us to add to the chapter in our book."

With significant original content, this kind of article promotes the book yet adds value for the reader who either has or hasn't already read the book. Everybody wins.

Monday, November 6, 2006

Eagleburger: "The Fighting 10th: The History of the 10th Missouri Cavalry US"

[The Fighting 10th: The History of the 10th Missouri Cavalry US by Len Eagleburger. (Bloomington, IN: Authorhouse, 2005). Pp. 636, $26.00, Hardcover, photos, rosters, appendices, ISBN 141403296X)]

The 10th Missouri Cavalry (Union) regiment is probably best known for its spearheading of the great cavalry charge at Mine Creek in Kansas and for its commander, Frederick Benteen of Little Bighorn infamy. Created from the consolidation of other units, the regiment served extensively in both the West and Trans-Mississippi theaters. According to the author, one of the difficulties in writing a history of this unit is that any prospective researcher has to work around the accidental wartime loss of the regimental records. Unfortunately, the effort here cannot be described as a success.

The Fighting 10th is strictly a top-down history of the regiment’s military service. The demographic analysis and social history elements found in most modern regimental histories are completely absent here. Aside from viewing the unit rosters, the reader can learn little of the backgrounds of the common soldiers and lower ranking officers. I could find no evidence that letters, diaries, or manuscript collections of any kind were consulted. The result is a narrative that traces the military history of the higher organizations (brigade, division, army) to which the 10th belonged at least as much as that of the unit itself.

The book’s text runs 190 pages and is highly problematic in both formatting and content. The writing is of a rough draft level of polish and is poorly edited for spelling, grammar, and sentence structure. Additionally, the more general background material is error-prone. The lack of footnotes, an index, and a formal bibliography (the one in the book is clearly incomplete, listing only five sources) is just as troubling. Unit rosters and appendices comprise the balance of the book’s 636 pages. Overall, The Fighting 10th contains very little to recommend it beyond the rosters, although readers with a very narrow interest in this particular regiment might seek to venture into its pages.

Friday, November 3, 2006

The Indiana Legion

State armies are interesting organizations (I am endlessly fascinated with the Missouri State Guard). A while back when I was casually researching northern militia units I came across an organization called the Indiana Legion. Unfortunately, I didn't have the time to find much data or background about it beyond some uniform information for the various units. Now I see a fellow named John Etter has written a book-length monograph The Indiana Legion: A Civil War Militia (no publisher information that I could find).

Along similar lines, I've been meaning to check out William Harris Bragg's works Joe Brown's Army: The Georgia State Line, 1862-1865 and (with William Scaife) Joe Brown's Pets: The Georgia Militia, 1862-1865. If you've read either of them, feel free to comment below!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"The Trans-Mississippi News"

I discovered this wonderful newsletter after it had ceased production in 1998, but all the issues are available for free here (note: these are .pdt files so you need to have the free Adobe Acrobat Reader). I've read them all and they are thoroughly enjoyable. Clark Kenyon of Camp Pope created and published these little gems, which are full of articles, editorials, news, and reviews directed entirely at the war in the Trans-Mississippi west. Additionally, many issues contain special features that are useful for researchers, such as a complete bibliography of Iowa units in the Civil War.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Banasik (ed.): "Duty, Honor and Country"

[From the The Camp Pope Bookshop website: Volume VI: DUTY, HONOR AND COUNTRY: THE CIVIL WAR EXPERIENCES OF CAPTAIN WILLIAM P. BLACK, THIRTY-SEVENTH ILLINOIS INFANTRY. Edited by Michael Banasik. Volume VI of our series presents 119 letters written by William P. Black, Captain of Co K, 37th Illinois Infantry. The letters cover a multitude of subjects from the Battles of Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove, Arkansas, to operations in Louisiana and Texas. William’s letters are straightforward, well-written, and informative. Editor Michael Banasik has added his usual exhaustive historical annotation, and he has compiled the most detailed roster of the 37th Illinois Infantry ever published. The book is further enhanced by other useful appendices, including, for the first time since its publication in the St. Louis Daily Missouri Democrat, January 1, 1863, the infamous Prairie Grove letter by officer “F” of the 37th, in which the bravery and leadership of William’s older brother Colonel John Black at Prairie Grove is impugned. The scandalous letter led to the Court Martial of its author, the unpopular Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Frisbie. 512 pages, 6 x 9 paperback, illustrations, maps, notes, roster, appendices, bibliography, index. (Published 2006; ISBN 1-929919-10-7) $24.95.]

I am very impressed with the overall effort behind Duty, Honor and Country, Camp Pope's latest contribution to its long standing (and much appreciated) leadership role in the publication of primary source materials from the Civil War's Trans-Mississippi theater. Captain Black's letters are presented in an attractive, yet sturdy paperback, richly augmented with notes, maps, and illustrations.

Duty, Honor and Country
The notes deserve special mention. "Unwritten Chapters of the Civil War West of the River" series editor Michael Banasik's annotations are deeply researched and highly informative. Background material for persons, places, and events mentioned in the letters are lengthy, detailed, and often constructed from a great variety of sources. Each letter is thus placed in as broad a context as possible. A complete roster of the 37th Illinois is also provided, a gem for researchers and an "extra" I don't recall ever seeing in an edited volume of letters before. Orders of battle for different periods of the 37th's service are also included in the appendices along with some supplemental letters. Overall, the volume of information included in the book along with the level of skill and expertise in the editing far exceeds what one normally finds in a published letter collection.

As the introduction above notes, Capt. Black experienced the war in all the states of the Confederate Trans-Mississippi. He doesn't relate his battle experiences in great detail--except for an account of the battle of Prairie Grove for the National Tribune--but Black writes well and does provide the reader with great insight into the often destructive world of officer politicking in a Civil War regiment. The subject is brought up to some degree in almost every letter, often involving the writer's older brother, Col. John Black. A picture of camp life at various postings throughout the T-M is effectively drawn, and some of Black's most interesting and novel observations involve border happenings near Brownsville, Texas during the war's latter period.

I would highly recommend Duty, Honor and Country's inclusion in the library of any reader or researcher of T-M Civil War history. The experience has certainly left me favorably disposed toward obtaining other volumes in the series and we can only hope future installments are planned as well!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

More upcoming titles

This is just a list of interesting looking books (to me anyway) released anywhere from now to the beginning of next year. Basically, books I wouldn't kick out from under the Christmas tree.


Lincoln and Chief Justice Taney: Slavery, Secession, and the President's War Powers by James F. Simon (Simon & Schuster)

Long Road to Liberty: The Odyssey of a German Regiment in the Yankee Army : the 15th Missouri Volunteer Infantry by Donald Allendorf (Kent State University Press)

Civil War Petersburg: Confederate City in the Crucible of Warby A. Wilson Greene (University of Virginia Press)

Sherman's Mississippi Campaignby Buck Foster (University of Alabama Press)

Echoes of Thunder: A Guide to the Seven Days Battles by Matt Spruill III and IV (University of Tennessee Press)

Through the Howling Wilderness: The 1864 Red River Campaign and Union Failure in the Westby Gary Joiner (University of Tennessee Press) -- this one arrived last week and I just got started into it.

Wilson's Creek, Pea Ridge, And Prairie Grove: A Battlefield Guide, With a Section on the Wire Roadby Earl J. Hess, William L. Shea, William G. Piston, Richard W. Hatcher (Bison Books)

ARMY OF THE POTOMAC. Vol. 3 McClellan's First Campaign by Russel Beatie (Savas Beatie) -- Can't wait for this one, but not a big fan of the title...I guess I'll always consider McClellan's West Virginia campaign his 'first'!

Guerrilla Warfare in Civil War Missouri, 1863 by Bruce Nichols (McFarland & Co.)

Jo Shelby's Iron Brigade by Deryl P. Sellmeyer (Pelican Publishing Co.) -- Pelican doesn't have a webpage up for this one yet, so I unfortunately don't know anything more about it.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Marvel: "Mr. Lincoln Goes to War"

William Marvel's Mr. Lincoln Goes to War wasn't quite what I expected. Rather than a focused and structured analysis of Lincoln's judgments and policies, the book reads more like a narrative history of the war's first few months sprinkled with commentary. This often results in the greatest amount of detail in the text being devoted to subjects (largely military) covered well or better by other works, leaving the reader wanting more depth when Marvel discusses his own interesting views or interpretations. It just seemed to me that the focus was backwards, so often pushing Lincoln himself into the background of people and events. [However, some of this becomes clear upon reading the Acknowledgments at the back of the book, which mentions that the project started out as a Ball's Bluff monograph. If nothing else, that explains why so much space was devoted to tactical details of that battle.]

Marvel's argument that economic forces were a primary consideration [on what scale this factor was greater than, or largely apart from, patriotism, ideology, etc. he doesn't say, but it would certainly be difficult to measure] for enlistment in the Union army was interesting, mostly for how it brought into focus the Panic of 1857 and the later effects that secession itself had on nationwide commerce. It made me wonder just what was the overall economic situation in the U.S. during the 1860 election season, and was it even a factor in a national political campaign so overwhelmed by sectional issues.

How Lincoln handled his constitutional authority was another major theme. Here, Marvel is less forgiving than Neely and Farber. Again, although I recognize the book was written in popular non-fiction form, I would liked to have seen a more structured criticism of the current Lincoln scholarship on the subject of civil liberties in Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri. As an aside, in his assessment of Nathaniel Lyon in Missouri, Marvel, with some confirmation provided in his Acknowledgments section, appears to be heavily influenced by Christopher Phillips's psychobiography of the general [Damned Yankee: The Life of General Nathaniel Lyon (1990)], which I heartily recommend reading. As another aside, Marvel certainly adheres to the traditional view of Robert Patterson's valley campaign, with no mention in the text or bibliography of David Detzer or Russel Beatie's recent contrarian arguments.

In the end, perhaps the greatest criticism leveled at Lincoln by Marvel is his opinion that Lincoln insisted on war from the very start, eschewing any serious consideration of peaceful alternative options--either to just let secession stand or to buy time for passions to cool in hopes of later reconciliation. However, Marvel's argument lacks needed punch as it fails to clearly delineate just what those options were and what relative strengths and weaknesses they offered. This doesn't even get into how acceptable any of them would have been to the cabinet, the Congress, the courts, and an inflamed American public--a subject certainly worthy of deep consideration.

By his own estimation, in the interminable "Lincoln--saint or satan?" debates, the views of Marvel come down somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. His hard but still nuanced look at Lincoln's actions may disappoint some readers wishing to read a book whose thrust is more black and white or provocatively partisan, but we've seen enough of those in recent times. On the other hand, instead of using them in conjunction with a lengthy, well-trodden narrative history of the Civil War's early months, I rather wished Marvel had expanded more on his own arguments--and more sharply defined and supported them.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Finch: "Confederate Pathway to the Pacific"

L. Boyd Finch's Confederate Pathway to the Pacific: Major Sherod Hunter and Arizona Territory, C.S.A [The Arizona Historical Society, 1996 (OP)] is about as definitive an account of Confederate Arizona as we are likely to get. The territory, stretching from California to Texas (think of an east-west running line splitting in half the area comprising the present states of New Mexico and Arizona instead of the current border), would be the object of many schemes for the expansion of the Confederate state to the Pacific coast.

Confederate Pathway to the Pacific is a deeply researched and well-written study. Finch does a wonderful job of 'setting the stage' for his later narrative of the war years. He traces the early settlement and nascent economic development of the region, noting the creation of a Southern-leaning "Arizonian" identity among many of the territory's most prominent citizens. The situation of the various Indian groups in relation to the settlers and each other is also detailed (especially the many conflicts with local Apache bands).

No major battles were fought between opposing Union and Confederate forces in Arizona. When Henry H. Sibley invaded New Mexico, he detached Capt. Sherod Hunter's company for an advance west into Arizona. Soon, Hunter was ensconced in Tucson. This move served both to guard the left flank of Sibley's main army as it advanced north into New Mexico and to secure the newly created Arizona territory for the C.S.A. However, when the U.S. army's "California Column" advanced into Arizona from Fort Yuma, the vastly outnumbered Confederates were soon ejected. The Union territorial occupation was relatively easy, with logistical problems holding up the advance more than any other factor. The affair at Picacho Pass, a picket post skirmish at best, was the most prominent military action [Flint Whitlock, in his book Distant Bugles, Distant Drums: The Union Response to the Confederate Invasion of New Mexico, modestly recommends Finch's book as the best account of Picacho Pass, but it is really only marginally more detailed than Whitlock's own recounting of events at the pass].

With the failure of Sibley's 1861-1862 New Mexico campaign, Confederate troops were shifted to other fronts, mainly the Gulf coast and east Texas. However, this did not stop various civilians and military officers from scheming to regain the lost territory of Arizona. Finch outlines these plans in the text, and details how and why none ever came to fruition--or ever really enjoyed serious support from the Confederate government. The last section deals with the post-war lives of the various figures who played prominent roles in Confederate Arizona.

For those as interested as I am in the Civil War's Far West,
Confederate Pathway to the Pacific
is really a great book and merits an enthusiastic recommendation. Its high quality research, writing, and content are augmented by a beautiful presentation--the publisher, The Arizona Historical Society, deserves a lot of credit here for going the extra mile. I sincerely hope this worthy study will be reprinted in the future.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Author news: Bill Gurley

Bill Gurley, co-editor with Cynthia Pitcock of "I Acted from Principle": The Civil War Diary of Dr. William M. McPheeters, Confederate Surgeon in the Trans-Mississippi (published by University of Arkansas Press as part of The Civil War in the West series), recently emailed me with some kind words about this website—which were greatly appreciated by me—and he also informed me of some of his current projects. Regular readers may remember that Bill contributed a chapter to the upcoming book "The Earth Reeled and Trees Trembled" - Civil War Arkansas, 1863-1864, mentioned earlier here on this blog. The essay was gleaned from Gurley's research for an upcoming book length project. This is how he describes it: "This chapter discusses the medical casebook of Confederate surgeon Dye was a surgeon from Texas in charge of the Texas Branch Hospital following the Battle of Jenkins' Ferry. What makes Dye's journal so unique is that it is not only a chronicle of Confederate medical practice in the Trans-Mississippi, but Dye drew pictures of all of his patients. I've never seen another Confederate medical casebook like it. The chapter in Mark's book is just a small sampling of the 125 cases Dye describes. I am working on editing and annotating the complete casebook for publication. Its tentative title is "Yankee Bullets, Southern Blood: The remarkable casebook of Confederate surgeon Henry M. Dye." The book will examine a wide variety of Civil War medicine topics using each case as an template. Whenever possible, the post-war biography of each patient will be explored since many of Dye's patients (Texans, Arkansans, and Missourians) filed for pensions after the war, and several left reminiscences. Dye's approach to medicine, in many respects, turns the stereotypical view of Civil War surgeons on its head. One chapter of the Dye book will focus on the Battle of Jenkins' Ferry since 108 of the 125 cases were wounded in that fight. Many new and unpublished sources will be used for this discussion of the battle." Bill is also working on a history of Mosby Monroe Parsons' division of Confederate Missourians, a project which we will alas have to wait several more years for. Its completion will mark the culmination of over 15 years of research, and with Gurley's passion for discovering unpublished source materials and for good maps, I am greatly looking forward to its publication.

Friday, October 13, 2006

New Hafendorfer book and other things

Kenneth Hafendorfer's latest book, Battle of Richmond, Kentucky, is now available. The only contact information I have is:

KH Press
915 Cromwell Hill Rd
Louisville, KY 40222

KH Press has no website or email as far as I know (you'd think he would these days). An email correspondent mentioned the price as $33 plus $2 shipping direct from the publisher, but I can't confirm that. I don't believe any of the major online booksellers like Amazon, B&N, etc. carry them, but Morningside Books and C. Clayton Thompson carry Hafendorfer's books new so that's an alternative source for purchase information.


The answer to Dimitri's post today on Civil War Bookshelf is YES--a resounding yes! Pemberton has every opportunity to win Campaign Vicksburg in the field.


I picked up the used copy of Iowa's Forgotten General by Kenneth Lyftogt that I mentioned earlier on CWBA. I'll have a review of it up soon.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Sauers: "The Devastating Hand of War"

Richard Sauers' A Succession of Honorable Victories (published by Morningside, and I believe OP) is a wonderful history of the Burnside Expedition and one of my favorite Civil War books. It inspired me to get a hold of a copy of one of his later works titled The Devastating Hand of War: Romney, West Virginia, During the Civil War (Gauley Mount Press, 2000).

At 94 pages of text, the book is a brief overview of the military events surrounding Romney, West(ern) Virginia, a small town located in the valley of the S. branch of Potomac River around 40 miles west-northwest of Winchester. Romney was strategically important as its location near the B&O railroad and Chesapeake & Ohio canal made the town a prime jumping off point for raids upon those important Northern supply and transportation entities. It was fought over and occupied by both sides numerous times.

Guerrilla warfare was also common to the region, and Sauers covers it all, but probably not with the depth desired by the more demanding students of the military aspects of the Civil War. The numerous articles by the Haselbergers (Fritz and Mark) published in the West Virginia History journal cover the various battles, skirmishes, and raids in much more detail and often include some very nice maps [curiously, none of these articles were consulted by Sauers, who did rely heavily in places on other secondary sources like Thomas Rankin's Stonewall Jackson's Romney Campaign, which I haven't read but was reviewed by Brett on his blog]. The maps in Devastating Hand of War allow you to locate various geographic points (and there is a nice sketch of the Romney environs), but many locations described in the text cannot be found on the maps provided and none trace troops movements, so it helps to have other sources handy so it all doesn't become a numbing blur.

A concluding chapter includes a brief assessment of the war's damage to the civilian population, but the study's overwhelming focus is military and it can certainly be recommended on those grounds. It should also be mentioned that all royalties from the sale of the book go to a worthy cause--the Fort Mill Ridge Foundation to preserve the fortifications there and maintain the museum.

Monday, October 9, 2006

Self plug: "Campaign Vicksburg" released today!

HPS Simulations has announced the release of Campaign Vicksburg, the seventh installment of their American Civil War series. This is the fourth Civil War computer wargame that I've done the scenario design work for software developer John Tiller and publisher HPS Simulations (Corinth, Ozark, Peninsula, and now Vicksburg). Vicksburg is my first co-design with my friend Lee Hook. Earlier in the year, I jumped on board to create the campaign feature and help with scenario design, but Lee's been toiling away on this project since 1998. I was glad to help and it's great to see the project completed and published.


"Campaign Vicksburg has 57 scenarios, including the historical battles of:
  • • Chickasaw Bayou (3 days)
  • • Port Gibson
  • • Raymond
  • • Jackson
  • • Champion Hill
  • • Big Black Bridge
  • • Milliken’s Bend
  • • and the Vicksburg Assaults of May 19 and 22

“What-if” battles include:
  • • Grant Assaults Snyder’s Bluffs
  • • Redbone Church
  • • Grindstone Ford
  • • Ingraham Heights
  • • July 6 Final Assault on Vicksburg

Large 3D isometric maps (ed. wonderfully created by Lee Hook) and inclusive orders of battle offer unlimited possibilities for user-created scenarios. Maps covering the following areas, and smaller areas in between, are included with Campaign Vicksburg:
  • Big Black River to Raymond
  • Bolton-Clinton-Jackson
  • Vicksburg to Snyder’s Bluffs
  • Grand Gulf
  • Hankinson’s Ferry to Warrenton
  • Milliken’s Bend
  • Port Gibson
  • Port Gibson to Hankinson’s Ferry
  • Redbone Church
  • Vicksburg itself at various stages of the siege

The Campaign:

The campaign is played over a large area from Snyder’s Bluff south to Port Gibson and from Vicksburg east to the state capital of Jackson. On the advance, the Union player can choose among several strategic pathways with the ultimate goal of capturing Vicksburg. The Confederate guardians of the “Hill City” can elect to act purely on the defensive or counterattack instead. The choices are yours.

At each stage of the campaign, players choose operational decisions that will result in a tactical battle to be played out on an expansive map, providing room for maneuver. The campaign is non-linear, with both offensive and defensive operational options available to each side."

Friday, October 6, 2006

Latest Camp Pope offering

I just received the latest Camp Pope Bookshop catalog (#42) in the mail. One item of note is the publication of Vol. 6 of the press's "Unwritten Chapters of the Civil War West of the River" Series.

(Michael Banasik, ed. Duty, Honor and Country: The Civil War Experiences of Captain William P. Black, Thirty-Seventh Illinois Infantry. Iowa City, IA: Press of the Camp Pope Bookshop, 2006. Illustrated, maps, notes, roster, appendices, bibliography, index, paperback 312pp. $24.95.)


While browsing a used bookstore last weekend, I glanced through a copy of another recent Camp Pope offering (Lyftogt, Kenneth. IOWA’S FORGOTTEN GENERAL: MATTHEW MARK TRUMBULL. Iowa City, IA: Camp Pope Bookshop, 2005. Illustrated, maps, notes, bibliography, index, 128pp. $10.00.) This book didn't arouse much interest in me when it first came out. Now I see it contains quite a bit of information about early war events in Missouri north of the Missouri River. It looks well done.

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Savas Beatie to publish Cunningham dissertation

I periodically check Savas Beatie's Under Contract page to see what's in the pipeline. New Civil Warrior Sean beat me to it, but it deserves repeating that Edward Cunningham's dissertation The Shiloh Campaign, 1862 will finally be published (with some kind of assistance by Timothy Smith and Gary Joiner). I am really looking forward to this one. I first heard about Cunningham's monograph back in May when David Woodbury directed me to the transcripts from his Civil War Forum author interviews.

[if you're interested, this is how you can get them per Dave: for now you can find them as if they were messages. Click on "advanced search (below the "Find Messages" box. Then, search for keyword "Transcript," and set the date field back to "beginning of time." That should bring up 30 or so text files, all entitled "A Conversation with xxxxx."]

The interview with ranger Stacy Allen praised Cunningham highly, particularly for his treatment of the battle's first day. He also mentions "The Battle of Shiloh and the Organizations Engaged," (out-of-print) by Maj. David W. Reed. According to Allen, Reed's book is the best tactical treatment of the battle. Maybe we can get a new edition of Reed someday as well.

Monday, October 2, 2006

Fisher: "War at Every Door: Partisan Politics and Guerrilla Violence in East Tennessee, 1860-1869"

Noel C. Fisher's well-balanced and deeply researched War at Every Door: Partisan Politics and Guerrilla Violence in East Tennessee, 1860-1869 long occupied a spot on my Civil War bookshelf, asking to be read but continually passed over. Well, I finally got around to reading this award winner and I wasn't disappointed.

Dividing Tennessee into three regions (west, middle, and east), Fisher begins by discussing the political, social, religious, and economic divisions within the state from its origins through the secession crisis. The author's own statistical analysis (Appendix A) is presented along with a summary of the work of previous historians on the subject of East Tennessee unionism. There isn't total agreement across the board but issues like Whig party affiliation, relative scarcity of slaveholding, and a unique geographical & political identity seem to have a broader acceptance than the others. Overall, it's a southern Unionism whose uniqueness was only equalled by that nurtured in West(ern) Virginia.

Fisher examines in detail the contrasting policies of Confederate garrison forces, which began as highly conciliatory under Felix Zollicoffer before predictably transforming into repression under later commanders, and the later Union occupiers, beginning with Ambrose Burnside in 1863 [this reminds me that we need a modern book-length study of the Union army's invasion and occupation of East Tennessee, 1863-1865. As far as I know, none yet exists]. The postwar period, which saw a great exodus of pro-secession families from the region (esp. from Knoxville), is also covered at some length.

From a look at the bibliography--the word 'wow' comes to mind--and notes, it is apparent that Fisher condenses a great deal of indepth research and knowledge into his relatively short and highly readable manuscript. This summarization of results and focus on prominent community and military leaders may disappoint some readers, and it is probably true that the book would have benefitted from including more passages that directly relate the traumatic experiences of the region's inhabitants, both unionist and Confederate. Overall, though, I would consider War at Every Door essential reading for those trying to understand the Civil War in East Tennessee.

[On a related note: Although the pages have since been removed, a search website aimed at academic papers and journals once had back issues of Civil War History available for viewing. I wish I could remember the volume and number as I would like to revisit it, but a historian contributed a lengthy combined review and analysis of Fisher's War at Every Door and W. Todd Groce's Mountain Rebels: East Tennessee Confederates and the Civil War, 1860-1870 for one of the issues. Since I've now read Fisher's work (but not Groce, unfortunately), I would like to reexamine the criticisms levelled at the book.]