Monday, February 5, 2007

Naisawald: "THE BATTLE OF LYNCHBURG: Seize Lynchburg--If Only for a Single Day"

[The Battle of Lynchburg: Seize Lynchburg--If Only for a Single Day by L. VanLoan Naisawald (Warwick House Publishing, 2004. Softcover, 82 pages, 4 maps, photos, illustrations, endnotes, reading list. ISBN 1890306681) $9.99]

Author L. VanLoan Naisawald, perhaps best known for his book Grape and Canister: The Story of the Field Artillery in the Army of the Potomac, 1861-1865, has authored a concise history of Union General David Hunter's 1864 valley campaign, from the aftermath of his army's victory at the Battle of Piedmont to his retreat from Lynchburg. According to the author, significant gaps exist in the source material. While certainly hampering any current effort to write a thorough study of the battle, Naisawald clearly identifies where these gaps occur and, unlike many other authors, avoids filling them with unwarranted conjecture. Although the missing pieces of the puzzle can be frustrating for the reader, a reasonably detailed narrative of the events occurring on June 17 and 18 Battle of Lynchburg is constructed. Sources are evaluated in the main text, allowing the reader insight into the author's line of thinking. It's good stuff, and is best illustrated by Naisawald's insightful analysis of Union general Alfred Duffie's battle report detailing that officer's actions on the 18th.

There are a few problems. Although a concrete idea of the battlefield terrain can be gleaned from the maps (including a nice color reproduction on the back of the book), identifying known troop positions is problematic, especially for the Union side. While acknowledging the holes in the data available, maps that better visually connect the reader to the text should have been included. Only one tiny map is original to the book. While the writing itself is clear, it's needlessly repetitive in places. These flaws aside, The Battle of Lynchburg remains a useful introductory history. While a definitive treatment is left to a future scholar, The Battle of Lynchburg is well worth the modest purchase price.

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