Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Livingston: "'Among the Best Men the South Could Boast': The Fall of Fort McAllister"

In an earlier post that briefly discussed the Georgia militia work of historian William Harris Bragg, I mentioned Gary Livingston's Fields of Gray, Battle of Griswoldville, November 22, 1864. Although it has serious weaknesses, I would still recommend it as by far the most detailed history of the battle. What disappoints me most about his follow up book "Among the Best Men the South Could Boast": The Fall of Fort McAllister, December 13, 1864 (Caisson Press, 1997) is it has all the flaws of his earlier work, but has even less of the trappings of scholarship (no footnotes this time, no index, and an incomplete bibliography). The continued lack of editing is almost horrifying in extent and the transitions between the narrative portions of the text and the extensive quotations from diaries, letters, and official reports are often problematic.

Editorial blunders aside, the book's centerpiece--the storming by Hazen's division of the Confederate earthwork fort on the Ogeechee River that guarded the southern flank of Savannah--is actually fairly well organized and stirringly written. Sadly, the maps lack much of the detail required to follow the action closely. The maps included with the book are from other sources and not always very helpful; in addition to being poorly copied in some cases.

On the positive side, an order of battle is provided, along with a nicely researched and detailed listing (by Norman V. Turner) of the men captured or killed in the assault on the fort. In the final estimation, this marginally useful study can probably be recommended to only those readers with a narrow interest in the military events of the Savannah campaign.


  1. I haven't read Livingston's work, but I did like Christman's "Undaunted: The History of Fort McAllister, Georgia." It is lacking maps, OOB, and index, but it is still an entertaining and informative read for $5 at the battlefield's bookstore. (It would be a good candidate for finishing out by adding the missing elements, etc.)

  2. Thank you for telling me about it. I wasn't aware of that work. From what you say and the Amazon review I just read, it does appear to have a lot of merit and could benefit from an updated edition.

    Thanks again.

  3. I think the closest thing to a definitive history of Ft. Mc. will by "Guardian of the Ogeechee" being published by University of SC Press this year. It is my masters thesis and the result of over 25 years research and the fact that I am a former superintendent of the historic site doesn't hurt either. A number of the works mentioned draw heavily on my research. Stay tuned.

    Roger S. Durham


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