Sunday, May 25, 2008

"Roll Call to Destiny: The Soldier's Eye View of Civil War Battles"

Brent Nosworthy's latest book Roll Call to Destiny: The Soldier's Eye View of Civil War Battles [Basic Books, 2008] is a direct offshoot of his earlier study, the massive The Bloody Crucible of Courage: Fighting Methods and Combat Experience of the Civil War. In some ways, Call to Destiny could be regarded as a distillation of Bloody Crucible [esp. with the weapons & tactics sidebars, and the placement of the ACW within contemporary European military theory and tactical doctrine], but the current work stands alone in its extended micro examination of various, and very specific, tactical situations that Civil War soldiers experienced. In my view, it's also a better book in that the focus is much sharper, eliminating the extended off-topic wanderings that characterized the earlier work.

Situational scenarios are drawn from both famous and more obscure battles across the three major theaters* of war, and involve discrete unit vs. unit actions between and within the three service branches (infantry, cavalry, and artillery). The study integrates physical elements such as weather, terrain, and man-made defensive impediments as well. While grizzled veterans of modern micro-tactical battle histories may contest Nosworthy's claims about mass deficiencies in the literature, I appreciate his larger contention that "magnification" often results in shifting interpretations and perceptions of battles and remains an important means of understanding their conduct.

* - perspectives drawn from the battles of First Bull Run, Fair Oaks, Fredericksburg, Arkansas Post, Gettysburg, Fort Sanders, Missionary Ridge, and Darbytown Road.

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