Tuesday, September 30, 2008

New edition of "Mr. Lincoln's Forts"

Considering what they currently go for on the secondary market, I am sure most interested readers would be happy to learn that B.F. Cooling's excellent Mr. Lincoln's Forts: A Guide to the Civil War Defenses of Washington (White Mane, 1988) is going to be reissued in a new edition by The Scarecrow Press. Enthusiasm for leaping over the $75 price hurdle -- and for a paperback to boot -- is another matter. I've seen a November release date online, but the publisher site has it listed for April 2009.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Luvaas & Nelson: "Guide to the Atlanta Campaign"

[Guide to the Atlanta Campaign: Rocky Face Ridge to Kennesaw Mountain by Jay Luvaas and Harold W. Nelson (Univ. Press of Kansas, 2008). Softcover, photos, illustrations, 39 maps, appendices, index. 399 pp. ISBN: 978-070061570-4 $17.95]

Veteran readers of the U.S. Army War College Guides to Civil War Battles series will immediately find themselves on familiar ground when opening up the Guide to the Atlanta Campaign. Based on the army's staff ride concept, these studies are basically top down, command-level examinations of campaigns and battles in combination with detailed touring directions, supplemented with maps. Most of the text associated with each tour stop is comprised of lengthy excerpts from O.R. reports (with the balance drawn from select memoirs and other similar published sources). These accounts are connected by brief, but important, narrative transitions composed by the author(s) that also serve to highlight the tactical and operational points of interest they wish to convey to the reader.

Beginning at Rocky Face Ridge and ending at Kolb's Farm [20 stops in all that roughly follow the I-75 highway], with coverage of everything in between, highlighted by Dug Gap, Resaca, Cassville, New Hope Church, Dallas, Pickett's Mill, and Kennesaw Mountain. The tour itself ends rather abruptly, the authors feeling that modern urbanization has rendered valueless (for touring purposes) further sites around Atlanta. I think it's reasonable to be of two minds in this regard, but I wish Luvaas and Nelson had dealt with their decision at more length, perhaps to the point of including some sort of accounting of the developed area sites that do exist (e.g. the shoupades of the Chattahoochee River line) in an appendix or side tour.

At thirty-nine, the number of maps is satisfying, and the quality is generally good. They come in three types, the first of which traces the tour route over the modern road network. The second type follows the operational movements of the armies over a backdrop of modern and period roads [these are helpful, but can be a bit too dark and cluttered to follow easily]. Last, the tactical maps are drawn at division and brigade scale. With these, more detailed terrain features (e.g. elevation contours, streams & rivers, and entrenchments) are present, as well as more discernible period roads.

An essay on Sherman's logistics written by Jay Luvaas (a very worthwhile read), an order of battle, and index complete the volume. Guide to the Atlanta Campaign is a fine addition to the War College series, and is undoubtedly one of the most useful books available to those who wish to follow in the footsteps of the armies of Sherman and Johnston.

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Brett Schulte reviewed this book earlier this month on TOCWOC.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Booknotes - "The Rifle Musket in Civil War Combat"

Already given hearty recommendations as a major contribution to the literature, Earl Hess's latest book The Rifle Musket in Civil War Combat: Reality and Myth (Univ. Press of Kansas), among other things to be sure, addresses Paddy Griffith's rather broadly drawn contentions about the overstated reputation of the rifled musket, undoubtedly applying much more deeply compiled research and considered analysis. There are chapters devoted to rifle technology and gun culture, along with those highlighting tactical applications and effects of the rifle on the various combat functions, including skirmishing and sniping -- all supported by a number of data tables.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Reid: "America's Civil War: The Operational Battlefield, 1861-1863 "

[America's Civil War: The Operational Battlefield, 1861-1863 by Brian Holden Reid (Prometheus Books, 2008). Hardcover, maps, photos, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total: 435/504 ISBN: 978-1591026051 $34.95]

Within the vast range of Civil War literature, relatively few major works seriously address the operational art, such as it was. The middle volume of an unfinished trilogy, historian Brian Holden Reid's America's Civil War: The Operational Battlefield, 1861-1863 does just that. Operational warfare can be thought of as the bridge between strategic considerations above and the tactical fighting of battles below. In order to perform at this level, formations must be able to conduct military operations independently and at a scale significant enough to impact strategic directives. Of course, what constitutes the operational level changes throughout history. Certainly Civil War armies and corps are operational level formations, with some argument to be made for the inclusion of the large divisions common to the Civil War armies during the 1861-62 period.

Reid's research is entirely composed of published source materials, marking his analytical work as primarily one of synthesis. His critique of professional colleagues (as well as the generals placed under his microscope) can be abrupt, but fair. However, one might quibble with some of his choices of representative source materials. For instance, for Ball's Bluff, Reid consulted Holien rather than the superb, definitive work of James Morgan. In terms of notable omissions, the author made use of Ethan Rafuse's recent McClellan study, yet did not address countervailing arguments effectively raised by Russel Beatie's recent Army of the Potomac series. Also, in his discussion of the (in)vulnerability of armies to destruction, Reid does not critique Gerald Prokopowicz's influential thesis (and does not list All For the Regiment in the bibliography). Interpretation aside, some obvious errors (e.g. "Fritz" Sigel, "Daniel" E. Twiggs) found their way through the editing process.

Taking issue with much of the recent literature, Reid is frankly admiring of Lee's operational capacity and depth of strategic thought -- the 'anti-Nolan' so to speak. His equal praise of Grant's abilities is a refreshing change from many recent works, which seem incapable of finding room for both at the top. At the highest level of operational direction, I agree with much of what Reid says about Jefferson Davis's flawed military administration, but his fervent contention that Abraham Lincoln possessed an instinctual operational genius is weakly presented.

Reid completely rejects the commonly asserted notion that Civil War armies were invulnerable to destruction, placing great faith in the truth that just because certain events did not occur doesn't eliminate the possibility. According to the author, the most significant limiting factor was the inability of Confederate armies to organize, coordinate, and perpetuate offensive action on the battlefield, a fully accurate, if not original, point. Interestingly, the author did not offer his opinion of whether Union armies on the offensive shared the same weaknesses.

Reid correctly notes the ultimate futility of discussing the strategic plans from which operations were spawned, since neither government sustained a formalized one. Reid also finds no evidence of influence by European theorists on strategic/operational maneuver - rather it was instinctual, common sense approach, sprinkled with some Mexican War experience (e.g. importance of the indirect approach) applied. If read at all, such ideas were never incorporated into the American army in terms of manuals or formal doctrine.

America's Civil War does address the literature's long standing east vs. west debate. As the eastern theater contained the Confederacy's political and economic center of gravity, Reid argues for its primacy and criticizes those historians that promote a more vigorous western concentration. However, I think the author goes too far in implying those same historians do not at least acknowledge the significance of the east.

In terms of overall narrative presentation, Reid writes well and consistently resists the temptation to enter into detailed discussions on topics befitting the strategic and tactical spheres. A lesser writer might have been satisfied with providing trite campaign overviews disguised as meaningful interpretation (it's been done before), but Reid maintained his work's analytic focus throughout. Readers might fairly quibble with some of the campaign details, but one should keep in mind the difficulty in compressing so many campaigns into limited space. I tended to want to give Reid the benefit of the doubt in this regard.

The volume is generously supplied with maps borrowed from a variety of published works. This is good and bad. The best cartography provides a visual representation and reinforcement of the text, intimately connected to the author's particular points of emphasis. This is impossible to do with non-original maps.

The above is a rather selective accounting of the many themes examined in America's Civil War, and the quibbles mentioned in the review might better represent the variety of published opinions available rather than a negative judgment of parts of Reid's work. On controversial topics, the author has strong beliefs, defended in a manner that, even when not particularly persuasive, is articulate, direct, confident, and thought provoking. Recommended.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Booknotes - "Confederate Struggle for Command"

General James Longstreet has received much deserved criticism for his mixed performance during his half-year plus away from the Army of Northern Virginia in the mountains of East Tennessee. The question author Alexander Mendoza seems to want to answer is just how much of the condemnation is warranted. The general's mistakes and personal failings will be weighed against the influences of the poisonous political and military atmosphere he was thrown into. A balanced assessment is promised. Confederate Struggle For Command: General James Longstreet and the First Corps in the West (Texas A&M Univ. Press, 2008) is rather brief, at around 200 pages of main text, and seems to devote roughly equal space to Chickamauga/Chattanooga, the failed Knoxville Campaign, and Longstreet's subsequent occupation of upper East Tennessee prior to the 1st Corps returning to Lee's army in Virginia for the spring 1864 campaign. At first glance, the bibliography looks impressive, but the maps leave something to be desired.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Booknotes - "Cavalryman of the Lost Cause"

The thing that immediately struck me upon opening Jeffry Wert's Cavalryman of the Lost Cause: A Biography of J. E. B. Stuart (Simon & Schuster, 2008) was the exceptionally large bibliography, jam-packed with manuscript materials. At 400 pages of main text (however, only 45 are devoted to Stuart's pre-Civil War life) it's an in-depth military biography of the man. Looks like this will be the new standard work.

Ranger Hoptak has already posted a review. His findings seem to confirm my initial impressions of the book.

Booknotes - "The Timberclads in the Civil War"

Note on Booknotes: Rather than my usual practice of collecting new arrivals into a monthly or bi-monthly Booknotes posting, I've decided to give each incoming book a timelier post of its own as it arrives. As before, these are first impressions from a simple, quick eyeballing of the book, not reviews.

The Timberclads in the Civil War: The Lexington, Conestoga, and Tyler on the Western Waters(McFarland, 2008) is a new book by Myron J. Smith. Readers might recall I was an admirer of his previous work [link to review], a monumental study that combined a biography of LeRoy Fitch with a densely detailed recounting of waterborne logistics and warfare along the Ohio, Cumberland, and Tennessee rivers. This new volume is equally massive in scope, with the same voluminous notes and deep bibliography, but takes readers through a history of the famous timberclad gunboats that plied the rivers criss-crossing the western and trans-Mississippi theaters. Tons of photos and illustrations, but, unfortunately, it looks like it suffers from the same map deficiencies that Smith's previous study had.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Allardice: "Confederate Colonels: A Biographical Register"

[Confederate Colonels: A Biographical Register by Bruce S. Allardice (Univ. of Missouri Press, 2008). Hardcover, introduction, photos, appendices. Pages main/total: 436/448. ISBN: 978-0-8262-1809-4 $44.95]

With previous works More Generals in Gray,Texas Burial Sites of Civil War Notables: A Biographical and Pictorial Field Guide (with co-authors Jim Mundie, Dean Letzring and John Luckey), and his new study Confederate Colonels: A Biographical Register*, Bruce Allardice is cementing a fine reputation as an author of authoritative reference books. At its heart, Confederate Colonels provides readers with short biographical sketches [see example below] of the 1,583 officers who ended their military careers at the rank of full colonel.

In his lengthy introduction, Allardice notes and analyzes many of the difficulties (e.g. poor records, incomplete records, duplication, honorary ranks, rank inflation, etc.) that needed to be addressed while compiling his register. Central to his definition of just what made a Confederate colonel is the requirement that the officer be legally commissioned in the Provisional Army of the Confederate States (PACS). However, certain circumstances rendered the process not entirely black and while. When other supporting evidence was available, the author elected to include those officers whose official promotion records were lost or who were promoted too late in the war to be properly recorded. Likewise, promotions from the isolated Trans-Mississippi department are recognized as well. Thus, Allardice's methodology for inclusion is a judicious mix of official requirements and common sense based on other reliable evidence in the absence of official government documentation.

In addition to definitional disclosures, Allardice's introduction provides researchers with a number of statistical summaries gleaned from the author's research. Along with demographic information such as age, education, state breakdown, military background, pre-war occupation, place of birth, and ethnicity, issues of casualty rates/turnover and field promotion were also addressed by Allardice. The three appendices offer alphabetized listings of colonels that were promoted to general officer rank, served in state military organizations, and "named as PACS colonels in one or more credible sources" (pg. 431).

Basic information common to each biographical entry includes:
"(1) date of birth; (2) place of birth; (3) college attended; (4) prewar residence and occupation; (5) prewar military experience; (6) spouse(s); (7) service record (ranks, units, dates of promotion); (8) instances of being wounded or captured; (9) postwar residence and occupation; (10) public/political posts held; (11) date of death; (12) places of death; (13) place of burial ... (14) any published writings on the officer or manuscript collections of his papers and, whenever possible, ... (15) a short quote from a contemporary illustrating the officer's character". (pg. 25)
Here is a sample entry from page 104 [reprinted with permission from Univ. of Missouri Press]:
Cockrell, Jeremiah Vardeman. Born May 7, 1832, near Warrensburg, Johnson Co., MO. Attd. Chapel Hill College near Lexington, MO. To CA 1849-1853. Prewar farmer in MO. Methodist preacher. Studied law. Md. Jane Douglass; Louisa Mayo. 2d lt. Co. E, 2d Cav., 8th Div., MSG, 1861. Capt. Co. A, 5th MO Inf. Bn., early 1862. Retired at May 24, 1862, reorganization. Col. of a newly raised partisan ranger regiment in western MO, July-Sept. 1862. Led this command at Lone Jack. Elected col. when the regiment originally organized but not reelected when the regiment reorganized for Confederate service as the 7th MO. He spend the next year recruiting soldiers in MO and was WIA. In 1864 he accompanied Price's Raid in order to collect his family and take them South. Moved to Sherman, TX, postwar. Lawyer, farmer, and stock raiser. Judge. Chief justice of Grayson Co. US congressman 1893-1897. Died March 18, 1915, Abilene, TX. Buried Abilene Municipal Cemetery. Gen. Jackman remembered his as "so true a Confederate, so brave in battle, and with so much goodness of soul". Brother of Gen. Francis M. Cockrell.
Presumably, space limitations precluded select source listings, but the time and diligent research effort that must have went into this massive undertaking cannot be discounted. While a photograph is not provided for each officer, a gallery of twenty-four images was included. The alphabetical listing renders the usual index unnecessary, but an index cross referencing the colonels by state might have proved a useful tool. With the recognition that it would add considerably to the book's length, perhaps it might be considered for a possible future edition.

Without reservation, Confederate Colonels is a reference book essential to all serious Civil War libraries. Highly recommended.

* - indeed Allardice (with Lawrence L. Hewitt) has another reference book coming out soon (planned for October) for Kentucky Confederate generals and field grade officers, to be published by Univ. of Kentucky Press.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

ed. Pierro: "The Maryland Campaign of September 1862: Ezra A. Carman's Definitive Study of the Union and Confederate Armies at Antietam"

[ The Maryland Campaign of September 1862: Ezra A. Carman's Definitive Study of the Union and Confederate Armies at Antietam ed. by Joseph Pierro (Routledge-Taylor and Francis Group, 2008). Case-bound hardcover, notes, appendices, index. ISBN: 978-0415956284 $95]

Fellow blogger Harry Smeltzer has described Ezra Carman as the John Bachelder of Antietam, but, with more western sensibilities, I prefer to think of him as the D.W. Reed of Antietam. Carman's celebrated manuscript is, of course, far more detailed and complete than Reed's own history of the Shiloh campaign (which is not in traditional narrative form), but both men were heavily involved in interviewing veterans and in serving on the battlefield park commissions that sought to objectively verify the opposing battle lines. Carman and Reed also were instrumental in creating the text summaries for the metal tablets that dot their respective parks, and in determining their proper location. Additionally, like Reed, Carman also oversaw the rendering of an awesomely detailed set of maps to supplement his manuscript. These are high order examples of cartographic art. However, unlike Reed, Carman's maps are not available in published form; nevertheless, scanned images can be found at the Making of America website [map collection URL].

Among students of the Antietam campaign and battle, the Carman manuscript is immensely influential. Thus, it's availability for the first time in published form by Routledge and editor Joseph Pierro is an important event. The book itself is an oversized, case-bound hardback that should hold up to heavy use. While densely packed on the page, the bold-type text is nevertheless quite readable, with Pierro's notes thankfully placed at the bottom of each page. The text is not a mere transcription of Carman's writing, but rather reflects a great of effort on the part of the editor, both in copy editing and in source material verification.

In addition to a comprehensive battle and campaign history that runs almost 400 pages, numerous appendices were included. These are also annotated. An order of battle for each army is provided, as well as losses presented in tabular format for Antietam and for the earlier fighting at Harper's Ferry, Crampton's Gap, Turner's Gap, and Fox Gap. The strength tables are mostly at division level and above [there are some brigade strengths, but no complete tables for numbers and losses at the regimental level]. An index was compiled by Pierro as well.

The Maryland Campaign of September 1862 should be a part of every institutional Civil War library, as well as the bookshelf of serious students of the campaign. For those parties, the investment is clearly worthwhile. The limited print run should serve notice to collectors, as well.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sandler: "A Brief Guide to Florida's Monuments and Memorials"

[A Brief Guide to Florida's Monuments and Memorials by Roberta Sandler (Univ. Press of Florida, 2008). Softcover, photos, bibliography, index. 275 pp. ISBN: 978-0-8130-3258-0 $21.95]

With A Brief Guide to Florida's Monuments and Memorials travel writer Roberta Sandler has selected 82 sites that honor/memorialize the broadest possible range of people, places, and events. Her subjects range from businessmen, politicians, artists, and soldiers to local community leaders and activists. Places include battlefields from numerous wars fought throughout Florida's history, along with forts, churches, parks, and schools.

A sampling of the Civil War-related sites covered in the book are the Confederate and Union soldier memorials, Olustee and Natural Bridge battlefield monuments, Fort Jefferson, Key West, Judah Benjamin memorial, and a monument to Confederate General Evander M. Law.

Each monument or memorial has 2-3 pages devoted to it, with the text providing background information on the subject as well as a brief history of the site itself. The monument inscriptions are also fully reproduced, along with directions to each site and at least one black and white photograph. The book is divided geographically into six sections, ensuring that no particular area of the state was neglected.

It's my feeling that the book will probably appeal most to history-minded Florida residents rather than the casual tourist. It's a well constructed, attractive guide to seeing the full range of Florida's history, from the Spanish exploration to the present day.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Booknotes (September 08)

September list of book acquisitions:

Fear in North Carolina: The Civil War Journals and Letters of the Henry Family compiled and edited by Karen L. Clinard and Richard Russell (Reminiscing Books, 2008). An edited compilation centered around the three journals written by Cornelia Henry from 1861-1868, this lengthy and finely presented volume provides a wealth of information for researchers investigating a hot spot of Civil War scholarship -- western North Carolina.

A Brief Guide to Florida's Monuments and Memorials by Roberta Sandler (Univ. Press of Florida, 2008). The Civil War is just one focus of this touring guide, which selectively covers sites relevant to the state's entire social, political, and military history.

Guide to the Atlanta Campaign: Rocky Face Ridge to Kennesaw Mountain by Jay Luvaas and Harold W. Nelson (Univ. Press of Kansas, 2008). Same classic format, but with more and better maps. Rather than resting on its laurels, it's nice to see continued improvement from the venerable the U.S. Army War College Guides to Civil War Battles series.

The Great Comeback: How Abraham Lincoln Beat the Odds to Win the 1860 Republican Nomination by Gary Ecelbarger (St. Martin's Press, 2008). Perhaps more than anything else, having read the author's impeccable military studies, I am interested in seeing Ecelbarger's approach to political history.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Pryce, ed. Burden: "VANISHING FOOTPRINTS: The Twenty-Second Iowa Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War"

[Vanishing Footprints: The Twenty-Second Iowa Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War by Samuel D. Pryce and edited by Jeffry C. Burden (The Camp Pope Bookshop, 2008). Softcover, 52 photos, 11 maps, notes, bibliography, index. Pages 256. ISBN 978-1-929919-14-7 $18.95 ]
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Vanishing Footprints
Click on cover for book link
The 22nd Iowa infantry regiment had a distinguished Civil War combat record, with the somewhat unusual distinction of having fought in all three major theaters. Raised in the summer of 1862, the unit began its service in southeast Missouri (like many before, guarding railroads) before joining the Army of the Tennessee for the Vicksburg Campaign. From there, the Iowans took part in the Texas Overland Expedition before being shipped to the Texas coast. Later, five companies were detached for participation in the disastrous 1864 Red River Campaign. Returning to New Orleans, the unit boarded ocean transports headed to the east and more fighting in the Shenandoah Valley at Winchester, Fisher's Hill, and Cedar Creek. The 22nd's service ended with occupation duty first in North Carolina then for a longer period in Georgia.

Wanting to record these events for posterity, unit veteran Samuel D. Pryce penned a rambling regimental history. Stamped with the approval of his comrades in the 22nd Iowa Regimental Association, Pryce's manuscript ran over 800 pages and was never published in his lifetime. Today, Jeffrey Burden has streamlined (to put it mildly) Pryce's hefty tome for publication by Camp Pope as Vanishing Footprints: The Twenty-Second Iowa Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War. It's a notable accomplishment, all the more so for the debulking was done in seamless fashion.

Pryce wrote his regimental history in an informal, conversational style. However, beyond the witty commentary and humorous anecdotes lies a critically observant account of the 22nd's battles and campaigns. Pryce's passages covering the regiment's actions in the Vicksburg campaign, it's active stay along the Texas coast, and the fighting during the 1864 Shenandoah Valley battles are especially noteworthy material for historians and other researchers to examine. The author was a clear defender of General McClernand's conduct during the Vicksburg Campaign, especially the general's controversial role in the May 22 attack that ultimately led to his loss of command. Convincing or not, Pryce's view is worthy of consideration.

A handsome softcover, the book is heavily illustrated. Eleven maps (by cover designer Laurel Burden) were included, and author and publisher were also able to come up with dozens of photographs (mostly of officers and men mentioned in the text). Not all the maps were of equal utility, and several were reconstructed from other published sources, but the best one was adapted from a fine original creation by David Woodbury depicting the assault on the Railroad Redoubt -- a key moment in the 22nd Iowa's combat history.

As with previous Camp Pope publications, Vanishing Footprints is fully annotated using footnotes rather than endnotes, an always welcome traditional holdout. Burden does not attempt an exhaustively critical examination of Pryce's claims, but he does do so selectively in the notes. The majority of the footnotes provide background information on various individuals (mostly fellow regimental members) mentioned in the text, as well as some help on the classical references typical of the period.

Certainly any researcher or reader with a critical interest in the 22nd Iowa regiment will want to add this volume to his library, but the usefulness of Vanishing Footprints is broader than that. Insights into many obscure Civil War campaigns are prevalent and Pryce's observant and engaging writing is always quotable. Jeffry Burden's very heavy, yet ultimately respectful, excising and editing is a finely managed achievement in publication, a successful completion of the daunting task of transforming a messy manuscript into publishable form. Well done all around.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Durham: "Guardian of Savannah: Fort McAllister, Georgia, in the Civil War and Beyond"

[ Guardian of Savannah: Fort McAllister, Georgia, in the Civil War and Beyond (Studies in Maritime History series) by Roger S. Durham (Univ. of South Carolina Press, 2008). Cloth, maps, photos, notes, appendices, bibliography, index. Pages main/total: 220/301 ISBN: 978-1570037429 $39.95 ]

Built on the Great Ogeechee River's south bank at Genesis Point, the Confederacy's Fort McAllister guarded the southern flank of Savannah and successfully prevented Union amphibious forays against the nearby rail line before falling to General Sherman's army in December 1864. The small in size yet powerfully armed earthen fortification has been the subject of a handful of minor book length publications before finally receiving full treatment in Roger Durham's latest book Guardian of Savannah.

According to Durham, beyond the fort's intrinsic importance to the Confederate war effort, McAllister is worthy of study for two other reasons. First, the installation served as a testing ground for the Union navy's new ironclad warships, assessing the vessels's defensive and offensive capabilities, all with a mind toward ultimately defeating Charleston's ring of earthen and masonry fortifications. This context has been examined in the literature before, perhaps most notably by naval historian Robert M. Browning for his study of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, but not at Durham's level of detail. Finally, with the vast majority of earthworks victims of man-made destruction and/or natural erosion, McAllister remains one of the best surviving examples of a Civil War enclosed earthen fort. It's existence today is owed to the preservation efforts of industrialist Henry Ford and the International Paper Company, the latter deeding the site and surrounding land to the Georgia Historical Commission. All of these preservation initiatives are summarized by Durham, the text supported by a number of period photographs.

In addition to providing a carefully researched service history of the garrison units and a recording of Fort McAllister's planning and construction, Durham's narrative covers the various Union naval attacks in some detail (especially those conducted in early 1863). Throughout his study, the author reproduces extensive block quotes from primary sources, preferring to convey the most important events to the reader in the words of the participants. The December 13, 1864 twilight infantry assault by Hazen's division that finally captured the fort is reconstructed in minute detail and in stirring fashion. It is by far the best account I've come across.

Durham's bibliography and notes are heavily weighted toward materials from various manuscript collections. Author and publisher should also be applauded for including so many maps and photographs. In addition to the archival reproductions spread throughout the text, there is a wonderful appendix included that graphically traces (in eight exquisitely detailed drawings) the progressive development of the fort, from a simple entrenched battery to a fully enclosed earthwork. What's missing are some original maps better depicting the terrain surrounding the fort and how McAllister was integrated into Savannah's overall defense network.

Another appendix reproduces and analyzes 26 of the Samuel A. Cooley photographs. Taken only days following the fall of the fort to Hazen's assault, these images provide the reader with beautifully crisp and panoramic views of the fort's interior and surrounding landscape. The photos also include rare images of Sherman's men at the conclusion of their famous March. Cooley's work is a wonderful visual history of the fort and battle.

Guardian of Savannah is a thoughtfully produced, deeply researched, and well rounded study that should be regarded as the standard historical work dealing with Fort McAllister. It's a useful and attractive addition to any Civil War library. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A new and essential reference book: "Confederate Colonels"

My copy isn't in yet, but, judging from Bruce Allardice's past work, his new book Confederate Colonels: A Biographical Register (Univ. of Missouri Press, 2008) will prove to be a significant contribution to the literature and a must for collectors and researchers.

From the publisher's promotional comments, the book covers "...the 1,583 men who achieved the rank of full colonel by the end of their careers—including both staff and line officers and members of all armies." Also, each entry "...includes such data as date and place of birth, education, prewar occupation and military experience, service record, instances of being wounded or captured, postwar life and death, and available writings on the officer or manuscript collections of his papers."

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Reminiscing Books

Reminiscing Books, a local North Carolina publisher previously unknown to me, has released a really nice new book titled Fear in North Carolina: The Civil War Journals and Letters of the Henry Family (compiled and edited by Karen L. Clinard and Richard Russell). Chock-full of maps, photos, and other materials supplementing the core compilation, the attractive end product reveals a great deal of effort on the part of publisher and editor. It's on the review pile, but it's probably safe to say the book should serve as a fine resource for researchers of the Civil War in the western part of the state.