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.

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