Wednesday, July 15, 2009

20 books of interest from the 'second season' of this year's Civil War publishing (Part One)

Now that July is with us in earnest, most of the Fall/Winter catalogs are out. Undoubtedly, there will be many more dates and titles unfurled in coming weeks and months [e.g. we still await the UT Press catalog], but I've come up with a reading list of twenty new books that I am looking forward to (plus some reprints).

Here are the first ten:

1. Lincoln's Political Generals by David Work (Illinois, July).

I believe this is the first specialized scholarly work dealing with the North's political generals to be published since 2003's The War Within the Union High Command: Politics and Generalship During the Civil War.

2. War Like the Thunderbolt: The Battle and Burning of Atlanta by Russell S. Bonds (Westholme, August).

I am reading this one right now. Given that I'm not too far along, it is difficult to describe. It's not a campaign or battle history in the traditional sense, nor is it what we might think of as social history, rather more of a personality driven narrative of events accompanied by many compelling historical vignettes [the book opens with a fascinating look into the filming of the famous Atlanta scenes from the movie Gone With the Wind].

3. General Sterling Price and the Confederacy by Thomas C. Reynolds, ed. by Robert Schultz (Missouri History Museum Press, September).

Confederate Missouri Governor Reynolds's incomplete manuscript, held by the Missouri Historical Society, is published here for the first time, edited by regional historian Bob Schultz. The book should provide interested readers with some critical insights into the Civil War career of one of the towering figures of the Trans-Mississippi theater.

4. Punitive War: Confederate Guerrillas and Union Reprisals by Clay Mountcastle (Kansas, September).

From the book description: "Showing how much of the impetus for retaliation originated from the bottom up, starting in the western theater in 1861, he describes how it became the most influential factor in convincing Union generals,..., that the war needed to be extended to include civilians and their property. The result was a level of destructiveness that has been downplayed by other scholars--despite the evidence of executions and incidents of entire towns being burned to the ground." I like the directions Mountcastle is going with his study. It looks like it will be a good one to pair with Daniel Sutherland's recent book.

5. Campaign for Wilson's Creek: The Fight for Missouri Begins by Jeffrey L. Patrick (State House/McWhiney, September/October).

A long delayed book that I normally wouldn't be too excited about, but I am a sucker for anything having to do with Wilson's Creek, and Jeff Patrick, the NPS librarian at Wilson's Creek National Battlefield, should have something interesting to say.

6. Race and Radicalism in the Union Army by Mark A. Lause (Illinois, October).

Among other things, an examination of the interrelationship between white, black, and Indian units of the Union's Army of the Frontier.

7. Executing Daniel Bright: Race, Loyalty, and Guerrilla Violence in a Coastal Carolina Community, 1861-1865 by Barton A. Myers (LSU, October).

Guerrilla warfare, southern unionism, issues surrounding the expanding combat role of black Union troops -- this book's subject matter lies at the intersection of several of today's hot topics in Civil War scholarly publishing.

8. West Pointers and the Civil War: The Old Army in War and Peace by Wayne Wei-siang Hsieh (UNC, October).

9. Fields of Blood: The Prairie Grove Campaign by William L. Shea (UNC, October).

What can I say, I am looking forward to this one most of all. I hope it doesn't get delayed.

10. The Maps of Chickamauga: An Atlas of the Chickamauga Campaign, August 29 - September 23, 1863 by David Powell and David Friedrichs (Savas Beatie, October).

When it comes to short form analysis of various military aspects of the Civil War in the western theater, Dave Powell has one of the best minds around. Finally, we get to see something from him in book length form, with the added bonus that it deals with his best subject.

[Part Two]


  1. Hello Drew

    Thanks for the update on what is coming out. Regarding your list, I agree with you about FIELDS OF BLOOD as the one I'm anticipating the most.

    Regarding War Like The Thunderbolt, I was hoping this was going to be a campaign history. Although I find Castel's book very good, I do think the Georgia Campaign needs more written on it.

    Look forward to part 2.

    Don Hallstrom

  2. Hi Drew

    Thanks for mentioning "The Maps of Chickamauga."

    I would like to clarify that David Powell wrote the text (which is indeed wonderful), but there is also an official co-author who deserves equal credit: David Friedrichs drafted all the full-page maps (126 of them).

    The first two entries in this series (Gettysburg and Bull Run) showcased one author who also drafted the maps (Brad Gottfried).

    I don't want anyone to think Powell also handled the cartography in the third entry.



  3. Drew,
    Looks like some very exciting books. I especially am interested in the Atlanta, Prairie Grove, and Chickamauga books. Your description of Bonds and his Atlanta book is interesting. I was hoping for a narrative not unlike Peter Cozzens and his battle books but I'm sure it is still very valuable insight into the campaign.

  4. Don and Chris,
    Yes, I think we have to rearrange our expectations, but the author is upfront about what the book is and what it isn't. Taken on its own terms, it is quite enjoyable so far.

  5. I greatly enjoyed "stealing the General," so I am curious about Bonds' Atlanta book.

    And yes, Dave Freidrichs was indespensible in helping me turn the concept of a map atlas of Chickamauga into reality, with some outstanding cartography. Please don't overlook his contribution.

  6. Drew: Only you would include some books from the Trans-Mississippi on your list. As my grandmother use to say, "God love your little heart."


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