Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Beard: "BLUE SPRINGS: A History of the Desperate Battles at Blue Springs for the Control of Upper East Tennessee During the Civil War"

[Blue Springs: A History of the Desperate Battles at Blue Springs for the Control of Upper East Tennessee During the Civil War by William A. Beard III (Town of Mosheim and Strawberry Plains Press, 1997). 8.5x11 Softcover, maps, photos, appendices, bibliography, index. Pages main/total: 96/122. ISBN: 0-9660640-1-1]

The town of Mosheim, Tennessee (Blue Springs, TN in 1863) hosts an annual reenactment of the Battle of Blue Springs, and in 1997 commissioned the publication of a historical account of the fight, the result of which was William A. Beard's Blue Springs: A History of the Desperate Battles at Blue Springs for the Control of Upper East Tennessee During the Civil War. Beard is a former president of the Jefferson County Historical Society and author of a regimental history of the 79th New York (the "Cameron Highlanders").

Although it covers a pair of battles fought in the area, Blue Springs focuses on the larger and more significant October 10, 1863 action. On that date, an outnumbered Confederate cavalry brigade commanded by Gen. William S. "Cerro Gordo" Williams, under the impression it was conducting a diversion in favor of a larger advance, fought a strong detachment of Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside's Army of the Ohio south of Bull's Gap and was driven back. The victors, Gen. James M. Shackelford's division, supported by Gen. Edward Ferrero’s infantry division, were temporarily able to clear upper East Tennessee, enabling the Union forces to redirect their focus toward besieged Chattanooga.

Beard recounts the battle in some detail, mostly at brigade scale. Four original maps and a pair of reproductions of Union engineer officer Orlando M. Poe's battlefield sketch help orient the reader and provide a general idea of unit placement. Following this, a very brief chapter summarizes the August 23, 1864 Second Battle of Blue Springs, another Union victory.

The book's quality gloss paper sets off its large array of period and modern photographs (of persons, buildings, landscapes, and battlefield artifacts). Event chronologies and orders of battle are located in the appendices. The latter are quite detailed, and boast armament information and some numbers data. There is a bibliography and index, but unfortunately no footnotes.

1863-64 operations in East Tennessee comprise one of the most neglected military subjects in the Civil War literature. While Blue Springs does not approach a definitive treatment, even for the small segment of the larger campaign that it does cover, it will present interested readers with a useful text and pictorial summary of movements in the area as well as the leaders and units that conducted them.

* - Special thanks to Jim Allen, Executive Director of the Battle of Blue Springs event (held in mid-October of each year, but with a 2009 hiatus) and Chairman of the Planning Committee.


  1. I and family have been to several re-enactments and always found them to be exciting and educational. Too bad that the re-enactments no longer occur. Jan. 9th. 2014 charles.crisp@charter.net

  2. why does this book sell for such a high price?

    1. That's just a product of scarcity. Copies are very difficult to find. If you're referring to the truly outrageous prices, those are probably just catalog placeholders.


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