Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Booknotes III ( June '11 )

New Arrivals:

* A pair of self-published books by Philip Hatfield, The Other Feud: William Anderson "Devil Anse" Hatfield in the Civil War (2010) and How the North Carolina Militia Helped Start the Civil War (2011).

"Devil Anse" Hatfield's involvement in the Civil War fighting along the Virginia-Kentucky border is the subject of the first book. Some readers may recall the chronicling of these events in a nice article from the 1863 volume of the Virginia At War series published by Univ Pr of Kentucky. The second work, also brief, discusses the pre-secession seizure of coastal forts Johnston and Caswell by local NC citizen groups. Federal control of these installations was restored with an apology from the governor, but they were retaken at the war's outset.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Civil War in NE Arkansas

I have a fairly generous tolerance for flawed local history if the subject is fresh and Freeman Mobley's Making Sense of the Civil War in Batesville-Jacksonport and Northeast Arkansas 1861-1874 (Author, 2005) isn't a great book by any means. It is a clear upgrade over an earlier work that covers some of the same ground, Lady Elizabeth Watson's Fight and Survive!: The Civil War in Jackson County, Arkansas (River Road Pr, 1974). Given that, I think the reissuing of Mobley's book (under the new title Civil War!: A Missing Piece of the Puzzle Northeast Arkansas 1861-1874) is worthy of mention as it covers reasonably well a geographical region largely neglected in the Arkansas Civil War literature.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Civil War inside Missouri in 20 books

A while back I did this for Texas. Like the earlier list, it is basically a sampling of books that I feel are individually good and together give readers a worthwhile overall appreciation of the war inside the borders of a particular state.

The military literature's almost overwhelming focus on the partisan and criminal aspects of the Civil War in Missouri has always been a source of disappointment for me, and the overall quality of it another thing to be lamented. Nevertheless, while what's available remains heavily weighted toward the early war period, there are many good works covering both the regular and irregular wars. [1] Skim Milk Yankees Fighting: The Battle of Athens, Missouri, August 5, 1861 by Jonathan K. Cooper-Wiele makes the most of limited source material to provide a fine small scale battle history and fine window into the early war in NE Missouri. The Battle of Wilson's Creek and the run up to it are covered best by [2] The Battle of Carthage: Border War in Southwest Missouri, July 5, 1861 by David Hinze and Karen Farnham and [3] Wilson's Creek : The Second Battle of the Civil War and the Men Who Fought It by William Garrett Piston and Richard Hatcher. The 1861 Union campaign in SE Missouri is well developed by Nathaniel Cheairs Hughes's [4] The Battle of Belmont: Grant Strikes South. Larry Daniel and Lynn Bock's [5] Island No. 10: Struggle for the Mississippi Valley carries the conflict in the Bootheel region into 1862. While the title indicates otherwise, the best overall coverage of the 1862 fighting throughout Missouri (especially the great recruiting drives) can be found in [6] Embattled Arkansas: The Prairie Grove Campaign of 1862 by Michael E. Banasik. The year 1863 saw several cavalry raids disrupt the state, and the best book length treatment of one of these is Frederick Goman's [7] Up from Arkansas: Marmaduke's First Missouri Raid, Including the Battles of Springfield and Hartville. Last, while it will hopefully be supplanted soon by other works in progress, Howard N. Monnett's classic [8] Action Before Westport, 1864 (rev. ed.) remains the best single volume history of the 1864 Price Raid.

Readers looking for a scholarly interpretation of the societal impact of the guerrilla war on the population will profit from Michael Fellman's [9] Inside War: The Guerrilla Conflict in Missouri During the American Civil War. For a well researched and comprehensive look at guerrilla events throughout the state, Bruce Nichols has authored very worthwhile set of reference books [10] Guerrilla Warfare in Civil War Missouri (Two volumes, 1862 and 1863, with another to follow). A pair of excellent and objective biographical works can be found in Edward Leslie's [11] The Devil Knows How to Ride: The True Story of William Clark Quantrill and His Confederate Raiders and Kirby Ross's edited [12] Autobiography of Samuel S. Hildebrand: The Renowned Missouri Bushwhacker. The president's policies in Missouri are outlined best in Dennis Boman's [13] Lincoln and Citizens' Rights in Civil War Missouri: Balancing Freedom and Security.

NW Missouri is probably the region most neglected, but a truly underrated work was authored by Preston Filbert. Titled [14] The Half Not Told: The Civil War in a Frontier Town, it explores the war in and around St. Joseph. Of course, no list can be complete without a book on St. Louis, and Louis Gerteis's [15] Civil War St. Louis is an informative social and political history of the river city so critical to two theaters of war.

A pair of excellent unit reference guides exist as well. The work that goes furthest in documenting the organization and leadership of the Missouri State Guard is [16] Sterling Price's Lieutenants: A Guide to the Officers and Organization of the Missouri State Guard 1861-1865 by Richard C. Peterson, James E. McGhee, Kip A. Lindberg, and Keith I. Daleen. McGhee also authored the [17] Guide to Missouri Confederate Units, 1861-1865.

Finally, several classic works of enduring value authored by participants of the war in Missouri are worthy of further mention: Thomas L. Snead's [18] The Fight For Missouri From the Election of Lincoln to the Death of Lyon, [19] With Porter in North Missouri by Joseph A. Mudd, and [20] The Civil War Reminiscences of General M. Jeff Thompson, edited by Stanton, Berquist, and Bowers.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Rebels on the Great Lakes

Articles exists here and there covering Confederate operations designed to free Johnson's Island prisoners, but  Rebels on the Great Lakes: Confederate Naval Commando Operations Launched from Canada, 1863-1864 seemingly holds promise in covering these events at unprecedented depth.  I've never heard of the publisher Dundurn and so have no idea of the quality of works they typically put out, but author John Bell is a senior archivist at Library and Archives Canada and has published a biography of Confederate naval officer John Taylor Wood titled Confederate Seadog (McFarland, 2002).

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


In the previous review, I mentioned a pair of upcoming 2011 books dealing with the famous case of John Merryman. In case you were wondering, the titles are:

* The Body of John Merryman: Abraham Lincoln and the Suspension of Habeas Corpus by Brian McGinty (Harvard Univ Pr, October).


* Abraham Lincoln and Treason in the Civil War: The Trials of John Merryman by Jonathan W. White (LSU Pr, November).

Friday, June 17, 2011

Gaughan: "THE LAST BATTLE OF THE CIVIL WAR: United States Versus Lee, 1861-1883"

[The Last Battle of the Civil War: United States Versus Lee, 1861-1883 by Anthony Gaughan (Louisiana State University Press, 2011). Cloth, 3 maps, photos, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:207/263. ISBN:9780807137741 $42.50]

The years before, during, and after the Civil War witnessed several landmark high court rulings dealing with the power of the federal government and the civil rights of individuals, and many have been the subject of book length studies of their own [there are two Merryman books scheduled for release this year alone], but Anthony Gaughan's The Last Battle of the Civil War is the first to fully examine the details and legal-historical context of the case of United States v. Lee (1882). During the Civil War, the 1,100 acre Arlington estate was seized by the U.S. army and incorporated into the capital defenses. Later, the entire property (worth over $100,000 and owned by Robert E. Lee's wife, Mary) was auctioned off for failure to pay property tax under the selectively punitive Doolittle Act and sold to the federal government. Fortifications were constructed on the land, as well as a military cemetery (which would, of course, become Arlington National Cemetery) and freedman's village. In 1877, the estate's heir, ex-Confederate general George Washington Custis Lee, sued the government for just compensation. Lee won his title ownership case in the lower court. By the time of Lee's suit, prior cases had already ruled that the Doolittle Act (and its requirement of payment in person) was illegal. The government also violated the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment by not obtaining the approval of the state legislature (in this case, the "Free" government of Virginia in Wheeling) and not compensating the owner.

Author Anthony Gaughan, both a lawyer and professional historian, does an excellent job of making the legal aspects of his study clear and accessible to the general reader. He also brings a refreshingly dispassionate perspective to the arguments of each side. Supported by strong precedent, Lee's case was clearly the strongest, but the government would not give up on claiming full title to the property and immunity. Gaughan's discussion of the legislative disagreements surrounding the case, flavored by the U.S. Senate's distaste for awarding large sums to former rebels (especially the son of Robert E. Lee!), are also informative, providing much insight into the political climate of the day. The author's assertion that the refusal by New York firebrand Roscoe Conkling of a Supreme Court appointment was a key factor in assuring Lee's victory is also persuasive.

United States v. Lee
sought to argue that the federal government had sovereign immunity under traditional English law and thus could not be sued by individuals. The government lawyers also aimed to throw out established U.S. law in the form of officer suits, basically the only legal recourse private citizens had to press claims against the federal government [Lee's case named two officers of the government and the occupants of the freedman's village]. By a 5-4 vote, the high court, all Republican appointees, ruled against the government, the majority opinion reinforcing the previously unsettled notion that the law of the land applies to citizens and government officials alike. While the closeness of the vote also undoubtedly reflected lingering bitterness from the Civil War, the court's minority opinion that the federal government had absolute sovereign immunity for executive action would have had a chilling effect on individual property rights. The fact that aggrieved citizens had the ability to petition Congress for redress was acknowledged by all objective observers as useless in practice and not at all analogous to the English petition right. By placing the government's actions, in times of peace and war, subject to judicial review, United State v. Lee was both a personal triumph for Lee and a landmark case for the rights protections of all citizens.

As one might imagine, there were instances of northern public dissent to the court's ruling, but the result of the case was widely lauded by newspapers from both sections. Gaughan quite reasonably views the case as a symbol of sectional reconciliation, a demonstration that former Confederates could expect justice from federal courts. One thought experiment not explored by the author was the possibility that, if after a long and bloody war nine Republican Supreme Court justices could rule against a Republican government and for a prominent ex-Rebel, then there existed before the war an excellent chance the South could have secured their "rights" as they saw them through judicial means rather than resorting to secession. But hindsight is 20/20. The narrative of The Last Battle of the Civil War brings to light in effective scholarly fashion a greatly underappreciated event of American jurisprudence and is richly deserving of a wide readership.

More CWBA reviews of LSU Press titles:
* Confederate Guerrilla: Champ Ferguson and the Civil War in Appalachia
* Lincoln and Citizens' Rights in Civil War Missouri: Balancing Freedom and Security
* War No More: The Antiwar Impulse in American Literature, 1861-1914
* Isham G. Harris of Tennessee: Confederate Governor and United States Senator
* Executing Daniel Bright: Race, Loyalty, and Guerrilla Violence in a Coastal Carolina Community 1861-1865
* Mosquito Soldiers: Malaria, Yellow Fever, and the Course of the American Civil War
* Homegrown Yankees: Tennessee's Union Cavalry in the Civil War
* John Bankhead Magruder: A Military Reappraisal
* A Wisconsin Yankee in the Confederate Bayou Country: The Civil War Reminiscences of a Union General
* Bleeding Borders: Race, Gender, and Violence in Pre-Civil War Kansas
* Jefferson Davis and the Civil War Era
* Where Men Only Dare to Go Or the Story of a Boy Company, C.S.A.
* Encyclopedia of Civil War Shipwrecks
* Walker’s Texas Division, C.S.A.: Greyhounds of the Trans-Mississippi
* The Confederate Cherokees: John Drew's Regiment of Mounted Rifles
* A Crisis In Confederate Command: Edmund Kirby Smith, Richard Taylor, And The Army Of The Trans-Mississippi
* The Fredericksburg Campaign: Winter War on the Rappahannock

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

NPS bibliography - "The Civil War in the American West"

Gordon Chappell of the National Park Service has compiled a good, up-to-date for the Sesquicentennial bibliography of the Civil War in the regions comprised of the "Far West, the Southwest, the Pacific Coast, the Pacific Northwest, the Rocky Mountain territories, and the Great Plains from Minnesota and North Dakota to Texas". It is definitely worth a look, both for the list and the brief commentary. I've read most of the books on it (which means I'm crazy or the available literature is limited or both) but learned of many more that are now on my to-do list. Many thanks to Mr. Chappell.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Booknotes II (June '11)

New Arrivals:

1. Of Duty Well and Faithfully Done: A History of the Regular Army in the Civil War by Clayton R. Newell and Charles R. Shrader (Univ of Neb Pr, 2011).

This thick tome looks to be a reference guide of great value. Just about every aspect of the Regular forces from top level organization down to equipment appears to be addressed.

2. Breaking the Heartland: The Civil War in Georgia edited by John D. Fowler and David B. Parker (Mercer Univ Pr, 2011).

The subject matter dealt with in these eleven essays is primarily society (Unionism, race, class, and gender) and politics.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Hewitt and Bergeron (eds.): "CONFEDERATE GENERALS IN THE WESTERN THEATER, VOL. 3: Essays on America's Civil War"

[Confederate Generals in the Western Theater, Vol. 3: Essays on America's Civil War edited by Lawrence Lee Hewitt and Arthur W. Bergeron, Jr. (University of Tennessee Press, 2011). Cloth, 18 maps, photos, notes, appendix, bibliography, index. 336 Pages. ISBN:978-1-57233-753-4  $59.95]

Like the second book in the series, Confederate Generals in the Western Theater, Vol. 3 is comprised of ten original essays. These scholarly pieces basically fit into two categories, either a recounting of a general's entire Civil War service or a more detailed critique of an officer's role during a particular campaign or battle.

Six of the ten essays can be placed in the second category described above, the emphasis placed on how the subject helped shape the course of a campaign or the conduct of a battle.  The first is Robert Girardi's thoughtful reexamination of Leonidas Polk's oft ridiculed September 1861 violation of Kentucky's armed "neutrality". The author makes a reasonable case for Polk's intervention and I believe Girardi is correct that a Union presence of greater scope than Polk's was somewhat imminent [exactly when who can tell] and would have elicited far less condemnation within the state. The legislature was decisively pro-Union and federal forces were already massing outside Kentucky and assembling within its borders in places like Camp Dick Robinson.  What is questioned by Girardi is the timing (every day of Kentucky neutrality afforded the opportunity to improve southern defenses in the West) and the limited reach of Polk's occupation. Girardi joins many other writers and historians in faulting Polk for stopping at Columbus and not continuing north to seize Paducah and Smithville, but does not explain how this massive salient and potentially dangerous extension of Polk's limited manpower could be maintained against what would soon become overwhelming federal land and naval forces. Another point overlooked by Girardi's article is that, while initiative is often to be lauded, a military decision with as much political ramifications as Polk's had really should have been unthinkable without explicit prior approval from the Confederate president.

Shiloh is the subject of the next two essays, with Timothy Smith summarizing the last moments of Albert Sidney Johnston's life and Wiley Sword offering a critical look at P. G. T. Beauregard generalship at the battle. Both are well written and argued, but readers already familiar with the published Shiloh literature will discover little in the way of fresh perspectives. Beyond the usual complaints of the general's poor tactical plan, early termination of the battle, and non-recognition of large scale Union reinforcements, one of Sword's most telling criticisms of Beauregard was the general's failure to undertake any kind of intelligence gathering prior to and during the battle. Beauregard also neglected to properly inform himself of the terrain around Pittsburg Landing (especially on his right flank), even after being present in the area for weeks. Perhaps an article detailing the effects of Beauregard's poor health during this period could have provided more insights into the general's many Shiloh campaign omissions and failures.

One of the best offerings in terms of fresher material is Art Bergeron's account of engineer and major general Martin Luther Smith's positive influence on the earthwork defenses of the Mississippi Valley over the first two years of the war. The naval aspects of the 1862 New Orleans campaign grab most of the attention in the literature and Bergeron provides a useful alternative overview of the land defenses of the Crescent City and the key roles played by Smith in their construction and use. In the material and command chaos following the fall of New Orleans, Smith is credited with quickly putting the Vicksburg defenses in order. He also proved to be an able infantry general, his men acquitting themselves well during both the Vicksburg siege and the earlier Chickasaw Bayou expedition.

The final two articles relating to specific campaigns and battles are by Stuart Sanders and Bruce Allardice. Sanders summarizes Simon Bolivar Buckner's dual military and political impacts on the 1862 Kentucky campaign while Allardice reassesses the culpability of Stephen Dill Lee for the Confederate disaster at the July 28, 1864 Battle of Ezra Church. Like the Union's James B. McPherson, Lee seems to have been a general liked and respected by everyone regardless of his sparse record of high command achievement. While Allardice concedes that Lee's attack was very poorly organized and not what Hood had in mind (likely a consequence of having no prior experience leading an infantry corps into battle), he does make a strong case that the general did not disobey or exceed his written orders as has been alleged. Allardice also makes a good point that the discretionary parts of Lee's orders could just as well have been achieved by a strong skirmish line than a direct attack.

The rest of the articles provide broader summaries of Civil War careers. M. Jane Johansson takes the reader through Daniel Weisiger Adams's experiences at Shiloh, Perryville, Murfreesboro, and Chickamauga (where he was wounded and captured). Thomas Schott provides a similarly positive picture of Preston Johnston's administrative ability and combat leadership, and John Lundberg writes glowingly of Hiram Granbury's growth into one of the Army of Tenneessee's best brigade commanders. Perhaps the finest of this grouping of four articles is furnished by Rory Cornish. In it he attempts to counter the literature's prevailing negative view of Joseph Finegan's generalship. Cornish is most successful in advancing and defending his view that Finegan's defense of Florida during 1862-64 is underappreciated.

With its mixture of fresh analytical pieces and straightforward capsule military biographies of generals both little known and famous, this third installment of essays is a worthy addition to the series. Undoubtedly, given the vast scope of the fighting in the West, ample material remains for future Confederate Generals in the Western Theater volumes, as well as more covering the lesser served Trans-Mississippi area of operations. With the dependably high quality of content and presentation of the first three, future releases will be sources of great anticipation to a wide range of Civil War students.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Mountaineers Are Always Free

Many excellent books detail various West(ern) Virginia Civil War themes and events, but disappointingly few have emerged over the past decade or so. However, I did discover notice of an upcoming work by Mark Snell titled West Virginia and the Civil War: Mountaineers Are Always Free. It will apparently be published by The History Press at the end of August although their website does not list it yet and some searches note a transposition of title and subtitle from what I have here. I also learned that "Mountaineers Are Always Free" [Montani Semper Liberi] is the WV state motto.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Org history of the U.S. Regulars in the Civil War

I am looking forward to receiving my copy of Clayton Newell and Charles Shrader's Of Duty Well and Faithfully Done: A History of the Regular Army in the Civil War (Univ. of Nebraska Pr, 2011). It looks like a great book, and I'm glad they went heavy on the organizational focus with a chart and table heavy reference/encyclopedic style of presentation. You can get a good sense of it with Amazon's "Inside the Book" feature. This new big book also reminds me that I never did get around to reading another large tome dealing with the Regulars, Mark Johnson's That Body of Brave Men: The U.S. Regular Infantry and The Civil War In The West (Da Capo, 2003).

Sunday, June 5, 2011

"Cavaliers of the Brush: Quantrill and His Men"

Cavaliers of the BrushCavaliers of the Brush: Quantrill and His Men (The Camp Pope Bookshop, 2003) is the fifth volume of the Michael Banasik edited series Unwritten Chapters of the Civil War West of the River. The title refers to the attitude displayed toward Quantrill's men in a series of Houston newspaper articles penned by an unknown correspondent with the pen name "Wau-Cas-Sie". The letters, which are obviously based in part on interviews, provide personal portraits of prominent guerrillas as well as fairly detailed descriptions of high profile events such as the fighting at the Tate Farm, Independence, Lawrence, Baxter Springs, and Centralia. There is no pretense of objectivity in these over-the-top glorifications of the men and their actions, but editor Michael Banasik does point out in his extensive footnotes that many of the central facts presented by Wau-Cas-Sie are supported by outside source materials from both sides. According to the editor, Confederate sources dealing directly with the Missouri guerrillas are uncommon, so these pieces comprise rare insight into Confederate views of Quantrill and his men. Banasik's notes are also extremely helpful in fleshing out more information about persons, places, and events mentioned in the text.

Detailed maps were included [in this case, a general overview map, and more close up views of the Lawrence Raid movements and the fighting at Baxter Springs and Centralia], and, as with other volumes in the series, the appendices offer a great deal of useful supplemental material. The usual biographical sketches are present in this section, as well as a roster of Quantrill's company, an accounting of the men present at various events, a list of the Lawrence dead, and a large collection of official reports and correspondence. Cavaliers of the Brush is a very worthwhile collection of source and reference material for Quantrill's guerrillas.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Booknotes (June '11)

New Arrivals:

1. The Civil War, 1861-1865 (Smithsonian Headliners Series) by Eric C. Caren and Stephen A. Goldman (Data Trace Pub Co, 2011).

The book features full page reproductions of newspapers (northern and southern) from the collections of the co-authors. The price is listed at $49.95, but the publisher is offering a 50% discount when the code 150YRS is used at checkout.

2. The Last Battle of the Civil War: United States Versus Lee, 1861-1883 by Anthony Gaughan (LSU Pr, 2011).

After the war, the Lee family famously sued for compensation for the seizure of their Arlington estate. The Supreme Court overruled the U.S. government's claim of immunity from such suits and ordered that the family be justly compensated. Gaughan's book takes an indepth look at the historic ruling.