Tuesday, January 10, 2012

"The Artillery Service in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-65"

Having commanded a foot battery, a horse battery, a heavy artillery regiment, and the II Corps artillery during the Civil War, distinguished army artillery school superintendent John C. Tidball was highly qualified to write a critique and history of the long arm of the Union. Edited by Lawrence M. Kaplan, Tidball's The Artillery Service in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-65 (Westholme, 2011) is a compilation of essays and unpublished material written by Tidball in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The essays cover both major theaters [Peninsula, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and Petersburg in the East, and Shiloh, Stones River, and Chickamauga in the West]. Largely organizational in focus, the materials note the key role played by the big guns in each battle. Tidball also generously highlights the distinguished services of lesser known battery and battalion level commanders. The progressive solving of early problems, such as dispersal of batteries and insufficient rank for the leadership of the arm, is traced.

Historian Kaplan deserves a lot of credit for rescuing these writings from obscurity, compiling and editing the essays and manuscript material into readable format, but the lack of annotation holds the book back from being regarded as a definitive edition. Nevertheless, the intrinsic value of the writings is considerable and outweighs the absence of scholarly editing.  The Artillery Service in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-65 is an important contribution that belongs on the shelves of all Civil War military history library collections.

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