Saturday, April 21, 2012

"After Gettysburg: Cavalry Operations in the Eastern Theater July 14 1863 to Dec 31 1863"

The Civil War historiography spanning the end of the Gettysburg Campaign and the beginning of the Overland Campaign remains a persistent gap in our knowledge. Some books and articles exist, but nothing like the volume of output covering similarly long stretches of eastern theater military operations. This is starting to change. Last year, a fine (albeit self published, with many of the usual flaws associated with such works) book length history of the October 1863 Bristoe Campaign emerged. This positive trend continues with Robert J. Trout's After Gettysburg: Cavalry Operations in the Eastern Theater July 14 1863 to Dec 31 1863 (Eagle Editions, Ltd., 2012) [ Hardcover, 25 maps, notes, bibliography, index. 376 pp. ISBN:978-0-9794035-7-6 $26.00].

Although massive infantry casualties on the scale of Gettysburg or Chancellorsville were absent that year from the later Bristoe and Mine Run Campaigns, the opposing cavalry forces were highly active, clashing repeatedly in a series of skirmishes and small battles. Trout provides readers with useful summaries of these events, from the July and August fighting at Shepherdstown and Brandy Station to the mounted arm's participation in the Bristoe Station and Mine Run face offs between the armies of Meade and Lee. In terms of cavalry vs. cavalry maneuver, the operations associated with the Bristoe Campaign (e.g. Auburn, Jack's Shop, Buckland Mills, and others) make for particularly fascinating study.

In Trout's book, maps are plentiful, but are primarily helpful in pointing out the region's road network and prominent natural features of its landscape. A series of tactical maps are provided for Shepherdstown and Brandy Station, but, unfortunately, that is basically it for tracing small scale unit movements. Order of battle tables would have been helpful, too. Conversely, the bibliography impresses, and the notes, located at the end of each chapter, go far beyond mere source citation. After Gettysburg really does a noteworthy job of beginning to fill in some of the remaining blank spots in our understanding of military operations conducted over the latter half of 1863. This is a highly original work that will substantially enhance the knowledge base of students of the Civil War in the East. In their foreword, eastern theater (especially Gettysburg Campaign) cavalry experts Eric Wittenberg and J.D. Petruzzi award Trout's study their highest recommendation. Endorsements by those best qualified to offer it are of the most value and that is certainly the case with this pair.

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