Thursday, September 27, 2012

Booknotes III (September '12)

New Arrivals:

1. The Best Station of Them All: The Savannah Squadron, 1861-1865 by Maurice Melton (U of Ala Pr, 2012).

This large tome promises to be the first complete military and social history of the Confederate Navy's Savannah Squadron.

2. This Terrible Struggle for Life: The Civil War Letters of a Union Regimental Surgeon edited by Dennis W. Belcher (McFarland, 2012).

Thomas S. Hawley M.D. was the regimental surgeon of the 11th Missouri. His letters describe his role in, and observations of, many campaigns fought in Missouri, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama. Editor Dennis Belcher has also authored a regimental history of the 11th.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

UM Press not closing after all

Since I earlier relayed the news of the demise of the University of Missouri Press, I would be remiss if I did not now note that the publisher will remain open (see the Columbia Daily Tribune article from last month).  They've got some work to do, however, with leadership and staffing losses, backlist authors requesting rights reversion, and no titles for the Fall 2013 catalog!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Gottfried: "THE MAPS OF ANTIETAM: An Atlas of the Antietam (Sharpsburg) Campaign, Including the Battle of South Mountain, September 2 - 20, 1862"

[ The Maps of Antietam: An Atlas of the Antietam (Sharpsburg) Campaign, Including the Battle of South Mountain, September 2 - 20, 1862 by Bradley M. Gottfried (Savas Beatie, 2012). Hardcover, 124 color maps, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. 345 pp. ISBN:978-1-611210-86-6 $39.95 ]

The Maps of Antietam is the fourth Civil War volume in the much admired Savas Beatie Military Map Series, and the third offering from Bradley Gottfried. For those unfamiliar with these books, they are much more than a traditional atlas and completely original in the Civil War sphere of military history publishing. Maps are organized into thematic sets [in this case, there are 21 "action-sections" covering topics like the overall campaign, the fighting at the South Mountain gaps, the capture of Harpers Ferry, the various phases of the battle of Antietam itself, and the final spasm of violence at Shepherdstown]. The 124 maps (of operational and micro-tactical varieties) are multi-color affairs, with brilliantly detailed depictions of the terrain and meticulous notations of unit positions (at the level of companies, regiments, and batteries for the tactical maps) and movements. Opposite each map, is a full page of narrative, closely tied to the action.

The series has definitely matured over time. The most helpful customer suggestions (e.g. the lack of time interval estimates in the first Gettysburg edition) have been applied to subsequent volumes. Initially, I wasn't sold on the necessity to go full color, but this book, especially, with its myriad of terrain features, shouts out for the visual contrast that only color can offer. The transcendent beauty and utility of the work of the field's best cartographers, exemplified by guys like Steven Stanley, can unreasonably raise reader expectations, but Gottfried's mapmaking skills are nothing to scoff at and have definitely improved [sample pdf]. Gottfried's writing also gets better with each book, and it is no mean feat to have to cram descriptions of events displaying such a wide variety of complexity into a fixed amount of space, but a nagging number of errors still dog the text and titles. Another complaint is the lack of true elevation contour lines. These are not terribly essential for the Antietam battlefield, but the generic hash lines representing heights, while a mostly adequate compromise, do not really effectively portray the vertical ruggedness of the South Mountain and Harpers Ferry battlefields.

The need for better proofing aside, the narrative sections of the atlas, in addition to their role as 'map captions on steroids', are gleaned from the latest scholarship and together comprise a fine running history of the campaign and its many battles. The book is a must-have for any Antietam/Sharpsburg reference library, but even those with only a casual interest in the great battle -- but an abiding love of Civil War maps (like me) -- will often find themselves absorbed to the extent of wondering where the hours went!  Future volumes are greatly anticipated and word is already out that the next atlas will cover the 1863  post-Gettysburg campaigns in the eastern theater.

Links to reviews of earlier Savas Beatie Military Map Series titles:
Vol. 1 - The Maps of Gettysburg
Vol. 2 - The Maps of First Bull Run
Vol. 3 - The Maps of Chickamauga

Friday, September 21, 2012

Six-volume Civil War Arkansas document series planned

A fellow named Ron Kelley, who edits a website called Arkansas Toothpick: The Civil War Hub of Arkansas, is putting together a six-volume set of primary source documents related to the war. The series title will be Diary of a State and the first book is scheduled for an early 2013 release. For more information, go here.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Booknotes II (September '12)

New Arrivals:

1. The Maryland Campaign of September 1862, Volume II: Antietam edited by Thomas G. Clemens (Savas Beatie, 2012).

It is no surprise that this is shaping up to be a big month for Antietam fans, with the highly anticipated release of this book, the Antietam atlas from the same publisher, and Scott Hartwig's new campaign history.

2. Mending Broken Soldiers: The Union and Confederate Programs to Supply Artificial Limbs by Guy R. Hasegawa (SIUP, 2012).

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Piston, ed. : "A ROUGH BUSINESS: Fighting the Civil War in Missouri"

[A Rough Business: Fighting the Civil War in Missouri edited by William Garrett Piston (The State Historical Society of Missouri, 2012). Softcover, illustrations, notes, index. 302 pp. ISBN:978-0-9816939-4-1 $20]

Beginning in 1906, the journal Missouri Historical Review has published a steady stream of Civil War-related articles. Their frequency has picked up a bit in recent times, with the April 2012 issue devoted entirely to the state's role in the conflict. Thus, a rather large mass of material is available for any compiler to sift through and select fourteen representative pieces for a new volume of previously published essays. Historian William Garrett Piston's A Rough Business: Fighting the Civil War in Missouri (2012) is the second1 such volume to appear, with more emphasis on military affairs this time around.

Several articles address issues surrounding the state's political divisions and how Union military authorities attempted to sustain order and punish those that sympathized (both actively and passively) with the enemy. Christopher Phillips's "Calculated Confederate" eschews the traditional depiction of Governor Claiborne Jackson as a rabid secessionist, instead portraying the man as a skilled political operator, mindful of the state's unionist bent while pursuing his own agenda. Civil War St. Louis historian Louis Gerteis examines federal efforts to clamp down on the city's Confederate sympathizers, focusing particularly on the oft abused tools of property assessments and banishment. Such policies often had the unintended effect of driving otherwise peaceful citizens into active Confederate service, a circumstance detailed in Bill Gurley and Cynthia Pitcock's article about surgeon William M. McPheeters2. A female perspective on the civilian experience of Civil War Missouri is offered up by Erin Kempker's essay on diarist Elvira Scott.

The military selections are strong. Piston's decision to include Paul Rorvig's 1992 article analyzing the importance of the 1861 Battle of Booneville was an astute one, as the essay remains the best writing on the subject. Anne Bailey's account of the 1863 Cape Girardeau Raid is a good example of the kind of regular mounted operations that were conducted on a semi-regular basis in Missouri. Scott Porter's history of an obscure action at Camden Point in 1864 is important on several levels. In addition to highlighting a geographical area (NW Missouri) that has been consistently underrepresented in the literature and expanding our understanding of the 1864 Price Raid, the essay deftly explores the rainbow of loyalties present in the Enrolled Missouri Militia and the deadly consequences, to Missouri citizens of all political persuasions, of inviting cross border intervention by Kansas units. In terms of unit histories, Piston selected Earl Hess's excellent demographic and historical profile of a Union infantry regiment, the 12th Missouri. Another essay takes a brief look at the state's contribution to the naval war on the inland waterways, the construction yard at Carondelet.

A pair of selections are associated with the state's bloody guerrilla conflict. Charles Harris dismisses nefarious motives and arrives at the most likely truth surrounding the collapse of the female prison in Kansas City, an event that enraged guerrillas (most famously Bloody Bill Anderson) in western Missouri. In the other piece, Robert Frizzell briefly investigates a lesser known massacre committed by George Todd and Dave Poole's guerrilla bands, a lasting consequence of which was a more insular German-American community in post-war Missouri3.

John Bradbury's essay examines the attitudes of Midwest Union soldiers toward the rough, raw geography of the Ozark Plateau in Missouri. Their level of cultural chauvinism and disdain for the inhabitants and their efforts to settle and improve the land are similar to William Shea's Arkansas findings4. Slavery in Missouri is the focus of the book's final two essays. The first examines the legacy of slavery (through 1870) in Lafayette County, and the second a brief yet broader look at emancipation and the historical memory in Missouri of Abraham Lincoln.

The book itself is constructed of quality materials, superior to the typical paperback of today, but, for a few dollars more, one can buy the hardcover edition. On the selection front, one can always quibble with some of the editor's choices. In a compilation with a stated military focus, James McGhee's Fredericktown article (April 2009 Vol. 103, No. 3) would arguably have been a superior representative of the Civil War in SE Missouri than Bailey's otherwise suitable piece. All in all, however, Piston's selections of the best of recent scholarship comprise a laudable cross section of material. Readers will find much in the way of good information outside of the publishing mainstream. Hopefully, the release of this and future volumes in the series will inspire many to comb through back issues of MHR to rediscover more fascinating episodes of Civil War Missouri history.

1 - The first, The Civil War in Missouri: Essays from the Missouri Historical Review, 1906-2006, was published in 2006.
2 - Interested readers should seek out the pair's excellent book length treatment I Acted from Principle: The Civil War Diary of Dr. William M. McPheeters, Confederate Surgeon In The Trans-Mississippi (Arkansas, 2002).
3 - The common notion that the Civil War was a major driving force toward German assimilation into American society at large has been largely refuted by recent scholars studying German-American soldiers and their home communities in the northern states.
4 - William L. Shea, "A Semi-Savage State: The Image of Arkansas in the Civil War," Arkansas Historical Quarterly 48 (Winter 1989): 309-28.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Priest's Antietam

My Antietam note for the day.

John Michael Priest was recently interviewed on CWTR and he mentioned that White Mane will be publishing a revised edition of Antietam: The Soldier's Battle. I know many people don't care for his books, but when I read this one way back when, I appreciated the unique perspective and presentation.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Booknotes (September '12)

New Arrivals:

1. The Enemy Never Came: The Civil War in the Pacific Northwest by Scott McArthur (Caxton, 2012).

There weren't any pitched battles in the Pacific NW between Union and Confederate armies, but there were more than enough instances of political infighting, conflicts with Indians, and other threats to justify a book length study of the subject. I am very much looking forward to this one.

2. Lincoln and Leadership: Military, Political, and Religious Decision Making edited by Randall M. Miller (Fordham UP, 2012).

This slim volume offers a trio of essays spawned from a 2009 "Lincoln and Leadership" conference -- AL as commander-in-chief, moral leader, and political tactician.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Castel Award announced

The Kalamazoo CWRT has announced the winner of their 2012 Albert Castel Book Award -- Gary Ecelbarger's The Day Dixie Died: The Battle of Atlanta (Thomas Dunne, 2010). Congratulations, Gary, on another well deserved accolade.

The book edged out Thunder Across the Swamp by Donald Frazier and Dan Lee's The L & N Railroad in the Civil War.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Bryant: "The 36th Infantry United States Colored Troops in the Civil War: A History and Roster"

[The 36th Infantry United States Colored Troops in the Civil War: A History and Roster by James K. Bryant II (McFarland 800-253-2187, 2012). Softcover, maps, photos, roster, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:130/248. ISBN:978-0-7864-6878-2 $45]

Regimental histories of black Civil War units continue to be rare releases, especially those raised in the South and composed of ex-slaves. That James Bryant's The 36th Infantry United States Colored Troops in the Civil War: A History and Roster addresses this deficiency is only part of its value; it's also a very good regimental-roster history period. Redesignated the 36th USCT in November 1863, the regiment began its existence as the 2nd North Carolina Colored Volunteer Infantry. During this formative period, it was part of General Edward Wild's African Brigade. Raiding in eastern North Carolina and Virginia, the soldiers were accused of a variety of depredations and abuse of civilians (including rape). While Bryant's account of their military service, which included 1864 stints as diverse as prison guards at Point Lookout and assault troops at New Market Heights, generally overflows with praise [like many biographers, Bryant falls in love a bit with his subject], he admits the possibility that criminal acts perpetrated against civilians were true. Of course, most of the local white inhabitants, opposed to the presence of armed blacks in their midst, found it in their interest to trumpet such allegations as much as possible.

Bryant's career long study of the 36th is positively Mark Dunkleman-like in its devotion to a single unit. The regiment was the subject of the author's earlier thesis and dissertation works, and it really shows in the depth of research and details from the lives of both officers and men. According to Bryant, this publication of a roster of a unit composed of ex-slaves from Virginia and North Carolina is a unique event in the literature. The roster itself it also far more substantial than a simple list. Data provided, sometimes incomplete, includes name, rank, age, birthplace/residence, occupation (most slaves listed as "farmer"), enlistment date, wounds/death information, discharge date, and other remarks. The only things that really could stand for improvement are the editing and the maps.

While enough information is provided about the lives of individual fugitive slaves to compose a representative picture of a typical recruit, the portraits of the officers amount to mini-biographies. The quality of officer leadership was mixed, and the man most associated with the unit, Colonel Alonzo Draper, may have been a bit unbalanced. In addition to internal dissension and problems with enemy civilians, relations with white regiments could be testy as well, with Draper allegedly ordering his men to fire on the 98th New York during a dispute over a white female civilian arrested during a raid.

The 36th Infantry USCT in the Civil War is a fine regimental roster-history, one of the better ones from this publisher. Its well rounded examination of the military, political, and cultural dimensions associated with the recruitment and deployment of southern raised black combat units comprises a useful model for others to emulate.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

"Boots and Saddles: Cavalry During the Maryland Campaign of September 1862"

Boots and SaddlesBoots and Saddles: Cavalry During the Maryland Campaign of September 1862 by Laurence H. Freiheit (Camp Pope Publishing, 2012) is one of those massive tomes that I immediately admire upon opening, and will certainly keep for future reference, but know I will never read from cover to cover. I love my military micro-history as much as anybody, but late summer 1862 mounted operations in the East are just a bit outside my areas of interest. However, I would like to give Boots and Saddles something of the exposure it clearly deserves so I'll just describe it briefly.

The popular wisdom is that Union cavalrymen could not match their Confederates opponents until 1863, but this selective use of the evidence really doesn't represent the broader picture, and Freiheit's book, beyond its value as pure military history, is an important counter to this established untruth. Written primarily from the Union perspective, Boots and Saddles first examines the reorganization of the mounted arm in the wake of the Peninsula Campaign. From there, the author describes in minute fashion the clashes and movements from Virginia on up to Frederick, Maryland and the South Mountain Passes. A large chunk of the book is devoted to the Harpers Ferry breakout. Operations during the Antietam battle and after (Shepherdstown and Williamsport) round out the volume. Although I always harp on books that don't offer original maps, this one does a pretty good job of using them as a base rather than an end in themselves, with unit positions and movements associated with the text overlying the archival drawings. Readers who love their notes packed full of explanatory and supplemental material in addition to the source notations will love Freiheit's frequently page-filling efforts in this regard.

Appendices include treatises on the intelligence gathering exploits of the Union cavalry during the campaign and an assessment of the mounted arm's overall performance. Orders of battle, including strength figures for both sides, appear in this section. Finally, a series of driving tours created by Craig Swain, accompanied by detailed directions and modern road maps, is provided for those who wish to experience the sites firsthand.

I have no idea of the print run for this title, but I would imagine that it is fairly small and the book will be highly sought after in the collector's market.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Golden State in the Civil War

The Golden State in the Civil War: Thomas Starr King, the Republican Party, and the Birth of Modern California by Glenna Matthews (Cambridge UP, 2012). Somehow this spring release slipped through my radar. Civil War California needs a good survey history. I don't have a copy yet to see if this one fits the bill, and whether placing Starr King at the center of it all crowds out too many other persons and events [the book description does at least suggest a broad range of themes, including some military]. I would venture to guess that this is the author's dissertation in published form.