Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Booknotes VI (January '13)

New Arrivals:

1. Lincoln and Oregon Country Politics in the Civil War Era by Richard W. Etulain (Oregon St Univ Pr, 2013).

This book is an exploration of the relationship between Oregon and the rest of the country from the 1850s through the end of the Civil War, with a specific interest in Lincoln's personal connections and political role in shaping a variety of Pacific Northwest issues.

2. Ruined by This Miserable War: The Dispatches of Charles Prosper Fauconnet, a French Diplomat in New Orleans, 1863-1868 edited by Carl A. Brasseaux & Katherine C. Mooney (Univ of Tenn Pr, 2013).

The newest volume from UTP's Voices of the Civil War series, this book offers a foreign perspective on military, political, and societal events in New Orleans. Fauconnet was appointed French consul in the city after the previous occupant drew Benjamin Butler's ire.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Below is a reprint of an earlier post, updated to reflect the recent publication of a new paperback edition.

[The Encyclopedia of Civil War Medicine by Glenna R. Schroeder-Lein (M.E. Sharpe, 2012). Softcover, illustrations, bibliography, timeline, index. Page total:456. ISBN:978-0-7656-2130-6 $34.95]

The Encyclopedia of Civil War Medicine provides the reader with an alphabetical arrangement of over 200 short articles [a complete list is available on the book's publisher webpage] dealing with a broadly inclusive array of related subjects. Historian Glenna R. Schroeder-Lein authored all the articles, covering:
...terms, diseases, wounds, treatments, notable medical personalities, medical offices, generals with notorious wounds, soldiers' aid figures and societies, medical department structure, hospital design and function, the battles with the greatest medical significance, sanitation issues, and other medically related topics.[page xiii-xiv]
Schroeder-Lein, who previously authored another work related to Civil War medicine (Confederate Hospitals on the Move: Samuel H. Stout and the Army of Tennessee, Univ. of South Carolina Press, 1994), is not a physician and her writing is directed toward the lay reader. However, that is not to say the encyclopedia is overly simplistic. Overall, her exposition strikes a good balance between providing usefully detailed medical information and facilitating ready comprehension by the general reader with no scientific background.

The book is well presented and organized. In addition to the bibliography, a short source list is included at the end of each article. A "see also" section helpfully directs the reader to related entries. The coverage is not exhaustive (it's not claimed to be so), and some topics that might reasonably merit separate treatment are typically grouped together. Mostly published source materials were consulted, although manuscript sources were used for biographical information.

Schroeder-Lein's work does contain some surprising revelations. For instance, I was initially puzzled at the absence of typhus, until it was demonstrated that the disease [a major scourge of war torn cities along with POW and concentration camps in Europe during the 20th century] was a rare, almost absent, condition afflicting the soldiers housed in Civil War military and POW encampments.

The Encyclopedia of Civil War Medicine should be a valuable resource for readers, writers, historians, and researchers. The steep price may scare away individual buyers, but academic and specialist libraries will likely give it strong consideration.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Booknotes V (January '13)

New Arrivals:

1. Portraits of Conflict: A Photographic History of Alabama in the Civil War by Ben H. Severance (Univ of Ark Pr, 2012).

Volume 10 of this award winning series. Images are primarily of individuals, soldier and civilian, with a sprinkling of objects and places.  I could be wrong but the text part of this one seems more substantial than some of the other volumes.

2. Silas Soule: A Short, Eventful Life of Moral Courage by Tom Bensing (Dog Ear Pub, 2012).

A Kansas Jayhawker and officer in the 1st Colorado Cavalry during the Civil War, Soule is credited with refusing Col. Chivington's infamous order to attack the Indian encampment at Sand Creek in 1864.  Shot down in a Denver street in 1865, some at the time believed a conspiracy was involved.  In addition to its Soule biography, Bensing's book also promises detailed insights into the life of his killer, Charles Squier.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

New boxed set of Generals in Blue & Generals in Gray

Everyone knows about Ezra Warner's classic reference guides to Union and Confederate generals. Used hardcover copies are certainly easy to find in bookstores at low prices, however, older books of this type are almost invariably beat up to some degree or another. Thankfully, for those desiring crisp new copies, LSU Press is reprinting in April Generals in Blue & Generals in Gray as a handsome looking boxed set.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Smith: THE FIGHT FOR THE YAZOO, AUGUST 1862 - JULY 1864: Swamps, Forts and Fleets on Vicksburg's Northern Flank"

[The Fight for the Yazoo, August 1862-July 1864: Swamps, Forts and Fleets on Vicksburg's Northern Flank by Myron J. Smith, Jr. (McFarland ph. 800-253-2187, 2012). Softcover, maps, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:383/452. ISBN:9780786462810 $55]

With five similarly themed studies to his name, Myron Smith has become arguably the foremost chronicler of naval combat and logistical operations on the western waterways. In addition to documenting an astounding array of ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore engagements, the vast trove of source material uncovered also allows readers access to a vast amount of information about the officers and men serving aboard these vessels (as well as their opponents ashore), many just now receiving the credit they deserve. The latest volume in this remarkable series is The Fight for the Yazoo, August 1862-July 1864: Swamps, Forts and Fleets on Vicksburg's Northern Flank.

Initial chapters introduce readers to the Yazoo River, its tributaries, and the geographical features lining its course. Seasonal effects on its navigability are discussed, as well as the military significance of the set of bluffs (Snyder's, Drumgould's, and Haynes's) towering above the east bank of the river. Fortified with heavy batteries, this network of Confederate hilltop defensive positions, combined with a system of cleverly arranged rafts and torpedoes, effectively impeded penetration up the Yazoo.

Smith covers the U.S. Navy's earliest forays into the river in late summer, as well as their reconnaissance and minesweeping operations in support of the December 1862 amphibious expedition that attempted to seize Vicksburg from the north. While the large army contingent commanded by William T. Sherman was suffering a mini-disaster at Chickasaw Bayou, the diversionary wing of the navy was battered by plunging fire as it neared the bluff batteries. Torpedoes also took their toll, but Smith properly credits Confederate artillery Colonel Edward Higgins for the skillfully prepared stretch of fortified batteries stretching from the aforementioned Yazoo bluffs all the way south to the Vicksburg waterfront.

Grant's daring crossing of the Mississippi below Vicksburg was a key event in the ultimate capture of the city, but it should be remembered that prior months were consumed in failed attempts to tackle the preferred approach, turning the Confederate flank north of the Hill City.   Edwin C. Bearss's Vicksburg trilogy covers these operations in some detail but Smith's book really takes it to the next level.  The scope and depth of the latter's pair of chapters covering the Yazoo Pass Expedition and the successful Confederate defense of Fort Pemberton is really a book length exercise. The Steele's Bayou section is just as good, an excellent recounting of the navy's bold attempt to beat a path through narrow, tortuously winding, and timber choked bayous, waterways rendered just passable to shipping by recent rains and burst levies.

Diversionary operations up the Yazoo continued after Grant's army set foot on Mississippi soil at Bruinsburg. When Union forces closed in on Vicksburg itself in May 1863, the Confederates were forced to abandon their bluff top positions. The navy quickly took advantage, clearing the water obstructions and pushing up the Yazoo River. A significant prize was the destruction of the Confederate navy yard at Yazoo City. The town itself changed hands several times 1863-64, and suffered accordingly. Although the fall of Vicksburg led to the Yazoo Delta's dwindling in military importance, another large scale operation was conducted in early 1864 when the navy once again steamed up the river to divert Confederate attention from Sherman's Meridian Expedition.

As with Smith's other books, there is a bit of content overlap in The Fight for the Yazoo (e.g. with the author's CSS Arkansas study), but, as each is designed as a standalone work, this is inevitable and not terribly distracting for readers of the complete works. Wide research in primary (published and unpublished) and secondary sources is another hallmark of Smith's scholarship, as well as prodigious explanatory endnotes. Original cartography is relatively scarce, but photographs, illustrations, and previously published maps are numerous. It should be mentioned that Smith's focus is primarily descriptive. In lieu of offering his own analysis, Smith is often content to leave readers with the views of contemporary writers and later historians. A helpful feature missing from the book is a naval order of battle for the period. Granted, it would not be practical to create one for every skirmish and operation covered in the text, but tables of organization for at least the major expeditions would have been quite useful as reference material.

The Fight for the Yazoo is yet another essential volume to add to the growing Brown Water Navy bookshelf. Students of the Vicksburg Campaign will be especially pleased to find in its pages some of the best modern accounts of naval operations and joint expeditions conducted north of the city and throughout the vast area surrounding the Yazoo Delta.

* - Other titles from this author, and previously reviewed on this site:
+ Le Roy Fitch: The Civil War Career of a Union River Gunboat Commander (2007)
+ The Timberclads in the Civil War: The Lexington, Conestoga, and Tyler on the Western Waters (2008)
+ Tinclads in the Civil War: Union Light-Draught Gunboat Operations on Western Waters, 1862-1865 (2009)
+ The USS Carondelet: A Civil War Ironclad on Western Waters (2010)
+ The CSS Arkansas: A Confederate Ironclad on the Western Waters (2011)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Booknotes IV (January '13)

New Arrivals:

1. The Indiana Jackass Regiment in the Civil War: A History of the 21st Infantry / 1st Heavy Artillery Regiment, with a Roster by Phillip E. Faller (McFarland, 2013).

The research, presentation, and content of this regimental history all look promising. The 21st was a bit of a multi-tool unit (eventually being formally converted to heavy artillery in 1863), and its area of operations in Louisiana and Alabama is a nice change from the typical theaters.

2. William B. Cushing in the Far East: A Civil War Naval Hero Abroad, 1865-1869 by Julian R. McQuistan (McFarland, 2013).

Aided greatly by Cushing's letters to his fiance, McQuiston recounts the officer's post-Civil War naval career at the helm of the USS Maumee, where, from a base in Hong Kong, vessel and crew enhanced the American trade and naval presence in Asia.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Daniel: "BATTLE OF STONES RIVER: The Forgotten Conflict Between the Confederate Army of Tennessee and the Union Army of the Cumberland"

[Battle of Stones River: The Forgotten Conflict Between the Confederate Army of Tennessee and the Union Army of the Cumberland by Larry J. Daniel (Louisiana State University Press, 2012). Hardcover, 13 maps, photos, illustrations, notes, appendices, index. Pages main/total:225/327. ISBN:978-0-8071-4516-6  $38.50]

With existing modern studies from James L. McDonough, Peter Cozzens, and Lanny K. Smith1, saying the Battle of Stones River is a 'forgotten' conflict goes a bit too far, but one can make an argument that, for such a staggeringly bloody fight (in raw casualty numbers and especially as a percentage of those engaged), it remains unjustly overshadowed by the other great battles of the Civil War. However, the Sesquicentennial publication of Larry Daniel's Battle of Stones River: The Forgotten Conflict Between the Confederate Army of Tennessee and the Union Army of the Cumberland just might renew interest in the battle. In largely admirable fashion, Daniel applies his western theater expertise toward a battle history that can both introduce new readers to the subject as well as act as a useful refresher course for the older guard.

At less than 250 pages of narrative, Battle of Stones River is a mid-sized battle study. The tactical scale alternates between brigade and regiment, moving quickly from one sector of the battlefield to the next, never lingering for extended periods on tactical minutiae. This moderate complexity, combined with clear writing substantially enhanced by first person accounts gleaned from a vast array of manuscript sources, will broaden the book's appeal. The negative effect of this jumping about from one detailed action point to the next is the potential of the reader losing sight of the big picture. Unfortunately, Daniel does not do enough to ameliorate this potentiality, largely failing to reorient readers to the entire battlefield situation at regular intervals [if I recall correctly, Cozzens' book had the same issue].

Readers familiar with the secondary literature for Stones River probably will not encounter much in the way of earth shattering revelation (on the main points, the narrative is fairly conventional), but there are subtle analytical differences noted throughout. As an example, one of Daniel's most interesting claims is that all previous histories have badly undercounted the actual numbers present in the Union army (over 55,000 vs. the traditional present for duty in the low to mid 40s). This is such a profound revision that one wishes for more documentation2. Also, while it is commonly known that Rosecrans was a devout Catholic, Daniel's presentation of the degree by which the Union commander alienated subordinates with favoritism directed toward Catholic generals is a fresh way of looking at the command structure and relationships of the Army of the Cumberland3.

In terms of performance, the Army of Tennessee put in its typical effort, a smashing initial attack that eventually unraveled due to poor coordination, faulty battlefield intelligence, and lack of reserves necessary to exploit gains. Daniel correctly chastises Bragg for poor utilization of his mounted arm, sending Wheeler off to raid the Union rear rather than operating closely on the army's flanks, a choice the western army leadership repeated throughout the war. In another pattern formed from the beginning of Bragg's tenure as head of the Army of Tennessee, several division leaders ill served their commander. John McCown spoiled early success by not cooperating with his colleagues to the right in their attempts to roll up the Union flank, and John C. Breckinridge is faulted for misleading Bragg with his poor grasp of the situation east of Stones River on December 31. On the Union side, the reader is presented with a similarly familiar series of heroes and goats, among the former Philip Sheridan and the latter Alexander McCook. Given the arrival of fresh troops from Nashville, and the revision in pre-battle numbers, Daniel's criticism of Rosecrans' lack of determined pursuit gains more weight.

Most of what I would assail the book upon centers on cartography and editing. The maps included in the book are fine, but more were needed to bridge some of the gaps. Also, more large-scale situational maps were needed (there's only a single drawing noting the brigade positions of both armies at the start of the battle) to at least partially offset the aforementioned lack of big picture support within the narrative. On the proofreading front, typos were unusually numerous for an LSU Press title. The book also ends a bit abruptly. With the lion's share of the final chapter centering on post-battle Confederate command dissention, less than two pages are reserved for discussing the wider meaning (or lack of meaning) of the victory to the citizens of the North.

In terms of narrative scale, Daniel's book is quite similar to Cozzens' No Better Place to Die, although it surpasses the earlier work in depth of research, especially in manuscript and newspaper resources. While not approaching the monumental dimensions of tactical micro-history presented in Lanny K. Smith's two volume study of the battle, Daniel's descriptive level is certainly more than adequate for the purposes of the vast majority of readers, serious and casual students alike. Aside from the flaws mentioned above, a powerful argument could be made that Battle of Stones River should now assume the role of standard work on the subject, the single work best serving the needs of the widest number of readers.

1 - Stones River: Bloody Winter in Tennessee by James Lee McDonough (Univ of Tenn Pr, 1981),  No Better Place to Die: The Battle of Stones River by Peter Cozzens (Univ of Ill Pr, 1989), and Lanny Kelton Smith's The Stone's River Campaign 26 December 1862 - 5 January 1863: The Union Army (Author, 2008) and The Stone's River Campaign 26 December 1862 - 5 January 1863: Army of Tennessee (Author, 2010).
2 - Daniel simply asserts that after battle strengths have been used and a brigade was missing altogether (the footnote provides only the author's wing/corps strength estimates). Incorporating these new numbers into the book's order of battle or analyzing them in an appendix would have been helpful in solidifying acceptance of this new insight, although Civil War historians as a whole have been remarkably stubborn in sticking with traditional, even if convincingly debunked, army strength numbers.
3 - Perhaps the subject of religious favoritism was also raised in Daniel's earlier book length study of the Army of the Cumberland, but I don't recall it being mentioned elsewhere in the literature as a pervasive impression formed by Rosecrans's subordinates.

More CWBA reviews of LSU Press titles:

* Granbury's Texas Brigade: Diehard Western Confederates
* The Last Battle of the Civil War: United States Versus Lee, 1861-1883
* 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

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Booknotes III (January '13)

New Arrivals:

1. A General Who Will Fight: The Leadership of Ulysses S. Grant by Harry S. Laver (UP of KY, 2013).

Laver uses the word "analytical determination" (it's mentioned three times in the book description alone) to describe the driving factor behind Grant's successful generalship. The book seeks to better define the traits that made the unexceptional antebellum Grant an exceptional Civil War leader. Hopefully, the author does not spend too much time refuting already discredited criticisms.

2. Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery by Deborah Willis and Barbara Krauthamer (Temple Univ Pr, 2013).

The legacy of emancipation is examined through a study of 150 antebellum period through 1930s photographic images.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Mackowski & White: "SIMPLY MURDER: The Battle of Fredericksburg, December 13, 1862"

[ Simply Murder: The Battle of Fredericksburg, December 13, 1862 by Chris Mackowski and Kristopher White (Savas Beatie, 2012). Softcover, 6 maps, photos, illustrations, appendices. 167 pp. ISBN:978-1-61121-146-7 $12.95]

Simply Murder is the first volume in Savas Beatie's Emerging Civil War series, a new line of Civil War battlefield history and guide books. The U.S. Army War College guides and Nebraska's This Hallowed Ground series pretty much dominate the arena of serious, in-depth touring aids favored by the most serious Civil War students. This book is not set up to compete with these books, but rather seems to be destined to appeal to a different, more typical audience. That is not to say this is a lightweight Fredericksburg guide but it probably better meets the needs of the car ride oriented, general interest battlefield visitor.

Unlike the other guides, Simply Murder does not reproduce extensive quotes from official reports or break the battle down into a large number of segments pregnant with tactical detail and analysis. What readers get is a popular style narrative of the events of the battle and the major personalities involved, with frequent short quotes from participants, geared to an 11-stop driving tour that can be easily completed in an afternoon.

In terms of presentation, the volume is attractive with multiple illustrations in the form of current and contemporary photographs [individuals, landscapes, buildings, etc.] and lithography. The six maps are relatively few, selective of key moments in the battle, and future volumes might consider at least creating one for each stop.  Numerous appendices offer additional information that will interest many. Background information about the national cemetery and the town is located here, as well as a handful of essays dealing with the civilian experience of the battle, slavery at Fredericksburg, and some of the mysteries and interpretive themes that arose in the wake of the fight and evolved over time.  The decision to separate this information from the main text is a good one, as much of it is not immediately related to the tour and can be perused with equal effect after the tour is over.

For those with a moderate or greater understanding of the battle, Simply Murder is not an essential tool, but placement in the park bookstore would be an ideal situation. Novices and more general interest visitors will find the book to be a thoughtful companion to their introductory experience of the Fredericksburg battlefield, helped by the fact that, for these readers, it is priced right and strikes a largely satisfying balance between specialized information overload and oversimplifying complex events.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Guerrilla Warfare in Missouri series to be completed this year

The publications of Bruce Nichols Guerrilla Warfare in Missouri, Volume I 1862 and Guerrilla Warfare in Missouri, Volume II 1863 are the subject matter's go-to reference guides. His much anticipated completing volumes Guerrilla Warfare in Missouri, Volume III January-August 1864 and Guerrilla Warfare in Missouri, Volume IV September 1864-June 1865 will be published this spring. In a bit of a downer, with I and II in hardcover format, it's a shame to see the final pair released as paperback only.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Army of the Potomac OB

Darrell Collins has authored some nice studies in the cavalry raid and biographical arenas, but his next book is a pretty ambitious reference tome. The Army of the Potomac: Order of Battle, 1861-1865, with Commanders, Strengths, Losses and More will be published by McFarland this summer. It "compiles information from the Official Records to give a complete look at the numbers behind every battle and major campaign the Army of the Potomac participated in. Organized chronologically by battle, the numbers are broken down by corps, divisions, brigades and regiments. The data include commander’s names down to the regimental level, unit strengths, casualties and losses."

Sunday, January 13, 2013


JSTOR recently decided to throw independent researchers a tiny bone with (very) limited access to their content. They call it their Register & Read program and it allows you to view the content of up to 3 non-current articles every 14 days from a subset of available journals.
"Register & Read includes approximately 1,200 journals from more than 700 publishers, a subset of the content in JSTOR. This includes content from the first volume and issue published for these journals through a recent year (generally 3-5 years ago). A list of the titles and publishers is available for download via the "Register & Read Title List" link below. Register & Read is a beta program, and we expect to adjust aspects of the program as needed. This may include both functionality and the available content."

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Burchett: "THE BATTLE OF CARTHAGE, MISSOURI: First Trans-Mississippi Conflict of the Civil War"

[The Battle of Carthage, Missouri: First Trans-Mississippi Conflict of the Civil War by Kenneth E. Burchett (McFarland 800-253-2187, 2012) Softcover, 2 maps, photos, illustration, notes, appendix, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:194/240. ISBN:978-0-7864-6959-8 $35]

The July 5, 1861 Battle of Carthage in Jasper County was the product of a reckless (in hindsight) attempt by Colonel Franz Sigel and his pair of understrength ethnic German Union regiments to intercept the bulk of pro-secessionist Governor Claiborne Jackson's retreating Missouri State Guard forces, the latter seeking succor in southwest Missouri, where Confederate, Arkansas, and other Missouri state forces were assembling. Kenneth Burchett's The Battle of Carthage, Missouri: First Trans-Mississippi Conflict of the Civil War is the second full length history of this early war clash to appear.

On that July day in 1861 ten miles north of the town of Carthage, Sigel's brigade encountered the Guard's mile-long battle line (infantry in the middle, cavalry on the flanks) atop a gentle slope between Dry Fork and Double Trouble creeks. A brisk artillery exchange erupted between Sigel's eight guns and a pair of MSG batteries. With enemy cavalry overlapping both ends of the shorter Union line and no mounted men of his own, Sigel broke off the engagement and retreated. A running fight back to Carthage ensued, with both sides negotiating difficult crossings of two creeks and the Spring River before arriving at the town itself. Missouri State Guard forces, disorganized by the pursuit, hit the Union defenders at Carthage from three sides in a final effort, but none of their attacks were coordinated enough to seriously threaten Sigel's escape southeast to Sarcoxie.

An excellent military history of Carthage already exists in David Hinze and Karen Farnham's The Battle of Carthage: Border War in Southwest Missouri, July 5, 1861 (Savas Publishing, 1997). Burchett's The Battle of Carthage, Missouri, does not disagree with Hinze and Farnham on major points and is roughly the equal of their work in terms of tactical detail, but it also exceeds the scope of the earlier study in several important ways. Instead of providing yet another extensive summary of events in Missouri between the secession crisis and the Battle of Boonville, Burchett wisely chose to concentrate his background material on southwest Missouri, where the author's recounting of the interactions of civilians with Sigel's column highlight well the political divisions in the region. Some towns were dominated by one side or the other, while others were evenly divided, with opposing militias camped a short distance away. A brief chapter discusses slavery in Jasper County. Additionally, Burchett's scholarship is more balanced than that of Hinze and Farnham, who focused more on the officers and men of the MSG. Burchett's minute attention paid to unit positions, and their spatial relationship to nearby friendly and enemy units, in combination with perhaps the literature's best description of the battlefield terrain, goes some way toward making up for the book's lack of maps.

On paper, the battle might easily have ended with the annihilation or surrender of Sigel's command, but it wasn't really that close. As Burchett clearly shows, excellent handling of the Union artillery and terrain restrictions (several lines of thickly wooded stream beds and a river perpendicular to the main road) together conspired to negate the massive MSG advantage in mounted troops. The differences in arms and training were also significant. While only the flank companies of Sigel's regiments had rifles, all of the men were armed with military grade weapons, while the MSG was indifferently equipped with mostly civilian firearms brought from home. The guardsmen were also hastily organized on the march and couldn't match the Germans's time in drilling and training.

Who commanded the Missouri State Guard at Carthage is a long standing controversy, and it appears Burchett was unable to uncover new information on this front. Governor Jackson was not on the field, and there's no conclusive evidence that General James S. Rains was formally appointed to the post. Nevertheless, MSG coordination among its divisions was rather good given the lack of overall guidance and the haphazard organization of the units. Numbers and losses are another source of conflicting opinion. Accurate determinations are probably impossible, but the author does a nice job of presenting all the competing arguments. For the MSG, he accepts estimates of 4000 armed and 2000 unarmed men, opposed by Sigel's 1350 Germans (including the artillerymen). In terms of casualties, an appendix gathers together the wildly variable claims made over the years, but is unable to come up with any firm conclusions.

My only serious complaint with the book was the baffling decision to include not a single map depicting troop positions. Hinze and Farnham recognized the importance of this, and accordingly filled their study with fine examples, but Burchett dropped the ball badly in this regard. One thing that does help at least to understand the terrain is the inclusion of a nice full page reproduction, previously unpublished, of the map that accompanied General Sweeny's Carthage report [Sweeny himself wasn't present, but he was Sigel's superior. The map itself was the template for the one included in the atlas to the O.R.]. It is the best source I've seen of the road network radiating out from Carthage, as well as the wood and creek lines that had such a significant impact on the battle.

However, in no way should the lack of maps be regarded as a disqualifying factor in appraising the ultimate value of the book. The Battle of Carthage, Missouri does not replace Hinze and Farnham as much as it adds layers to our understanding of the battle and the societal and political climate of the region where it was fought. Each has its strengths, and readers interested in the subject would unquestionably benefit from owning both. Missouri Civil War battle histories appear only infrequently, and this is a good one, heartily recommended to serious students of the conflict's first year in the Trans-Mississippi theater.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Booknotes II (January '13)

New Arrivals:

1. A Civil War Correspondent in New Orleans: The Journals and Reports of Albert Gaius Hills of the Boston Journal edited by Gary L. Dyson (McFarland, 2012).

Boston Journal reporter Hills provides readers with in depth reportage (his official work plus his personal journals) associated with the 1862 New Orleans Campaign, from the planning stage through the city's capture and occupation. Hill's naval engagement sketches are also reproduced in the book.  With so little New Orleans material published, this is nice to see.

2. The Wilmington & Weldon Railroad in the Civil War by James C. Burke (McFarland, 2012).

The W&WRR was one of the most important logistical arteries in the Confederacy, increasing in importance, especially to the Army of Northern Virginia, as the war dragged on and port after port fell to Union forces. Burke's book looks good in terms of historical depth, with much in the way of supplemental data offered in the form of graphs and tables.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Warren: "THE SECOND BATTLE OF CABIN CREEK: Brilliant Victory"

[The Second Battle of Cabin Creek: Brilliant Victory by Steven L. Warren (The History Press, 2012). Softcover, maps, photos, drawings, notes, appendices, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:136/253. ISBN:978-1-60949-832-0 $24.99 ]

First published in 2002 in a limited edition hardcover, Steven Warren's Brilliant Victory: The Second Battle of Cabin Creek was and remains the only book length history of the successful 1864 Confederate raid in Indian Territory. With title and subtitle reversed, The Second Battle of Cabin Creek: Brilliant Victory is a newly released paperback edition of Warren's study. Second Cabin Creek, fought on September 19, 1864, indeed was a notable Confederate victory. Two mounted brigades under the command of brigadier generals Stand Watie and Richard Gano surprised a huge federal supply train of around 300 wagons with a night attack on the Cabin Creek station stockade defended by the escort under the command of Major Henry M. Hopkins of the 2nd Kansas Cavalry. The Confederates were able to escape with 130 heavily laden wagons, a boon to the resource starved southerners and their Indian allies. It also helped alleviate the sting of an earlier defeat on the same spot in July 1863.

Most of the previous work on the raid and battle is now dated, but Warren, given the source material available, crafts a more than adequately detailed narrative account, mostly from the Confederate perspective. In addition to providing readers with background information of the men and units that participated in the operation, events occurring before and after Cabin Creek are covered.  Prior to Cabin Creek, the Confederates crossed two rivers (the Arkansas and the Verdigris) and overran a Union hay camp at Flat Rock, 35 miles south of the stockade.  After the battle, Gano and Watie were able to evade all Union attempts to recapture the wagon train, the most serious threat at Pryor Creek.  Warren also examines the post-war careers of several of the key figures involved in the raid, as well as the recollections of other less well known participants.  Some enduring mysteries surrounding the battle, the most prominent examples being the controversy surrounding the whereabouts of Hopkins and the myth of the cannon buried in the creek, are also addressed.

The appendices comprise a large portion of the text. Richard Gano's extensive war memoir is reproduced, alas without much in the way of reference to his Indian Territory operations (those pages are lost), as is a valuable Cabin Creek account written by a Kansan, Dr. George A. Moore. A wide range of other material -- among them a schematic battle map; an analysis of the moon's position and its affect on visibility during the night attack; and POW and casualty lists -- is included, as well.  What's missing is a good battlefield map.  The ones provided are spartan affairs, lacking the unit and terrain detail that one expects from a modern battle study.

It is certainly cheering news to students of the Trans-Mississippi theater that Warren's groundbreaking work is available again as part of The History Press's Civil War Sesquicentennial series.  Hopefully, this reprint will grab the attention of a new audience, expanding awareness of both the Second Battle of Cabin Creek and the war in the Indian Territory in general.

Friday, January 4, 2013

This is more like it

Some others aren't feeling it, but Tennessee is getting into the Sesquicentennial spirit with their spring catalog.

New titles:
* A Documentary History of the American Civil War Era: Volume 2, Political Arguments
* Confederate Combat Commander: The Remarkable Life of Brigadier General Alfred Jefferson Vaughan Jr.
* Confederate Generals in the Trans-Mississippi, Vol. 1
* Rethinking Shiloh: Myth and Memory
* We Are in His Hands Whether We Live or Die: The Letters of Brevet Brigadier General Charles Henry Howard

PB reprints:
* Lee’s Last Casualty: The Life and Letters of Sgt. Robert W. Parker, Second Virginia Cavalry
* Valleys of the Shadow: The Memoir of Confederate Captain Reuben G. Clark
* Andrew Johnson’s Civil War and Reconstruction

It's great to see another volume from UTP's Confederate generals essay series, especially one for the Trans-Mississippi.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

"Avenging Angel: John Brown's Raid on Harpers Ferry 1859"

Many books have been written about the how, why, and meaning of John Brown's failed attempt to provoke a slave uprising in northern Virginia, but Ron Field's Avenging Angel: John Brown's Raid on Harpers Ferry 1859 (Osprey Publishing, 2012) has a very distinct contextual focus on the raid as paramilitary operation, unsurprising given its placement within Osprey's Raid series. The background is there -- Brown's prior abolitionist career, along with brief biographical information about each participant, and what they hoped to accomplish by seizing Harpers Ferry -- but the heart of the book's 80 pages is a detailed, blow-by-blow account of the raid and the armed state (Maryland and Virginia) and federal response.

Field writes clearly and well for Osprey's well honed format and the choices of illustrations and photos are solid. He's collected a large number of newspaper engravings of events surrounding the raid, with captions assessing their accuracy. The isometric maps (one depicting Brown's plan and the other the military response) offer a good picture of the town, arsenal, and relative positions of the raiders, militia, armed townspeople, and U.S. Marines. Orders of battle are a strong (or at least emphasized) element of many Osprey titles, and we see that here as well, with a comprehensive listing of militia companies involved and the aforementioned profiles of the raiders.

An interesting claim made by the author was that Brown was a keen military student, studying tactics and field fortification construction while conducting business affairs in Europe, and even commissioning a guerrilla manual written by a British military adventurer. Whatever the truth behind the degree and depth of Brown's self taught military education, the raid itself was conducted in a profoundly inept manner, the bad choices well outlined in the book.

Avenging Angel is a useful examination of Brown's Harpers Ferry operation in its military context. A systematic assessment is difficult as the actual success of the raid seemed secondary in Brown's own mind to the attempt, but Field's discussion of how it was conducted and how initial success quickly transformed into disaster does have value to students of irregular military operations.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Booknotes (January '13)

New Arrivals:

1. Railroad Defenses of the Blue Grass: The Defenses of the Kentucky Central Railroad, Lexington & Frankfort Railroad and Kentucky River during the Civil War (1861-1865) by Charles H. Bogart and William M. Ambrose (Yellow Sparks Pr, 2012).

The title gives you a good idea of the scope, and there is also some limited information about a number of Confederate raids that tested these defenses. In addition to the text, the book is a remarkable compilation of photos, drawings, and maps. There's no web link for online ordering, but the following information came with the book:

Yellow Sparks Press, 201 Pin Oak Pl, Frankfort, KY 40601
$25 + $4 shipping. Contact:

2. Bluejackets in the Blubber Room: A Biography of the William Badger, 1828-1865 by Peter Kurtz (Univ of Ala Pr, 2013).

This 'ship biography' traces the William Badger's entire service, as merchantman and whaler before the Civil War to a supply ship during the conflict.  It supported the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron at places like Beaufort and Wilmington.

Nathaniel Cheairs Hughes

I just read that historian Nathaniel Cheairs Hughes passed away last month at the age of 81. Hughes was one of those rare prolific Civil War authors that was a high achiever in a wide variety of categories -- biography, battle history, reference book, unit study, and editor. My personal favorites are The Battle of Belmont: Grant Strikes South and Yale's Confederates: A Biographical Dictionary, the former an inspiring force in my favorite arena of military history study, Civil War Missouri.