Thursday, May 30, 2013

Robinson: "LOS ANGELES IN CIVIL WAR DAYS, 1860-1865"

[Los Angeles in Civil War Days, 1860-1865 by John W. Robinson (University of Oklahoma Press, 2013 - 1st ed. 1977). Softcover, 2 maps, photos, notes, bibliography, index.  Pages main/total:165/185.  ISBN:978-0-8061-4312-5 $19.95]

In 1977, Dawson's Book Shop of Los Angeles published a small print run of John Robinson's Los Angeles in Civil War Days, 1860-1865. To this day, it remains the only published book length history of the city and surrounding county during those tumultuous years. Copies remain scarce, making University of Oklahoma Press's paperback reprint a providential event for those wishing to own a copy. Though dated in some ways and with a limited bibliography by today's standards, Robinson's work nevertheless should still be regarded as a very capable military, social, political, and economic overview.

During the period 1861-65, the military presence in tiny Los Angeles and surrounding towns was significant, serving to maintain civil order, prevent secessionist plots from gaining ground, and keep an eye on the Indian population of southern California. Robinson traces the establishment of a number of posts, the most important of these being Drum Barracks.  During the early secession period, citizens sympathetic to both sides formed militia companies, but most pro-secession individuals willing to fight left the state.  The regular army also departed for points east, to be replaced by volunteers.  With the county a Democratic stronghold populated by many anti-war citizens, Union army recruiting was largely a failure, but troops raised in other parts of California flooded into the area, a small brigade becoming the famous California Column.  According to the author, the local Union commanders (especially General George Wright) were largely restrained in their handling of dissent, to the consternation of the radical elements of the populace and press.

As a top down social study, Los Angeles in Civil War Days is largely a product of its time. If written today, it would undoubtedly employ more manuscript research and a broader quest for source material in general in order to develop a richer picture of the war as experienced by the common citizens of Anglo, Californio, and Indian descent.  As it is, little is offered of what their thoughts and perspectives might have been.

As mentioned above, Los Angeles and the surrounding county was strongly Democratic in political allegiance, and, similar to Oregon's Willamette Valley far to the north, the press was a major outlet for anti-administration feeling.  Henry Hamilton's Los Angeles Star dueled with C.R. Conway and Alonzo White's pro-war Semi-Weekly Southern News, the former surviving its banning from the mail due to the close proximity of its subscriber base. Robinson effectively uses the columns of each paper to present the viewpoints of the more extreme political partisans of both sides. The author acknowledges the influence of secret societies like the Knights of the Golden Circle, but refutes many of the Confederate conspiracy claims perpetuated by local historians over the years, citing the lack of solid evidence. The study also traces the transformative effect of Union victory on the political makeup of Los Angeles. Not long after Confederate defeat, Republicans were winning city elections.

The economy is another major focus of the book. The second half of the war was marked by a devastating drought that effectively destroyed southern California's cattle industry. This in turn had an unfortunate cascading effect, depressing associated enterprises and forcing a steep plummet in land prices. To add to this misery, in the winter of 1862-63 a smallpox epidemic hit the Hispanic and native populations especially hard, the latter dying in large numbers. However, with post-war recovery came renewed port development and rail connections to nearby communities and the coast, improvements in infrastructure that set Los Angeles on its path to rapid growth and influence.

The OUP edition of Los Angeles in Civil War Days, 1860-1865 is a welcome rebirth of a classic. As the new 'Further Reading' section demonstrates, scholars of Civil War-era California have not been completely idle over the past 30 years, but the brief rundown of book and articles published between 1977 and 2012 nevertheless highlights the existence of wide gaps in our understanding. John Robinson's pioneering work remains relevant on its own terms, but, hopefully, it's reissue will also inspire today's students, historians, and authors to contribute to a deeper exploration of Civil War California.

More CWBA reviews of OUP titles:
* Historical Atlas of Oklahoma, 4th edition
* George Crook: From the Redwoods to Appomattox
* Violent Encounters: Interviews on Western Massacres
* A Perfect Gibraltar: The Battle for Monterrey, Mexico, 1846
* Patrick Connor's War: The 1865 Powder River Indian Expedition (Arthur H. Clark)
* Texas: A Historical Atlas
* Civil War Arkansas 1863: The Battle for a State
* Jayhawkers: The Civil War Brigade of James Henry Lane
* Powder River Odyssey: Nelson Cole's Western Campaign of 1865 the Journals of Lyman G. Bennett and Other Eyewitness Accounts (Arthur H. Clark)
* Three Days in the Shenandoah: Stonewall Jackson at Front Royal and Winchester
* The Uncivil War: Irregular Warfare In The Upper South, 1861-1865
* The Civil War in Arizona: The Story of the California Volunteers, 1861-1865

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Booknotes VII (May '13)

New Arrivals:

1. Confederate Generals in the Trans-Mississippi: Volume 1: Essays on America's Civil War edited by Lawrence Lee Hewitt with Arthur W. Bergeron, Jr. and Thomas E. Schott (UT Press, 2013).

New essays on Thomas Hindman, Theophilus Holmes, Edmund Kirby Smith, Mosby M. Parsons, John S. Marmaduke, Thomas Churchill, Tom Green, and Joseph O. Shelby.

2. Life During Wartime - 1861: The Civil War Comes to Missouri by Rudi Keller (Columbia Daily Tribune, 2012).

Tribune reporter Rudi Keller has compiled 350 of his columns into a handsome hardcover. Readers get a day by day account of the first year of the Civil War in Missouri, from skirmishes and battles to politics and the home front experience. It also has a good sprinkling of maps, photos, and other illustrations.  My first impression is a positive one.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Emerson & Stokes (eds.): "A CONFEDERATE ENGLISHMAN: The Civil War Letters of Henry Wemyss Feilden"

[A Confederate Englishman: The Civil War Letters of Henry Wemyss Feilden edited by W. Eric Emerson and Karen Stokes (University of South Carolina Press, 2013). Hardcover, photos, drawings, notes, bibliography, index. 215 pp. ISBN:978-1-61117-135-8 $29.95]

The second son of a baronet, Henry Wemyss Feilden had to find a way to make a living, so, like many young men of his class, he purchased an army commission, serving in both India and China. In 1860, the 22 year old Englishman sold his commission and announced his intention to join the Confederacy and aid in its bid for independence. It is his 1863-65 correspondence with fiance then wife Julia McCord of Charleston that comprises the heart of A Confederate Englishman, edited by archivists W. Eric Emerson and Karen Stokes. In addition to the Civil War material (some of which is also of an official nature), a selection of letters through 1920 offers glimpses at the rest of Feilden's remarkable life, one marked by his emergence as a prominent naturalist and explorer.

In the early letters [the compilation begins in March 1863] to his family back home, Feilden does not expressly detail his reasons for risking his life running the blockade in order to ally with the Confederacy, but one surmises it was a mixture of pro-Confederate sympathies, a new sense of adventure, and the potential for financial gain. Upon his safe arrival, he traveled to Richmond*, where he secured a captain's commission and a departmental staff position of his choice. He selected the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, where he soon made the acquaintance of the young woman who was to be his frequent correspondent and eventual spouse.

As the Assistant Adjutant General - Department, Feilden was the chief administrative officer on the staffs of Generals P.G.T. Beauregard, Samuel Jones, and William Hardee, and his letters offer some insights into what his AAG duties entailed. Much of his time appears to have been spent handling paperwork and managing an office of four clerks. Typical personal and family concerns comprise much of the Feilden correspondence, but frequent mention is made of military events, mostly around Charleston.  The originals have post-war notations by the captain (reproduced by the editors), admitting that much of the expressed confidence in Confederate victory contained in the letters were benevolent untruths meant to buck up home front morale.

The editors also include official AAG reports that should prove useful to historians. Although Feilden appears to have been largely desk bound, his series of letters detailing an 1864 inspection trip to Florida together comprise a rare and detailed record of the military and economic state of that district in the period following the Battle of Olustee.

Feilden's outsider's perspective is also of some value to readers. While he appears to have adopted wholesale many of the attitudes of Deep South Confederates, including a dim view of Union Army conduct toward southern civilians and the potential of freed blacks to become productive citizens, he does discount local fears of the horrors of occupation by armed blacks (citing his own personal experiences in the outposts of the British Empire).

On top of introducing and arranging this letter collection, editors Emerson and Stokes have also contributed a well researched set of notes, identifying persons mentioned in the writings and providing background and context for places and events. Scholarly publications dealing with the Civil War in the South Atlantic theater, especially in the sphere of military operations, still lag far behind those associated with the other major regions of conflict, making A Confederate Englishman a welcome addition to this sporadic literature.

* - While in Virginia, Feilden made the acquaintance of Stonewall Jackson. Readers are most familiar with Jackson's grim professional demeanor in the classroom and on campaign, but those interested in how Jackson interacted on a personal level would do well to check out Feilden's description of his visit to Jackson's headquarters (pp. 5-7), where he found the general an amiable and solicitous host.

More CWBA reviews of USC Press titles:
* Promotion or the Bottom of the River: The Blue and Gray Naval Careers of Alexander F. Warley, South Carolinian
* Faith, Valor, and Devotion: The Civil War Letters of William Porcher DuBose and A Palmetto Boy: Civil War-Era Diaries and Letters of James Adams Tillman
* Twilight on the South Carolina Rice Fields: Letters of the Heyward Family, 1862-1871
* Never for Want of Powder: The Confederate Powder Works in Augusta, Georgia
* Upcountry South Carolina Goes to War: Letters of the Anderson, Brockman, and Moore Families, 1853-1865
* Cuban Confederate Colonel: The Life of Ambrosio Jose Gonzales
* The Good Fight That Didn't End: Henry P. Goddard's Accounts of Civil War and Peace
* Guardian of Savannah: Fort McAllister, Georgia, in the Civil War and Beyond
* High Seas And Yankee Gunboats: A Blockade-Running Adventure From The Diary Of James Dickson
* Vital Rails: The Charleston & Savannah Railroad and the Civil War in Coastal South Carolina

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Booknotes VI (May '13)

New Arrivals:

1. A Season of Slaughter: The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, May 8-21, 1864 by Chris Mackowski & Kristopher White (Savas Beatie, 2013).

The third volume of the co-authors's Emerging Civil War series. Expect the same format as Fredericksburg, with profuse illustration and a nice set of brigade scale maps.

2. Surgeon in Blue: Jonathan Letterman, the Civil War Doctor Who Pioneered Battlefield Care by Scott McGaugh (Arcade Pub, 2013).

This is the first biography of Dr. Letterman, the Army of the Potomac's much admired medical director who is credited with many advancements. Such a book detailing his life and work is overdue and should interest anyone who studies Civil War medicine. Getting a July release this early is like the old days of reviewing.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Caughey & Jones: "THE 6TH UNITED STATES CAVALRY IN THE CIVIL WAR: A History and Roster"

[The 6th United States Cavalry in the Civil War: A History and Roster by Donald C. Caughey and Jimmy J. Jones (McFarland 800-253-2187, 2013). Softcover, maps, photos, roster, notes, appendices, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:144/287. ISBN:978-0-7864-6835-5 $39.95]

Don Caughey and Jimmy Jones's The 6th United States Cavalry in the Civil War is the first history of this venerable unit devoted solely to it's Civil War origins and service. At less than 150 pages of narrative, the book is short in length but nonetheless covers well the basics of what one expects to find in a modern regimental roster study. A pair of chapters are devoted to its officer selection, organization, and training. Many of the 6th's regimental and company level leaders would go on to prominent roles in the war. They include David Hunter, William Emory, August Kautz, David M. Gregg, John I. Gregg, Charles R. Lowell, John K. Mizner, and W.W. Averell, an impressive list.

The following chapters summarize the regiment's participation in a number of eastern theater campaigns with the Army of the Potomac from the Peninsula to Appomattox. The 6th experienced its first taste of combat near Williamsburg in May 1862. After much marching and skirmishing during the Maryland Campaign, the unit spent the winter picketing the Rappahannock crossings. Major 1863 events in the career of the 6th include permanent assignment to the celebrated Reserve Brigade, Stoneman's Raid, and the Gettysburg Campaign. It is the regiment's prominence at Brandy Station and the Battle of Fairfield that receive the most detailed attention in the book. The latter resulted in a bit of a disaster, as the 6th attempted to capture a large Confederate supply train and was pounced upon by a full brigade of Confederate cavalry, suffering heavy casualties in the process. Maps of both tactical and regional varieties are located throughout, with the ones created by Steven Stanley for Beverly Ford and Fairfield of particular helpfulness. While the men proved to be stout, reliable fighters, the skirmishes and battles that year rendered the regiment so depleted in the numbers that it had to be assigned to headquarters escort duty. Replacements would arrive, but the 6th remained badly understrength for the rest of the war. The narrative section of the book concludes with two chapters briefly summarizing the regiment's experiences with Sheridan's Cavalry Corps over the war's final year.

While the above might give the impression that the 6th's Civil War was not especially arduous, the authors effectively argue that when "nothing" was going on in terms of grand campaigns, the cavalry was always on the move picketing, scouting, and skirmishing, mundane but vital duties that together resulted in a constant stream of casualties and other attritional losses in men, horses, and equipment. The writing is well researched, liberally enhanced with participant accounts discovered in archives or gleaned from published primary source materials.

One of the greatest treasures to be found in the book is the detailed roster spanning over 100 pages. While there's little in the way of demographic analysis involved, on an individual level a wealth of information for researchers and genealogists is provided, far more than the typical published roster. Other appendices list the 6th's engagements (and which companies participated in each), regimental trivia, and key appointments at the officer and NCO levels.

The 6th U.S. Cavalry [originally the 3rd U.S. Cavalry, but renumbered in deference to the older 1st and 2nd Dragoons, 1st and 2nd Cavalry, and the Mounted Infantry regiment] was the only regular army mounted regiment created during the Civil War and the work of Caughey and Jones comprises a fitting and long overdue record of its service and register of its members. Regimental level studies of this type remain scarce, so hopefully The 6th United States Cavalry in the Civil War will also spark a wider interest in documenting the 1861-65 history of the regular army and those that fought in its ranks.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Back from the brink

The planned closure of University of Missouri Press obviously had a dire effect on their release schedule.  The reprieve could not save the S/S catalog but they do now have the F/W '13 one up for download. Unfortunately, there are no Civil War titles, but there's a Civil War related chapter in the essay compilation The Ozarks in Missouri History.

Many of the university presses have their new catalogs available, so go to my sidebar links and take a look.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Booknotes V (May '13)

New Arrivals:

1. Civil War General and Indian Fighter James M. Williams: Leader of the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry and the 8th U.S. Cavalry by Robert W. Lull (Univ of N Tex Pr, 2013).

This military biography of Williams should serve to bring some needed attention to Civil War events in the Indian Territory and bordering T-M Confederate states, as well as more detail on the fighting career of the 1st Kansas Colored infantry regiment.

2. North Carolina Civil War Monuments: An Illustrated History by Douglas J. Butler (McFarland, 2013).

"This illustrated history details North Carolina's commemorative response to a war in which more than 30,000 of its soldiers died in military service: 101 Confederate monuments--and eight Union memorials, including one honoring African American troops--were dedicated across the Tarheel State between 1865 and the Civil War centennial in 1961. The location, design, funding and dedication of these memorials reveal a society's evolving grief and the forging of public memory. Committee minutes, financial records, legal documents, and contemporaneous accounts highlight the challenging and often contentious process through which these monuments were realized. Manufacturers' catalogs and advertisements, as well as spirited editorial exchanges in newspapers and magazines, provide further insight into the sculptural, technological and cultural milieu".

3. The Civil War in 50 Objects by Harold Holzer & The NY Hist Society (Viking, 2013).

This book recounts the war through 50 historical items held in the NYHS's collection.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Spurgeon: "A KANSAS SOLDIER AT WAR: The Civil War Letters of Christian and Elise Dubach Isely"

[A Kansas Soldier at War: The Civil War Letters of Christian and Elise Dubach Isely by Ken Spurgeon (The History Press, 2013). Softcover, 2 maps, photos, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:161/187. ISBN:978-1-62619-015-3 $21.99]

Swiss immigrant husband and wife Christian and Elise Isely were residing in St. Joseph, Missouri in 1861. A Douglas Democrat, Christian, perhaps through his experience of the border troubles of the 1850s, was more anti-slavery and pro-Union than his parents and siblings living in Winesburg, Ohio. When Civil War broke out, he decided to enlist in the 2nd Kansas Cavalry, leaving his politically like-minded wife behind in Missouri. Their hundreds of letters to each other comprise the backbone of Ken Spurgeon's A Kansas Soldier at War. Eschewing the typical format of published Civil War correspondence, the author instead incorporates letter excerpts of various length into a narrative structure.

It is obvious from the pair's always affectionate writings that they were extremely devoted to one another. It also becomes immediately apparent to the reader that a common religious faith was an integral part of their marital bond. Even in an era where such sentiments were commonly expressed in letters, their pervasiveness in the Isely correspondence makes it clear that spiritual considerations were deeply embedded in all aspects of their lives.

In contrast to his brother Henry's service with the Union army in South Carolina and Virginia, Christian experienced little in the way of direct combat, so readers looking forward to information about the fighting in the Trans-Mississippi will be somewhat disappointed. For an extended period, Christian was detached from the regiment to man the defenses of Fort Leavenworth. When he finally did join the 2nd Kansas Cavalry in the field, most of his combat experience was in fighting guerrillas. His most detailed account of a specific battle is for Devil's Backbone, a September 1863 fight in Arkansas that remains little regarded in the literature. Before mustering out at the expiration of his enlistment in fall 1864, he also participated in the Camden Expedition, though it is unclear from the passive nature of the selected excerpts what he actually experienced firsthand.

What I found most interesting was the stormy relationship between the couple and the Iselys in Ohio, who were all anti-war Democrats. As mentioned above, Christian was also a Democrat [he and his wife gave their first son, who unfortunately died as an infant, the middle name "McClellan"], but repeatedly clashed with his parents and brothers over fighting a destructive war to reunite the country and abolish slavery. When heated acrimony threatened permanent schism, Elise would always entreat her husband to preserve family relations and never allow politics to interfere with personal regard. However, emotions seemed to always be on edge.  Elise herself resided with the Ohio Iselys for a lengthy period during the war, a situation that resulted in many uncomfortable moments but also likely helped keep the family intact. When both of Christian's brothers were drafted, Henry chose to report while the other purchased a substitute. Henry, who remained a critic of the Lincoln administration while in the army, deeply resented Christian's "Copperhead" accusations while the younger Isely was fighting and bleeding for the country. He even reenlisted while Christian left the army for home. Even so, with the help of Elise (who liked Henry very much when met him in Ohio), their strained relationship never reached the breaking point.

While it will disappoint some readers that full transcriptions of the family correspondence are not available, A Kansas Soldier at War is a valuable publication. Published Trans-Mississippi soldier letters remain rare so those with a special interest in the war in Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, and the Indian Territory will find Spurgeon's work useful. While the book's contribution to the military historiography may be limited, as a social historical case study of the conflicts of conscience experienced by countless families during the Civil War, it is quite insightful.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Booknotes IV (May '13)

New Arrivals:

1. Chancellorsville's Forgotten Front: The Battles of Second Fredericksburg and Salem Church, May 3, 1863 by Chris Mackowski and Kristopher White (Savas Beatie, 2013).

Savas Beatie is releasing a small flood of Chancellorsville related titles this year (including two about Jackson's demise). The first full length study of these two [Salem Church and 2nd Fredericksburg] critically important elements of the larger Chancellorsville campaign and battle, this book is highly anticipated.

2. Calamity at Chancellorsville: The Wounding and Death of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson by Matthew Lively (Savas Beatie, 2013).

This book seeks to set the record straight on the many questions [e.g."If he wasn't wounded where history has recorded, then who delivered the fatal volley? How many times did he fall from the stretcher? What medical treatment did he receive? What type of amputation did Dr. Hunter McGuire perform? Did Jackson really utter his famous last words, 'Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees?' What was the cause of his death?"] surrounding Jackson's friendly fire incident and subsequent death.

3. Lincoln Dreamt He Died: The Midnight Visions of Remarkable Americans from Colonial Times to Freud by Andrew Burstein (Palgrave MacMillan, 2013).

An examination of how dreams of famous American historical figures influenced their waking lives, subjects include Civil War era historical and literary personages like Lincoln, Alcott, and Twain.

4. Little Women: An Annotated Edition by Louisa May Alcott, ed. by Daniel Shealy (Belknap, 2013).

A heavy, oversized illustrated tome, this edition is presented with two columns, Alcott's text on the left and Shealy's biographical, cultural, and language references on the right. I'm not sure why Harvard sent me a copy of this one, but it's possible they think I need more literary refinement in the midst of all this military history.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Barnickel: "MILLIKEN'S BEND: A Civil War Battle in History and Memory"

[ Milliken's Bend: A Civil War Battle in History and Memory by Linda Barnickel (Louisiana State University Press, 2013). Hardcover, maps, photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:203/308. ISBN:9780807149928 $39.95]

The military side of the Battle of Milliken's Bend has been well documented in book chapters and articles written by Civil War in the Mississippi Valley experts Ed Bearss, Warren Grabau, Terrence Winschel, and Richard Lowe. However, Linda Barnickel's Milliken's Bend: A Civil War Battle in History and Memory is the first study to examine in depth the clash's political and cultural background and meaning. It is also the first book length treatment.  Several 1863 battles involving biracial Union armies were fought around the same time, Port Hudson (May 27), Milliken's Bend (June 7, 1863), and Fort Wagner (July 18), but the U.S. command at Milliken's Bend was the only one composed almost entirely of black troops* [a detachment of 120 men from the 23rd Iowa were the only white soldiers present, excepting the officers leading the other regiments].

Well researched and presented background material in several areas provides useful context for what follows.  Initially, the Union army's recruitment of black soldiers was poorly organized.  De facto conscription by aggressive recruiters disrupted the labor pool of the government's contract plantation system in NE Louisiana. Even with these unscrupulous operators, considering the available manpower, too many new regiments were authorized at the same time, with the result that all were understrength [the three Louisiana regiments and the 1st Mississippi at Milliken's Bend together numbered just over 1,000 men].  Predictably, these efforts did not sit well with Confederate soldiers and civilians.  Fears of violent slave revolt ran deep in areas like NE Louisiana, where whites were greatly outnumbered.  Here, Barnickel mines the writings of Milliken's Bend resident Kate Stone as a representative example of the views and experiences of slaveholding civilians living under a Union occupation that instantly raised the local threat level and permanently altered relations between the races. Thoughts and concerns surrounding servile insurrection also occupied the minds of soldiers. As the Confederate troops that fought at Milliken's Bend were from Texas (McCulloch's brigade of Walker's Texas Division), it is not unreasonable to assume the previous year's incendiary outbreak (blamed at the time on abolitionist agitators but later thought be caused by defective "prairie matches") was fresh in their minds.  Equating the Union army's deployment of black troops with inciting a race war at home, Confederates did not consider the enemy soldiers at Milliken's Bend to be legitimate combatants. The Texans thus had many reasons to be highly motivated on June 7.   Dueling U.S. and Confederate official policies dealing with the legal standing of black soldiers and their treatment, as well as that of their white officers, after capture are also explored.

In many modern academic studies of this type, coverage of the battle itself is a very secondary concern, but Barnickel's account, though brief, is acceptable. Others have written more detailed treatments, but this book covers the key points and basic flow of events. Both sides were roughly equal in strength, but, even though the Union brigade under Colonel Lieb was situated in a strong defensive position with flank protection and a pair of levies in front strengthened by cotton bales, the trained but combat inexperienced Texans rapidly drove the raw black recruits and the Iowa veterans back to the riverbank, where timely naval gunboat support discouraged any further assaults. Union casualties were heavy (119 killed, 241 wounded, and 132 captured out of 1,148 present), with Confederate losses estimated at less than 200. The author suggests that animosity felt between the absent white cavalry companies and the officers and men of the brigade to which they were attached as scouts might have been detrimental to Union preparations for the attack. Command level officer turnover in the African Brigade just prior to the Battle of Milliken's Bend could also have contributed to battlefield confusion and high casualties.

With longstanding accusations of atrocities associated with the battle, it is no surprise that much attention in the book is paid to the aftermath of Milliken's Bend.  The author acknowledges the impossibility of determining the fate of all the soldiers captured at the Bend, but there's no indication a massacre occurred and many of the prisoners were apparently returned to slavery and shipped to Texas [several actually returned to their old regiments with the end of the war in 1865]. It was a different matter with the three white officers captured during the battle. While one eventually was released, circumstantial evidence points to the other two being killed in some extralegal manner. By whom and under whose orders remains unknown, but the author suggests that Confederate cavalry may have been responsible, either the 15th Louisiana Cavalry battalion or Parsons's Texas brigade (the latter accused on several occasions of killing black prisoners and civilians).

Remembrance of Milliken's Bend comprises the book's final section. Barnickel posits that the post-war writings that continued to claim that a massacre occurred were often the result of geographical and temporal confusion. The author notes that several battles and skirmishes were fought at Mississippi river posts garrisoned by black soldiers around the same time period, and writers, newspaper reporters, and aged memoirists seem to have merged events or mistaken one for another. Citing Milliken's Bend veterans, the author also joins a growing number of historians challenging historian David Blight's influential thesis that black soldiers were essentially abandoned by their white comrades in the post-war reconciliation period. This section also discusses more recent efforts to memorialize the battle at Vicksburg National Military Park and other places (the site itself has been washed away). At least in terms of getting Milliken's Bend recognized at the heavily visited Vicksburg park, the effort appears to have been successful, although perhaps too much so if Tim Kavanaugh's claim that, as of 2011, the battle "has more interpretive space at the Vicksburg visitor's center than Port Gibson, Raymond, Jackson, Champion Hill, and Big Black River combined." (pg. 179) is accurate.

Linda Barnickel's Milliken's Bend finally gives the battle and the men that fought it their proper due. It truly was a small battle with significant consequences, among them an inspiring effect on black recruitment in the North, a compelling reason for white Union soldiers and civilians to reevaluate their racial prejudices, and a prominent role in the breakdown of the prisoner exchange system. This study is an exhaustively researched gem and a model for future combined battle and memory studies.

* - I don't mean to slight the significance of Island Mound, fought by the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry, but the numbers engaged in the much earlier October 29, 1862 encounter in Missouri pale in comparison to the battles mentioned above.

More CWBA reviews of LSUP titles:
* Battle of Stones River: The Forgotten Conflict Between the Confederate Army of Tennessee and the Union Army of the Cumberland
* 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

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Campaign to Nowhere reprint

I never thought I would see David Smith's Campaign to Nowhere, the best history of the 1863-64 military maneuvers in Upper East Tennessee post-Knoxville 'siege', ever get reprinted. Before now, just finding a copy of this heavily illustrated oversize paperback was practically impossible.  If you're interested in the subject, have a go at it. It's worth it.

Friday, May 10, 2013

On the perils of reviewing

This piece by John Stackhouse -- Why You Should Review–and Shouldn’t -- doesn't apply to my situation but is an interesting commentary on academic book reviewing and human nature.  It also recalls to mind the late John Y. Simon's quip that it's better to write a positive endorsement of a bad book than lose a friend.

Remember this the next time the glowing jacket blurbs for a drearily unoriginal book written by a widely admired Civil War historian raises your bile.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Booknotes III (May '13)

New Arrivals:

1. Richmond Must Fall: The Richmond-Petersburg Campaign, October 1864 by Hampton Newsome (Kent State UP, 2013).

Newsome covers the series of October 1864 battles fought east of Richmond and south of Petersburg while also reminding readers how mindful both sides were of how their results might affect the following month's presidential election.

2. The Battle of Pickett's Mill: Along the Dead Line by Brad Butkovich (The History Pr, 2013).

This book looks like a solid overview of the battle, accompanied by numerous and detailed maps.

3. Confederate General William "Extra Billy" Smith: From Virginia's Statehouse to Gettysburg Scapegoat by Scott L. Mingus Sr. (Savas Beatie, 2013).

Colorful political generals can usually attract a biographer or two, but Mingus is the first to attempt a full treatment of the man most famous for his good old boy corruption and his controversial place in Gettysburg lore.

4. Suppliers to the Confederacy: British Imported Arms and Accoutrements by Craig L. Barry and David C. Burt (Schiffer Pub, 2013).

With over 150 color photos, this is a beautifully presented historical catalog of British manufactured pistols, rifles, and accoutrements secreted through the blockade for the benefit of Confederate arms.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


[Guerrilla Hunters in Civil War Missouri by James W. Erwin (The History Press, 2013) Softcover, maps, photos, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:128/141. ISBN:978-1-60949-745-3 $19.99]

From the 1861-62 winter period onward, the federally funded Missouri State Militia (MSM) was the primary counter-guerrilla force in the state. Fourteen regiments were raised, composing something under 15,000 men, as well as a small number of battalions, artillery batteries, and independent companies (although subsequent reorganizations and consolidations reduced these numbers).

In confronting Confederate cavalry forces, several units, such as the 3rd, 7th, and 8th MSM, performed on a level belying the typical dismissive attitude most observers held regarding the reliability of Civil War militia organizations.  On the other hand, in terms of treatment of civilians and enemy prisoners, the reputation of the MSM was not a spotless one, with atrocities committed on both sides. Unfortunately, their significant service remains almost entirely overshadowed by the vast and still rapidly growing literature devoted to the guerrillas themselves. Not a single full MSM regimental history has been published. If nothing else, James Erwin's Guerrilla Hunters in Civil War Missouri brings some much deserved attention to these militiamen and their units.

Erwin's book is neither a comprehensive treatment of the organization and operations of the MSM nor an attempt at a social and demographic analysis of its membership. Instead, it is a selective (but geographically inclusive) narrative history of units and individuals. Brief accounts of battles fought by MSM units against guerrillas, Confederate recruitment expeditions, and cavalry raids are present, as well as profiles of prominent leaders like Odon Guitar and Bazel Lazear. In addition to these, Erwin also offers readers glimpses into the ranks, following the stories of a half dozen or so enlisted men. The 3rd MSM's George Wolz, especially, is present throughout the book. Other organizations, like the Enrolled Missouri Militia (EMM)*, are also briefly mentioned. The book's photography is strong, and includes some rarely seen images, an example of which is an excellent group photo of a blockhouse garrison of EMM with their distinctive strips of white cloth secured around their hats (necessary to identify the otherwise non-uniformed combatants).

On the downside, the bibliography is thin and the text is undocumented. There are a few noticeable errors spread about, including the author's unfortunate decision to present both sides of the fictional Pulliam's Farm Massacre, as if the thoroughly discredited claims of a mass killing of pro-Confederate civilians at that location remain open to debate. While Guerrilla Hunters in Civil War Missouri doesn't offer new information for seasoned readers, author James Erwin deserves credit for bringing the subject of the Missouri State Militia to a potentially wider audience. No other book length publication has done this, in popular or scholarly format, and there's real value in that.

* - if you find the array of Civil War Missouri militia formations bewildering, I would suggest Kirby Ross's Missouri Militias as an excellent introduction.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Booknotes II (May '13)

New Arrivals:

1. Los Angeles in Civil War Days, 1860-1865 by John W. Robinson (U of Oklahoma Pr, 2013).

When I first heard that this book was in the pipeline, I wrongly assumed it was a new title. A first edition of 300 copies was published 30 years ago by Dawson's Book Shop in LA. Used copies are extremely difficult to find so UOP is to be commended for reprinting this scarcity.

2. Gettysburg: The Last Invasion by Allen C. Guelzo (Knopf, 2013).

It is easy to imagine that a Director of Civil War Era Studies at Gettysburg College might be bitten by the bug carrying the 'I think I'll write a big Gettysburg battle book' virus, but seeing Guelzo's name attached to a 500 page campaign history is surprising nonetheless. Good for him for stepping out of the career comfort zone. The publisher makes the lofty claim that: "Of the half-dozen full-length histories of the battle of Gettysburg written over the last century, none dives down so closely to the experience of the individual soldier, or looks so closely at the sway of politics over military decisions, or places the battle so firmly in the context of nineteenth-century military practice".

3. The History of the Sixteenth Tennessee Volunteer Infantry Regiment (Volume 1): We Were Spoiling for a Fight April 1861-August 1862, The History of the Sixteenth Tennessee Volunteer Infantry Regiment (Volume II): No Hope of Getting Out Alive - Perryville, Murfreesboro, Chickamauga and Chattanooga September 1862-December 1863, and The Battle of Perryville and the Sixteenth Tennessee Infantry Regiment: A Re-evaluation by Jamie Gillum (Author, 2011-12).

A self-published regimental history trilogy for the Confederate 16th Tennessee VI, the third volume is a micro-history of the unit's participation in the Battle of Perryville. We know how these things usually go, but delving into this set looks worthwhile.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Booknotes (May '13)

New Arrivals:

1. Rethinking Shiloh: Myth and Memory by Timothy B. Smith (U of Tenn Pr, 2013).

Sort of a follow up to The Untold Story of Shiloh, this new collection has nine essays (presumably original in part or whole). From the description: "The topics range from a compelling analysis and description of the last hours of General Albert Sidney Johnston to the effect of the New Deal on Shiloh National Military Park and, subsequently, our understanding of the battle. Smith’s careful analyses and research bring attention to the many relatively unexplored parts of Shiloh such as the terrain, the actual route of Lew Wallace’s march, and post-battle developments that affect currently held perceptions of that famed clash between Union and Confederate armies in West Tennessee".

2. The Last Days of Stonewall Jackson: The Mortal Wounding of the Confederacy's Greatest Icon by Chris Mackowski and Kristopher D. White (Savas Beatie, 2013).

This new paperback is a revised and expanded edition of the authors's 2010 Thomas Publications hardcover of the same main title (and part of Savas Beatie's lavishly illustrated series Emerging Civil War). The 2nd edition has numerous appendices, looking at subjects like Jackson's Lexington, his post-mortem legacy, and the physical monuments dedicated to him.

3. Columns of Vengeance: Soldiers, Sioux, and the Punitive Expeditions, 1863-1864 by Paul N. Beck (U of Oklahoma Pr, 2013).

Among the battles covered in Beck's brief overview are Big Mound, Dead Buffalo Lake, Stony Lake, Whitestone Hill, and Killdeer Mountain. Also of interest is Beck's attempt to revive the Civil War context of these campaigns.