Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Booknotes IV (July '13)

An all McFarland version of Booknotes...

New Arrivals:

1. Scapegoat of Shiloh: The Distortion of Lew Wallace's Record by U. S. Grant by Kevin Getchell (McFarland, 2013).

I'm not sure if there's enough left to say on this subject to fill a new book length study with significant amounts of fresh information, but this one seems to center on Grant's choice of courier "a mistake that might have made all the difference. This assertion is supported by newly discovered documents written by an obscure Wisconsin quartermaster as well as evidence in official records."

2. The Confederate Surrender at Greensboro: The Final Days of the Army of Tennessee, April 1865 by Robert M. Dunkerly (McFarland, 2013).

Leaning heavily on a large volume of primary source materials of all types, this book gives the Greensboro surrender the level of treatment usually reserved for the more famous Appomattox ceremony. The author also includes a surrender-time Confederate order of battle and a walking tour of the NC town.

3. The 7th Tennessee Infantry in the Civil War: A History and Roster by William Thomas Venner (McFarland, 2013).

A roster history with the appearance of a more than respectable bibliography, the book takes the reader through the 7th's service in western Virginia and the grinding campaigns of the Army of Northern Virginia from the Peninsula to Appomattox.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Rebels in the Rockies

It remains the consensus view that wartime fears of armed pro-Confederate uprisings in California, the Oregon Country, and the mining camps of Montana and Colorado were almost entirely baseless, so it will be intriguing to see what emerges from Walter Pittman's Rebels in the Rockies: Confederate Irregulars in the Western Territories (McFarland, Fall '13). A couple years ago, Pittman published a good popular summary of the Confederate New Mexico Campaign. Even then, one could see the author's interest in small unit operations.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Hewitt, Bergeron & Schott: "CONFEDERATE GENERALS OF THE TRANS-MISSISSIPPI - Volume 1: Essays on America's Civil War"

[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 (University of Tennessee Press, 2013). Hardcover, 24 maps, photos, notes, bibliography, index. 327 pp. ISBN:978-1-57233-866-1 $54.95]

After the publication of three western theater volumes, UT Press's Confederate Generals... essay series now moves across the great river with Confederate Generals in the Trans-Mississippi - Volume 1: Essays on America's Civil War. The format is the same, and, with the sad passing of series co-editor Art Bergeron, Thomas Schott has come on board to assist Lawrence Hewitt.

The book contains eight essays, evenly split in number between one of two general types, either a complete career military biographical survey or a 'man and moment' assessment, these moments being particular battles, campaigns, or command tenures. Among the former grouping are Bill Gurley's "Mosby Monroe Parsons: Missouri's Forgotten Brigadier", Helen Trimpi's "A 'Gallant and Prudent Commander': Major General John S. Marmaduke", "'Not Fortunate in War': Major General Thomas James Churchill" by Mark Christ, and Stuart Sanders's "Exit to Submission, Death to Dishonor: General Joseph Orville Shelby". The latter set includes: "'An Ultra and Stupid Conservatism Ruined Us': General Thomas C. Hindman Jr. and the Defense of Arkansas" by Bobby Roberts, Joseph Dawson's "Theophilus Holmes and Confederate Generalship", "'To Carry Off the Glory': Edmund Kirby Smith in 1864" by Jeffrey Prushankin, and Curtis Milbourn's "Three Days in April: Tom Green's Contributions at Carroll's Mill, Mansfield, and Pleasant Hill during the Red River Campaign".

In his mini-biography of Mosby Monroe Parsons, Gurley makes a solid case that the Missouri general should be regarded as one of the best Confederate Trans-Mississippi army brigade and division commanders. The same cannot be said for Churchill, who was much more inconsistent.  According to Christ, a fair assessment of the general's Civil War career is no easy task given that Churchill was one of those unfortunate officers plagued with bad luck.  Trimpi's attempt to elevate Marmaduke's status to that of a top flight cavalry commander is one of the weaker entries in the volume. She gamely teases out the positives of the general's performances while passing over, or minimizing, his considerable lack of success as both independent raider (ex. Springfield and Cape Girardeau) and subordinate (ex. Byrum's Ford and Mine Creek).  It's entirely possible that he would have served his cause better by remaining an infantry commander. Finally, laudatory assessments of Jo Shelby's generalship are de rigueur in the literature, and Sanders offers more of the same in his contribution. While nothing appears to be out of order, one cannot help but get the feeling that Shelby's importance continues to be a bit exaggerated. That's not to say his abilities are overrated, but his scale of influence was fairly modest until late in the war (he was not promoted to brigadier general until December 1863) and he lacked frequent opportunities to shine in independent operations. Even the results of his famous Great Raid do not impress terribly much upon sober reflection.

Heading up the second group of four articles is Bobby Roberts's account of Thomas Hindman's remarkable feat of raising a new Trans-Mississippi army out of almost nothing and creating a fledgling arms and munitions industry to support it in isolated Arkansas.  These events have been documented before, but Roberts attempts to get at the reasons behind Hindman's unprecedentedly broad imposition of martial law in Arkansas in order to achieve the ends the general deemed necessary.   According to the author, it was a series of early war observations while serving in Kentucky and Tennessee that led Hindman to go to such lengths.  Hindman was dismayed at the troop raising inefficiencies stemming from divided (state and national) authority and was determined that the same mistake would not be made in Arkansas. A first hand view of irregular warfare in central Kentucky, specifically the early career of John Hunt Morgan, may also have inspired Hindman's infamous order promoting mass partisan action in Arkansas. Lastly, there is some likelihood that the breakdown in civil order that Hindman witnessed during the Confederate retreat through Nashville, and how it could only be stemmed through martial law, influenced his policy in Arkansas, which was in a similar state of panic after the post-Pea Ridge stripping of its defenses.  It is unclear how much direct evidence in favor of these suppositions exists in Hindman's writings, but the analysis is interesting in any event. Joseph Dawson's examination of Theophilus Holmes's tenure as department commander (July 1862 - March 1863) and then district commander reinforces the conventional picture of the general's flaws.  According to Dawson, Holmes, who constantly wrote to President Davis about his unsuitability for the job at hand, should have resigned for the good of the service when replacement was not forthcoming, and it is difficult to argue against that.  Jeffrey Prushankin's views on Edmund Kirby Smith, and his troubled relationship with Richard Taylor, have been widely disseminated in print already and readers of this fine earlier work will find familiar material here.  Lastly, Curtis Milbourn examines Texas cavalryman Tom Green's performance during a trio of Red River Campaign actions. Milbourn concludes that Green is a very underappreciated figure in the pantheon of legendary Confederate cavalry generals, excelling at all command levels.   According to the author, Green did about as well as could be expected during the Red River Campaign, being hampered by the headlong rush to the Louisiana battlefields from Texas and fighting on ground unsuitable to the sweeping cavalry movements favored by Green.

Generally speaking, the articles are all products of suitably wide ranging research, but one essay does stick out like a bit of a sore thumb in terms of questionable source selection. In the Marmaduke chapter, the author is heavily reliant upon the content and analysis of a Marmaduke biography written by a widely discredited figure in Missouri Civil War historiography. Other flaws include a few too many typos and the absence of any original maps (the set included in the study consisting only of previously published drawings). In the larger scheme of things, however, none of these complaints materially detract from the core value of the essay collection taken as a whole.

Confederate Generals in the Trans-Mississippi is recommended reading for both subject area veterans, who will appreciate the collection's excellent short form biographies of those generals still lacking proper book length treatments of their own (ex. Parsons and Churchill), and more general readers who wish to learn more about Confederate military leadership west of the Mississippi. The series is off to a good start, and future volumes are anticipated with relish.

More CWBA reviews of UTP titles:
* Rethinking Shiloh: Myth and Memory
* Ruined by This Miserable War: The Dispatches of Charles Prosper Fauconnet, a French Diplomat in New Orleans, 1863-1868
* The Knoxville Campaign: Burnside and Longstreet in East Tennessee
* To the Battles of Franklin and Nashville and Beyond: Stabilization and Reconstruction in Tennessee and Kentucky, 1864-1866
* Confederate Generals in the Western Theater, Vol. 3: Essays on America's Civil War
* Confederate Generals in the Western Theater, Vol. 2: Essays on America’s Civil War
* Great Things Are Expected of Us: The Letters of Colonel C. Irvine Walker, 10th South Carolina Infantry, C.S.A.
* Confederate Generals in the Western Theater, Vol. 1: Classic Essays on America’s Civil War
* Crimson Confederates: Harvard Men Who Fought for the South
* Yale's Confederates: A Biographical Dictionary
* The Battle of Shiloh and the Organizations Engaged
* The Final Battles of the Petersburg Campaign: Breaking the Backbone of the Rebellion
* Echoes of Thunder: A Guide to the Seven Days Battles
* Little to Eat and Thin Mud to Drink: Letters, Diaries, and Memoirs from the Red River Campaigns, 1863–1864
* Earthen Walls, Iron Men: Fort DeRussy, Louisiana, and the Defense of Red River
* Through the Howling Wilderness: The 1864 Red River Campaign and Union Failure in the West

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Cox bio

Even though Jacob Cox is probably my favorite Union political general if I had to choose one -- he was more than competent, didn't seem to constantly whine about West Pointers and not getting enough respect (at least that's my superficial impression), and his writings are still considered reliable source material -- I don't know much at all about his life. That will change next spring with the publication of Eugene Schmiel's Citizen-General: Jacob Dolson Cox and the Civil War Era (Ohio University Press, naturally). Here's hoping it contains lots of good stuff about his 1861 campaign up the Kanawha River Valley.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

McBryde: "THE BATTLE OF WEST POINT: Confederate Triumph at Ellis Bridge"

[The Battle of West Point: Confederate Triumph at Ellis Bridge by John McBryde (The History Press, 2013). Softcover, maps, photos, notes, appendices, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:104/126. ISBN:978-1-60949-987-7 $19.99]

Students of the 1864 Meridian Campaign, for which two fine histories exist -- Margie Bearss's Sherman's Forgotten Campaign and Buck Foster's Sherman's Mississippi Campaign, know that it was a two-pronged operation, with William T. Sherman's main force striking east from Vicksburg for a hoped for meeting around Meridian, Mississippi with a strong mounted contingent from West Tennessee commanded by William Sooy Smith. It did not go as intended. Sherman did his part wrecking the Magnolia State's infrastructure, but Smith was turned back by a vastly inferior force led by Nathan Bedford Forrest. It is a small event, albeit a turning point, from the cavalry operation that is the subject of John McBryde's The Battle of West Point: Confederate Triumph at Ellis Bridge.

McBryde sets the stage for his account of this skirmish by first giving a brief summary of the overall goals of the Meridian Campaign and noting the positions of the scattered elements of Smith's and Forrest's respective commands upon its commencement. The economic and logistical importance of the Black Prairie region of Mississippi, through which the Union cavalry would supply itself and destroy what they could not use, to Confederate quartermasters is also appropriately conveyed.

Eventually, both sides concentrated their forces and converged on West Point, Mississippi, located across the Tombigbee River from the larger and more important town of Columbus. It is here that McBryde describes the tactical dilemma that Smith found himself in, boxed in on three sides by three different bodies of water and with the main crossings all defended by elements of Forrest's command. The "battle" of the book's title occurred east of Ellis Bridge (on the west side of the box), where the Confederate's stopped a Union probe toward the bridge and counterattacked. By this time, Smith had already decided to abandon his part of the campaign, and Forrest's cavalry were opposed only by a succession of Union rear guards all the way to Okolona, where the book ends with the initiation of that clash [one might view this book as a companion to Brandon Beck's The Battle of Okolona: Defending the Mississippi Prairie, from the same series.

The descriptions of these events is reasonably good, but the book has many of the problems one associates with local history written by an inexperienced author. The decision to employ two overlapping narratives (one for each side) was perhaps an ill-chosen one, with needless repetition and confusingly piecemeal picturing of the lay of the land and the progress of the contending forces. Not helping this situation is the fact that the book has no original maps depicting unit positions and the locations of the towns, road network, and other terrain features necessary to a full understanding of the narrative. The few previously published maps included are almost entirely useless. In common with many local histories, there are also area legends mixed in with the sourced material. Perhaps the strangest of these folk tales, of which no evidence exists whatsoever, is one alleging that Forrest had 23 prisoners bound and drowned in a lake. The command portraits provided of the opposing leaders also lack shades of gray. McBryde's Smith is a nervous bumbler afraid of becoming Forrest's next victim, and Forrest himself is a faultless god of war. The more balanced and sometimes critical views of Forrest's generalship that have emerged in print in recent years (e.g. David Powell's reassessment of Forrest at Chickamauga) are ignored.

Given these flaws, the book is difficult to recommend to the wider battle history audience. Instead, its value lies primarily at the local level, as a resource for Clay County citizens to be introduced to their backyard Civil War history.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Booknotes III (July '13)

New Arrivals:

1. Civil War Soldiers of Greater Cleveland: Letters Home to Cuyahoga County by Dale Thomas (The History Press, 2013).

This book combines narrative with excerpts from letters written by soldiers from the 103rd and 124th regiments serving in Kentucky and Tennessee, as well as those on the home front.

2. We Are in His Hands Whether We Live or Die: The Letters of Brevet Brigadier General Charles Henry Howard edited by David K. Thomson (UT Press, 2013).

A Mainer and Bowdoin College graduate, Howard fought in both eastern and western theaters, the former with the Army of the Potomac and the latter as reinforcements sent west in the wake of the Chickamauga disaster. The letters convey the central role that religion played in Howard's life and cover a long period before, during, and after the war (1852 - 1908).

3. Hidden History of Civil War Tennessee by James B. Jones, Jr. (The History Press, 2013).

The Hidden History books are story based series from The History Press. I glanced through an earlier entry and was decidedly unimpressed with its 'history-lite' nature, but this one looks entirely different, with a much more scholarly and professional approach to the research and writing. Makes me want to revisit some of the other titles.

4. The Raiding Winter by Michael Bradley (Pelican, 2013).

A published literature synthesis, Raiding Winter is an overview history of the series of western theater Confederate cavalry raids conducted by Forrest, Morgan, Van Dorn, and Wheeler from December 12, 1862 through January 3, 1863. The decision to include no maps or illustrations was not a good one.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Digital ed. of leading Little Rock Campaign history

It's not perfect by any means, but Timothy and Stephanie Burford's The Division: Defending Little Rock August 25 - September 10 1863 is still the best military account (in text and maps) of the Union campaign that captured the Arkansas capital. It's been out of print for quite a while, but those that would like to own a copy can now obtain an inexpensive digital edition.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

16th Tennessee series

A while back, I received a package of three books, all part of author Jamie Gillum's 16th Tennessee regimental series. I finished the first of these The History of the Sixteenth Tennessee Volunteer Infantry Regiment (Volume 1): We Were Spoiling for a Fight ~ April 1861-August 1862 (2011) and a brief mention will be made of the others.

The men who would form the 16th hailed from eight east-central Tennessee counties and were assigned to the brigade of Brigadier General Daniel S. Donelson. The unit became a well traveled one, being sent first to the mountains of western Virginia.  The major military operation there was Robert E. Lee's aborted Cheat Mountain campaign, but the regiment battled climate and sickness more than Union soldiers. From Virginia, the Tennesseans were transported to the South Carolina sea island coast, where they picketed the approaches to Union-held Port Royal and guarding against further inroads in the region. Responding to the string of western theater disasters in the early months of 1862, the regiment detrained at Corinth having missed Shiloh. At this point, Gillum details the 16th's reorganization, undertaken upon the expiration of the original one-year enlistment term and in accordance with the stipulations of the newly passed Conscription Act. He also describes the 16th's participation in the sometimes heavy skirmishing associated with the Corinth siege operation. When the rail center was finally abandoned, the men accompanied the rest of the army to Tupelo, before being transported to Chattanooga preparatory to the invasion of Kentucky. Thus ends Volume I.

The book's structure is a fairly conventional one within the regimental history genre, composed of author narrative interspersed with block quotes from diaries, letters, memoirs and other documents. The bibliography's size is unexpectedly small, but is made up almost entirely of primary sources, published and unpublished. Footnotes are of two main types, source citations and Compiled Service Records transcriptions. In common with most self-published books, this one could really use the full services of an editor, helping with tasks ranging from typographical error correction to proper formatting of the notes and bibliography.

It is unknown if a roster is in the works (the logical place, of course, would be in the unpublished third and final volume), but, as stated above, CSR information is present for individuals mentioned in the text. The book, like the other two, also contains a wealth of supplemental material. Appendices include a listing of the various commands to which the 16th was attached; a detailed inventory of clothing, arms, and equipment issued to the men; casualty numbers by battle; and selections from veteran questionnaires.

My overall impression is that there's quality work in the project, but it remains at a raw state.  Spending the time rectifying the drawbacks mentioned above would go a long way toward improving its scholarly standing.

~ * ~

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 (2012) carries the history of the regiment forward through the Missionary Ridge disaster. It is during this 15-month period that the regiment sustained its first serious losses in battle, first at Perryville then Murfreesboro. The 16th also participated in the Tullahoma Campaign, and the battles of Chickamauga and Chattanooga. The amount of regimental and brigade level detail is substantial, especially for Perryville, with maps to match. The third and final volume is due sometime this year.

In addition to the three-volume regimental history, a satellite study was also created. The author is of the fervent opinion that the standard accounts of the 16th at Perryville, as documented in the park's official history, and the books of Kenneth Noe and Kenneth Hafendorfer, are erroneous in significant ways.  The Battle of Perryville and the Sixteenth Tennessee Infantry Regiment: A Re-evaluation (2011) comprises Gillum's moment by moment recreation of the true story as he sees it.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Booknotes II (July '13)

New Arrivals:

1. More Than Freedom: Fighting for Black Citizenship in a White Republic, 1829-1889 by Stephen Kantrowitz (Penguin, 2013).

Kantrowitz attempts to "show how the fight to abolish slavery was always part of a much broader campaign by African Americans to claim full citizenship and to remake the white republic into a place where they could belong."

2. The Appomattox Generals: The Parallel Lives of Joshua L. Chamberlain, USA, and John B. Gordon, CSA, Commanders at the Surrender Ceremony of April 12, 1865 by John W. Primomo (McFarland, 2013).

A history (the first book length treatment?) of the famed Chamberlain-Gordon connection.

3. The College of William and Mary in the Civil War by Sean M. Heuvel and Lisa L. Heuvel (McFarland, 2013).

The book "describes the fate of the College and also explores in-depth the war service of the College's students, faculty, and alumni, ranging from little-known individuals to historically prominent figures such as Winfield Scott, John Tyler, and John J. Crittenden. The College's many contributions to the Civil War and its role in shaping pre- and post-war higher education in the South are fully revealed".

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Newsome: "RICHMOND MUST FALL: The Richmond-Petersburg Campaign, October 1864"

[Richmond Must Fall: The Richmond-Petersburg Campaign, October 1864 by Hampton Newsome (Kent State University Press, 2013). Hardcover, maps, photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:319/456. ISBN:9781606351321 $65]

With a few notable exceptions (among them Richard Sommers's monumental Richmond Redeemed, A. Wilson Greene's study of the final breakthrough, and John Fox's excellent microhistory of the Confederate last stand at Fort Gregg), published book length histories of the battles and numbered offensives associated with the 1864-65 Petersburg & Richmond campaign have been largely confined to slender overviews from the H.E. Howard Virginia Civil War Battles and Leaders series. This year, a fresh and original work rivaling the best of these has been added to the list, Hampton Newsome's "Sixth Offensive" study Richmond Must Fall: The Richmond-Petersburg Campaign, October 1864.

Like those that came before it, the Sixth Offensive involved movements on two fronts, Benjamin Butler's Army of the James east of Richmond and George Meade's Army of the Potomac against the Southside Railroad southwest of Petersburg. Richmond Must Fall begins outside the capital, with Robert E. Lee's October 7 attack on Johnson's Farm, a clash in large part stemming from the Confederate commander's dissatisfaction with the recent loss of Fort Harrison. After an initial victory by the infantry divisions of Robert Hoke and Charles Field over the farm's Union defenders, August Kautz's cavalry division, further progress against the Federal far right was sharply defeated by the Tenth Corps at New Market Road.   In the wake of the Confederate failure, Butler launched a reconnaissance effort to feel for the strength and extent of the new Confederate left.  The table was set for the Sixth Offensive.

The role of the Army of the James in the Sixth Offensive later that month was not to directly attack the enemy defenses but rather to pin the Confederates in place and prevent them from reinforcing the Petersburg front. On October 27, with Tenth Corps demonstrating farther south, Godfrey Weitzel's Eighteenth Corps swung to the north, pressing the initially thin Confederate defenses astride the Williamsburg and Nine Mile roads. The attacks, exceeding in vigor the directives of Grant and Butler, resulted in high casualties with no tangible gain.  Newsome is quite critical of Weitzel's aggressive decision making, a supportable opinion given the cautious nature of the general's orders, but one might also argue that Weitzel saw a potentially significant opportunity opposite the weak enemy left and exercised his discretion as a corps commander.  Indeed, Confederate success was a very near run thing.

The main operation, to be conducted by John Parke's Ninth Corps, Gouvernor Warren's Fifth Corps, Winfield Scott Hancock's Second Corps, and David M. Gregg's cavalry division, was also intended not to butt heads directly against Confederate fortifications. Instead, the advance would move around the far right of the Petersburg outer defenses, which was falsely believed to terminate on the north bank of Hatcher's Run, and cut the Southside Railroad. Things did not go as planned. Poor battlefield intelligence missed the fact that the Confederate line extended a far greater distance along the opposite bank of Hatcher's Run, and rapid reaction by the Confederates stymied both the Ninth and Fifth corps. Only Hancock's Second Corps and the cavalry were able to cross Hatcher's Run in force (to be later joined by Samuel Crawford's Fifth Corps division). After capturing the Burgess Farm and a short stretch of the Boydton Plan Road, the Second Corps and Gregg's cavalry found themselves isolated from the rest of the Union army, surrounded on three sides -- on the left and rear by the cavalry divisions of Matthew C. Butler and W.H.F. Lee (under Wade Hampton's direction) and in front by a scratch force assembled at the Burgess Mill by Army of Northern Virginia Third Corps division commander Henry Heth. The Confederates were even able to launch an attack of their own, with three brigades led by William Mahone slipping in behind Hancock and in front of Crawford. Mahone's tiny command briefly split the Second Corps in two before being driven off with heavy loss.  Newsome's exemplary account of Mahone's forlorn hope brings to light one of the most boldly remarkable attacks and oddest military situations of the entire war.  I would differ a bit, though, with the author's conclusion that the battering of Mahone served as a redemptive send off for Hancock, as it was very poor flank security that allowed the Confederates to get behind the Second Corps in the first place.  Others have blamed Crawford for this, but Hancock cannot be absolved.  Nevertheless, with their flanking force's freedom of movement shut down, Grant and Meade called off the offensive altogether, and the Union forces retreated.

Newsome's considerable skill in constructing battle narrative from a wide depth and breadth of sources is on full display in this book. Readers of Civil War military studies vary widely in their demands for detail and Richmond Must Fall will disappoint few of the hardcore types. A question one might reasonably ask is why study what was essentially an aborted mission barren of result. Newsome wants readers to realize that the timing of the operation, with the November elections looming, had the potential for grave political consequences. Observers on both sides questioned the propriety of launching such an ambitious operation during the month of October. That being said, the author duly points out that the favorable military and political situation (from the perspective of the Lincoln administration) in the weeks prior to the offensive rendered these fears overblown, at least in hindsight.

The book also admirably serves as a case study for why the Union's Petersburg-Richmond offensives prior to Five Forks failed to achieve decisive results, and sometimes resulted in mini-disaster. Newsome includes a statement from Confederate artillerist Porter Alexander criticizing Grant's strategy of employing dual offensives at opposite ends of the long Petersburg-Richmond line instead of a single overpowering push through and around one flank or the other. The author might have expanded fruitfully upon this pointed critique, but he does explicitly get at the heart of what could be regarded as the fatal design flaw of so many Petersburg offensives. With so much of a given operation's available manpower devoted to protecting the flanking force's connection with the main Union line, the mobile column again and again found itself too weak for the job assigned or to deal with unforeseen circumstances. The Sixth Offensive highlights this perhaps better than most, with 2/3 of the attackers bogged down in front of Confederate lines a short distance west of their launch point, essentially taking themselves out of the battle. Facing only Hancock, Crawford, and Gregg, two Confederate cavalry divisions and a handful of worn down infantry brigades thus were able to turn back a massive Union force of almost 40,000 men. Only when Grant was willing to sever these unwieldy, strength sapping connections would he be able to truly overstretch the Confederate defenders and force the Cockade City's fall.

Richmond Must Fall is an impressive descriptive and interpretive work spawned from prodigious research. Supporting the text associated with each major event is a large number of maps at a variety of unit scales.  Petersburg Campaign students, used to continual disappointment when the seasonal catalogs come out, will find themselves overjoyed at finally encountering a new work worthy of being placed alongside Richmond Redeemed. Not only does it fill a gap in the military historiography of the campaign but it does so with a contribution of surpassing quality.

More CWBA reviews of KSUP titles:
* A German Hurrah!: Civil War Letters of Friedrich Bertsch and Wilhelm Stängel, 9th Ohio Infantry
* Orlando M. Poe: Civil War General and Great Lakes Engineer
* August Willich's Gallant Dutchmen: Civil War Letters from the 32nd Indiana Infantry
* Caution and Cooperation: The American Civil War in British-American Relations
* Winfield Scott and the Profession of Arms

Friday, July 5, 2013

Cloyd's Mountain digital ed.

An out of print [though available on CD] title from the H.E. Howard Virginia Civil War Battles and Leaders series, Howard McManus's The Battle of Cloyds Mountain: The Virginia and Tennessee Railroad Raid April 29 - May 19, 1864 is a reasonably good history of the subject, certainly better than anything else available. With used copies few in number and always priced in the three figure range, however, it is nice to see a Kindle version has finally been released for those who just want access to the content. I corresponded with the author a few years back and he expressed no interest in reprinting the title as a physical book, so this digital edition might be the only way to obtain a copy at a reasonable price.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Ultimate General: Gettysburg

I can't let this week go by without some mention of the big dustup in Pennsylvania. Veering away from books for a second, of the current crop of Civil War simulations in the pipeline, Gettysburg: The Ultimate General has the coolest concept and visual style. This screenshot is impressive (though there needs to be more trees on Culp's Hill).

Monday, July 1, 2013

Booknotes (July '13)

New Arrivals:

It was a S-B day at the mailbox.

1. The Last Battle of Winchester: Phil Sheridan, Jubal Early, and the Shenandoah Valley Campaign, August 7 - September 19, 1864 by Scott C. Patchan (Savas Beatie, 2013).

This Third Winchester tome is also the author's third Shenandoah Civil War study. All of Patchan's books have been well received so I have little doubt this will soon be regarded as one of the best 1864 Valley Campaign battle studies to date.

2. General Grant and the Rewriting of History: How the Destruction of General William S. Rosecrans Influenced Our Understanding of the Civil War by Frank P. Varney (Savas Beatie, 2013).

3. John Bell Hood: The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of a Confederate General by Stephen M. Hood (Savas Beatie, 2013).

I've read quite a bit of (2) and (3) already, both polemical rehab jobs for two Civil War generals with plenty of critics, then and now. Honestly, it's too damn hot and humid in my office even with the AC on for initial thoughts, but suffice it to say that I found both defense efforts successful enough in places to make their reading worthwhile.