Sunday, March 30, 2014

Booknotes IV (March '14)

New Arrivals:

1. From These Honored Dead: Historical Archaeology of the American Civil War
edited by Clarence R. Geier, Douglas D. Scott & Lawrence E. Babits (UP of Florida, 2014).

I'm always excited when UPF publishes another set of archaeological studies of battlefields, bivouacs, camps, logistical features, and forts. These material investigations frequently come up with interesting conclusions at variance with the document-based historical record. This particular volume examines sites across all three major theaters.

2. Civil War: The Untold Story (Athena DVD set - 5 eps, 276 min., 2014).

"Using dramatic battle recreations, compelling archival imagery, 3-D maps, and insightful interviews with top Civil War scholars, this five-part series shows why the West played such a vital part in the outcome of the war."

3. Suffer and Grow Strong: The Life of Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas, 1834-1907 by Carolyn Newton Curry (Mercer UP, 2014).

Both born into and married to wealth, Thomas was a native Georgian ruined by the Civil War. After the war, like many of her class, she ran a school and boardinghouse out of her mansion to make ends meet, but her standout career was as a leader in the temperance and women's rights movements. Her diaries totaling 450k words and numerous publications provide her biographer with an abundance of public and private material.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Christ, ed.: "'THIS DAY WE MARCHED AGAIN': A Union Soldier's Account of War in Arkansas and the Trans-Mississippi"

["This Day We Marched Again": A Union Soldier's Account of War in Arkansas and the Trans-Mississippi edited by Mark K. Christ (Butler Center Books, 2014). Softcover, 2 maps, photos, notes, bibliography, index. 157 Pp. ISBN:978-1-935106-67-8 $19.95]

German immigrant Jacob Haas enlisted in the 9th Wisconsin in September 1861 and served in the Trans-Mississippi for the entirety of the war, marching and fighting across Kansas, Indian Territory, Arkansas and Missouri. In his native language, he documented his observations and experiences from beginning to end, combining his diaries into a single manuscript after the war. In the early twentieth century, his son-in-law translated the work into English, and it remained in the possession of the family until published this month by the book arm of the Butler Center of Arkansas Studies under the title "This Day We Marched Again": A Union Soldier's Account of War in Arkansas and the Trans-Mississippi.

Civil War Arkansas related participant accounts seeking editors can do no better than getting Mark Christ on board. Christ, the longtime Arkansas Historic Presentation Program outreach director, has contributed to and edited a number of important publications, and this previously unpublished material is certainly worthy of his talents. During the postwar combining of his diaries, it's clear that Haas inserted facts he could not have known at the time of first writing so some degree of self editing was performed. The diary manuscript that emerged from three levels of handling over many decades -- original writing, combining/editing, and translation -- is not a paragon of American English syntax and spelling, even with Christ's corrections. Haas managed to misspell the name of nearly every military officer he encountered, but Christ's decision to retain Haas's ubiquitous proper noun errors as useful cultural artifact, reserving the corrective for the footnotes, seems the right one. As all good editors do, Christ in his notes substantially expands the reader's knowledge and understanding of persons, places and events mentioned in the diary text, but he also goes the extra mile in using other unpublished writings from the regiment (the most useful of these being the diaries of Hermann Schlueter and Michael Zimmer) to validate Haas's claims and interpretations.

The value of particular Civil War letter and diary collections to researchers is often exaggerated but this is not the case with Haas's historical contribution. What his writing lacks in polish and style it more than makes up for in content, though rather narrowly focused on military affairs.  The attitude that emerges from his diary seems generally indifferent to the widespread abuse of civilians and their property, and he doesn't reflect much upon national political issues or the social upheavals that the war induced (such as the ending of slavery and fighting alongside black soldiers).  On a somewhat lighter note, his record of the violent dislike that boiled up between the officers and men of the 9th Wisconsin and the 1st Nebraska may be one of the earliest indications of what would in the future become a great Midwestern rivalry.

As mentioned above, in contrast with the scant attention paid to issues of politics and society, Haas's writings on the military actions and duties of his regiment are highly observant, their level of detail far exceeding the typical Civil War enlisted man, or even officer, diary. Vivid descriptions of the character and layout of occupied towns like Rolla, Missouri and Camden, Arkansas are presented, and rural points of interest located along routes of march dutifully noted. Even when major battles were missed (ex. the regiment spent Prairie Grove guarding Rhea's Mill), Haas's faithful recounting of his regiment's supporting activities augment our knowledge of these campaigns. His Newtonia material is not historical gold, but the series of diary entries covering the long march of the Arkansas wing of the 1864 Red River Campaign and frequent small scale fighting that occurred along the road to Camden comprise a rare gem for researchers seeking primary source information for that period. Fortunately for Haas, he and his unit missed the Marks' Mills and Poison Spring debacles, but his diary's in-depth observations of the occupation of Camden and the later battle of Jenkins' Ferry admirably pick up the slack. Upon returning to Little Rock, severe illness required sick leave for Haas, followed by discharge from the army in December 1864.

With almost every aspect of the book being worthy of high praise, the only real source of complaint is with the maps. Evidently present to pinpoint for the reader key locations from Haas's diary, they are shrunken to the extent of near total illegibility; but that negative vibe is only transitory. Publication of Trans-Mississippi soldier diaries are rare events and "This Day We Marched Again" is one of the best to emerge in recent years. All students of the Civil War west of the Mississippi should obtain a copy for their home library. Those with a special interest in the immigrant soldier experience will also find Haas's diary to be a great source of first-hand information and perspective.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Pair of early releases

When I started doing this back in 2005 it wasn't uncommon to receive a finished copy of a book from a major press up to two months before general release and have my review done long before the manuscript hit the bookstores. Those days are long gone and it's more of a rare pleasure to find a book I've been looking forward to actually get released pretty far in advance of the initial street date. This is the case for a pair of anticipated titles:

Citizen-General: Jacob Dolson Cox and the Civil War Era by Eugene Schmiel and Ethan Rafuse's Manassas: A Battlefield Guide.

Nebraska's This Hallowed Ground is my preferred guide series and FBR is my favorite eastern theater battle to study so that combo makes it a must-read for me. I'm sure Harry is excited, too. For the SBR people, that's in there as well. If I had to choose a favorite Union "political general" it would be Jacob Cox, who could use a good military biography, and I have high hopes for Schmiel's book. Apparently, both will soon be on their way to me.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Whitman's Grant elegy

A few days ago, Dimitri (it's good to have him back) posted and praised the Ambrose Bierce poem "The Death of Grant."  That's a Bierce piece I hadn't encountered before, an impressive read in many ways, although I do not like how it overflows with the notion of Grant the unreflective man.

Here's what Walt Whitman had to say about the big man's passing.


As one by one withdraw the lofty actors,
From that great play on history's stage eterne,
That lurid, partial act of war and peace—of old and new con-
Fought out through wrath, fears, dark dismays, and many a long
All past—and since, in countless graves receding, mellowing,
Victor's and vanquish'd—Lincoln's and Lee's—now thou with
Man of the mighty days—and equal to the days!
Thou from the prairies!—tangled and many-vein'd and hard has
         been thy part,
To admiration has it been enacted! 
Meh.  Not Walt's best work.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Sokolosky and Smith's Wise's Forks

A correspondent recently asked me if I knew anything about the state of one of Wade Sokolosky and Mark Smith's current projects, a history of the March 1865 Battle of Wise’s [for some reason, I prefer Wyse] Forks. Going straight to the source, I found this February announcement on their website:
"Savas-Beatie Publishing Co. has agreed to publish the Wise's Forks book. This is a prayer that's been answered, and I look forward to working with them as we bring this project to closure. Our deadline to Savas-Beatie is June 2014. This ensures release at the beginning of 2015. Mark Moore has agreed to handling the maps for Wise's Forks. Mark is an excellent map-maker and extremely knowledgeable of the Carolinas Campaign."
There's no such thing as a sure date this far out from planned release, but it's great to hear the work is nearing completion. I loved their earlier collaboration, 2005's No Such Army..., and can't wait to get my hands on this one.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Lee: "THE CIVIL WAR IN THE JACKSON PURCHASE, 1861 - 1862: The Pro-Confederate Struggle and Defeat in Southwest Kentucky"

[The Civil War in the Jackson Purchase, 1861-1862: The Pro-Confederate Struggle and Defeat in Southwest Kentucky by Dan Lee (McFarland ph. 800-253-2187, 2014). Pages main/total:212/256. ISBN:978-0-7864-7782-1 $39.95]

Acquired for the U.S. from the Chickasaw Indians by Andrew Jackson in 1818 and ratified by the senate the following year, the Jackson Purchase is a seven county region of western Kentucky enclosed by three major rivers: to the north by the Ohio, the west by the Mississippi, and on its eastern edge the Tennessee River. Of course, a number of histories documenting well known 1861-62 military clashes and campaigns that were fought along Purchase boundaries have been published, among them the substantial naval work of Myron Smith, the excellent Belmont and Columbus book by Nathaniel Cheairs Hughes, Forts Henry and Donelson studies by Benjamin Franklin Cooling and Kendall Gott, and a thorough treatment of the Island No. 10 campaign by Larry Daniel and Lynn Bock. In a new military-themed regional history, author Dan Lee discusses these same important events and more in The Civil War in the Jackson Purchase, 1861-1862: The Pro-Confederate Struggle and Defeat in Southwest Kentucky.

Not exhibiting any appreciable archival research, the narrative is primarily constructed from O.R. reports and published source materials of all types. Readers familiar with the works mentioned above will not be terribly surprised with how the bigger name campaigns are presented and interpreted by the author. That said, Lee does offer information about many lesser covered military sites and smaller scale fighting that occurred in the Purchase's interior. While his focus is on the first two years of the war, he does summarize a number of 1863-65 Confederate "incursions" into the region (with particular attention paid to Paducah) and there is some minor coverage of the guerrilla conflict. The harshness of Union military occupation, the most repressive district commander being the reviled General Eleazer Paine, is described in some detail, though one wishes for more primary source documentation supporting its most controversial claims. Lee also lists the various means developed by Union officers for keeping rear area pro-Confederate Purchase civilians in line. However, unlike with the collisions between armies, the author does not deal much in the way of specifics when it comes to the guerrilla war, a definite weakness in perspective given how much the irregular war impacted Kentucky soldiers and civilians.

For an essentially top down examination like this one, the level of military detail in Lee's narrative strikes the right balance, although the uninitiated reader would benefit immeasurably from more and better maps. Not surprisingly, General Grant is the book's most front and center Union army figure. Though no reader will agree with all of Lee's assessments, his views on the positives and negatives of Grant's personal character and military ability [these traits have been listed in countless books and need not be repeated here] is refreshingly complicated. The Grant that emerges from Lee's pen is one shaped by neither uncritically effusive praise nor overly petty, dated, and out of context criticism. As just one example, Lee covers both Grant's controversial 1862 order specifically expelling Jews from his district as well as his actions later in public life that could be interpreted as honest efforts toward making amends. As for other high ranking officers, no attempt is made to change traditional views on Gideon Pillow and John Pope, but the author reserves few negative comments toward how Leonidas Polk managed his affairs over the first twelve months of the war. Big questions that have provoked varied opinions over the past 150 years (ex. was occupying Columbus a blunder, who should receive most of the credit for conceiving the Henry-Donelson Campaign) are addressed in the book, with conclusions that won't surprise veteran readers.

While the content of Lee's book is mostly military in nature, the first twenty pages comprise an informative history of the settlement of the Purchase, its economic development (the number of slaves increased by 41% between 1850-60), its social and political leanings (it was heavily Southern Democrat in the 1860 election), and the reasons why it was coveted by both sides. A brief afterword also discusses Confederate commemoration in the Purchase and the role played by the UDC in promoting and shaping its public image. Some criticisms of the editing are in order. In addition to frequent typographical errors, the text also exhibits some strange quirks in terms of careless attention to detail [ex. Lee states that 4,000 slaves worked one of Polk's plantations and the City Class ironclads were covered in 13 1/2 inch plates when the dimensional context is clearly one of armor thickness, not individual plate width]. These kinds of distractions aside, The Civil War in the Jackson Purchase, 1861-1862 is a first of its kind and well constructed synthesis of the relevant published literature. Newer readers will benefit the most from the book, but there is enough lesser known content to make it more than worthwhile to the more experienced western theater student, too.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Bourgeois Tagg and Lincoln

My local alternative rock station has an 80s-themed Friday program and hearing Bourgeois Tagg's Mutual Surrender (yes, the linked video is very MTV 80s) made me think of Larry Tagg and his book The Unpopular Mr. Lincoln: The Story of America's Most Reviled President (Savas Beatie, 2009 - reprinted in paperback with a new title in 2012), though neither Abe nor Ronald Reagan would have entirely approved of its sentiments!  Tagg is unique. You certainly don't find retired rock musicians becoming published Civil War authors every day.  The closest analog is perhaps Phil Collins, whose interest in Texas Revolution artifacts and documents goes far beyond mere acquisition.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Ezra Church

I received a nice note from Gary Ecelbarger today.  He mentioned that he is indeed in the middle of finishing an Ezra Church battle study, to be published by University of Oklahoma Press with a tentative 2015 release date.

If you are a regular reader here, you might recall that Earl Hess noted in our mid-2012 Q&A that his own Ezra Church book project was "well advanced," so we may have one of those infrequent moments with two groundbreaking works appearing in relatively close succession.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Upcoming Adobe Walls study

It appears my wish for a good Adobe Walls (the 1864 one, not the legendary 1874 affair) book may be granted with the June release of Alvin Lynn's Kit Carson and the First Battle of Adobe Walls: A Tale of Two Journeys from Texas Tech University Press.

A 2013 book about another important Civil War's Indian Wars event from the same year, Ari Kelman's A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling over the Memory of Sand Creek was recently awarded the Bancroft Prize. It's too bad the publisher never sent me a copy of that one, as, from what I can tell, it's right up my alley. I'll definitely pick up a copy at some point. For a hoot, check out the patently stupid negative "reviews" on the Amazon page.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Booknotes III (March '14)

New Arrivals:

1. Lincoln's Boys: John Hay, John Nicolay, and the War for Lincoln's Image by Joshua Zeitz (Viking, 2014).

From publisher's description: "Drawing on letters, diaries, and memoirs, Lincoln’s Boys is part political drama and part coming-of-age tale—a fascinating story of friendship, politics, war, and the contest over history and remembrance."

2. Twenty-five Hours to Tragedy: The Battle of Spring Hill and Operations on November 29, 1864: Precursor to the Battle of Franklin by Jamie Gillum (Author, 2014).

Just who should shoulder the most blame for the Confederate fiasco at Spring Hill is a continuing debate. Twenty-five Hours to Tragedy is author Jamie Gillum's compilation of participant accounts, interspersed with his own text and source interpretation. As with his other books, this one is also full of photos and detailed, informative maps. Stephen Hood, author of a controversial recent reappraisal of General John Bell Hood's Civil War career, wrote the prologue, but Gillum reminds readers that many of his own views, distilled from 26 years of evidence gathering, differ from Hood's. Whether they are specifically spelled out in the text as such, I don't know yet.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Booknotes II (March '14)

New Arrivals:

1. Uncommonly Savage: Civil War and Remembrance in Spain and the United States by Paul D. Escott (UP of Fla, 2014).

I can't say that I've ever ruminated upon the parallels between our mid-19th century internal national struggle and the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s. On the other hand, Paul Escott certainly has done so, and he's even written a book about it.

2. Military Leadership Lessons of the Charleston Campaign, 1861-1865 by Kevin Dougherty (McFarland, 2014).

In this case, the publisher's description is a good summary of what the book contains. "... Part One, "Understanding Charleston," contains a discussion of leadership, a campaign overview, and a brief introduction to the key participants. Part Two, "Leadership Vignettes," includes 21 scenarios that span the actions of the most senior leaders down to those of individual soldiers. Each scenario provides the context, explains the action in the terms of leadership lessons learned, and concludes with a list of "take-aways" to crystallize the lessons for the reader. The book ends with summary information and a set of conclusions about leadership during the Charleston Campaign. ..."

3. Living Hell: The Dark Side of the Civil War by Michael C.C. Adams (Johns Hopkins UP, 2014).

"Drawing extensively on letters and memoirs of individual soldiers, Adams assembles vivid accounts of the distress Confederate and Union soldiers faced daily: sickness, exhaustion, hunger, devastating injuries, and makeshift hospitals where saws were often the medical instrument of choice." Adams "suggests that too many Americans become fond of war out of ignorance of its terrors" and "the collective memory of its horror has faded, so that we have sanitized and romanticized even the experience of the Civil War".

Monday, March 10, 2014

Jenkins: "THE BATTLE OF PEACH TREE CREEK: Hood's First Sortie, July 20, 1864"

[The Battle of Peach Tree Creek: Hood's First Sortie, July 20, 1864 by Robert D. Jenkins, Sr. (Mercer University Press, 2014). Cloth, 11 maps, photos, illustrations, footnotes, casualty roster, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:469/600. ISBN:978-0-88146-396-5 $35]

Some excellent general treatments small and large (most particularly, Albert Castel's unsurpassed Decision in the West) and a fine map study exist in book form for the 1864 Atlanta Campaign, but it bears repeating just how few first-class histories of the individual battles fought along the road from North Georgia to Atlanta and around the city itself have been produced. Even with its flaws, Robert Jenkins's The Battle of Peach Tree Creek: Hood's First Sortie, July 20, 1864* easily provides the best modern interpretation and most complete description of the battle to date.

Jenkins's study is an extraordinarily detailed military microhistory of the Battle of Peachtree Creek, its bibliography indicative of the type and amount of primary and secondary source research necessary for such a creation. The scale at which the action unfolds runs the entire gamut from army level command all the way down to individual companies on the firing line. In common with most battle books of this type, the main text consists of a narrative thread accompanied throughout by well selected excerpts and extensive block quotes from the official documents, letters, diaries, journals, and memoirs written by participants.

One cannot help but agree with the author that the Confederate Army of Tennessee commander, General John Bell Hood, devised a sound battle plan with reasonable expectations for success. While a single corps and the Confederate cavalry occupied the attention of the bulk of Sherman's massive army group off to the east, two corps (Stewart's and Hardee's) would exploit a carelessly created two mile wide gap in the Union center, hitting George Thomas's Army of the Cumberland in front and flank as the federals were in the process of crossing Peachtree Creek. Hardee's Corps, at four divisions the strongest of the two Confederate assault columns, would begin the attack by turning and crushing the vulnerable Union left (John Newton's division of O.O. Howard's IV Corps) while the rest of the army would advance en echelon from right to left, driving the federals back into rugged creek bottoms where they might be broken up in detail.

In many ways, Peachtree Creek was a classic example of an Army of Tennessee battle, a tactical offensive characterized by startling initial success (often against equal or superior enemy numbers at the point of attack) rendered unexploitable due to lack of reserves in key places and the difficulties rough western terrain imposed on command, communications, and artillery support. Like many observers and later historians, Jenkins finds great fault with William J. Hardee. With three attacking divisions and one in reserve, the Georgian was responsible for both defeating the Union left and initiating the echelon attack. The timing of the operation was disrupted from the beginning, with the center of Hardee's column (W.H.T. Walker's Division) instead of the planned right striking the Union defenses first. It only got worse from there. The far right division, William Bate's, got swallowed up and misdirected in horrendous natural terrain, while George Maney's division on the left of Hardee's line only weakly attacked. One might argue that Peachtree Creek was John Newton's best day of work in an otherwise pedestrian Civil War career, with his single small division defeating an entire enemy corps. Tactical salients often proved to be weak positions in Civil War battle lines, but Newton's elevated position jutted out so far to the south that it completely disrupted Hardee's advance and the hasty Union entrenchments thrown up at its tip perhaps intimidated Hardee from fulfilling his attack orders (although the author found no evidence that Hardee ever passed down to his division commanders Hood's wishes for an all out attack). Hardee could have no excuse for such a timid performance, and his subsequent protestations that Hood deprived him of his reserve division at a decisive moment in the battle ring hollow in the face of the evidence presented in the book.

The fighting to the west could not have been more different in character. Most of Stewart's corps attacked with gusto. Two divisions, those of W.W. Loring and Edward Walthall, attacked aggressively, seriously pressuring Joe Hooker's XX Corps along Collier's Ridge before being repulsed. Winfield Scott Featherston's small brigade alone suffered more casualties than Hardee's entire corps. On the Confederate far left, the Union XIV Corps blocked the final advance of the day by Samuel French's division. Jenkins does a fine job of articulating where and how these attacks progressed and why they ultimately failed. In addition to Stewart possessing a critical lack of reserves due to having a brigade absent on picket duty from each attacking division, the topography was a limiting factor in Confederate success. Well coordinated echelon attacks require that adjacent commands be visible to each other and intervals between neighboring units close enough for flank coverage. Heavily wooded and cut by numerous gullies, streams, and ridges, the landscape south of Peachtree Creek isolated the attacking Confederate brigades from friendly view and support. The result was piecemeal, albeit powerful, attacks. Some brigades, like Featherston's and Edward O'Neal's, were victims of their own success in that their impressively deep penetrations of Union lines only resulted in their being eventually surrounded on three sides and thrown back with heavy loss. Unlike Hardee's attack, the odds were heavily stacked against Stewart's assault, with brigades ending up attacking divisions in several cases.

While Jenkins's account of the battle is presented in admirable depth and his interpretations convincingly supported by the source evidence, the manuscript is marred by flaws large and small. Readers will quickly discover that the book should not have been published in its current state. Right off the bat, one finds that the captions to the illustrations are incorrectly formatted (one even has a placeholder note in all-caps like one might find in a galley proof rather than a finished product). Continuing from there, typographical errors abound in the main text and footnotes.  While the book's organization generally fosters a good understanding of the flow of action, the author's decision to incorporate a vast amount of specialized research on a single regiment, the 31st Mississippi, into the main narrative was arguably inadvisable.  Chapters are frequently peppered with subsections comprising tactical vignettes at the regimental and brigade levels, but to have such a huge portion of an already thick book's middle occupied with a company by company breakdown of the 31st's battle experience struck this reader as jarringly out of place.  It's understandable that the author, who has a special interest in this particular regiment, would want to present his findings; however, instead of interrupting the narrative at a key moment with the presentation of a huge volume of uniquely narrow interest material, the book might have been better served by collecting this content in an appendix.

The set of maps included are quite good in terms of showing the movements and relative positions of the brigades and regiments of each side. On the downside, the underlying terrain features do not register elevation changes and are poorly represented, with those that are depicted exhibiting an indistinct, ghosted appearance making them difficult to see. Not being able to clearly visualize the relationship between the fighting units and the fields, forests, ravines and ridges that had such a profound effect on where and how the battle was fought is unfortunate, though the text's often vivid discussions of the terrain go at least some way toward offsetting this deficiency. In terms of supplementary features, full orders of battle was left out, but a Union and Confederate casualty roster was compiled, a huge appendix almost 85 pages in length.

Although the unpolished nature of the finished manuscript is a significant source of discontent, the strengths of The Battle of Peach Tree Creek, the undeniable leap forward it represents in our blow-by-blow knowledge and understanding of the July 20 fighting north of Atlanta, make it worthy of recommendation. No library shelf of 1864 Atlanta Campaign titles should be without it.

* - It's a minor matter, but for those readers expecting "Peachtree" rather than "Peach Tree" Creek, Jenkins claims that the latter is correct for the time of the battle.

More CWBA reviews of MUP titles:
* Going Back the Way They Came: The Phillips Georgia Legion Cavalry Battalion
* I Will Give Them One More Shot: Ramsey's First Regiment Georgia Volunteers
* The Battle of Resaca: Atlanta Campaign, 1864
* Volunteers' Camp and Field Book
* Griswoldville
* Civil War Macon: The History of a Confederate City

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Booknotes (March '14)

New Arrivals:

1. William Gilmore Simms's Selected Reviews on Literature and Civilization edited by James Everett Kibler, Jr. and David Moltke-Hansen (Univ of SC Pr, 2014).

Simms was a prolific reviewer and essayist and this volume collects 62 of his newspaper reviews, journal reviews, book notes, and four critical essays; organized in two parts. For part one, "Kibler offers an introduction that examines Simms's reviewing habits and the aesthetic and critical values that informed the author's reviews. Kibler then publishes selected texts of reviews and provides historical and cultural backgrounds for each selection," while "Moltke-Hansen's introduction to part two examines Simms's roles in, and responses to, the Romantic critical revolution and the other revolutions then roiling Europe and America".

2. The Civil War in the Jackson Purchase, 1861-1862: The Pro-Confederate Struggle and Defeat in Southwest Kentucky by Dan Lee (McFarland, 2014).

During the early war period covered by this book, the Jackson Purchase was one of the most militarily contested and important geographical areas in the country. No other study of this type exists, although Hughes's Belmont book and Cooling's Henry & Donelson campaign history were both more expansive than their titles indicated. Lee covers both of the above, as well as, among other things, secession in SW Kentucky, the occupation of Columbus, and the struggle for Island No. 10. The final chapter briefly discusses the Union's 1862-65 occupation of the region and various Confederate sorties into the region.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Malvern Hill

Embedded in a recent newsletter about a March Frank O'Reilly Malvern Hill talk was a little tidbit that his book on the subject is now in its "final stages of research and writing".  Of course, the amount of time that can pass between that nebulously defined milestone and actual publication can vary wildly but it's nice to know the project is progressing toward completion.

Sunday, March 2, 2014


[St. Augustine and the Civil War by Robert Redd (The History Press, 2014). Softcover, map, photos, drawings, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:143/172. ISBN:978-1-60949-897-9 $19.99]

St. Augustine, Florida suffered the same early Civil War fate of many South Atlantic ports and towns, that of rapid abandonment by Confederate forces and occupation by the Union army. Robert Redd's St. Augustine and the Civil War follows a fairly common local history formula for books directed toward a more general audience. It begins with a brief historical narrative. In less than fifty pages, the author takes the reader through the secession crisis and the Civil War years. Redd documents a succession of occupying units, mostly volunteer regiments from New England, and how they interacted with the locals, a majority pro-secession population with almost one-third of the residents being slaves. Union control of the city was never seriously threatened during the war, with no battles fought nearby and only the occasional clash with regionally mobile Confederate irregulars.

The rest of the book primarily consists of personal stories related to the city's Civil War history. One chapter covers the saga of the crew manning the Confederate privateer Jefferson Davis and another a history of slavery and emancipation in St. Augustine. Additional sections explore the connections of famous civilians and military figures to the city. Among these St. Augustine natives, visitors, or transplants profiled in the book are Mary Lincoln, John Hay, Franklin W. Smith, U.S. Grant, Stephen Vincent Benet [grandfather and namesake of the famous writer and poet], Edmund J. Davis, William J. Hardee, Martin D. Hardin, W.W. Loring, John M. Schofield, and Edmund Kirby Smith.  Redd also includes a fairly detailed walking and driving tour of Civil War related sites in the town. Both the tour section and the main text are supported by numerous modern and period photographs.

All of the above comprises a pretty conventional picture of local history format and content. Where the author departs from the expected is in the depth and quality of his study's bibliography, one more akin to those found in academic monographs than works of popular history. Appendices include a copy of the Florida Ordinance of Secession, a roster of the St. Augustine Blues (Company B, Third Florida Infantry), and a list of St. Augustine Confederates killed during the war. What's missing is a map of city itself, a common and unfortunately failing of many studies of this type.

St. Augustine is famous for being the oldest continually occupied European settlement in North America and residents have likely been far more exposed to the town's Spanish colonial history than its Civil War past. Redd's book should serve as a useful tool for locals to explore their city's 1861-65 related sites and experiences.  Historically minded visitors can also benefit from the well written general narrative and tour sections.