Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Booknotes V (Dec '14)

New Arrivals:

1. Guerrilla Warfare in Civil War Kentucky by Gerald W. Fischer (Acclaim Pr, 2014).

Like many guerrilla studies, this one appears to be primarily personality focused, with chapters covering individuals and bands that operated in Kentucky (ex. those of Mundy, Johnson, Quantrill, Magruder, and many more lesser known figures). The source array is limited to newspapers, books and articles. Though they're fairly common for Missouri, I don't recall a recent synthesis of this type for Bluegrass State bushwhackers and partisan rangers.

2. The March to the River: From the Battle of Pea Ridge to Helena, Spring 1862 by Robert G. Schultz (Camp Pope Publishing, 2014).

Samuel Curtis's post-Pea Ridge change of base from NW to NE Arkansas has been covered in bits and pieces in the literature, as has his capture of Helena when Little Rock could not be reached, but Schultz's book is the first full treatment of the entire operation. I like what I see so far.

Monday, December 29, 2014

On War: The Best Military Histories, Ltd Ed.

Take an existing uninspired anthology, wrap it up pretty with leather and assorted accoutrements like signature plates, and slap a $1,000 limited edition price tag on it. I can't imagine these volumes increasing in value over time.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Daniel Showalter

If you're interested in the Civil War in the Far West, you may want to check out this website following the progress of a biography of Daniel Showalter, a California politician and secessionist who escaped east across the desert southwest to join the 4th Texas Cavalry (Arizona Brigade) and serve as its lieutenant-colonel. The book is essentially complete and co-authors Bob Arconti and Gene Armistead are currently trying to nail down a publisher.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The March to the River

Just Released:


The March to the River
Click on Image to Order
"This is the first detailed study of the campaign of Samuel R. Curtis’s Army of the Southwest following its important victory at the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas (March 7-8, 1862). After the withdrawal of Earl Van Dorn’s Confederate army from northwest Arkansas, General Curtis’s next obvious move was to capture Little Rock, the state capital. Poor roads, raging rivers, tenuous supply lines, and harassing Rebel cavalry made for a meandering march back up into Missouri, then down into Arkansas along the White River. For the first time a Union army had to depend on foraging off the enemy’s resources for much of its sustenance—a feat repeated more famously two years later in General William T. Sherman’s “March to the Sea.” Ultimately, Curtis had to abandon his attempt at Little Rock and instead led his army through to Helena, arriving in mid-July. Bob Schultz has thoroughly researched his book in private archives, period newspaper accounts, published and unpublished soldiers’ diaries, letters, and memoirs, and the Army and Navy Official Records. Includes the maps, many published for the first time, drawn by Lyman G. Bennett of the 36th Illinois Infantry."

454 pp., illustrations, maps, notes, bibliography, index. ISBN: 978-1-929919-60-4, PB (2014); ISBN: 978-1-929919-60-4 $24.95

The Confederate Steam Navy: 1861-1865

I've tooled around a little bit with Donald Canney's Lincoln's Navy: The Ships, Men and Organization, 1861-65 (1998). Although its physical dimensions are oversized to a level annoying to me, it struck me as a solid reference guide to the Union navy and seems to still have a good reputation among briny readers. Canney is now turning his attention to the other side with The Confederate Steam Navy: 1861-1865 (late summer 2015):

"This is the first book-length study devoted to the vessels of the Confederate Navy, including all types used during the conflict: ironclads (both domestic and foreign-built), commerce raiders, blockade runners, riverine and ocean-going gunboats, torpedo and submersible vessels, and floating batteries. The book emphasizes the development, construction, and design of these vessels using, where available, original plans, photographs, and contemporary descriptions. The author describes these vessels in context with wartime conditions as well as with the transitional naval technology of the era. Over 100 vessels are detailed, including more than 30 ironclads, both American and foreign built. Over 150 illustrations are included, many of which have not previously been published."

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Booknotes IV (Dec '14)

New Arrivals:

A package of Dover reprints of classic reference books:

1. Revised Regulations for the Army of the United States, 1861 issued by the War Department, US (unabridged 2013 reissue of 1861 ed. by J.G.L. Brown).

This is the must-have handbook that Civil War volunteer officers pored over to learn their new duties. I can't say that I've ever looked through it before. "...the guide includes many official forms used in the 1860s as well as an appendix containing articles of war, extracts from Acts of Congress, and an Army pay table. Contents include regulations related to military discipline and rank and command, care of fortifications, treatment of deceased soldiers and deserters, leaves of absence and furloughs, arrests and confinements, inspections of the troops, musters, and forms of parade. Additional subjects include troops in campaign, courts-martial, recruiting, medical and ordnance departments, flags and standards, uniform and horse equipment, and many other practical considerations."

2. The Art of War by Antoine-Henri, Baron de Jomini, trans. by Capt. G.H. Mendell and Lt. W.P. Craighill (unabridged 2007 reissue of 1862 J.B. Lippincott ed. - 3 orig. pull out maps reproduced in reduced size format).

I own a copy of what's said to be the best and fullest English translation of Clausewitz's On War (the Howard and Paret Princeton edition) but don't know if the Mendell and Craighill edition of Jomini is similarly regarded. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I've never read either work in their entirety. Jomini looks very accessible.

3. Arms and Equipment of the Civil War by Jack Coggins (2004 repub. of 1962 Doubleday ed.).

A Centennial classic, Coggins's book apparently inspired many budding Civil War enthusiasts and historians. It is certainly a common occupant of Civil War sections inside used bookstores all across the country. A heavily illustrated primer, the book discusses the basics of Civil War infantry, cavalry, and artillery as well as their associated engineer and signal corps detachments. Railroads, the medical and quartermaster departments, and the navies are also introduced.

4. Civil War Collector's Encyclopedia: Arms, Uniforms and Equipment of the Union and Confederacy by Francis A. Lord (2004 reprint of 1963 Stackpole ed.).

Another bookstore mainstay, this is the granddaddy of Civil War collectible guides. Over 800 items are organized topically and described in minute detail.

5. Uniforms of the Civil War by Francis A. Lord (2007 reprint of 1970 Yoseloff ed.).

This one is more obscure to me. Of course, much more information has emerged in the 45 years since original publication, but it still looks like a serviceable pictorial introduction to the subject. I wonder if the painted figures guys still use it as a guide.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Charles F. Smith bio

I am not aware of any existing full length of biographies of Charles Ferguson Smith. Dying from an infected non-combat wound in April 1862, the well regarded general's career trajectory is an interesting Civil War might-have-been. Next summer, McFarland is publishing Allan Mesch's Teacher of Civil War Generals: Major General Charles Ferguson Smith, Soldier and West Point Commandant. Mesch is a new name to me and biography is one of the publisher's more uneven Civil War categories so who knows what to expect with this one. I suppose the book's most intriguing line of inquiry will be its examination of Smith's relationship with Grant, one most often characterized in the literature as generous mentoring of a rising star. With so many examples of rank jealousy and backstabbing in Civil War high commands, Smith apparently cheerfully served under an admiring Grant, who was greatly inferior in age and pre-war army position and reputation.  How closely aligned the major Grant biographies are on this narrative I don't know, but I plan on giving Mesch's study a go.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

2014 - The "Civil War Books and Authors" Year in Review

The Wall Street Journal reviewed 1,000 books in 2014, their year end "best" considerations obviously stemming from a far broader base of reviewers and candidates than my modest one-man operation can manage. Nevertheless, I do my level best picking and sorting through what comes my way and each December come up with a personal list of favorite titles published over the preceding twelve-plus months. Comments can be found through the links provided. Better yet grab your gift cards, order a few, and read them yourself.


Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln by Jonathan W. White (LSU Pr).


Battle/Campaign Histories:
Trans-Mississippi Theater:
The Battle of Pilot Knob: Thunder in Arcadia Valley by Bryce A. Suderow and R. Scott House (SEMO Pr).
Western Theater:
Work for Giants: The Campaign and Battle of Tupelo/Harrisburg, Mississippi, June-July 1864 by Thomas E. Parson (Kent St. UP).
Eastern Theater:
The Early Morning of War: Bull Run, 1861 by Edward G. Longacre (Univ of Okla Pr).

General History:
When the Wolf Came: The Civil War and the Indian Territory by Mary Jane Warde (Univ of Ark Pr).

Social-Cultural History:
Busy in the Cause: Iowa, the Free-State Struggle in the West, and the Prelude to the Civil War by Lowell J. Soike (Univ of Neb Pr).

Political History:
Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln by Jonathan W. White (LSU Pr).

Unit History:
Soldiers in the Army of Freedom: The 1st Kansas Colored, the Civil War's First African American Combat Unit by Ian Michael Spurgeon (Univ of Okla Pr).

Essay Collection:
Gateway to the Confederacy: New Perspectives on the Chickamauga and Chattanooga Campaigns, 1862-1863 edited by Evan C. Jones and Wiley Sword (LSU Pr).

Citizen-General: Jacob Dolson Cox and the Civil War Era by Eugene D. Schmiel (Ohio UP).

Naval History:
To Retain Command of the Mississippi: The Civil War Naval Campaign for Memphis by Edward B. McCaul (Univ of Tenn Pr).

Edited Letters/Memoir/Diary:
A Gunner in Lee's Army: The Civil War Letters of Thomas Henry Carter edited by Graham T. Dozier (UNC Pr).

Guide Book:
Manassas: A Battlefield Guide by Ethan S. Rafuse (Univ of Neb Pr).

Map Study:
The Maps of the Bristoe Station and Mine Run Campaigns by Bradley Gottfried (Savas Beatie).

Where Valor and Devotion Met: The Battle of Pilot Knob by Douglas L. Gifford.

Local History:
The Coal River Valley in the Civil War: West Virginia Mountains, 1861 by Michael B. Graham (The Hist Pr).

Regional History:
Kentucky Confederates: Secession, Civil War, and the Jackson Purchase by Berry Craig (UP of Ky).

Reference Book(s):
Guerrilla Warfare in Civil War Missouri, Volumes III and IV by Bruce Nichols (McFarland).

New Perspectives:
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).

Classic Reprint:
The Civil War Diary of Gideon Welles: Lincoln's Secretary of the Navy - The Original Manuscript Edition edited by William E. and Erica L. Gienapp (Univ of Ill Pr).

The Last Hurrah

Citadel history professor Kyle Sinisi's long awaited history of the 1864 Confederate campaign in Missouri now has a release date (mid-2015) and detail page from publisher Rowman & Littlefield. The title is The Last Hurrah: Sterling Price's Raid of 1864. Coming in at 460 pages it is substantially larger than typical fare from The American Crisis Series and promises to be the kind of full campaign treatment that will finally satisfy perpetually disappointed students of the operation. That will make three Price Raid studies between now and then, with books from Mark Lause (The Collapse of Price's Raid: The Beginning of the End in Civil War Missouri) and Michael Forsyth (The Great Missouri Raid: Sterling Price and the Last Major Confederate Campaign in Northern Territory) to accompany Sinisi.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Booknotes III (Dec '14)

New Arrivals:

1. Corps Commanders in Blue: Union Major Generals in the Civil War edited by Ethan S. Rafuse (LSU Pr, 2014).

Rafuse assembled quite a collection of writers (with some regional balance to boot): Hennessy on Fitz John Porter, Clemens on JKF Mansfield at Antietam, Noe on Charles Gilbert at Perryville, Stowe on Meade, Woodworth on James McPherson during the Vicksburg Campaign, Snell on William Franklin in the Trans-Mississippi, Rafuse himself on Joe Hooker in North Georgia, and Simpson on Hancock and the Overland Campaign.

2. A Broken Regiment: The 16th Connecticut's Civil War by Lesley J. Gordon (LSU Pr, 2014).

The 16th was one of many hard luck regiments, a Civil War career comprised mostly of tedious and inglorious garrison duty bookended by panicked rout at Antietam and wholesale surrender at Plymouth, the captives sent to Andersonville. Gordon's unit history is also concerned with the post-war decades, when members sought to rehabilitate the image of themselves and their unit.

3. The Enigmatic South: Toward Civil War and Its Legacies edited by Samuel C. Hyde, Jr. (LSU Pr, 2014).

This essay collection addresses a wide array of topics: states rights politics, education developments in the South, Louisiana's secessionist preachers, Clement Vallandigham, class privilege in Mississippi, conscription and biographical features on William L. Yancey, Pierre Champomier, and Edward McGehee, ending with an appreciation of the career of historian William Cooper.

Monday, December 15, 2014

McCaul: "TO RETAIN COMMAND OF THE MISSISSIPPI: The Civil War Naval Campaign for Memphis"

[To Retain Command of the Mississippi: The Civil War Naval Campaign for Memphis by Edward B. McCaul Jr. (University of Tennessee Press, 2014). Cloth, maps, photos, illustrations, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:186/270. ISBN:9781621900887 $55]

Given the strategic importance of the Upper Mississippi Valley, it is surprising that the naval struggles for control of this vital stretch of river have not received more attention in the literature. Given the rarity of true squadron versus squadron battles during the Civil War and the fact that two gunboat clashes of this scale were fought in close succession in this naval theater at Plum Point and Memphis, the neglect becomes rather extraordinary. Finally addressing this deficiency head on is Edward McCaul's To Retain Command of the Mississippi: The Civil War Naval Campaign for Memphis, the first book length study of these events.

Partisans of both sides early on recognized the need for strong naval forces on the western waterways and large (and expensive) public and private initiatives went toward their creation. Unfortunately, this unity of thought did not extend to unity of command. During the period covered in the book (The Battle of Plum Point was fought on May 10, 1862 and Memphis on June 6) there were essentially four navies operating independently on the Upper Mississippi. Two Union forces, the Western Flotilla of timberclads and ironclads (commanded by US Navy Commodore Charles H. Davis but accountable to the US Army) and volunteer Colonel Charles Ellet's ram fleet directly answerable to Secretary of War Stanton, were opposed by the same number of Confederate commands, with Captain Joseph E. Montgomery's River Defense Fleet operating independent of the regular Confederate Navy, its vessels on the Mississippi commanded by Captain George N. Hollis. Fortunately for the Union, this potentially harmful arrangement did not derail successful operations. It was worse for the far more materially limited Confederates, who could not coordinate their defense of the upper and lower flanks of the Mississippi, leaving the River Defense Fleet to fight alone at Plum Point and Memphis.

Detailed design specifications don't exist for many of the vessels that fought at Plum Point and Memphis, but McCaul deftly points the reader toward the general strengths of weaknesses of the gunboats and how these would be positively and negatively exploited in the upcoming battles. For instance, the unarmored rear of the federal City Class ironclads and their inability to operate sufficiently in reverse, increased vulnerability during downstream movement. At Memphis, in order to hold their position in line, they had to present their backs to the Confederate ram fleet. However, they cleverly deployed in water too shallow for the deeper draft Confederate rams to enter. On the other side, the combat effectiveness of the River Defense Fleet at Plum Point was significantly enhanced by M. Jeff Thompson's trained gunners and upper deck sharpshooters and their later absence at Memphis was sorely felt. The ironclads's dominant features have already been thoroughly discussed in the literature but the book's critical examination of the combat effectiveness of the ram fleets tell an underappreciated story. Ellet's modifications transforming civilian vessels into formidable weapons of war gained the grudging respect of turf conscious navy professionals and the Confederate rams, popularly regarded as "cottonclads," similarly benefited from engineering expertise with vital control and propulsion components protected by reinforced wooden beams and railroad iron. The element of surprise combined with the ram's superior speed and maneuverability would prove fatal to ironclads on more than one occasion during the war.

With Plum Point only lasting between thirty minutes and sixty minutes and Memphis around two hours, the battle narratives are necessarily brief but tightly written affairs. McCaul skillfully traces the action on a ship by ship basis while always reminding readers of the insurmountable boundaries imposed by the river itself through its physical course and currents as well as channel location and width. The clarity of these accounts are greatly enhanced by a series of line drawings depicting the location of each vessel at short battle intervals, all superimposed over the backdrop of constraining river features mentioned above.

Through many long stretches of the narrative, the chief (and often only) reference is the ORN but other sections are supported by a comparatively small but broad range of source categories (mostly published). Apparently, manuscript material for these battles does not exist in any abundance, especially from the Confederate perspective.

The author's command assessments are largely positive in nature. With the narrow channel forcing the ironclads of Davis's flotilla to go into battle one behind the other, the Union commander allowed himself to be surprised at Plum Point, with two ironclads struck and badly damaged by Confederate rams. Complete disaster was averted as their captains were able to reach shallow water and both beached vessels were quickly raised and back in action within weeks, a remarkable achievement. At Memphis a few weeks later, the ironclads were outfitted with extra ramming defense measures and Davis took advantage of a wider river to deploy his ironclads abreast in a more mutually supportive formation. Ellet's impetuous charge through the ironclad line fatally disrupted Montgomery's formation, his two rams disabling three opponents and rendering the Confederates helpless against the approaching ironclads. McCaul's view of Montgomery as an unjustly forgotten Civil War naval figure seems justified. It's difficult to find much fault in his dispositions at either battle, though McCaul feels that it might have been a mistake to position the slower, heavier rams toward the rear of the Confederate line at Plum Point (where they never got into action). Bad luck figured prominently at Memphis, with a friendly fire collision and an ill timed engine failure quickly ending Confederate hopes of dealing crushing blows of their own. A logistics blunder (Mansfield Lovell refused to ship a full supply of coal to the River Defense Fleet) also limited Montgomery's operational options. After Memphis, Montgomery is justifiably criticized for discharging all of his surviving manpower instead of making these experienced river men available to other naval commands like that of the CSS Arkansas.

The book contains an informative supplementary chapter examining the broader picture of rams and ram technology within world naval history. Appendices include brief vessel histories, capsule biographies of the commanders, and a chapter length outline of William R. Hoel's Civil War career as a volunteer naval officer and one of the few non-professionals uniformly respected by regular navy peers. In addition to the Plum Point and Memphis battle diagrams mentioned above, McCaul also made use of the well known Simplot engravings (several of which grace the jacket cover), interpreting their content and accuracy.

The Confederate stand at Memphis is often viewed in the literature as an almost suicidal gesture, but McCaul renews a strong argument for the effectiveness of steam rams versus ironclad vessels and his book persuasively enjoins readers to see the result of the struggle between the contending navies as far from predetermined. Even if outright Confederate victory at Memphis was unlikely, a surviving "fleet in being" could have significantly delayed for many months co-dependent Union land and river operations along the Mississippi and its tributaries. According to the author, the loss of the River Defense Fleet was a much greater blow than the surrender of Memphis itself, an arguable point for sure but not one to be dismissed. In addition to providing solid descriptive accounts of Plum Point and Memphis, To Retain Command of the Mississippi effectively reminds scholar and enthusiast alike of the pivotal nature of the spring 1862 naval battles that decided who would control the upper gateway to the Mississippi River Valley.

More CWBA reviews of UT Press titles:
* Confederate Generals in the Trans-Mississippi - Volume 1: Essays on America's Civil War
* 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

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Booknotes II (Dec '14)

New Arrivals:

1. How the Telegraph Changed the World by William J. Phalen (McFarland, 2014).

From the description: "By 1851 there were more than 50 companies providing telegraphic service in the United States alone. The telegraph played a pivotal role in warfare beginning with the American Civil War, featured prominently in the creation of the first large American corporation, Western Union, and made possible long distance communication with the laying of the transatlantic cable. This book describes the global impact of the telegraph from its advent to its eventual eclipse by the telephone four decades later."

2. The Battle of Waynesboro by Richard G. Williams, Jr. (The Hist Pr, 2014).

Readers of the richly illustrated local histories from the THP's Civil War Sesquicentennial series will recognize the familiar narrative format (ex. lots of lengthy block quotes) and source depth. Contained in a lengthy central chapter, the popular style battle description involves perspectives from both sides. With a mass of material also devoted to the town and its inhabitants, the study is really a combination battle and community history.

3. The Battle of First Deep Bottom by James S. Price (The Hist Pr, 2014).

Another book from the same series, this is Price's second study of a 1864-65 Richmond-Petersburg Campaign operation fought north of the James River. Both have received high marks from readers and reviewers (Brett Schulte recently reviewed this one - here).

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


[The Civil War in the Border South by Christopher Phillips (Praeger, 2013). Hardcover, illustrations, notes, bibliographical essay, index. Pages main/total:131/186.  ISBN:9780275995027 $37]

While works interpreting specific topics associated with the Civil War experiences of Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware exist in quantity and quality, Christopher Phillips's The Civil War in the Border South synthesizes and enhances the best of this literature (old and new), freshly mapping the current state of border slave state scholarship spanning the decade of the 1860s through Reconstruction. With a host of publications dealing with Civil War era Border State cultural history and biography under his belt, Phillips is an excellent authorial candidate for this contribution to the Reflections on the Civil War Era series of concise introductory volumes written by subject experts.

In just over 100 pages of narrative, Phillips manages to touch upon a broad range of themes, all of interest to today's scholars. Lincoln and the Republicans were not especially popular in the Border States [in the 1860 election, Lincoln received 28% of the vote in Delaware, 1% in Kentucky, 2.5% in Maryland, and just over 10% in Missouri] and the book briefly discusses the popular response within these states to Lincoln's ascension to the presidency and the ideological divisions(using the literature conventions of unconditional unionist, conditional unionist, and secessionist) that fractured social and political relations during the secession crisis and beyond. With Delaware having no strong pro-secession element and Maryland's being crushed early and permanently, much of the focus is on the western states of Missouri and Kentucky. A common theme revolves around the marked differences in military and home front experiences for those living on either side of the Appalachian geographical dividing line. Missouri and Kentucky were the only Border States to spawn Confederate governments-in-exile and only Kentucky was able to seriously attempt neutrality and later maintain a strong loyal conservative opposition to Republican policy making throughout the war.

One of the most controversial aspects of the Border State experience was the federal occupation, which was solidly in place across the board by mid-1862. Demonstrating a solid grasp of Union military policy in the Border States, Phillips counts six major initiatives: (1) military districting, with a relatively free hand given to local commanders to interpret and implement federal directives using federal troops supported by home guards and militia (2) use of unconditional unionists to provide intelligence on the loyalty status of neighbors and gather evidence for arrest (3) creation of a provost marshal system with expansive policing powers (4) establish loyalty through oaths and bonds, with severe penalties for refusal (5) imposition of martial law and suspension of civil liberties (6) creation of a system of economic coercion through strict trade regulation. Phillips ably summarizes their implementation, assessing both their effectiveness and levels of abuse, the latter increasing to the point that by the mid to late war period even loyal civilians often felt regarded by their military government as citizens of a rebel state.

Another section examines the military and political fallout of the 1862 Border State summer offensives conducted by Confederate armies along vast stretches of both the eastern and western theaters. Rather than inspiring a popular uprising and a flood of recruits, these campaigns contributed little toward padding Confederate ranks and the foraging behavior of the invaders instead sowed resentment among the populace. Interestingly, Phillips titles this chapter "The Confederacy's Tet Offensive." At first glance, this comparison appears inappropriate. The 1968 Tet Offensive was a devastating military defeat for the communists but a political bonanza. The Confederates were soundly defeated on both fronts. On the other hand, if the author's objective was to provocatively remind readers to never overlook the wedding of political consequences to military ones then he succeeded in making the point.

Much of the book addresses unsavory aspects of the inner war, including the guerrilla conflict, tracing the tipping point of severity to the issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Though the Border States were pointedly exempt from its provisions, slavery in the region was nevertheless quickly put on the road to extinction. Barriers to the enlistment of slaves of loyal masters were systematically eroded and federal military and civilian authorities soon made support of emancipation policy the line of demarcation between loyalist and rebel. With conservative opposition in other Border States rapidly overwhelmed by radical elements in the legislature, only Kentucky was able to field a fairly robust political opposition, but its victories were few and far between and only marginally successful in slowing the tide of social revolution.

Readjustment/Reconstruction is covered in brief, and critics of the book might point out that relegating this unique moment of societal upheaval to the epilogue of a general history once again promotes an undue separation of the two periods, but Phillips covers the basics well and his source essay offers readers a hefty bounty of suggested reading on the subject. The author sums up the rise of a heavily southernized Civil War narrative among large, previously divided segments of white Border State society as a shared appreciation of rebellion, with Confederates fighting a hostile federal government from without while Unionists were fighting it from within.

The Civil War in the Border South very effectively integrates the author's own original research with a keen assessment of the best published works. The serious student should consider closely the book's bibliographical essay. Addressing every appropriate theme, its comprehensive compilation of the best available books and articles more than makes up for the lack of specific source commentary. It's all in there — state and regional histories; battle and campaign books; studies integrating military and social history; works dealing with Border State secession and neutrality politics (and their relationship with Lincoln); published diaries, journals and memoirs; emancipation and black enlistment scholarship; urban studies; works on the guerrilla conflict; cultural histories; and post-war politics, Reconstruction, and memory literature.

Possessing scholarly depth while remaining accessible to new readers, The Civil War in the Border South is a matchless subject primer.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Thrilling but Pointless

I guess that's one way to describe Jo Shelby's "Great Raid" into Missouri in 1863. Two short works on the subject have been published, Mark Scott's The Fifth Season: General "Jo" Shelby's Great Raid of 1863 and Ride Around Missouri: Shelby's Great Raid 1863 by Sean McLachlan, but the US Army Command and General Staff College has also just made available a print version of Patrick Feild's Master's Thesis Thrilling but Pointless: General "Jo" Shelby's 1863 Cavalry Raid. It's also available as a free digital download from here.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Lone Star Blue and Gray, 2nd Edition

In 1995, The Texas State Historical Association put out Lone Star Blue and Gray: Essays on Texas in the Civil War, a Ralph Wooster edited collection of 16 previously published journal articles. According to the new catalog from the consortium of which TSHA is a part, a 2nd Edition of Lone Star Blue and Gray: Essays on Texas and the Civil War co-edited by Ralph and Robert Wooster [again consisting of 16 articles (11 new)] will have a February release. The first edition remains one of the best Texas Civil War essay compilations available and I have high hopes that the second will prove equally valuable.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Spurgeon: "SOLDIERS IN THE ARMY OF FREEDOM: The 1st Kansas Colored, the Civil War's First African American Combat Unit"

[Soldiers in the Army of Freedom: The 1st Kansas Colored, the Civil War's First African American Combat Unit by Ian Michael Spurgeon (University of Oklahoma Press, 2014). Hardcover, 5 maps, photos, roster, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:285/454. ISBN:978-0-8061-4618-8 $29.95]

By all indicators, Civil War writers and audiences are attracted to "firsts" of all manner. The First Kansas Colored Infantry Regiment was not the earliest all-black unit organized in support of the Union war effort but it was the first of its kind raised in a northern state. It was also the first to fight the enemy in the field, at Island Mound, Missouri in late October 1862. Recognizing that no proper modern history of this regiment has been published, author Ian Spurgeon does groundbreaking work of his own in his new book Soldiers in the Army of Freedom: The 1st Kansas Colored, the Civil War's First African American Combat Unit.

As Spurgeon demonstrates, the regiment's very existence owed much to the persistence and manic energy of Kansas Senator and general James H. Lane. Consistent with his general disregard for operating within the strictures of law and government bureaucracy, Lane exceeded his authority by organizing the 1st Kansas Colored as a combat unit, along the way successfully defying the established gubernatorial privilege of selecting officers (two of whom were black men, Lieutenant Patrick Minor and Captain William Matthews). Even so, his racial views were hardly among the most enlightened of the period and Spurgeon clearly falls in line with the consensus view that the Grim Chieftain was more practical than ideological when it came to supporting abolitionism and civil rights.

Recruits came from 15 states plus Indian Territory, with nearly three-fourths of the initial enlistees having Missouri and Kentucky origins. All evidence points toward the vast majority being former slaves. While Spurgeon does describe incidents of forcible conscription in Kansas and Missouri, as well as recruitment agents sent as far east as Pennsylvania, he repeatedly points to self-emancipation as the primary force behind the transformation from slave to 1st Kansas soldier.

Kansas is often portrayed in the literature as a heavily radicalized state, but Spurgeon relates many instances of conservative Unionist opposition to the organization of black Kansas regiments, from newspaper editorials to a variety of activities directed toward undermining the unit (including citizens directly enticing soldiers to desert). Early on, while military training seems to have gone well, camp discipline was a major concern. Discontent and lack of pay led to heavy desertion between summer 1862 and the legal organization of the regiment in January 1863. In accordance with army regulations requiring that all officers be white, the unit's two black officers were forced out when the regiment was finally officially mustered into federal service [the commission of Capt. Matthews, the man pictured on the jacket cover, was subsequently approved after heavy lobbying by Lane and others but the orders failed to reach the regiment and were never acted upon].

The comparatively small scale of the Trans-Mississippi fighting the 1st Kansas found itself in throughout the war allowed Spurgeon the freedom to not only offer detailed examinations of the regiment's specific actions during these events but also a descriptive collection of battle narratives comprehensive enough to stand on their own. Most authors wouldn't seize upon this opportunity but Spurgeon takes on the challenge with relish, his unit history simultaneously providing fine article length treatments of Island Mound, Cabin Creek, Honey Springs, and Poison Spring (as well as the damaging attacks sustained by the 1st Kansas during the Sherwood, Missouri foraging expedition and at the Flat Rock Creek prelude to the Second Cabin Creek battle). In strictly military terms, the Island Mound clash between a 1st Kansas detachment and Missouri guerrillas was an indecisive skirmish, but it overturned the prejudicial view that blacks could not be disciplined soldiers and stand toe to toe with the enemy in a fight. In Indian Territory at the battles of Cabin Creek and Honey Springs, the 1st Kansas helped anchor the Union center during both offensive victories, thereby earning the respect of white veteran units. At Poison Spring, during the 1864 Camden Expedition, the regiment fought well before being overwhelmed. Among the victors were vengeance seeking Texans previously defeated by the 1st at Honey Springs. They as well as Confederate Indians killed many wounded black soldiers, the Choctaws also scalping and mutilating the dead. The Poison Spring atrocities have been well documented in earlier books and articles and the research for Soldiers in the Army of Freedom didn't uncover new information on the subject. Supplementing the battle descriptions are a set of good quality original maps for each of the more important engagements.

Spurgeon's bibliography and notes indicate a solid research base, but, as he mentions in his source appendix, anyone seeking the common soldier's perspective will be hampered by the lack of manuscript material. No letters, diaries or memoirs from any 1st Kansas enlisted soldier have been discovered. Pension files do contain some personal information but much of it is specifically related to disability claims. On the other hand, writings from white company officers are available and were used to provide at least some insight into the experiences of those in the lower ranks. Adding to the reference value of his study, the author was able to compile a roster of those that served in the regiment from 1862-65, with information limited to short comments and basic elements like name, age, residence, and enlistment date.

Ian Spurgeon is to be heartily congratulated for his pioneering examination of a pioneering Civil War regiment. Given the amount of scholarly attention devoted to the contributions of black soldiers to the Union war effort in recent decades, it's rather surprising that it took this long for a 1st Kansas Colored regimental history to appear. Soldiers in the Army of Freedom will be the first stop for anyone seeking information about the regiment and an even broader audience will benefit from Spurgeon's revealing military treatment of Civil War strife along the borderlands of Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, and Indian Territory.

More CWBA reviews of OU Press titles:
* The Early Morning of War: Bull Run, 1861
* Battles and Massacres on the Southwestern Frontier: Historical and Archaeological Perspectives
* The River Was Dyed with Blood: Nathan Bedford Forrest & Fort Pillow
* Civil War Arkansas 1863: The Battle for a State (PB edition)
* Torn by War: The Civil War Journal of Mary Adelia Byers
* Columns of Vengeance: Soldiers, Sioux, and the Punitive Expeditions, 1863-1864
* Los Angeles in Civil War Days, 1860-1865
* 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

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Booknotes (Dec '14)

New Arrivals:

1. The Confederate Hospitals of Madison, Georgia: their records & histories 1861-1865 by Bonnie P. Harris (Author, 2014).

The author of this massive, well researched, and meticulously sourced history and document collection of Madison's wartime medical facilities (the Asylum, Blackie, Stout, and May hospitals) received a Georgia Archive Award for Excellence. The book also offers a grave and Army of Tennessee patient register, along with a host of appendices comprised of additional valuable reference material.

2. To Retain Command of the Mississippi: The Civil War Naval Campaign for Memphis by Edward B. McCaul Jr. (Univ of Tenn Pr, 2014).

This is the first book length study of the struggle for control of the Upper Mississippi between Union naval forces and the Confederate River Defense Fleet. In it, the author "argues that the Battle of Memphis was pivotal in the Union’s efforts to control the Mississippi River. The Union command, by narrowly escaping defeat at Plum Point, learned invaluable lessons about the Confederate River Defense Fleet and masterfully enacted those lessons in decisively defeating the Confederate fleet at Memphis. With the Confederacy’s river forces severely crippled after the Battle of Memphis, the Union fleets pushed onward to eventual victory at Vicksburg." I better get to it on this one if I expect to squeeze it in before my year end list comes out.

3. Lincoln and Liberty: Wisdom for the Ages edited by Lucas E. Morel (UP of KY, 2014).

A new collection of Lincoln essays, they explore his character, politics, war leadership, and connections to modern America -- a pretty broad sweep.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Gettysburg Cyclorama

I regret never visiting the Gettysburg Cyclorama during my two (yes, only two) visits to the battlefield. The upcoming The Gettysburg Cyclorama: The Turning Point of the Civil War on Canvas isn't the first book on the subject but it does promise to be the deepest treatment yet. Of course, there's more to the whole cyclorama phenomenon than just Gettysburg. Someone should write a book about that.

Monday, December 1, 2014

"The Battle of Charleston..." update

I first heard about Terry Lowry's The Battle of Charleston and the 1862 Kanawha Valley Campaign a couple years ago, back when it had a projected Fall 2013 release. Fast forward through more missed dates and the author is still adding new material. The latest word from the publisher, 35th Star, is that they are now planning on early 2015. A full history of this mostly forgotten Confederate offensive in western Virginia (one conducted in parallel with Lee's Maryland Campaign) has never been attempted before and I can't think of a better person to bring it out of obscurity.