Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Jamieson: "SPRING 1865: The Closing Campaigns of the Civil War"

[Spring 1865: The Closing Campaigns of the Civil War by Perry D. Jamieson (University of Nebraska Press, 2015). Hardcover, 14 maps, photos, notes, bibliographical essay, index. Pages main/total:236/306. ISBN:978-0-8032-2581-7 $34.95]

Perry Jamieson's Spring 1865: The Closing Campaigns of the Civil War is the first original Great Campaigns of the Civil War series title to appear in quite some time. Charged with offering readers "concise syntheses of the major campaigns of the war, reflecting the findings of recent scholarship," the series is designed to appeal to a wide Civil War audience and Jamieson's contribution is a strong fit.

Spring 1865 is primarily concerned with events in Virginia and the Carolinas. Using an informed selection of campaign and battle histories, army studies, biographies, reference works, government records and publications, a limited body of archival materials, published primary accounts and site guides, Jamieson crafts a fine narrative of the final months of the war in the Atlantic States. Covered first is the Wilmington Campaign and subsequent advance into the North Carolina interior aimed at joining forces with William T. Sherman's army marching north through the Carolinas. Next in the discussion are the spring operations that resulted in the collapse of the Petersburg front, the abandonment of the Confederate capital, and the surrender of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox. The book then switches over to events in North Carolina and the battles of Averasboro and Bentonville. Finally, Jamieson devotes quite a bit of space to the negotiations and surrender ceremonies at both Appomattox Court House and Bennett Place.

The text is spiced throughout with excerpts from participant accounts as well as astutely chosen bits of analytic commentary drawn from the best regarded works written by leading historians of the subjects at hand. The book's set of original maps helps readers follow the battlefield action in a general fashion and locate important places mentioned in the text.

If a significant criticism could be leveled at Spring 1865 it would involve the comparative neglect of the war beyond the Appalachians, which is surveyed in a single chapter at the end of the book. The final land phase of the important 1864-65 Mobile Campaign is dispensed with in one paragraph and scarcely more space is devoted to James Wilson's Raid through Alabama and Georgia and the flare up in Texas that culminated in Confederate victory at Palmito Ranch. The great surrenders of Richard Taylor's departmental command at Citronelle, Alabama, the Trans-Mississippi Department at New Orleans, and the Confederate Indians at Doaksville, Indian Territory are briefly referenced, but other significant capitulations, like those in Tallahassee, Florida and Batesville-Wittsburg, Arkansas, are not mentioned at all. These omissions and regional imbalances aside, for what it does cover Perry Jamieson's Spring 1865 constitutes a skillful synthesis of the published literature related to the final flurry of major Civil War military activities preceding Confederate surrender.

More CWBA reviews of UNL Press titles:
* Busy in the Cause: Iowa, the Free-State Struggle in the West, and the Prelude to the Civil War
* Manassas: A Battlefield Guide
* Standing Firmly by the Flag: Nebraska Territory and the Civil War, 1861-1867 (Bison)
* The Enemy Never Came: The Civil War in the Pacific Northwest (For Caxton Press)
* The Settlers' War: The Struggle for the Texas Frontier in the 1860s (for Caxton Press)
* Of Duty Well and Faithfully Done: A History of the Regular Army in the Civil War
* Antietam, South Mountain, and Harpers Ferry: A Battlefield Guide
* Counter-Thrust: From the Peninsula to the Antietam
* Shenandoah Summer: The 1864 Valley Campaign
* The Peninsula & Seven Days: A Battlefield Guide
* Wilson's Creek, Pea Ridge, and Prairie Grove: A Battlefield Guide, with a Section on Wire Road

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