Thursday, January 28, 2016

Booknotes: Kill Jeff Davis

New Arrival:

Kill Jeff Davis: The Union Raid on Richmond, 1864 by Bruce M. Venter (Univ of Okla Pr, 2016).

Controversy has long stalked the failed 1864 Kilpatrick-Dahlgren Raid on Richmond. Young Ulric Dahlgren himself was killed during the operation but the most shocking development was the discovery of documents in his possession directing his command to kill President Davis and his cabinet and also burn the city of Richmond. Both the authenticity of the orders [I believe the current consensus is that they were indeed genuine] and their exact origin have been debated ever since. Bruce Venter has been studying the affair for a decade and in that time he's discovered important new sources that alter previously published interpretations (including his own). His book Kill Jeff Davis promises the fullest account of the raid itself to date as well as the best answers to the remaining questions.

From the publisher description: "In this detailed and deeply researched account of the most famous cavalry raid of the Civil War, author Bruce M. Venter describes an expedition that was carefully planned but poorly executed. A host of factors foiled the raid: bad weather, poor logistics, inadequate command and control, ignorance of the terrain, the failures of supporting forces, and the leaders’ personal and professional shortcomings. Venter delves into the background and consequences of the debacle, beginning with the political maneuvering orchestrated by commanding brigadier general Judson Kilpatrick to persuade President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton to approve the raid. Venter’s examination of the relationship between Kilpatrick and Brigadier General George A. Custer illuminates the reasons why the flamboyant Custer was excluded from the Richmond raid.

In a lively narrative describing the multiple problems that beset the raiders, Kill Jeff Davis uncovers new details about the African American guide whom Dahlgren ordered hanged; the defenders of the Confederate capital, who were not just the “old men and young boys” of popular lore; and General Benjamin F. Butler’s expedition to capture Davis, as well as Custer’s diversionary raid on Charlottesville

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Alexander & Utley: "ECHOES OF GLORY: Historic Military Sites across Texas"

[Echoes of Glory: Historic Military Sites across Texas by Thomas E. Alexander & Dan K. Utley (Texas A&M University Press, 2015). Flexbound, 2 maps, photos, index. 256 pp. ISBN:978-1-62349-337-0 $29.95]

According to authors Thomas Alexander and Dan Utley, the response to their 2012 book Faded Glory: A Century of Forgotten Texas Military Sites, Then and Now was so positive and additional reader suggestions so numerous that the authors got right to work on another volume. Their new book Echoes of Glory: Historic Military Sites across Texas looks at 24 more places of military significance from the distant past through the near present. Beginning with a Spanish colonial fortress and concluding with a U.S. naval station shuttered in 2010, the volume spans three centuries of Texas military history.

The two dozen chapters are written in a conversational style designed to appeal to a wide range of readers. Each self contained narrative describes the physical site, as it appeared in its heyday as well as what survives today, but the emphasis is on historical context. In military, social, and economic terms, the impact and importance of many places encompassed local, national and international concerns. Today, many of the locations are in ruins or are simply scars on the natural landscape and the current state of archaeological study of the remains is also briefly assessed. Possible areas for improvement of future volumes might include more photographs and maps (including site layouts). Directions are rudimentary but the book is really more oriented toward history than touring. Many places are also on private land or inaccessible in other ways.

Content is highly diverse in terms of time period as well as the various national and political entities involved (ex. tribal, Spanish colonial, Mexican, Texas, United States and Confederate authorities). The military facilities of the Presidio De San Saba, Fort Teran, and Fort Anahuac helped the Spanish and later Mexican governments protect and administer territory threatened by Indian and American encroachments. U.S. forts (ex. Ewell, Mason and Phantom Hill) built after the war with Mexico are explored in the context of policing the new border and regulating traffic (including the treaty obligation of intercepting Indian raids) across it.

While many sites described in the book have at least some Civil War context (ex. the San Antonio arsenal and G.A. Custer's HQ and march route through Reconstruction Texas), three chapters are specifically devoted to Civil War places and events. The bloodless "Battle" of Adams Hill occurred just west of San Antonio on May 9, 1861 and resulted in the negotiated surrender of a sizable but vastly outnumbered contingent of U.S. Regulars to Confederate forces under Colonel Earl Van Dorn. It marked one of the earliest episodes whereby large numbers of prisoners-of-war were taken by either side, the situation contributing to the establishment of protocols for the disposition and later exchange of captured combatants. In this case, it would be February 1863 before the last Union soldier from the Adams Hill surrender was exchanged.

The wartime cloth mill at the Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville offers readers an interesting story of a state run enterprise that aided the Confederate war effort and filled government coffers. Huntsville cloth production, over seven million yards in total, was the state's leading industry and generated revenue for Texas second only to property tax. Public and private partnerships were vital for manufacturing war material in the industry-poor South and the Huntsville mill offers an illuminating case study.

Enemy threats from the sea were omnipresent during the conflict and the third Civil War chapter offers insights into the defenses of the state capital, a network that would eventually comprise three forts and their connecting trenches. In 1863, work on Fort Magruder was begun using slave labor but construction was halted the next year when the southern approaches to Austin that it was designed to defend were deemed safe. The earthworks remained visible as late as the 1930s but urban development has since overtaken the site. Today, a 2003 marker placed nearby and a commemorative city street name (misspelled "McGruder") are all that's left for visitors to see.

Other sites covered in the book include Camp Myers (the Black Seminole Scouts base), a fort and airfield originally aimed at stopping Mexican border raids, WW1 and WW2-era training camps and airfields, the Atlas missile site at Lawn, Aransas's WW2 coastal defense facilities, and the short lived Naval Station Ingleside. Altogether, Echoes of Glory offers a great way for today's Texans to learn about the rich military history located in their own backyards. There's also more than enough broader interest material in the book to engage students of the Indian Wars, the Civil War, revolutionary Mexico, WW1, WW2 and the Cold War.

More CWBA reviews of TAMUP titles:
* Confederate Saboteurs: Building the Hunley and Other Secret Weapons of the Civil War
* The Maltby Brothers' Civil War
* Misadventures of a Civil War Submarine: Iron, Guns, and Pearls
* Turmoil on the Rio Grande: The Territorial History of the Mesilla Valley, 1846-1865
* Tejanos in Gray: Civil War Letters of Captains Joseph Rafael de la Garza and Manuel Yturri
* Why Texans Fought in the Civil War
* Moss Bluff Rebel: A Texas Pioneer in the Civil War
* Frontier Defense in the Civil War: Texas' Rangers and Rebels
* Confederate Struggle For Command: General James Longstreet and the First Corps in the West
* Planting The Union Flag In Texas: The Campaigns of Major General Nathaniel P. Banks in the West
* The Yankee Invasion of Texas
* Blood & Treasure: Confederate Empire in the Southwest

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Civil War Siege of Jackson, Mississippi

During the Vicksburg Campaign, the Mississippi capital of Jackson was occupied twice by Union forces, after both the May 14, 1864 Battle of Jackson and the weeklong "Siege" of Jackson conducted in the immediate aftermath of the July capture of the Hill City. The military aspects of these events were covered by Ed Bearss in his 3-volume campaign study and also in a separate commissioned work co-authored with Warren Grabau. However, the first book devoted solely to the so-called siege (the Civil War literature is generally rather loose on the military definition) will be published later this year under the title The Civil War Siege of Jackson, Mississippi. The author, Jim Woodrick, was the Civil War Sites Historian for the Mississippi Department of Archives and History so it should be reasonable to expect that his study might rank among the better Civil War Series titles from The History Press.

Saturday, January 23, 2016


As esteemed Army of Northern Virginia historian Robert K. Krick notes in his foreword to the upcoming Sharpshooter: The Selected Letters and Papers of Maj. Eugene Blackford, C.S.A., Volume I (CFS Press, FEB 2016), the Blackford family out of Fredericksburg and Lynchburg, Virginia are source royalty when it comes to the war in the eastern theater from the Confederate perspective. Easily the most famous figure is W.W. Blackford, whose memoir War Years with Jeb Stuart was published in 1945 and populates the notes and bibliography sections of countless books and articles. But brother C.M. Blackford's Letters from Lee's Army is up there with it. Then there are works from artillerist L.M Blackford, engineer B.L. Blackford, and now Eugene Blackford. In creating his fine study of the sharpshooter battalions of the Army of Northern Virginia, Shock Troops of the Confederacy (2006), author Fred L. Ray leaned heavily on the writings of 5th Alabama infantry major Eugene Blackford and soon the first of three volumes of Blackford letter, diary and memoir materials will be released.

Volume I includes a selected body of letters from January 1861 through May 1863, which contain useful firsthand accounts of First Bull Run, Seven Pines, Gaines's Mill, Malvern Hill, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville while also treating readers to a wide range of lively opinions on other matters like camp life, unit politics and the officer corps of the army. Ray pens an introduction and epilogue for each of the book's ten chapters, as well as many brief transitional pieces within. A number of maps (including some interesting sketches made by Blackford himself), photos, and drawings are also scattered about the book's pages and Ray's chapter notes clarify persons, places and events mentioned in Blackford's letters.

Much more information about the book can be found at:
• Pre-order page:

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Knight & Jesperson: "GRANT RISING: Mapping the Career of a Great Commander Through 1862"

[Grant Rising: Mapping the Career of a Great Commander Through 1862 by James R. Knight and Hal Jesperson (Lombardy Studios, 2015). Cloth, maps, photos, illustrations, orders of battle, notes, bibliography, index. 120 pp. ISBN:978-1-940169-01-9. $50]

Grant Rising is a combined narrative history overview and map atlas that chronicles the military career of U.S. Grant beginning in the war with Mexico and concluding with the failure of the first Vicksburg Campaign in late 1862. The Civil War battles covered are Belmont, Fort Henry, Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Iuka, Corinth, Davis Bridge and Chickasaw Bayou. The work is published in landscape format with the text presented on the left-hand side and the maps on the right, all packaged in a volume of manageable dimensions in the roughly 9 x 11 inch range. Partially funding the project with a successful Kickstarter campaign, Lombardy Studios is hoping that the book (designated Map Study Series CW No. 1) will be the beginning of much more to come.

In earlier works covering Fort Donelson, Pea Ridge and Franklin, the author of Grant Rising's text, James R. Knight, has shown himself to be highly adept at condensing large scale military events and he demonstrates similar skills here with his double column narrative descriptions of the action represented on each map. In addition to providing concise accounts of the campaigns and battles, Knight also pauses between operations to remind readers of their context within the wider war (east and west). Footnotes are sparingly used and indicate a reliance on Grant's Memoirs, the O.R. and the major secondary campaign works. As one might guess, a very positive picture of Grant emerges in the book and when controversies do arise the writer tends to adopt either the Grant view of events or a benignly neutral position.

The volume's 46 maps were created by prolific cartograther Hal Jesperson. These attractive drawings span all three levels of military action, from strategic overviews to operational movements to tactical maneuvers on the battlefield. The maps are multi-color, with detailed renderings of both the natural terrain (with elevation shading) and man-made land features. So that descending command relationships can be recognized at a glance, sub-units are also assigned their own tint of the primary color representing each side, blue for the Union units and red for the Confederate side (examples). Where other map studies like the Savas Beatie Military Atlas Series break up battlefields into smaller sections for maximal detail, this one prefers to keep the entire field in view for each stage of a given battle. This helps the reader less familiar with the material stay oriented to the overall flow of battle but it also limits the unit scale to the brigade level for most maps (although there are some regimental-scale tactical maps for smaller battles like Belmont and Davis Bridge). Appropriate to its stature, Shiloh is assigned the largest number of maps in the book for a single battle at nine.

In addition to the main text and maps, photographs and artwork populate the pages of Grant Rising, as do sidebars covering topics like the Lew Wallace controversy at Shiloh and the critically important role of the navy in the western campaigns. Orders of battle for Fort Donelson, Shiloh and Corinth were also included. They illustrate army organization in the usual fashion and list which units (infantry, cavalry and artillery) were attached to each brigade, but they do not delve as deep as providing present for duty numbers, casualties or battery compositions.

The most hardcore subset of Civil War military history readers will probably want more unit detail in the maps but everyone else should be well satisfied with the result. Grant Rising offers both a solid narrative summary and an appealing visual rendering of U.S. Grant's early Civil War career. One hopes to see the series continue onward.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Booknotes: The Army of Northern Virginia

New Arrival:

The Army of Northern Virginia: Organization, Strength, Casualties 1861-1865 by Darrell L. Collins (McFarland, 2015).

I reviewed the Army of the Potomac companion a short while back. The new ANV volume follows the same pattern in that the information is gleaned primarily from the O.R. but its content and organization is different. Section I begins with the traditional army OB format for defined periods but the greater part is composed of commander (of corps, division, brigade, regiment, battalion, and battery) timelines. Section II is comprised of present for duty (PFD) reports, mostly at the division level, with some quantitative analysis of changes over time in the general summaries at the end. There will be more detail in the review. Section III, the last one, offers casualty reports by regiment and battery (with some more PFD data, including some regimental strength numbers and gun compositions) and also loss summaries. Two indexes, for commanders and units, are provided. It looks like a useful reference tool.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Booknotes: General Henry Baxter, 7th Michigan Volunteer Infantry

New Arrival:

General Henry Baxter, 7th Michigan Volunteer Infantry: A Biography by Jay C. Martin (McFarland, 2016).

Native New Yorker Baxter moved west with his family to Michigan as a child. According to the book description "Baxter was involved in developing Michigan's political, business and educational foundations. He excelled at enterprise, leading a group of adventurers to California during the Gold Rush, co-founding what would become the Republican Party and eventually becoming President Grant's diplomat to Honduras during one of the most dynamic periods of Central American history." Rising from captain to brevet major general, his Civil War career was noteworthy, fighting and receiving wounds in many eastern theater battles. Colonel of the 7th Michigan by the time of Fredericksburg, his regiment was selected to cross the Rappahannock River under fire on December 11, 1862 and establish a bridgehead on the other side. Promoted to brigadier general, Baxter's command would famously contribute to the severe mauling of Rodes's Division north of Gettysburg on July 1. He would lead a brigade for the rest of the war. Jay Martin's biography covers Baxter's entire life, with substantial sections on Baxter's early life and postwar years. The bibliography looks solid, with a healthy amount of manuscript research.

Monday, January 18, 2016


[The Extraordinary Life of Charles Pomeroy Stone: Soldier, Surveyor, Pasha, Engineer by Blaine Lamb (Westholme, 2015). Hardcover, photos, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:237/287. ISBN:978-1-59416-232-9.  $29.95]

Union general Charles P. Stone is best known for being the imprisoned scapegoat of the Ball's Bluff disaster and high profile victim of the newly established Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War. But his public life was much more than that, encompassing a solid antebellum army career, a foreign military post in the army of the khedive of Egypt, and chief engineer of the massive concrete base of the Statue of Liberty. Historian Blaine Lamb's The Extraordinary Life of Charles Pomeroy Stone is a first full biography of Stone. The lack of any great body of Stone papers made Lamb's task difficult but this isn't unique in Civil War biography and the author's thorough research in other sources negotiates in fine fashion the obstacles this void places in the way of modern scholarship.

Young Charles Stone was a good student, graduating seventh out of forty-one in his West Point Class of 1845 (one place ahead of Fitz-John Porter, who would also run afoul of army politics). Missing out on the Corps of Engineers, he was assigned to the Ordnance Department. During the US-Mexican War, Stone accompanied the army siege train to Vera Cruz. Though he spent most of his time managing munitions and armaments, policing the battlefield, cataloging captured equipment and repairing damaged ordnance, he did personally direct artillery operations at times during the campaign, earning two brevets.

After the war, Stone returned to his arsenal work, charged with setting up army ordnance facilities for the West Coast in the Bay Area of California. Because of the high cost of living and low pay, army officers were not discouraged from supplementing their incomes. So Stone, in addition to fulfilling his professional duties at the Benicia Arsenal, engaged in railroad company work and gold bullion brokering. The former venture failed but Stone was successful in the gold and banking business, at least until a senior partner mismanaged several loans and an office clerk absconded with a large sum of money. Stone was financially ruined and, according to Lamb, the misfortune foreshadowed other career ventures sabotaged by misplaced trust in colleagues and subordinates. Ashamed at losing the investments of army acquaintances and family members, Stone resigned his commission in 1856 and sought civilian employment, eventually raising enough cash to pay off most of his debts.

Stone's next job was heading a potentially lucrative surveying expedition in northern Mexico but local interference, bad faith on the part of the Mexican central government and Stone's own indelicate belligerence torpedoed the project. Stone and his family relocated to Washington D.C. where his lobbying for redress from Mexico went nowhere. However, his own country's exploding crisis provided another opportunity.

In Washington, Stone was the right man in the right place and Winfield Scott appointed him colonel and inspector general of the D.C. militia. As Lamb describes in the book, Stone performed brilliantly at this new task, organizing the city defenses while his effective system of detectives and spies rooted out disloyal elements. 3,500 militia were armed, drilled and some put to work reopening land communications with the North. During Union offensive operations into northern Virginia in 1861, Stone competently led the Rockville Expedition along the Upper Potomac but didn't see action after joining Robert Patterson's command in the Shenandoah Valley.

The October 21, 1861 Ball's Bluff debacle has received excellent coverage in the literature and Lamb does not relate the particulars of the battle itself but rather concentrates on Stone's specific role as commander of the division-sized Corps of Observation. There aren't any significant new discoveries from Lamb's sources that would alter the case for or against Stone's conduct but the book's summary of the circumstances surrounding Ball's Bluff, before, during, and after the defeat (and Stone's place in it), is very well outlined for the reader. Of President Lincoln, General McClellan, the Joint Committee members, and the Secretary of War, none displayed a surfeit of integrity in the matter and it would take legislative intervention (led by Senator James A. McDougall of California) to end Stone's six month imprisonment without charge or trial.

Two generals later requested Stone's services but both were rebuffed by Secretary Stanton. Finally, he was allowed to join General Banks in the Department of the Gulf. After acting in an advisory capacity during the Port Hudson siege, Stone was appointed Chief of Staff. Stone's specific role during the 1864 Red River Campaign isn't discussed much in the campaign histories and Lamb's book also doesn't extensively detail that part of his military career. Apparently Stone and Banks did not get along and Stone was removed from his post after the campaign ended. Stone was also shocked to find that Stanton had struck him from the volunteer general officer rolls, reverting Stone back to his Regular Army rank of colonel. After a short stint with the Army of the Potomac, he resigned from the army.

After the war, Stone's private business ventures failed yet again but he was recommended to the khedive of Egypt, who was seeking experienced non-European officers for staff positions within his army (at different points in time, nearly two dozen former US and Confederate officers were contracted). In 1870, Khedive Ismail appointed Stone army chief of staff and the American became his most trusted military adviser (Stone also served Ismail's son, Tewfik). The transformation of the army had mixed results and the two Abyssinian campaigns that tested its mettle both ended in disaster. A variety of internal and external factors finally ended Stone's Egyptian tenure in 1883.

Stone's final job was chief engineer for the construction of the Statue of Liberty base and pedestal (this was later expanded to embrace other aspects of the statue's construction). Funding was intermittent and progress slow and Stone once again found himself under negative scrutiny, though perhaps it's inevitable that anyone in charge of a massive public project would be the target of politicians, journalists, jealous colleagues and disgruntled contractors. Regardless, the project was (obviously) successfully completed in 1886. Unfortunately, Stone wasn't to live much longer, dying on January 24, 1887 after a brief respiratory illness.

It's impossible to know what heights Charles Pomeroy Stone's military career might have reached. U.S. Grant's comment about Stone that he "had been the most unfortunate man he had ever known" is surely an exaggeration given the totality of the man's life accomplishments but there's certainly a grain of truth in it.  Among the panoply of Union generals, Stone's is one of the most compelling cases of lost potential and Blaine Lamb's sympathetic yet evenhanded overall treatment of the general's life offers readers a learned assessment of how and why he should be remembered.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Booknotes: Service with the Signal Corps

New Arrival:

Service with the Signal Corps: The Civil War Memoir of Captain Louis R. Fortescue edited by J. Gregory Acken (Univ of Tenn Pr, 2015).

According to the description, this is the first published memoir from a member of the Signal Corps of the Union army. "Fortescue’s memoir not only presents a unique look at the corps, but it also provides important insights into the war as a whole. Fortescue experienced the conflict from several perspectives—infantry subaltern, signal officer, aide-de-camp (briefly), and prisoner of war—and took an active role in a number of significant campaigns and battles [Upper Potomac 1861, Shenandoah 1862, Cedar Mountain, 2nd Bull Run, Harpers Ferry, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg]." Fortescue was captured by Confederate cavalry on July 5 and spent the rest of the war as a POW. Adding further value to the memoir, editor Gregory Acken provides an introduction, blocks of background and transitional narrative throughout, and extensive endnotes. Looks like a good one.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Dollar, Whiteaker & Dickinson, eds.: "BORDER WARS: The Civil War in Tennessee and Kentucky"

[Border Wars: The Civil War in Tennessee and Kentucky edited by Kent T. Dollar, Larry H. Whiteaker and W. Calvin Dickinson (Kent State University Press, 2015). Hardcover, maps, photos, notes, index. 319 pp. ISBN:978-1-60635-241-0. $39.95]

In 2009, University Press of Kentucky published Sister States, Enemy States: The Civil War in Kentucky and Tennessee. That fine compilation of essays co-edited by Kent T. Dollar, Larry H. Whiteaker and W. Calvin Dickinson explored the economic, political, and social facets of the conflict within and around the two states. Six years later, the military side of the equation gets its due with Border Wars: The Civil War in Tennessee and Kentucky, its thirteen original essays divided into two sections ("Part 1: Battles, Skirmishes and Soldiers" and "Part 2: Leaders").

Mirroring current scholarly interests and trends in the Civil War military scholarship of the border regions, Part 1 effectively highlights both the regular and irregular conflicts that existed side by side in Kentucky and Tennessee for most of the war years. Geographical breadth is also satisfactory, although including an essay on some aspect of the war in East Kentucky would have made coverage even more comprehensive and also would have provided an appreciative nod toward some fine work recently done on the Civil War in the Big Sandy Valley.

Aaron Astor begins Part 1 by looking at local antebellum militia formations from Clarksville, Tennessee and Lexington, Kentucky and examining how they kept their local militia identities when folded into the Confederate government's new Provisional Army. Like Gerry Prokopowicz's All for the Regiment, Astor's article seems to support the thesis that the cohesion and military efficiency of Civil War armies was strongest at the bottom and tended to rapidly weaken up the order of battle, a problem perhaps most striking in the Confederate Army of Tennessee.

Scott Tarnowieckyi next traces the evolutionary course of the guerrilla conflict in Kentucky's Green River Valley. He finds that the combination of falling garrison troop levels, increased guerrilla activity and heightened civilian anger over emancipation, black recruitment, and martial law restrictions from 1864 onward together fueled a regional breakdown in social order.

The abortive Union invasion of East Tennessee in late 1861 is the subject of Michael Toomey's chapter, which contrasts the willingness of pro-Union East Tennesseans to rise up against local Confederate authorities to the command lethargy of successive army departmental chiefs William T. Sherman and Don Carlos Buell. In contrast to the eager civilian leadership in Washington, both generals believed that logistical limitations made invasion and occupation of East Tennessee untenable at that point in the war and they were surely correct.

Patricia Hoskins's study of guerrilla conflict in the Jackson Purchase region of western Kentucky finds that election and trade restrictions combined with black recruitment and heavy handed Union military crackdowns sparked a sharp rise in guerrilla activity. The resulting feedback loop of revenge and reprisal only ended with the conclusion of the war. According to Hoskins, the bitter perception among the populace that federal troops treated all citizens as disloyal fostered an enduring post-war Confederate identity, a subject more thoroughly explored in a number of recent books (ex. studies by Anne Marshall, Berry Craig, Aaron Astor, Christopher Phillips and others).

Derek Frisby explores how federal occupation authorities squandered Union support in West Tennessee by moving garrisons away from pro-Union enclaves, allowing individuals of doubtful loyalty to (re)assume leadership posts, and failing to check indiscriminate pillaging and abuse. Obsessed with East Tennessee, federal officials wasted six months before authorizing West and Middle Tennessee regiments and then failed to support, pay and adequately equip them, instead berating their performance and holding them to standards of conduct higher than those expected of other volunteer regiments. The mutual mistrust affected relations during and long after the war.

The section closes with an overview of the Battle of Franklin by Wiley Sword, who sadly passed away recently. Sword's piece basically recapitulates his classic Embrace an Angry Wind and does not engage the new scholarship that has emerged since.

The Part II contributors reexamine key military figures from both sides. Controversy surrounds most of the subjects and some writers argue for the need to alter consensus views. Brian McKnight begins by putting forth a solid case that the Tennessee political general Felix Zollicoffer possessed military instincts belying the generally dismissive assessments that populate the literature. After arriving in East Tennessee, Zollicoffer occupied Cumberland Gap, effectively blockaded the Kentucky-Tennessee border, and also set up a well planned forward defense utilizing the natural defenses of the region. His offensive moves were ultimately foiled by terrain and inexperience [as well as a superior, General George Crittenden, rendered incompetent by alcoholism] but those impediments scuttled the plans of many early war commanders of all abilities.

Stephen Engle's look at the command tenure of Don Carlos Buell ultimately traces the general's downfall to a lack of political skills in a political war. Buell antagonized western governors, the president, and fellow commanders and he also squandered the goodwill of his own soldiers with repeated admonitions against foraging and confiscation (though there is evidence that Buell's rigidity when it came to conciliation changed at least some civilian attitudes along his line of advance). While he didn't fulfill expectations of success when it came to capturing Chattanooga or crushing Braxton Bragg in Kentucky, Buell was also somewhat of a victim of bad timing, his army being in the middle of an active campaign while the political debates were turning sharply toward harsher war measures.

Earl Hess offers a more favorable view of Bragg's conduct of the Stones River campaign and battle than most prior writers. He supports Bragg's selection of the less than ideal Murfreesboro position as politically necessary and is impressed with the Army of Tennessee's crushing assault on December 31, persuasively rating its tactical result as more grand than the achievement of Stonewall Jackson's infinitely higher praised attack on the Union right at Chancellorsville. The January 2 attack remains indefensible but the decision to retreat after the battle (about which Bragg was roundly criticized at the time) seems prudent in retrospect.

The Army of Tennessee possessed fighting men second to none but a toxic high command unmatched by any other Civil War army (by far) and Christopher Losson retraces the mutually antagonistic relationship between Braxton Bragg and subordinate Frank Cheatham. The overall story is a well known one and Losson astutely analyzes both generals's strengths and weaknesses, with the latter contributing greatly to the army's internal dissension and general inefficiency.

Jack Hurst's comparative study of Grant and Forrest seeks to find common ground between the two generals in terms of background, character, military ability and fighting philosophy. Hurst has written two books that argue along similar lines and, in the main, it still strikes this reader as an overly forced matching of the pair, one made awkward given the great disparity between the two in rank, impact and overall historical importance.

Moving away from the generals for a moment, Tennessee governor Isham Harris's biographer, Sam Davis Elliott, examines Harris's reputation as a "fighting governor."  Historian Thomas Connelly once labeled Harris the "father of the Army of Tennessee" for the governor's efforts in raising 100,000 troops and mobilizing his state's military resources, but Elliott instead concentrates on Harris as frontline army staff officer and tireless advocate of Tennessee interests in many military arenas, including western theater strategy, officer appointments and promotions, and soldier welfare. Interestingly, Elliott cites several examples of Harris's recognized military acumen, raising the possibility that the governor possessed untapped command abilities of his own.

Given Benjamin Franklin Cooling's stature in the scholarship of the Civil War lived and fought in the western theater crossroads between North and South, it is fitting that he is awarded the last word in this volume of essays. Citing the work of his fellow contributors, Cooling's Afterword brings the essay project of Dollar, Whiteaker and Dickinson full circle, reintegrating the military aspects of Border Wars with the political, social, cultural and economic contexts examined earlier in Sister States, Enemy States. Both volumes are highly recommended.

More CWBA reviews of Kent St UP titles:
* "My Greatest Quarrel with Fortune": Major General Lew Wallace in the West, 1861-1862
* Work for Giants: The Campaign and Battle of Tupelo/Harrisburg, Mississippi, June-July 1864
* Richmond Must Fall: The Richmond-Petersburg Campaign, October 1864
* 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

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

American Ulysses

When it comes to full-length modern Grant bios, there are quite a few to choose from (ex. Perret, Brands, Smith, Simpson, and McFeely) along with a host of shorter treatments and comparative works.

Ronald White, who announced his own effort back in 2010, will soon put his hat in the ring with American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant (Random House, Fall '16). It's too early for details but the first link offers some hints about the author's views.

Biographer extraordinaire Ron Chernow is also working on one and it will be interesting to see in what ways these two well regarded historians set themselves apart from their predecessors.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Booknotes: Lincoln's Bold Lion

New Arrival:

Lincoln's Bold Lion: The Life and Times of Brigadier General Martin Davis Hardin by James Huffstodt (Casemate, 2015).

There were a lot of Union generals during the Civil War (obviously) and Hardin is one of those that I'd only vaguely heard of and about whom knew nothing specific. Huffstodt's book is the first full biography of the young general, a West Point graduate who "fought with distinction at Malvern Hill, Second Manassas, Gettysburg, Grant’s Overland Campaign, and the July 1864 Rebel raid on Washington. He was wounded four times, nearly died on two occasions, and lost an arm during the war." According to the description, the book also emphasizes family connections with both Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, a helpful factor in Hardin's military advancement.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Booknotes: Gettysburg 1863—Seething Hell

New Arrival:

Gettysburg 1863—Seething Hell: The Epic Battle of the Civil War in the Soldiers' Own Words by Thomas R. Pero (Wild River Press, 2016).

At 6 lbs and 400+ 9x12 in. pages in landscape format, this is a huge book. It's also very attractive. The end result of three years of scouring public and private archives, Pero's book contains full transcriptions (as well as some images) of hundreds of letters and diary & journal entries written by around 200 Union and Confederate soldiers as they marched and fought through the Gettysburg Campaign. In addition to photographs, name, hometown, age, rank, and unit information is provided for each soldier writer. Modern park vistas and approximately 300 photographs taken during the 150th Anniversary reenactment are also incorporated into the book. There are four really nice color fold-out maps that pinpoint where each writer principally fought on the battlefield and, if applicable, where the soldier became a casualty. It looks like the official release date is still April '16 but the link above seems to indicate that copies are generally available today.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Red River Campaign and Its Toll

Regular readers have probably figured out by now that I'll read just about anything related to the 1864 Red River Campaign in Louisiana. It remains a bit of an odd duck in that countless single volume overviews have been published yet no one has attempted full book length treatments of the signature battles at Mansfield and Pleasant Hill or any of the smaller engagements. Flipping through the Spring-Summer '16 catalog from McFarland, I immediately noticed that another campaign study is on the way — The Red River Campaign and Its Toll: 69 Bloody Days in Louisiana, March - May 1864 (July 2016) by Louisiana College history professor Henry O. Robertson. According to the description, "(t)his book takes a fresh look at the fierce battles at Mansfield and Pleasant Hill, the Union army’s escape from Monett’s Ferry and the burning of Alexandria, and explains the causes and consequences of the war in Central Louisiana."

Booknotes: The Extraordinary Life of Charles Pomeroy Stone

New Arrival:

The Extraordinary Life of Charles Pomeroy Stone: Soldier, Surveyor, Pasha, Engineer by Blaine Lamb (Westholme, 2015).

General Stone certainly wasn't the only high ranking Civil War officer to suffer political persecution after military defeat but his extended imprisonment without trial is a rather unique case. Early in the war, Stone was setup for a promising career but that all came crashing down with the disaster at Ball's Bluff. Blaine Lamb's book is a full treatment of Stone's professional military and engineering careers.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Rable: "DAMN YANKEES!: Demonization and Defiance in the Confederate South"

[Damn Yankees!: Demonization and Defiance in the Confederate South by George C. Rable (Louisiana State University Press, 2015). Hardcover, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:141/201. ISBN:978-0-8071-6058-9. $38]

It should surprise no one that a wartime society will seek to garner popular support for its cause by dehumanizing the enemy while at the same time extolling its own spotless virtues. The intensity is only enhanced during wars of direct conquest and national survival like the Confederacy's bid for independence. George Rable's Damn Yankees!: Demonization and Defiance in the Confederate South is the first specialized study of extreme anti-northern rhetoric during the Civil War.

In Damn Yankees!, Rable uses newspaper editorials, speeches, and government proclamations as well as private diaries and correspondence to explore both the depth of hatred engendered by the war as well as the breadth of common southern rhetorical targets and themes. To many Confederates, Union officers and men were cowards on the battlefield and beasts off it, thieving masses more interested in murder, rape, plunder and arson than in conducting honorable warfare. Unlike the more pure Confederate soldiery, federal ranks were filled with the offscourings of Europe. Antebellum religious schisms were mined for effect, with the Confederate home front portrayed as victims of northern "Puritan" fanatics bent on destroying southern religious practices and other domestic institutions like slavery. When these supposedly inferior enemies started to actually win the war, southern partisans changed tack, emphasizing the pitilessness and overwhelming numbers of the foe. Rable closely studies the emotionally charged anti-Yankee epithets employed by embittered Confederates and how they were fueled by a violent mixture of extreme exaggeration, truth, half-truth, and falsehood.

Used to viewing their own society in terms of racial differences and hierarchies, diehard Confederates used similar language in promoting the idea that the northern and southern "races" were incompatible. It was feared that Union war policy was aimed not only at the destruction of the Confederacy but also the political and social elevation of ex-slaves over the white population (with race war as a component) and the mass confiscation of southern property to pay the northern war debt. Much like partitioned Poland, the South would assume the status of a conquered colony. It would be completely at the mercy of federal army garrisons, vengeful blacks, carpetbaggers, and scalawags. The byword that best encapsulated Confederate fears was "subjugation" and the appropriate response hatred and vengeance.

Given that there are at least two sides to every conflict, critics of Rable's study might reasonable argue that a comparative examination of northern and southern rhetoric would have made for a more fruitful exercise. Such a process may or may not have strengthened the author's assertion in his introduction that northern attacks "never grew as intense as Confederate attempts to define and vilify their enemies." (pg. 4). Rable's belief that widespread Confederate demonization of the North stiffened resistance and lengthened the war is impossible to test but seems likely as one factor among many. The author also perceptively notes that this degree of ingrained hatred could not be turned off like a switch and the resultant animosity profoundly affected Reconstruction and relations between the sections for decades.

This level of extreme rhetoric could also backfire, creating unnecessary levels of fear and panic on the home front. Rable glides over the possibility, and he does also mention the small minority of Confederates that believed the abusive language went too far, but the degree to which vilification of the enemy harmed the Confederate cause itself might have merited more attention in the book. One of the clearest and most common examples of this was the widespread abandonment of plantations and small farms ahead of advancing Union armies, actions that only intensified the level of destruction. Arriving soldiers tended to assume that absent homeowners were of the arch-Confederate persuasion. Owners that stayed in their homes were indeed frequently robbed, threatened, and their dwellings burned during the war but it does seem that, on balance, their mere presence just as often saved private property from the type of wanton mass destruction visited upon abandoned houses and estates.

Regardless of its one-sided nature, Damn Yankees! offers many useful insights into the rhetorical directions, uses, effects and long-term consequences of Civil War propaganda.

More CWBA reviews of LSUP titles:
* Citizen-officers: The Union and Confederate Volunteer Junior Officer Corps in the American Civil War
* Civil War Infantry Tactics: Training, Combat, and Small-Unit Effectiveness
* The Enigmatic South: Toward Civil War and Its Legacies
* Corps Commanders in Blue: Union Major Generals in the Civil War
* Gateway to the Confederacy: New Perspectives on the Chickamauga and Chattanooga Campaigns, 1862-1863
* Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln
* Greyhound Commander: Confederate General John G. Walker's History of the Civil War West of the Mississippi
* Knights of the Golden Circle: Secret Empire, Southern Secession, Civil War
* Milliken's Bend: A Civil War Battle in History and Memory
* Battle of Stones River: The Forgotten Conflict Between the Confederate Army of Tennessee and the Union Army of the Cumberland
* Granbury's Texas Brigade: Diehard Western Confederates
* The Last Battle of the Civil War: United States Versus Lee, 1861-1883
* Confederate Guerrilla: Champ Ferguson and the Civil War in Appalachia
* Lincoln and Citizens' Rights in Civil War Missouri: Balancing Freedom and Security
* War No More: The Antiwar Impulse in American Literature, 1861-1914
* Isham G. Harris of Tennessee: Confederate Governor and United States Senator
* Executing Daniel Bright: Race, Loyalty, and Guerrilla Violence in a Coastal Carolina Community 1861-1865
* Mosquito Soldiers: Malaria, Yellow Fever, and the Course of the American Civil War
* Homegrown Yankees: Tennessee's Union Cavalry in the Civil War
* John Bankhead Magruder: A Military Reappraisal
* A Wisconsin Yankee in the Confederate Bayou Country: The Civil War Reminiscences of a Union General
* Bleeding Borders: Race, Gender, and Violence in Pre-Civil War Kansas
* Jefferson Davis and the Civil War Era
* Where Men Only Dare to Go Or the Story of a Boy Company, C.S.A.
* Encyclopedia of Civil War Shipwrecks
* Walker’s Texas Division, C.S.A.: Greyhounds of the Trans-Mississippi
* The Confederate Cherokees: John Drew's Regiment of Mounted Rifles
* A Crisis In Confederate Command: Edmund Kirby Smith, Richard Taylor, And The Army Of The Trans-Mississippi
* The Fredericksburg Campaign: Winter War on the Rappahannock

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Kyle Sinisi, 2015 A.M. Pate Award winner

A hearty congratulations to Citadel professor Dr. Kyle Sinisi. His book The Last Hurrah: Sterling Price's Missouri Expedition of 1864 has won the Fort Worth Civil War Roundtable's 2015 A.M. Pate Award, which is the only prize that specifically honors Trans-Mississippi Civil War scholarship. The award ceremony will be on January 12.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Confederate Casualties at Gettysburg

The avocational obsessive can bring a great deal to the table when it comes to Civil War studies. John Busey has teamed up with David Martin for four editions of their reference classic Regimental Strengths and Losses at Gettysburg and he's also authored a burial register for the Gettysburg National Cemetery. In 2011, McFarland published John and Travis Busey's Union Casualties at Gettysburg: A Comprehensive Record, a colossal 3-volume guide rather marvelous in its breadth.

This summer, we'll see the other side of the equation with the Buseys's Confederate Casualties at Gettysburg: A Comprehensive Record (McFarland, June 2016). It will contain:
"information on 24,000 Confederate soldiers killed, wounded or captured at the Battle of Gettysburg. Casualties are listed by state and unit, in many cases with specifics regarding wounds, circumstances of casualty, military service, genealogy and physical descriptions. Detailed casualty statistics are given in tables for each company, battalion and regiment, along with brief organizational information for many units. Appendices cover Confederate and Union hospitals that treated Southern wounded and Federal prisons where captured Confederates were interned after the battle. Original burial locations are provided for many Confederate dead, along with a record of disinterments in 1871 and burial locations in three of the larger cemeteries where remains were reinterred. A complete name index is included."

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Booknotes: The First Georgia Cavalry in the Civil War

New Arrival:

The First Georgia Cavalry in the Civil War: A History and Roster by Michael Bowers Cavender (McFarland, 2015).

Raised in 1861 by James J. Morrison, the 1st Georgia Cavalry saw action largely in Kentucky and East Tennessee during the first half of the war. The regiment was present at Stones River, Chickamauga, and later the Atlanta, March to the Sea, and Carolinas campaigns. There are no maps in the volume and the source depth and range appears fairly limited (for the field service chapters, lots of O.R. references followed by long series of ibid in the endnotes). The regimental roster looks quite useful, as it "includes more than 1,600 names with details of service provided, along with pre-war service, death and burial information in some cases."

Saturday, January 2, 2016

CWN about face

It seems that a grassroots campaign has succeeded in convincing the new owner of Civil War News to abandon earlier transition plans and keep the publication as is. CWN in its current form must mean a lot to many people. Here's the announcement on Facebook [link].

I was kind of interested in seeing what the new magazine would look like. At the local B&N rack I counted 21 modeling magazines (the glue and plastic kind, not the skinny runway kind) and one would think there might be room for yet another CW periodical. Tough business, though.

Friday, January 1, 2016

2015 - The "Civil War Books and Authors" Year in Review


Civil War Infantry Tactics: Training, Combat, and Small-Unit Effectiveness by Earl J. Hess (LSU Press).


Battle/Campaign Histories:
Trans-Mississippi Theater: The Last Hurrah: Sterling Price's Missouri Expedition of 1864 by Kyle S. Sinisi (Rowman & Littlefield).
Western Theater: Shiloh: Conquer or Perish by Timothy B. Smith (University Press of Kansas).
Eastern Theater: "To Prepare for Sherman's Coming": The Battle of Wise's Forks, March 18652 by Wade Sokolosky and Mark A. Smith (Savas Beatie).

Naval History: Lincoln's Trident: The West Gulf Blockading Squadron during the Civil War by Robert M. Browning, Jr. (University of Alabama Press).

War and Society: Citizen-Officers: The Union and Confederate Volunteer Junior Officer Corps in the American Civil War by Andrew S. Bledsoe (LSU Press).

Society and Culture: To Live and Die in Dixie: Native Northerners Who Fought for the Confederacy by David Ross Zimring (University of Tennessee Press).

Politics and Economy: Agriculture and the Confederacy: Policy, Productivity, and Power in the Civil War South by R. Douglas Hurt (UNC Press).

Industry and Technology: Confederate Saboteurs: Building the Hunley and Other Secret Weapons of the Civil War by Mark K. Ragan (Texas A&M University Press).

Unit History: A Civil War History of the New Mexico Volunteers and Militia by Jerry D. Thompson (University of New Mexico Press).

Essay Collection: The Enigmatic South: Toward Civil War and Its Legacies edited by Samuel C. Hyde, Jr. (LSU Press).

Biography: Lincoln's Autocrat: The Life of Edwin Stantonby William Marvel (UNC Press).

Edited Letters/Memoir/Diary: Confederate "Tales of the War" In the Trans-Mississippi, Part Four: 1864. From Winter Camp to Pleasant Hill and Jenkins' Ferry edited by Michael Banasik and Brenda F. Banasik (Camp Pope Publishing).

Guide Book: The Gettysburg Cyclorama: The Turning Point of the Civil War on Canvas by Chris Brenneman and Sue Boardman with photographer Bill Dowling (Savas Beatie).

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

Local and Regional History: Rebellion, Reconstruction, and Redemption, 1861-1893: The History of Beaufort County, South Carolina, Volume 2 by Stephen R. Wise & Lawrence S. Rowland w/ Gerhart Spieler (University of South Carolina Press).

Reference Book or Series: Civil War Biographies from the Western Waters: 956 Confederate and Union Naval and Military Personnel, Contractors, Politicians, Officials, Steamboat Pilots and Others by Myron J. Smith, Jr. (McFarland)

Reprint: The First Battle of Manassas: An End to Innocence, July 18-21, 1861 Revised Edition by John J. Hennessy (Stackpole).

1 - As mentioned before the CWBA review year is roughly Q4-Q4, as many titles are released very late in the final quarter and cannot be reviewed until the following year.
2 - Theater boundaries are up for debate. Some might argue that Wise's Forks is western theater but the Union operation was launched from occupied NC ports, which are considered eastern theater.