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.

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