Monday, February 29, 2016

Krick & Ferguson: "GETTYSBURG'S CONFEDERATE DEAD: An Honor Roll from America's Greatest Battle"

[Gettysburg's Confederate Dead: An Honor Roll from America's Greatest Battle by Robert K. Krick and Chris L. Ferguson (Angle Valley Press, 2014). 8 1/2" x 11" softcover, illustrations. 180 pp. ISBN:978-0-9711950-8-0. $22.95]

The exact number of Confederate's slain at Gettysburg will never be known but that doesn't mean that any effort aimed at arriving at the closest figure possible is a fool's errand. The endeavor will always be hampered by the incomplete nature of surviving contemporary records but new information is being discovered all the time. The product of forty years of collective research by Robert Krick and Chris Ferguson1, Gettysburg's Confederate Dead: An Honor Roll from America's Greatest Battle is the most up to date register, its 5,0012 compiled names the result of improved information technology and document access since the most recent edition (2004) of the co-authors's previous work The Gettysburg Death Roster.

The list itself comprises nearly the entire book but there are a few illustrations scattered about and Krick provides a brief preface to the volume. Ferguson's introduction also lays out the project's parameters. In order to qualify "(a) soldier had to be killed in action or mortally wounded in the fighting of July 1-4 and death had to occur prior to January 1, 1864, from wounds received during this four day period." (pg. xi-xii) Unwounded POWs that died in Union custody are not included in the book. The Virginia soldiers have the greatest amount of detail available, a circumstance that Krick primarily attributes to the diligence (albeit very uneven) of the many regimental historians that contributed to H.E. Howard's Virginia Regimental History Series.

The information itself is formatted in an aesthetically pleasing, easy to read tabular format. For each soldier, the death roll includes name, regiment (also rank and company, if known), date of birth (mostly just the year, but sometimes the full date), date of death, short comments (ex. MIA, hospital/POW/mortal wound status) and burial place (if known). The list is organized alphabetically by last name. In terms of soft criticism, or really more of a wishlist matter, while it's clear that the incomplete nature of much of the data makes some number crunching exercises problematic, a few basic analyses like breaking down the numbers of dead by state or by brigade/division/corps would have made a useful appendix.

There is no great shortage of authoritative Gettysburg reference books but Krick and Ferguson's Gettysburg's Confederate Dead is a noteworthy standout. Serious Civil War research and genealogy libraries will surely want to add it to their collections, but the many individuals who regularly conduct their own deep research on the battle will also benefit from owning a personal copy.

1 - Ferguson is also the author of Southerners at Rest: Confederate Dead at Hollywood Cemetery (2008) and Hollywood Cemetery, Her Forgotten Soldiers: Confederate Field Officers at Rest (2001).
2 - In his introduction, Ferguson gives a figure of 5,001 names but the cover letter that came with the book mentions 5,006. In lieu of counting them myself, I'll just mention both numbers.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Booknotes: Historical Archaeology of Arkansas

New Arrival:
Historical Archaeology of Arkansas: A Hidden Diversity edited by Carl G. Drexler (Univ of Tenn Press, 2016).
"In nine essays that range from Civil War sites to the Ozark Mountains to the nineteenth-century Jewish community, Drexler and his contributors present an Arkansas unknown to all but those dedicated individuals working to publicize the state’s hidden diversity. The research presented herein depicts a strong state and federal commitment to documenting Arkansas’s history, perhaps unmatched by any other state in America, and the success of public archaeology through the efforts of the Arkansas Archaeological Survey. Historical Archaeology of Arkansas not only showcases the natural beauty and rich history of Arkansas, but it also serves as a primer for historical inquiry for other state and federal organizations looking to bolster their own programs."
If you're interested in the subject, archaeological investigations published by university presses like Tennessee and Florida are always worth checking out. This anthology is not focused on the Civil War but there are a pair of essays that address aspects of the conflict in Arkansas (the Confederate cemetery at Fayetteville and the employment of Missouri State Guard artillery at Pea Ridge).

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Booknotes: If I Have Got to Go and Fight, I Am Willing

New Arrival:
"If I Have Got to Go and Fight, I Am Willing:" A Union Regiment Forged in the Petersburg Campaign by Edwin P. Rutan II (RTD Publications-Author, 2015).
"Taking a broad view of the Union soldiers' experience in the Petersburg campaign, "If I Have Got to Go and Fight, I Am Willing" covers in depth not just the battles, but also subjects such as motivations for enlistment, ties with home, medical care, religious faith, citizen-soldiers, the 1864 election, prisoners of war, desertion, the post-war lives of the soldiers, and even the weather. A fighting regiment, the 179th New York Volunteers served in the Petersburg campaign from start to finish. The 179th New York was in the first wave at the Battle of the Crater and in the Ninth Corps' final assault on April 2, 1865. The 179th also fought at Petersburg in the June 17, 1864 assault and at Weldon Railroad, Poplar Spring Church and Burgess Mill."
Authorized late in the war in February 1864, the 179th was still a new regiment by the time of the Petersburg Campaign, where it fought in six major battles between the James crossing and Appomattox, suffering 40% casualties in its very first engagement and heavy losses at both the Crater attack and the April 2, 1865 breakthrough. The research looks solid, with the author mining manuscript archives located all across the country. The volume is also stuffed with photos, tables, illustrations, and numerous appendices. The project started out as an e-book and the author directs readers to his website ( to view the 30 high-res maps absent from the print edition and over 100 additional images. Looks like yet another great resource for Petersburg Campaign students.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

McFarland: "EDWARD J. STEPTOE AND THE INDIAN WARS: Life on the Frontier, 1815 - 1865"

[Edward J. Steptoe and the Indian Wars: Life on the Frontier, 1815 - 1865 by Ron McFarland (McFarland 800-253-2187, 2016). Softcover, photos, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:207/260. ISBN:978-1-4766-6232-9. $39.95]

Edward J. Steptoe fought in the Second Seminole War in Florida and the U.S.-Mexico War but would be best known for his two year stint in the Columbia River Valley and Eastern Plateau of Washington Territory, specifically his near disaster there at the Battle of Pine Creek (Tohotonimme) in May 1858. His life and military career is the subject of Ron McFarland's Edward J. Steptoe and the Indian Wars: Life on the Frontier, 1815 - 1865.

Steptoe was born in Bedford County, Virginia in 1815 and enjoyed a comfortable early life until entering West Point in 1833. He graduated in 1847, ranked 34th out of 50 cadets and was assigned to the Third Artillery. Steptoe was sent to Florida twice during the Second Seminole War and served in various garrison posts before the outbreak of war with Mexico. He arrived in Tampico near the end of 1846. Joining Winfield Scott's famous campaign into the Mexican interior, Steptoe commanded an artillery battery during a string of battles and was brevetted twice, to major after Cerro Gordo and lieutenant colonel after Chapultepec. After the war ended, he again was posted to garrison duties. Stopping for a short period in Utah, he maintained a cordial if not trusting relationship with Mormon authorities but declined appointment to the territorial governorship in 1854. Transferred from the Third Artillery to the Ninth Infantry, Steptoe, after a brief layover in his home state at Fort Monroe, next found himself at Vancouver Barracks in Washington Territory in 1856.

In March 1856, Steptoe was involved in the relief of the Cascades blockhouse and settlements situated along the Columbia River portage that were under heavy attack by Yakama, Klickitat, and Cascades warriors. Later that summer, he established a permanent fort in eastern Washington at Walla Walla, with cantonments for both infantry and dragoons. During this period, the army repeatedly clashed with the civilian territorial authorities headed by Governor Isaac Stevens over white settlement and the yet unratified stipulations of the Walla Walla Treaty Council of 1855 involving the Cayuse, Umatilla, Walla Walla, Nez Perce, Palouse, and Yakama tribes.

In May 1858, when word reached Fort Walla Walla of the murder of two gold prospectors, Steptoe gathered roughly 160 men and two mountain howitzers and headed north to discover the facts of the matter and perhaps arrest the perpetrators. Misjudging the level of hostility in the region, the small force encountered a large, fluid gathering of hostile Coeur d'Alenes, Palouse, Spokanes, Walla Wallas, Cayuse and others. After a daylong running battle on May 17, Steptoe found himself surrounded on a hill above Pine Creek. That night, by some combination of luck and skill, he guided his men through a gap in enemy camps and escaped back to Fort Walla Walla. Even though Steptoe's casualties (7 soldiers and 3 Nez Perce scouts killed and 13 soldiers wounded) were relatively light by most standards, the press and army considered the operation to be a terrible defeat and embarrassment, with General in Chief Winfield Scott calling it a "disaster."

Beyond providing a clear and balanced account of the expedition, author Ron McFarland does a fine job of comprehensively synthesizing the work of previous writers and matching their findings with his own interpretations of the many lingering legends and questions regarding Pine Creek (ex. what role, if any, did Yakama chief Kamiakin play in defeating Steptoe, how much did Chief Timothy of the Nez Perce factor into the campaign, was a deal made with the Coeur d'Alenes to allow the bluecoats to escape, why did the Indians not pursue?). That said, there is one particularly unfortunate omission and that is the failure to include a battlefield map or even an area map tracing march routes to and from the Pine Creek site.

One might criticize Steptoe for not taking along any reserve ammunition and being incautious in his advance but no one expected the overwhelming scale and heated temper of the opposition he would encounter. Facing odds of at least 4 to 1 (and perhaps even 6 or 7 to 1), Steptoe and his men found themselves in a situation no less perilous than that experienced by the annihilated, or near annihilated, Indian Wars commands of Dade, Grattan, Gunnison, Fetterman, and Custer. With this in mind, the author makes a strong case that Steptoe deserves far more credit for the extrication of his command with comparatively light loss of life than censure over a defeat.

Three months later, Pine Creek would be avenged by a punitive operation led by Colonel George Wright, who would defeat Steptoe's tormentors and their allies in two battles, at Four Lakes and the Spokane Plains. Steptoe himself was left behind at Fort Walla Walla and his continued ill health, the lingering effects of perhaps two strokes combined with malarial disease, led him to take an extended leave from the army. He suffered from partial paralysis of his right side and evidently lost the capacity of speech (the permanence of the latter unclear). He died on April 1, 1865 at home in Lynchburg, Virginia.

The book successfully argues that Steptoe has a legacy worth reconsidering. It's impossible to guess what kind of Civil War career he might have had or even which side he would have chosen. Like many of his fellow Virginians, he was a pro-slavery moderate with no stated interest in its expansion. His surviving writings indicate no sympathy with secession but the male members of his extended family all entered the Confederate army. Apparently, Winfield Scott had Steptoe's name ranked fourth on the list of Virginia army officers he most wanted to retain for Union commands.

The book's final chapter offers an interesting summary of Edward Steptoe's wide ranging, albeit mostly regional, cultural impact. In addition to his association with his namesake town, park, monuments, a festival, novels, plays and even a Hollywood movie, a number of landmarks are named after him, the most famous of these being the massive rock formation Steptoe Butte that towers 1,000 feet over the surrounding plateau a dozen miles east of Colfax, Washington.

McFarland did an impressive amount of research for this study. Steptoe's surviving papers are few in number and the author was able to discover a total of only 38 letters (dated between 1833 and 1860), all residing in public and private archives stretching from Washington to Florida. Throughout the narrative, the author skillfully employed archival materials written by associates and contemporaries, along with many other primary and secondary sources, to fill in the significant gaps left in the Steptoe correspondence. The result is another satisfying example of how to work around a paucity of personal papers when writing a biography of a nineteenth century military figure.

Largely forgotten among the general historical reading public, Colonel Edward J. Steptoe remains a controversial military personality among scholars and enthusiasts of the antebellum Indian Wars of the Pacific Northwest. A fresh reassessment, Ron McFarland's well researched and judiciously constructed biography brings some much needed balance to the equation and does much to restore the standing of a distinguished but unfortunate career army officer.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Booknotes: New National Geographic guides

New Arrivals:
National Geographic's The Civil War: A Traveler's Guide edited by Len Riedel (National Geographic Books, 2016).

This new softcover (but it feels rugged) battlefield and site guide is a partnership between NG and the Blue & Gray Education Society. One can wonder why they waited until after the Sesquicentennial before publishing a large mass-market travel guide but there are plenty of people out there (like you) whose interests transcend such things. Crammed with text describing over 600 Civil War related destinations with sidebars, 50 color maps, directions, walking tours, and book recommendations, it's a nice looking trip companion.
"(T)his handy, practical guide offers comprehensive information on the more than 384 sites recognized by the National Park Service as official battlefield locations, including the main Battlefield Sites, from Manassas to Appomattox Court House. In addition, this guide steers travelers to scores of additional little-seen and off-the-beaten path sites near the main battlefields. This guide helps travelers experience the Civil War chronologically, by location, or by campaign, experiencing the battles and skirmishes as the soldiers themselves would have encountered them: Follow Lee's march to Gettysburg or drive the Secession Trail through South Carolina. Walking tours provide visitors with detailed instructions, short histories, and a map so they can get out of the car and explore on foot. A history of individual parks is included, as well as books for further reading about specific figures or battles. A list of all of the Civil War battles in chronological order and a timeline of major events of the war puts the entire war in historical perspective. A complete list of all of the major campaigns as well as short biographies of key leaders and influential figures sheds light on the strategic maneuvers of the war."

Monticello: The Official Guide to Thomas Jefferson's World by Charley Miller and Peter Miller (Nat Geo Books, 2016).
"For the first time, Monticello has an official guidebook that reflects the unique statesman and inventor Thomas Jefferson, his home, and his world. Showcasing the recent restoration of the home and plantation, it features information about the slaves of Mulberry Row, as well as the state-of-the-art visitor and education center. Each of the guide's 144 pages is designed to showcase the topics in its five chapters: Thomas Jefferson, Before Your Visit, The House, The Plantation, and the Neighborhood. Photographs, art and cutaways, and maps accompany featured stories both iconic and little-known from Monticello's curators."
This handsome hardcover guide takes readers through Monticello room by room, paying close attention to architecture, objects, art, furniture and more with color photos and historical text and trivia. Monticello as working plantation is also explored, as are the gardens and neighborhood.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Booknotes: Fighting for General Lee

New Arrival:
Fighting for General Lee: Confederate General Rufus Barringer and the North Carolina Cavalry Brigade by Sheridan Barringer (Savas Beatie, 2016).

Fighting for General Lee is a biography of General Rufus Barringer, detailing his wartime role as a company and field grade officer in the 1st North Carolina Cavalry regiment and later as general commanding the North Carolina Cavalry Brigade that fought with the Army of Northern Virginia. "Barringer raised a company early in the war and fought with the 1st North Carolina Cavalry from the Virginia peninsula through Second Manassas, Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. He was severely wounded in the face at Brandy Station, during the opening hours of the Gettysburg Campaign. Because of his severe wound, he missed the remainder of the Gettysburg Campaign, returning to his regiment in mid-October, 1863. Within three months he was a lieutenant colonel, and by June 1864 a brigadier general in command of the North Carolina Brigade, which fought the rest of the war with Lee and was nearly destroyed during the retreat from Richmond in 1865." The author's research looks promising and the volume has the typical treatment from the publisher in terms of maps and illustrations.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Booknotes: Bacteria and Bayonets

New Arrival:
Bacteria and Bayonets: The Impact of Disease in American Military History by David Petriello (Casemate, 2016).

That stuff will kill you. Bacteria and Bayonets explores the impact of pestilence and disease on the American military experience, with chapters looking at the Colonial Period, the Revolutionary War, the Early Republic, the U.S.-Mexican War, the Civil War and the modern wars of the 20th and 21st centuries. "This book not only traces the path of disease in American military history but also recounts numerous small episodes and interesting anecdotes related to the history of illness. Overall it presents a compelling story, one that has been overlooked and under appreciated. Yellow fever, malaria, tuberculosis, glanders, bubonic plague, smallpox, and numerous other bacteria and viruses all conspired to defeat America, and are enemies that need to be recognized."

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Venter: "KILL JEFF DAVIS: The Union Raid on Richmond, 1864"

[Kill Jeff Davis: The Union Raid on Richmond, 1864 by Bruce M. Venter (University of Oklahoma Press, 2016). Hardcover, 7 maps, photos, appendix, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:292/377. ISBN:978-0-8061-5153-3. $29.95]

The February 28 - March 3, 1864 Kilpatrick-Dahlgren Raid on Richmond had the lofty goal of quickly penetrating deep behind Confederate lines, capturing the capital and freeing the thousands of Union prisoners languishing at the Belle Isle and Libby prisons. Along the way, the raiders would wreak havoc on bridges, railroads, mills and the James River and Kanawha Canal. But it would be its most sinister directives, written orders that enjoined the troopers to burn the city and kill Confederate president Jefferson Davis and his cabinet, that would make the failed operation infamous. The raid has been covered in book form before by Virgil Carrington Jones and Duane Schultz, as well as in the biographies of the main actors, but Bruce Venter's Kill Jeff Davis is the deepest dive into the available primary sources and clearly the most complete, scholarly, balanced and up to date treatment.

Venter begins with a brief overview of an earlier unsuccessful raid with a goal of capturing President Davis, one originating from a different direction in Ben Butler's Department of Virginia and North Carolina and led by General Isaac Wistar. The much better known Kilpatrick-Dahlgren Raid would be launched only weeks later. Before getting into the raid itself, Venter provides an excellent and rather dramatic account of George Armstrong Custer's brigade-sized diversionary raid on Charlottesville. Custer demonstrated uncharacteristic caution during the operation, allowing himself to be bluffed by a small force of civilians and soldiers and missing a golden opportunity to capture the entire horse artillery battalion of the Army of the Northern Virginia's cavalry corps (which was wintering in and around the town).

Composed of fewer than 4,000 picked men from several divisions, General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick's all-mounted command stepped off from Stevensburg on February 28, looping south to Mt. Pleasant, where the force divided. Colonel Ulric Dahlgren's detachment (less than 500 men) veered southwest before heading directly south to the James, where his men inflicted significant damage to area plantations and mills as well as nearby canal equipment. Tasked with entering Richmond from the south side of the James, Dahlgren failed to secure a crossing (and in a fit of anger hanged a black guide). Already much behind schedule, he gave up on the original plan and instead entered the outer Richmond defenses from the west, his rather timid advance blocked by Local Defense Troops at the Intermediate Line. Falling back northeast in an attempt to link up with Kilpatrick, Dahlgren and around 90 of his men became separated from the rest of his command. While the larger group eventually rejoined the main body, Dahlgren was killed in an ambush that also resulted in the injury or capture of most of the men that remained with him.

Kilpatrick didn't do much better. After leaving Mt. Pleasant, the main body of raiders hit the Virginia Central Railroad at Beaver Dam Station and tore up the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Petersburg Railroad at Ashland before approaching Richmond from the north. On March 2, like Dahlgren would later in the day, Kilpatrick encountered determined resistance at the Intermediate Line, in this instance the heavy artillery battalions of the city defenses acting as infantry and backed by artillery. Failing to achieve a quick breakthrough, Kilpatrick broke off the action in the late afternoon and fell back. Not receiving the expected support from Benjamin Butler's department, Kilpatrick abandoned all hope of renewing the attack and continued his retreat down the York River to Yorktown.

Venter's well researched and comprehensive blow-by-blow account of the raid is a detailed one, yet very easy to follow. The military planning and execution of the operation are thoroughly explored, as is the significant degree of material destruction visited upon both private and government property. The raid's two key clashes of arms (Kilpatrick vs. the Virginia heavy artillery battalions and Dahlgren vs. the Richmond LDT) are also well described. The maps tracing the route of the raiders are fine and properly identify all the key points mentioned in the text, but the maps depicting the Dahlgren and Kilpatrick fights outside the city are pretty spare when it comes to detail. The narrative, very engagingly written but fairly riddled with typos and word usage errors, could also have used another pass through by the press editors.

The author's assessment of the raid's failure being due to "bad weather, command-and-control issues, ignorance of terrain, logistical mishaps and nearly total lack of secrecy" is convincing and well supported in the text. He is also justly critical of the decision to assemble an ad-hoc combat team with officers and men unfamiliar with each other for the raid instead of just using strong and cohesive existing formations, like Kilpatrick's own Third Division. It's unclear if Dahlgren was chosen by Kilpatrick or forced upon him by civilian or military superiors, but the young officer's inexperience, physical disability and poor overall health should have disqualified him from leading one of the raid's key elements. Venter's research also uncovered new information that led to fresh reinterpretation of numerous aspects of the operation both large and small, including the identity of the guide hanged by Dahlgren and the quality of the opposition (which in truth was far more numerous and capable than the clerks, factory workers, old men and young boys of legend).

Though he perhaps might have delved into wider detail on the "Dahlgren Affair" for the benefit of the uninitiated reader, Venter does devote a full chapter (and also an appendix containing transcriptions of all the documents) to the controversy regarding the authenticity and authorship of the scandalous papers found on Dahlgren's body by the Confederates. He finds no reason to question James O. Hall's work on the subject, which he considers exhaustive. After careful consideration of his own research and that of other historians, Venter comes to the reasonable conclusion that the original documents were indeed authentic and authored by Dahlgren himself. In terms of other possible sources of the controversial burn and kill order (including Secretary Stanton), the author discovered no direct evidence leading up the chain of command, only conjecture.

Raid histories are a popular sub-category of Civil War campaign and battle studies and, among these, Bruce Venter's contribution is qualitatively top shelf. Kill Jeff Davis is unquestionably the new standard treatment of the infamous 1864 Kilpatrick-Dahlgren Raid and is highly recommended.

More CWBA reviews of OUP titles:
* Californio Lancers: The 1st Battalion of Native Cavalry in the Far West, 1863 - 1866 (Arthur H. Clark)
* Soldiers in the Army of Freedom: The 1st Kansas Colored, the Civil War's First African American Combat Unit
* 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, February 17, 2016

Booknotes: Trevilian Station, June 11-12, 1864

New Arrival:
Trevilian Station, June 11-12, 1864: Wade Hampton, Philip Sheridan and the Largest All-Cavalry Battle of the Civil War by Joseph W. McKinney (McFarland, 2016).

Content summary from the publisher's description:
 "In June 1864, General Ulysses Grant ordered his cavalry commander, Philip Sheridan, to conduct a raid to destroy the Virginia Central Railroad between Charlottesville and Richmond. Sheridan fell short of his objective when he was defeated by General Wade Hampton’s cavalry in a two-day battle at Trevilian Station. The first day’s fighting saw dismounted Yankees and Rebels engaged at close range in dense forest. By day’s end, Hampton had withdrawn to the west. Advancing the next morning, Sheridan found Hampton dug in behind hastily built fortifications and launched seven dismounted assaults, each repulsed with heavy casualties. As darkness fell, the Confederates counterattacked, driving the Union forces from the field."
The maps in McKinney's volume are plentiful but crudely drawn. The bibliography lists a fairly substantial body of newspaper and manuscript sources. I believe this is only the second true full-length treatment of this raid and battle, the first being Eric Wittenberg's Glory Enough for All: Sheridan's Second Raid and the Battle of Trevilian Station. I've never seen it but there was also a short history and document collection volume by Walbrook Davis Swank (Battle of Trevilian Station: The Civil War's Greatest and Bloodiest All Cavalry Battle, with Eyewitness Memoirs) published as part of a series.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Booknotes: Herndon on Lincoln

New Arrival:
Herndon on Lincoln: Letters by William H. Herndon, edited by Douglas L. Wilson and Rodney O. Davis (Univ of Ill Pr, 2016).

The University of Illinois Press's The Knox College Lincoln Studies Center Series has produced some important works, most recently the Gienapp edition of the Gideon Welles diary. A decade ago, they also published an edited edition of Herndon's Lincoln. The newest series publication is Herndon on Lincoln. "In this new volume, Wilson and Davis have produced a comprehensive edition of what Herndon himself wrote about Lincoln in his own letters. Because of Herndon's close association with Lincoln, his intimate acquaintance with his partner's legal and political careers, and because he sought out informants who knew Lincoln and preserved information that might otherwise have been lost, his letters have become an indispensable resource for Lincoln biography. Unfiltered by a collaborator and rendered in Herndon's own distinctive voice, these letters constitute a matchless trove of primary source material." Editors Wilson and Davis contribute a lengthy introduction as well as footnotes and an index.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Acken, ed.: "SERVICE WITH THE SIGNAL CORPS: The Civil War Memoir of Captain Louis R. Fortescue"

[Service with the Signal Corps: The Civil War Memoir of Captain Louis R. Fortescue edited by J. Gregory Acken (University of Tennessee Press, 2015). Cloth, maps, photos, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:310/410. ISBN:978-1-62190-125-9. $48.50]

The law of diminishing returns seems to apply more than most are willing to admit when it comes to the historiographical value of published letters, diaries and memoirs of Civil War company officers, NCOs and common soldiers. But even the most jaded reader will immediately see something different when opening the pages of Service with the Signal Corps: The Civil War Memoir of Captain Louis R. Fortescue, ably edited by J. Gregory Acken.  According to the publisher, this volume is "the first full-length, published memoir to deal with Civil War Signal Corps service," and indeed it offers richly informative firsthand insights into the rarely penetrated world of a small but important military support service. The Signal Corps was less than a year old by the time of the Civil War but the flag communication system devised by army surgeon Albert Myer would quickly overcome high command skepticism and become a valued tool throughout the war.

Editor Gregory Acken sets the stage nicely with a thorough general introduction to the volume and he does a fine job of introducing each chapter, as well, while also offering helpful gap coverage and transitional pieces within. In addition to dutiful source documentation and provision of background information on persons, places and events mentioned in the main text, Acken's notes are heavy with well researched commentary. Useful maps and illustrations are also incorporated into the book.

Not much is known about the early life of Louis Fortescue but he was a first lieutenant in the 29th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment when invited to join the Signal Corps on detached service in 1861. Apparently, he took to it well and even refused promotion opportunities in order to remain in the corps, perhaps unwilling to part with the often comfortable lifestyle that also afforded a certain degree of independence from the strictures of army discipline. On the other hand, protective escorts were infrequent and isolation held dangers of its own, as Fortescue would discover to his chagrin later in the war.

First attached to the command of Nathaniel Banks and later to John Pope, Fortescue spent the early part of 1862 in the Shenandoah Valley (his account of Kernstown is the highlight of the period) and the summer months in northern Virginia participating in the Second Manassas Campaign. During the ensuing Maryland Campaign, his signal team returned to the Upper Potomac, where they escaped the fate of the surrounded Harpers Ferry garrison. Fortescue linked up with the main army again at South Mountain but it was another Signal Corps detachment stationed atop Elk Mountain overlooking the Antietam battlefield that signaled Army of the Potomac commander George McClellan and corps commander Ambrose Burnside during the battle. 

Fortescue's memoir is particularly noteworthy in its willingness to "talk shop" regarding specific duties and technical features of the service. His detailed discussion of Signal Corps training, equipment and techniques  enables the reader to readily understand the nuts and bolts of the "wig-wag" flag system (or torch system if used by night). He also mentions improvements made during the war, like the changes to the system that were implemented between Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville that significantly sped up message transmission.

Before the Battle of Fredericksburg, in November 1862, Fortescue was assigned to lead one of the sixteen Signal Corps "sets" [each set composed of 2 officers and 4 enlisted flagmen]  attached to the Army of the Potomac, his fellow Set D officer being Captain Charles Kendall. Prior to the Rappahannock crossing, Fortescue viewed closely the bombardment of the town and the bridging of the river from the Lacy House. Crossing the bridge into the city, for the first time in the war he was truly on the front line of action. During the main battle, his set was employed in observation posts all over the city. After the Union failure to carry Marye's Heights, Fortescue was posted in the courthouse cupola and tasked with observing the Confederate artillery positions. Directing the aim of Union guns located across the river, he came under severe artillery fire himself after a fellow officer foolishly exposed his theretofore carefully concealed position. In addition to exploring a new facet of the battle, this section of the book also provides an uncommonly sympathetic assessment of Ambrose Burnside's conduct of the Fredericksburg battle and subsequent "Mud March." Finding little fault with Burnside's management of the Fredericksburg front, the memoir instead attaches primary blame for the disaster to the rampant "McClellanism" of Left Grand Division officers like William B. Franklin. The officer cabal that attempted to undermine Burnside at the conclusion of the campaign is similarly deprecated.

Throughout the memoir, Fortescue's opinions of famous generals are freely offered and often contradict the popular impressions of today's readers (ex. drawing from his personal experiences, Fortescue has a very negative view of the officiousness of the supposedly affable John Reynolds). Exactly how much expressed opinion can be attributed to the antipathy felt toward West Pointers (and their cliquish nature) by many Civil War volunteer officers is impossible to know but with Fortescue it seems to have been at least a small factor. It is curious that the memoir is so vehemently contemptuous of McClellan but has nothing particularly negative to say about far less accomplished Virginia theater generals like Banks, Pope and Burnside. One wonders whether lingering bitterness from presidential candidate McClellan's association with the 1864 Democratic Party, its national election platform much reviled by large segments of the rank and file, played a significant role in this.

With Joe Hooker now in charge after Burnside's relief, Fortescue manned a post that was part of a chain of signal stations connecting army headquarters to the rest of the Rappahannock line during the spring of 1863. He accompanied the Averell Raid and describes in his memoir the rocket signalling ("parachute pyrotechnics") system that was used on that expedition. During the Chancellorsville Campaign, his signal post was again located opposite the town of Fredericksburg.

Throughout his memoir, Fortescue also mentions the activities of his officer colleagues so his writing can also serve as a more general resource for Signal Corps history. However, in doing so, Fortescue sometimes seems to conflate his own experiences with those of other officers or provides the impression that his personal role was more active than it really was. As an example, Acken employed a bit of detective work in comparing Fortescue's memoir with his own diary written at the time (as well as some other sources), coming to the conclusion that the writer's experience of Chancellorsville was far less interesting than what was presented in the memoir, the account therein surmised to have been a synthesis of the battlefield actions of other Signal Corps members that accompanied Sedgwick's Corps in the successful attack at Second Fredericksburg.

In summer 1863, Fortescue trailed the Army of the Potomac during the Pennsylvania Campaign, setting up a signal post with Capt. Kendall atop Jack's Mountain roughly ten miles southwest of Gettysburg. Atmospheric conditions allowed the pair to observe the battle (and also receive news from other signal stations) but their position was in the rear of the Confederate army and the whole team was captured by Rebel cavalry during Lee's retreat. As with Chancellorsville, Acken found some inconsistencies with the story of the capture but the transcription from memory of Fortescue's interrogation by Jeb Stuart, if true, is amusing. Unfortunately for Fortescue, he would remain in southern prisons until March 1865.

The memoir was penned decades after the war, which raises the usual questions about the cloudiness of distant memory and retroactive application of distilled opinion, emotions and motivations. Some of the apparent discrepancies uncovered by the editor regarding truth vs. reality were discussed above. Beyond a consistent hatred of all things McClellan, Fortescue's memoir reserves absolute disdain for any and all Confederates, including Virginia civilians. Whereas many other Union veterans expressed at least a grudging appreciation for the fighting qualities of southern heroes, Fortescue would have none of that, even in retrospect. To him, Stonewall Jackson was a "miserable Rebel and traitor" of greatly exaggerated martial ability.

Service with the Signal Corps is an important memoir handled with appropriate care and expertly edited by Gregory Acken. In addition to its richly informative nature, the often cleverly biting satire (especially that directed toward Confederate soldiers and civilians) and bitterly ironic sense of humor displayed in the memoir will appeal to many modern readers. The volume is certainly highly recommended reading for anyone specifically interested in the Signal Corps but it should also appeal to those more broadly curious about Civil War communications and in viewing the campaigns and battles of the eastern theater from a new angle.

More CWBA reviews of UT Press titles:
* Confederate Generals in the Trans-Mississippi, Vol. 2: Essays on America's Civil War
* To Live and Die in Dixie: Native Northerners Who Fought for the Confederacy
* To Retain Command of the Mississippi: The Civil War Naval Campaign for Memphis
* 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

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Booknotes: Linking the Histories of Slavery

New Arrival:
Linking the Histories of Slavery: North America and Its Borderlands edited by Bonnie Martin and James F. Brooks (School of Advanced Research Pr, 2015).

The volume employs a multi-disciplinary approach (with contributions from anthropology, history, psychology, and ethnic studies scholars) to the study of slavery in North America and the commonalities among its slave cultures. "The contributors explore the links between indigenous customs of coercion before European contact, those of the tumultuous colonial era, some of the less-familiar paradigms of slavery before the Civil War, and the hazy legal borders between voluntary and involuntary servitude today. The breadth of the chapters complements and enhances traditional scholarship that has focused on slavery in the colonial and nineteenth-century South, and the contributors find the connections among the many histories of slavery in order to provide a better understanding of the many ways in which coercion and slavery worked across North America and continue to work today."

Friday, February 12, 2016

The U.S. Army Campaigns of the Civil War Series

The U.S. Army Center of Military History recently published a series of brochures (books, really) covering the Civil War period, sixteen volumes beginning with a history of the antebellum army and concluding with the end of Reconstruction. The U.S. Army Campaigns of the Civil War Series titles are sold in hard copy on various online sites but they are government publications so you can also download them for free in PDF format at the bold link above.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Author Q & A: Mark A. Moore on "The Old North State at War: The North Carolina Civil War Atlas"

Writer, editor and cartographer Mark A. Moore is the author of Moore's Historical Guide to the Battle of Bentonville (1997) and Moore's Historical Guide to the Wilmington Campaign and the Battles for Fort Fisher (1999). He also created the maps for Chris Fonvielle's Fort Anderson: The Battle For Wilmington (1999), as well as a host of other books and articles. Mark's newest publication, with Jessica A. Bandel and Michael Hill, is The Old North State at War: The North Carolina Civil War Atlas (2015) and he's kindly agreed to answer a few questions about the project. If you want to check out some sample pages before diving into the interview go here.

DW: Mark, I have long admired your map work in countless books and articles as well as the Bentonville and Wilmington/Ft. Fisher books you authored. How did you first get into military cartography? Do you have a graphic arts background?

MM: I got into military mapmaking in my twenties, when I was studying the Battle of Bentonville. At the time (mid-1980s to 1990s), there were no good maps of the action with the kind of detail I was interested in, so I decided to create my own. I don’t have a graphic arts background in terms of education, but I’ve always been a fairly creative person. So it came naturally to me.

DW: Anyone can draw a map (one sees the good, the bad and the ugly of this every day in Civil War publishing) but few, and I would place you in this group, possess the ability to take complicated history and convey it to the reader through the medium of a cartographic mise-en-scene of high aesthetic order. Do you have a personal “philosophy” of mapmaking?

MM: If I have a philosophy, it’s that I want readers to be able to follow the action with maps that are clear, enlightening, and aesthetically pleasing. It’s what readers of military history crave. With the Atlas, I had the opportunity to take that concept to its highest level—something not seen in the normal course of publishing (due to size and cost).

DW: How did this particular project (The Old North State at War) come about?

MM: I got the idea for the Atlas when I was working for the Research Branch at the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. I wanted to create a detailed map study that covered the entire conflict within the state’s borders, something that had never been done before. My pitch was accepted by the agency, and I and my colleagues began working on the project in 2005.

DW: Glancing through the book I found myself continually amazed at how many military operations are being mapped in its pages for the first time. Can you briefly describe the typical process you use to take your work from the blank page to the completed map? Did you have much in the way of historical base maps (ex. for help with the road network, 1860s terrain, etc.) or other existing map resources available to assist you in this daunting task? What modern technologies did you use?

MM: Battle maps are a result of two main questions: (1) How did the regiments and brigades align from end to end; and (2) How did they fit to the terrain over various phases of the conflict? Campaign maps are broader in scope but offer their own brand of detail, in terms of routes and wartime communities impacted. Geography dictated how the movements of the opposing armies unfolded, and the goal is to help illuminate this fact. One of the Roanoke Island battle maps was adapted from a plate in the Official Records. Pretty much everything else was a result of my own research (in both primary and secondary sources). For the Cape Fear coastal defenses, I digitized (by hand) the surveys completed by Union engineers in 1865—a painstaking but rewarding process. Historian Wade Sokolosky helped me with Wyse Fork. For Bentonville and Fort Fisher, I drew heavily from my previous research on troop positions and maneuvers, both on my own and in conjunction with Mark Bradley and Chris Fonvielle. For Averasboro and Bentonville, I used the earthwork surveys precisely mapped by Union engineers after the battles. These were published in the OR Atlas in 1895, but with only partially surveyed roads (and cursory unit depictions). I reconstructed the Bentonville battlefield by matching these partial surveys to accurate surveys of the area made just 40 years after the battle, and to the modern terrain. The battlefield remained pristine for decades. Most of the roads in the area were not paved until after World War II (and some only recently). It remains entirely rural, which has served the battlefield well in terms of preservation. Miles of earthworks are still extant. The maps for Sherman’s routes are wholly new and encompassed one of my main research efforts for the book. For wartime road networks in the eastern half of the state, I relied heavily on the surveys of Confederate engineer Jeremy Francis Gilmer and his team. These are incredible and invaluable resources. Many of the largely rural areas retain much of their wartime road layout. In some cases they match up quite well with the most modern surveys, so I was able to match them even better against the earliest accurate surveys conducted in the first couple of decades of the twentieth century. To flesh it all out, I consulted many manuscript maps and published plates depicting various towns and counties from the Civil War period through the end of the nineteenth century—mostly from the collections of the State Archives and the University of North Carolina, but from other sources as well. Wartime North Carolina featured a plethora of railroads, wagon roads, byroads, and communities. All of the cities, towns, and crossroads that are labeled on the maps in the Atlas—many with colorful names—existed by those names and in those locations during the Civil War. The result is a new geospatial window on state history. The modern technologies I used were GIS (Geographic Information System) and Adobe Illustrator. The state had a contract with ESRI, so I was able to use a desktop application called ArcMap. However, I used GIS as a means to an end, for spatial accuracy and to create my own files for historic roads. In other words, I did not create a GIS application for the maps. The GIS base elements were imported into Illustrator, where the military components and other details were added.

DW: The book’s content is a pretty broad array of military, political and social history. Did you get everything in there that you wanted?

MM: Yes, the book includes the elements I wanted. Topics ranging from the home front and women to slavery, agriculture, manufacturing, updated death statistics, and Union troops from North Carolina (both white and black) really broaden the scope and offer a larger perspective on the state’s Civil War history.

DW: What was the most rewarding aspect of the atlas project and what was your greatest source of frustration?

MM: The most rewarding aspect was mapping the routes of Sherman’s March (and Confederate counter maneuvers) through the state in 1865. That had never been done with any degree of geospatial accuracy, or in this kind of detail. There were plenty of frustrations. Not long after beginning the project, I was transferred from the Research Branch to the information technology office—a terrible mistake on the part of the Department of Cultural Resources that led to delays and interoffice squabbling over completion of the project. My former colleague Mike Hill wanted the book to be published by UNC Press, which would have been a good home for the project. But UNC was unwilling to do it justice with the 11” x 17” format. They insisted on 8.5” x 11” which would have never worked, so we had to look elsewhere. I reached out to my old friend Ted Savas of Savas Beatie and he agreed to publish the book. The State and Savas signed a contract, but when I left Cultural Resources as a result of the interoffice row, that option did not work out either. (Had Savas published the book, it would have been a lot cheaper for book buyers). The N.C. Office of Archives & History eventually published the project on its own through the depleted Historical Publications section, which at the time was gutted by the current administration. This is the section that publishes the N.C. Troop Roster series and the North Carolina Historical Review. As a result, the book is only available through the State of N.C. It turned out well and I’m happy they got it out before the end of the Sesquicentennial in November 2015.

DW: Finally, The North Carolina Civil War Death Study was, I believe, originally intended to be published in conjunction with this atlas. What is its status? Is it being incorporated into the roster series?

MM: The overall numbers from the death study are distilled in the Atlas. My understanding is that Archives & History will publish the full death study under the name of someone who did not actually do the research. That whole groundbreaking effort was conducted by my former colleague Josh Howard, who resigned from Cultural Resources several years ago. In my opinion, Josh is one of the best military historians working today. He specializes in the American Revolution.

DW: Thanks for your time, Mark! Readers, if you would like to own a copy of The Old North State at War you can order one from here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Booknotes: Edward J. Steptoe and the Indian Wars

New Arrival:

Edward J. Steptoe and the Indian Wars: Life on the Frontier, 1815 - 1865 by Ron McFarland (McFarland, 2016).

From the publisher: "This definitive biography of Steptoe chronicles the career of a field officer who served nearly four years in the Second Seminole War, won commendation for gallantry during the Mexican War, performed admirably (though controversially) in the Utah Territory, undertook construction of forts at Walla Walla in the newly defined Washington Territory and engaged with various tribes throughout his deployments. His personal letters reveal a thoughtful, sensitive commander who came to question his choice of career even before his final battle." Edward Steptoe is probably most widely associated with the Indian Wars of the Pacific Northwest, particularly the so-called disaster he suffered at Pine Creek (a.k.a. Battle of Tohotonimme) at the hands of a vastly superior force of Coeur d'Alene, Palouse and Spokane warriors in what is today eastern Washington. In the wake of the widely publicized defeat, Steptoe would go on sick leave and in failed health (he suffered perhaps two strokes) resign from the army in 1861 and die at home in Virginia in 1865 at the age of 49. McFarland's book is a full biography of Steptoe's short life, his Virginia upbringing, West Point education, and military career. The bibliography looks impressive, with the author examining Steptoe's scattered papers and a great deal of other primary source material.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Booknotes: The Old North State at War

New Arrival:
The Old North State at War: The North Carolina Civil War Atlas by Mark Anderson Moore, with Jessica A. Bandel and Michael Hill (Office of Archives and History - NC Dept of Natural and Cultural Resources, 2015).

A deeply ambitious and exceptionally beautiful atlas of Civil War North Carolina, The Old North State at War is the kind of thing I was hoping would come out of the Sesquicentennial. Mark Moore is one of the leading lights of Civil War cartography and the 99 maps he contributed to the volume are works of art, both incredibly detailed and aesthetically appealing. North Carolina campaigns and battles big and small, cavalry raids, sieges, naval clashes, amphibious landings and guerrilla operations ... they're all in there [see here for map list and table of contents]. Home front issues also closely inhabit the book's pages, with page length sidebars describing elections, politics, slavery, black soldier recruitment, home grown Unionism, profiles of prominent North Carolinians, the war's legacy, and more. In addition to the maps, numerous photographs, charts and tables are inserted with regularity. At 200 11x17 landscape format pages, it's a very large and heavy book (the shipping box said 6 lbs) with a price commensurate with the first rate production values. An interview with Moore will be posted soon.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Cathey & Waddey: "'FORWARD MY BRAVE BOYS!': A History of the 11th Tennessee Volunteer Infantry CSA, 1861-1865"

["Forward My Brave Boys!": A History of the 11th Tennessee Volunteer Infantry CSA, 1861-1865 by M. Todd Cathey and Gary W. Waddey (Mercer University Press, 2015). Cloth, 9 maps, photos, roster, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:337/583. ISBN:978-0-88146-544-0. $35]

"Forward My Brave Boys!": A History of the 11th Tennessee Volunteer Infantry CSA, 1861-1865 is a richly informative regimental history and roster study of a unit formed in early 1861. Its ranks filled with recruits from five Middle Tennessee counties (Humphreys, Dickson, Davidson, Robertson and Hickman), the regiment was initially led by Colonel James Edwards Rains (see cover at left), who was popular with the men and would put them in proper fighting shape even though their arms and equipment were badly deficient.

After drilling at Camp Cheatham, the 11th was ordered to rugged and hostile East Tennessee with General Felix Zollicoffer, where the regiment was initially scattered along the railroad to guard against sabotage, Union raids and local uprisings. The book's coverage of this period is quite thorough, as are those sections documenting the occupation of strategic Cumberland Gap and the series of tentative Confederate advances into SE Kentucky that followed it.

In Kentucky, the regiment dispersed enemy Home Guard camps (including the one at Barboursville) and fought at Wildcat Mountain near Rockcastle River. The 11th was not with Zollicoffer at Mill Springs but did fight at the Battle of Tazewell in Tennessee after being forced to abandon the Gap in the face of a coordinated Union offensive operation. Later, as part of Carter Stevenson's division besieging the Union garrison of Cumberland Gap, the regiment was left behind during the initial stages of the 1862 Kentucky Campaign. Though they missed the Battle of Perryville they wore themselves out marching over 400 rugged miles.

The 11th experienced its first major combat at Stones River in Middle Tennessee, where it advanced with the Confederate left on December 31 and suffered heavy casualties. It was there that the beloved Rains (now their brigade commander) was killed. Nine months later at Chickamauga, the regiment charged over Brock Field and it was deployed near the Carroll House atop Missionary Ridge during that disastrous defeat.  Being within the "Dead Angle," the 11th was highly visible at Kennesaw Mountain. The Tennesseans also attacked the Army of the Cumberland at Peachtree Creek and suffered heavy casualties at Bald Hill during the Battle of Atlanta.

After the Jonesboro battle and the abandonment of Atlanta, the 11th was consolidated with the 29th Tennessee. Things would only get worse for the unit's rapidly dwindling numbers during the 1864 Tennessee Campaign as they would lose half their remaining strength in the carnage along the Columbia Pike at Franklin. After the crushing defeat at Nashville, the survivors of the regiment traveled by a circuitous route to North Carolina, where they were reunited with Joe Johnston and saw some final action at the tail end of the Bentonville battle.

In their research, authors Cathey and Waddey uncovered a fairly prodigious amount of primary source material (both published and unpublished) and their history of the 11th regiment's Civil War service is often a detailed one, especially in its coverage of the battlegrounds of Stones River, Kennesaw Mountain and Franklin where the regiment's heaviest fighting occurred along with their highest casualties. Throughout the book, firsthand accounts are effectively incorporated into the master narrative. The text does have the occasional editing problem and orientation can be a bit unforgiving for the novice reader but the more experienced western theater student will follow events with few problems. The book's early chapters dealing with the regiment's activities in the Kentucky-Tennessee borderland are especially enlightening given the literature's comparative neglect of the Civil War in the logistically challenging region immediately surrounding Cumberland Gap.

The volume's 160+ page roster is impressive. Not only is the amount of service record and biographical information extensive but the material is also annotated (a rarity among regimental studies). The book also contains two hefty photo galleries presenting many rarely seen images. Maps are high quality but modest in number and bunched together in the front rather than appropriately dispersed. A pair of appendices address the organizational history of the regiment and another documents casualties by battle. A POW list and a register of names present on the rolls at the final surrender are also included.

"Forward My Brave Boys!" is both a fine regimental history and an equally valuable collection of reference tools for those that might wish to conduct further research on the 11th Tennessee's officers and men.

More CWBA reviews of MUP titles:
* To the Gates of Atlanta: From Kennesaw Mountain to Peach Tree Creek, 1-19 July 1864
* Last to Join the Fight: The 66th Georgia Infantry
* The Battle of Peach Tree Creek: Hood's First Sortie, July 20, 1864
* Going Back the Way They Came: The Phillips Georgia Legion Cavalry Battalion
* I Will Give Them One More Shot: Ramsey's First Regiment Georgia Volunteers
* The Battle of Resaca: Atlanta Campaign, 1864
* Volunteers' Camp and Field Book
* Griswoldville
* Civil War Macon: The History of a Confederate City

Friday, February 5, 2016

Booknotes: Ghosts - Images of War

New Arrival:
Ghosts - Images of War by Carrie Zeidman (Swiss Creek Publications, 2015).

The idea of invoking the tragic past by "superimposing and digitally manipulating historical images of the past with photos of the present" came to author and photographer Carrie Zeidman during a visit to the Nazi concentration camps in Poland. Her book Ghosts draws its inspiration from four conflicts -- the Revolutionary War, the Civil War (Gettysburg, Antietam, and Appomattox), World War One and World War Two. The text that accompanies the full-page photographs is part history, part travelogue.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Booknotes: Observing Hancock at Gettysburg

New Arrival:
Observing Hancock at Gettysburg: The General's Leadership Through Eyewitness Accounts by Paul E. Bretzger (McFarland, 2016).

Union general Winfield Scott Hancock earned his "Hancock the Superb" sobriquet very early in the war at the Battle of Williamsburg but he didn't really become a legendary figure until the Battle of Gettysburg, where he figured prominently in all three days of that colossal clash. Bretzger's study posits that "(u)nderstanding Hancock's pivotal actions at Gettysburg is essential to understanding the battle itself. This book covers his life and military career and considers the personal qualities that made him a preeminent figure in the greatest battle of the Civil War". Bretzger begins with a brief account of Hancock's pre-Gettysburg life and military career before launching into his arrival on the battlefield during the chaotic afternoon of July 1, 1863. The author discusses the general's initial disposition of the battered Army of the Potomac, his direction of II Corps on July 2 (the action around the Bliss Farm, the reaction to the collapse of III Corps, and the defenses of Cemetery Ridge and East Cemetery Hill) and his command of the Union center on July 3. As the title indicates, the author's analysis is heavily informed by a wide range of firsthand views of Hancock's personal behavior and generalship.

Monday, February 1, 2016


[Forts and Posts in Kansas During the Civil War: 1861-1865 by William C. Pollard, Jr. (Author, 2015). 8.5 x 11 oversize softcover, maps, notes, appendices, index. 336 pp. ISBN:9781511874243. $12.20]

During the nineteenth century, fortifications sprouted up all over Kansas. During the territorial period, most were located in the western two-thirds of Kansas and were primarily aimed at Indian threats to homesteaders and the overland trails. During the "Bleeding Kansas" and Civil War years, however, the eastern third of the state was a beehive of military activity, with nearly every community erecting some kind of defensive measures against fellow settlers, guerrillas or enemy soldiers. 58 of these sites are compiled and discussed in William Pollard's Forts and Posts in Kansas During the Civil War: 1861-1865.

In his study, Pollard examines the entire spectrum of defensive installations in Kansas, from the sprawling military complexes of forts Riley, Leavenworth, Scott and Larned all the way down to the most modest of community and home protective measures like fortified log cabins. In between are a host of army camps, blockhouses, town posts, stockades, and variously fortified buildings. As one might guess, these are Union outposts but there is one enemy stronghold in Pollard's register, a well hidden guerrilla base used by the Livingston band.

Pollard's text commentaries range from just a few sentences to a half dozen pages or more for the larger fort communities. The author provides a physical description of each site (the level of detail available from the sources varies widely) and summarizes the Civil War role of each fort and post. Military actions that occurred in and around each location are recounted, and students of both the guerrilla conflict along the Kansas-Missouri border and the retreat through eastern Kansas of Sterling Price's army after the failed Missouri Expedition of 1864 will find much in the way of interesting material related to those particular events. There's social and political context in some chapters, as well. Several sites served as havens (albeit tragically inadequate ones) for pro-Union refugees from Indian Territory and others bases for some of the war's earliest black combat units. Pollard's notes certainly suggest that a serious research effort went into the project and many firsthand accounts are well integrated into the text.

The appendix set contains useful information but unfortunately much of it remains frustratingly unrealized as the generally poor quality of the map and diagram reproductions often results in vain reader attempts to decipher blurred lines and labels. The first appendix lists GPS coordinates for each of the forts and posts covered in the book and succeeding appendices document post establishment/deactivation dates and point out their location on modern maps. A number of fort diagrams are also included in this section.

Humble production values aside, this more than reasonably priced guidebook is a very useful reference tool for those studying the Civil War along the Kansas-Missouri border.