Friday, April 29, 2016

Slaughter at the Chapel

Every once in a while, we witness the sudden appearance of two studies published close together after a very long period of topical neglect. In 2015, the first Ezra Church battle study, Earl Hess's The Battle of Ezra Church and the Struggle for Atlanta, was released by UNC Press. It's a superior piece of work that left me satisfied. However, we've known for some time that Gary Ecelbarger, another of the great campaign study authors the Civil War world is blessed with, was working on a similar project of his own. Now we have a release date for it. Slaughter at the Chapel: The Battle of Ezra Church, 1864 is slotted for October from University of Oklahoma Press.

From the description:
"In an account that refutes and improves upon all other interpretations of the Battle of Ezra Church, noted battle historian Gary Ecelbarger consults extensive records, reports, and personal accounts to deliver a nuanced hour-by-hour overview of how the battle actually unfolded. His narrative fills in significant facts and facets of the battle that have long gone unexamined, correcting numerous conclusions that historians have reached about key officers intentions and actions before, during, and after this critical contest."
My only significant complaint with Hess's book involved the maps, and it sounds like the map set in Ecelbarger's study will address the matter in full.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Conner & Mackowski: "SEIZING DESTINY: The Army of the Potomac's 'Valley Forge' and the Civil War Winter that Saved the Union"

[Seizing Destiny: The Army of the Potomac's "Valley Forge" and the Civil War Winter that Saved the Union by Albert Z. Conner, Jr. with Chris Mackowski (Savas Beatie, 2016). Hardcover, 8 maps, photos, notes, appendices, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:330/384. ISBN:978-1-61121-156-6. $34.95]

Joseph Hooker's January 25 - April 27 (93-day) resurrection of a dispirited Army of the Potomac during the winter of 1863 is lauded in many Civil War histories, but details have been generally sparse, and no one has written an entire book on the episode, until now. Albert Conner and Chris Mackowski's Seizing Destiny: The Army of the Potomac's "Valley Forge" and the Civil War Winter that Saved the Union brilliantly explains how Hooker took an army crippled by desertion and disease (and badly demoralized by the Fredericksburg disaster, political scheming, and command infighting) and transformed it within a few short months into a splendid fighting force at peak strength. Seizing Destiny demonstrates "Fighting Joe" at his best, when the bombastic personality revealed his most effective army command skills to be administrative in nature. The authors rank Hooker's achievement of this reversal of fortune up there with that of Washington's army at Valley Forge, noting that hundreds of writers at the time made the same comparison.

Conner and Mackowski emphatically agree with Hooker himself that the new commander's initial moves needed to target the most pressing issues from the bottom up. The first priority was stopping the army's hemorrhaging of manpower through desertion. Though never stopped completely, the plague was effectively managed. Improved troop care measures (in the form of hospitals, food, clothing, and more) were also immediately addressed. Hooker and his Chief of Staff Daniel Butterfield reformed the furlough system, weeded out incompetent officers, and pushed for merit promotions. They enhanced unit drilling and reorganized the logistical apparatus and wheeled transportation system. The book provides a fascinating short study of how the Army of the Potomac managed its prodigious equine needs. Other important administrative moves included an expanded inspector-general system and implementation of corps badges for ready identification as well as development of unit esprit de corps. All of the above measures are both described and analyzed in great detail by the authors. In addition to exploring many themes related to the Army of the Potomac's bottom up refitting under Hooker's direction, the physical layout of the winter encampment (including the systematic establishment of picket posts and erection of fortifications along essential lines of communication, especially to the main army supply base at Aquia Creek) is also explored at length.

The book properly recognizes that wintering armies were not just static beings but rather a continual bustle of activity and adjustment. The authors recount in some detail the myriad of small unit actions and area defense operations conducted during the season. One of the latter, the February 1863 reconnaissance mission toward Rappahannock Station conducted by a division of General George G. Meade's Fifth Corps, is well described given the lack of sources and also rather sharply criticized (perhaps overly so) as being an unnecessary wastage of troops. The book also details the late February Confederate raid on the Union outpost at Hartwood Church, the Federal rout demonstrating that the blue troopers and their leadership still had far to go. 

In a bid to reshape the army's command and control structure, Hooker reorganized the Army of the Potomac order of battle, abolishing the wing-equivalent Grand Division system created by Ambrose Burnside and reverting back to the corps as the largest army sub-unit. Hooker's move has been universally praised by historians (each accepting the view that the larger formation was irredeemably unwieldy), and it also garnered wide support from high ranking officers at the time. However, it would be difficult to form a convincing case that any aspect of the Fredericksburg Campaign disaster could be traced to the Grand Division concept, and one might reasonably argue they had unrealized merit as maneuver elements when commanded by the right men. A late suggestion in the book indicates that the authors agree that the blanket dismissal of Grand Divisions is something that needs reexamination.

The non-infantry branches of the army were also significantly retooled by Hooker. Some positive ordnance changes were made, but the authors fault Hooker's reorganization of the artillery for being too decentralized. For the mounted arm, Hooker's creation of the Cavalry Corps is highly praised. Building on their study of the corps's formation, the authors detail the new command's flailing before and during the critical phase of the Chancellorsville Campaign. While George Stoneman's appointment to lead the corps was justifiable at the time it was made, the general quickly proved himself unequal to the task and the narrative clearly shows this.

Hooker and Chief of Staff Daniel Butterfield also ordered the creation of the Army of the Potomac's first formal intelligence gathering organization. Headed by Colonel George H. Sharpe, the Bureau of Military Information (BMI) was designed to consider "all-source intelligence," with the aim of systematically increasing the accuracy of information and using it to aid command decisions. According to the authors, the BMI was far from a well oiled machine during Hooker's tenure, but it was a fine start.

In support of the many arguments put forth in Seizing Destiny, the authors assembled a vast number of accounts written by the officers and men that experienced the "Valley Forge" moment firsthand. These relate to a great number of topics. In addition to rank and file reactions to the conditions present in the army under Burnside and the reforms initiated by Hooker and Butterfield, the diary and letter writers also expound at length upon other weighty issues like emancipation, conscription, spiritual awakening, and the growing anti-war movement on the home front (which increased the communal resolve of many soldiers and disillusioned others). The words of the soldiers also mark the April visit of the president to the camps as a bonding event for many and an additional boost to morale.

A major theme of Seizing Destiny is the idea that the Army of the Potomac's "Valley Forge" moment shaped it into a war-winning instrument. Of course, the fly in the ointment of this argument is the embarrassing defeat (largely self-inflicted) at Chancellorsville that closely followed. But in examining soldier letters and diaries written immediately after the battle, the authors make at least a plausible case that, unlike Fredericksburg, the troops were not demoralized by Chancellorsville. Indeed, many participants did not view it as a major defeat at all, only a temporary setback. The remarkable speed by which the army recovered for the victorious Gettysburg Campaign supports this notion, as well.

Complaints are minor. The book suggests that Butterfield deserves more recognition for the army's transformation than he's been awarded historically (a new biography would be helpful), but the authors might also have advanced this cause with a more thoroughly explicit job of parsing credit (if indeed that's possible) for the initiative and administration of the many army reforms so well explained in the text. Also, to get a better idea of the relative scale and breadth of change that occurred in such a short period of time in early 1863, it might have been instructive for the book to summarize how the Army of the Potomac spent the winters bracketing the "Valley Forge" event, when General McClellan famously created the army in late 1861-early 1862 and the 1863-64 season that brought U.S. Grant to the East and ultimate victory.

Unlike many history books, which seem to cross the finish line with easily recognized relief, this one is reluctant to leave the reader. The epilogue offers an extensive analysis of the "Valley Forge" reforms using sixteen 'systems of war', the section both applying modern thinking and providing an excellent recapitulation of the book's major themes. The postscript delves into preservation issues while also reviewing the historiography of the winter events of 1863. Finally, the study ends with a trio of appendices. The first summarizes the historical legacy of many of the individuals mentioned in the book, the second is composed of rather lengthy biographical sketches of a large selection of women prominently involved in the proceedings, and the last is an order of battle (with organizational changes between Burnside's relief and the beginning of the Chancellorsville Campaign designated in bold).

Seizing Destiny conclusively demonstrates that the Army of the Potomac's much ballyhooed revival during the first months of Joe Hooker's command tenure was no exaggerated event. Nor was it simply a result of time healing all wounds or the consequence of talented individuals working magic within their limited spheres of expertise and responsibility. Real change on the order of what occurred in the Army of the Potomac during the dark interlude studied in the pages of this book requires extraordinary administrative leadership from the top, and Hooker and Butterfield provided that in spades in early 1863. Unfortunately for their place in history, how they would use the magnificent instrument they reforged would fall definitively flat soon after, leaving it to George Meade and U.S. Grant to wield the Army of the Potomac to final victory. Seizing Destiny is an award-worthy study.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Booknotes: Gaston County, North Carolina, in the Civil War

New Arrival:
Gaston County, North Carolina, in the Civil War by Robert C. Carpenter (McFarland, 2016).
"This unique study of one Southern county's war experience tells of ordinary soldiers and their wives, mothers and children, slaves, farmers, merchants, Unionists and deserters--through an examination of tax records. The recently discovered 1863 Gaston County, North Carolina, tax list provides a detailed economic and social picture of a war-weary community, recording what taxpayers owned, cataloging slaves by name, age and monetary value, and assessing luxury items. Contemporary diaries, letters and other previously unpublished documents complete the picture, describing cotton mill operations, the lives of slaves, political disagreements, rationales for soldiers' enlistments and desertions, and economic struggles on the home front."
The notes and bibliography indicate significant mining of public and private archives. Chapters profile life, commerce, and politics on the home front for white and black residents, while also discussing the county's contribution to the Confederate army and the Unionist segment of the population. Desertion and the breakdown of civil order during the war are other major concerns. The county tax list mentioned above is included as an appendix and should prove useful to researchers.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Booknotes: Engineering Victory

New Arrival:
Engineering Victory: How Technology Won the Civil War by Thomas F. Army, Jr. (Johns Hopkins Univ Pr, 2016).

I'm really looking forward to reading this book. The first section discusses antebellum science education and the means of transmitting scientific and mechanical knowledge during the period before closing with the building and management of railroads. Part two covers the early Civil War years, beginning with the necessity of employing volunteer engineers to assist an army exploding in size and need of their services. Chapters explore the important roles they played in the Twin Rivers campaign in the west, the Peninsula Campaign, and the summer and fall campaigns in Maryland, Tennessee, and Kentucky. The formation of the U.S. Military Railroad is also examined. The final section offers a series of case studies of applied engineering, with chapters for Vicksburg, Gettysburg, Chattanooga, Red River & Petersburg, and Atlanta & the Carolinas. Army seeks to place engineering front and center as a key to Union victory, with the North's combination of prewar investment in education and a labor system rewarding mechanical innovation fostering the development of skills that would lead to a dominating military advantage.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Maxwell: "THE CIVIL WAR YEARS IN UTAH: The Kingdom of God and the Territory That Did Not Fight"

[The Civil War Years in Utah: The Kingdom of God and the Territory That Did Not Fight by John Gary Maxwell (University of Oklahoma Press, 2016). Hardcover, photos, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:379/487. ISBN:978-0-8061-4911-0. $29.95]

Facing hostility to their own peculiar institution from the federal government and hounded from state to state, the first major exodus of Mormons in 1847 initially found refuge far beyond the settled western border of the United States in rugged and isolated Utah. However, while Brigham Young's autocratic theocracy grew and prospered there, sustained defiance of federal authority and law led to another round of conflict. This time, war was narrowly averted during a tense 1857-58 standoff with the army that concluded with negotiated submission to the government and installation of a federally appointed territorial governor.

Even with the wary settlement of the Utah War, the infamous Mountain Meadows Massacre and many other smaller incidents marked Utah as an insular, and increasingly paranoid, place violently antagonistic to the presence of non-Mormon "gentiles." When the Civil War broke out, the Latter Day Saints leadership remained distrustful of the national government and their official stance was to discourage Union Army enlistment and sit out the conflict. While no great battles were fought in Utah Territory, the period between 1861 and 1865 was far from uneventful and is the subject of John Gary Maxwell's new book The Civil War Years in Utah: The Kingdom of God and the Territory That Did Not Fight.

Maxwell organizes his chapters by year, with a helpful notable events timeline preceding each. A common theme throughout the book surrounds Brigham Young's efforts to exercise tight control over every religious and civil aspect of life in the territory, including Indian relations, commerce, the press, the courts, and internal security (through the Nauvoo Legion, the large and well-armed Mormon Militia), even entertainment. Governors, government agents, judges, and other federal appointees were continually harassed, threatened, and obstructed when attempting to perform any duty deemed obnoxious to Mormon interests.

Young failed to bend any of the governors installed by the Lincoln administration to his will and the book details his alternative efforts to undermine and replace them. Much of 1862 was spent by LDS officials trying to achieve statehood for Utah (or, as they called it, Deseret), their attempts repeatedly vetoed by the territorial governor due to the irregular legal procedures taken, concerns over the practice of polygamy, and the church's unconvincing attempt to satisfy the constitutional requirement of a republican form of government. Relations with the army were just as rancorous, with large sections of the book devoted to the personal war between Young and Colonel (later General) Patrick Edward Connor. All of these sections comprise a welcome contribution to the scholarly examination of the Civil War period in the Mountain West, a geographic expanse that remains comparatively little studied though it was critically important to continental travel and communications.

One thing that becomes immediately apparent when reading Maxwell's study is how stridently one-sided its serial indictments of Mormon society, and LDS leader Brigham Young in particular, are. Some interpretations are presented to the reader with a confidence seemingly incongruent with the thinness of the actual evidence offered in the narrative. For example, while recounting the outrageous assault upon Governor John Dawson by Mormon assailants, the author unreservedly names the individuals he believes were ultimately behind the attack but doesn't explicitly show the reader the links that form his case. Source material is also scant regarding the author's strongly worded contention that church leaders fostered close ties with Confederate agents.

Mormon disloyalty to the United States is one the book's most prominent themes. Maxwell unhelpfully does not define exactly what he means by disloyalty and seems little moved by the large body of recent Civil War scholarship that has shown us just how diverse and complex the quality and meaning of being pro-Union was to the country's home front citizenry. Though individual Mormons in some number certainly volunteered to fight in the Union Army for a variety of reasons, Maxwell does formulate an effective argument that the Saints in Utah were clearly unenthusiastic about the war and its aims. At least on the part of Young, investment was with Mormon interests foremost, not Union victory.

Utah's only military contribution during the Civil War years was a 90-day mounted company that patrolled the overland trails and it was the only Union state or territory that donated nothing to the U.S. Sanitary Commission for the support of wounded soldiers and their families. The author's investigation reveals that the Mormon press and leadership failed to trumpet Union victories, congratulate Lincoln on his 1864 reelection, celebrate the end of the war, or deeply mourn the president's assassination. Whether some or all of this equates to treason against the United States is a matter for debate. In his discussions of loyalty, Maxwell demonstrates little patience for the idea that lukewarm Mormon attitudes, if not justified by the outrageous persecution they experienced in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois (to include the lynch mob murder of founder Joseph Smith and his brother) or lingering existential fears from the very recent army intervention of 1857-58, were at least at some level an understandable reaction to prior experience.

The book only lightly touches upon Lincoln's thoughts on Utah personalities and events but the overall relationship between Mormon authorities and the federal government is well developed. Another aspect that renders the study essential reading is its excellent documentation of the antagonistic relationship between the LDS leadership and the army, a tension exacerbated by the close proximity of Connor's Camp Douglas to the heart of Mormon power in Salt Lake City. Maxwell effectively contrasts the Mormon press with the opposition organ created and run by the soldiers, The Vedette newspaper. The verbal jousting in the Vedette editorials is strongly reminiscent of the sincere outrage expressed by many Union soldiers regarding their "Copperhead" neighbors back home. It should be mentioned, though, that actual armed conflict was notably absent.

In writing The Civil War Years in Utah, author John Gary Maxwell set out to overturn what he viewed as a grossly inaccurate historical narrative of a Utah Territory solidly in the Union camp. Save some speculative wandering, the study does in many respects effectively meet this challenge, certainly more than enough to recommend it to those seeking fresh information about wartime U.S.-Mormon relations and the Civil War in the Far West.

More CWBA reviews of OUP titles:
* Lone Star Unionism, Dissent, and Resistance: Other Sides of Civil War Texas
* Kill Jeff Davis: The Union Raid on Richmond, 1864
* 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

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Booknotes: A Self-Made Man

New Arrival:
A Self-Made Man: The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln Vol. I, 1809 - 1849 by Sidney Blumenthal (Simon & Schuster, 2016).

A Self-Made Man is the first of a planned four-volume series on the political mind and career of Lincoln. Undoubtedly, the author's time as a senior Clinton aide will inform his views on the Washington scene and presidential politics. The book covers the first four decades of Lincoln's life, with 1849 being the year when the future president returned home after serving a single term in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bibliography runs around a dozen pages and is populated primarily with published sources, the absence of archival research revealing the work to be one of synthesis and re-analysis of the existing literature. It sounds like it promises a positive portrayal of frequently maligned Mary, as well.

From the publisher's description:
"This first volume traces Lincoln from his painful youth, describing himself as “a slave,” to his emergence as the man we recognize as Abraham Lincoln. From his youth as a “newsboy,” a voracious newspaper reader, Lincoln became a free thinker, reading Tom Paine, as well as Shakespeare and the Bible, and studying Euclid to sharpen his arguments as a lawyer. Lincoln’s anti-slavery thinking began in his childhood amidst the Primitive Baptist antislavery dissidents in backwoods Kentucky and Indiana, the roots of his repudiation of Southern Christian pro-slavery theology. Intensely ambitious, he held political aspirations from his earliest years. Obsessed with Stephen Douglas, his political rival, he battled him for decades. Successful as a circuit lawyer, Lincoln built his team of loyalists. Blumenthal reveals how Douglas and Jefferson Davis acting together made possible Lincoln’s rise. Blumenthal describes a socially awkward suitor who had a nervous breakdown over his inability to deal with the opposite sex. His marriage to the upper class Mary Todd was crucial to his social aspirations and his political career. Blumenthal portrays Mary as an asset to her husband, a rare woman of her day with strong political opinions."

Friday, April 22, 2016

Booknotes: Lincoln's Generals' Wives

New Arrival:
Lincoln's Generals' Wives: Four Women Who Influenced the Civil War for Better and for Worse by Candice Shy Hooper (Kent St Univ Pr, 2016).

In this book, Hooper takes an in depth look at the lives and impact of Julia Grant, Ellen Sherman, Jessie Benton Fremont, and Mary Ellen Marcy McClellan on history and the careers of their husbands. The four selections could scarcely be improved upon. The following section of the book description hints at the author's "take" on each:
"The approaches and styles of Frémont and McClellan contrast with those of Sherman and Grant, and there is equal symmetry in their wives stories. Jessie Frémont and Nelly McClellan both encouraged their husbands to persist in their arrogance and delusion and to reject the advice and friendship of their commander in chief. In the end, Jessie and Nelly contributed most to the Union war effort by accelerating their husbands removal from active command. Conversely, while Ellen Sherman's and Julia Grant's belief in their husbands character and potential was ardent, it was not unbounded. Ellen and Julia did not hesitate to take issue with their spouses when they believed their actions were wrong or their judgments ill-advised. They intelligently supported their husbands best instincts including trust in and admiration for Lincoln and re-buffed their worst. They were the source of strength that Sherman and Grant used to win the Civil War."
An interview with the author is in the works, hopefully appearing here within a couple weeks.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Sacred Cause of Union

When considering famous Civil War fighting units, Iowa regiments probably don't enter the minds of most general readers. Nevertheless, in the West and in the Trans-Mississippi, Hawkeyes punched above their small state weight, figuring prominently in many important campaigns and battles. Lowell Soike looked toward the conflict in his fine recent study of antebellum Iowa [Busy in the Cause: Iowa, the Free-State Struggle in the West, and the Prelude to the Civil War (2014)] but The Sacred Cause of Union: Iowa in the Civil War (Iowa, November 2016) will be the "first-ever survey of the state’s Civil War history," weaving "economics, politics, army recruitment, battlefield performance, and government administration." It will also detail the roles of women's organizations that fed, clothed, and nursed the fighting men. From the description, it appears the narrative will closely follow six thematically representative individuals, as well.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Competing Memories

Whether it's engaging the public with his day job as community outreach director for the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, expertly editing essay collections, or publishing his own original research, Mark Christ is a leading advocate of Civil War Arkansas history. His next project, Competing Memories: The Legacy of Arkansas's Civil War (September 2016), "collects the proceedings of the final seminar sponsored by the Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, which sought to define the lasting impact that the nation’s deadliest conflict had on the state by bringing together some of the state’s leading historians."
"In these essays, Thomas A. DeBlack explores the post-war lives of both Union and Confederate soldiers who played prominent roles in Civil War Arkansas. Cherisse Jones-Branch delves into the lives of black Arkansans during the war and Reconstruction. Jeannie Whayne discusses the many ways the Civil War affected the state’s economic development, while Kelly Houston Jones investigates the Civil War’s impact on Arkansas women. Mary Jane Warde examines the devastating effects of the Civil War on Native Americans in Arkansas and the Indian Territory. Elliott West scrutinizes Civil War Arkansas from a continental perspective, and Carl Moneyhon considers the evolution of how we remember the Civil War."

For CWBA reviews of some of Christ's earlier work, see also:
“The Earth Reeled and Trees Trembled”: Civil War Arkansas, 1863-1864 (2007).
Civil War Arkansas 1863: The Battle for a State (2010).
The Die Is Cast: Arkansas Goes to War, 1861 (2010).
"This Day We Marched Again": A Union Soldier's Account of War in Arkansas and the Trans-Mississippi (2014).
I Do Wish This Cruel War Was Over: First-Person Accounts of Civil War Arkansas from the Arkansas Historical Quarterly (2014).

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Occupied Vicksburg

Book length studies of the 1862-63 Vicksburg Campaign have been published, as have other books and articles covering Union operations launched from the Hill City after its capture, but comparatively little has been written about the occupation itself. Once the Father of Waters ran unvexed to the sea again during the summer of 1863, this newly achieved control of the Mississippi River Valley had to be maintained and Vicksburg became a vitally important river post for the Union. Bradley Clampitt's upcoming book, Occupied Vicksburg (LSU, October 2016), will be the first in depth study of military and civilian life in and around the famously hard-won garrison town.

From the description:
"Bradley R. Clampitt is the first to offer a comprehensive examination of life there after its capture by the United States military. In the war-ravaged town, indiscriminate hardships befell soldiers and civilians alike during the last two years of the conflict and immediately after its end. In Occupied Vicksburg, Clampitt shows that following the Confederate withdrawal, Federal forces confronted myriad challenges in the city including filth, disease, and a never-ending stream of black and white refugees. Union leaders also responded to the pressures of newly free people and persistent guerrilla violence in the surrounding countryside."

Monday, April 18, 2016

Booknotes: Seizing Destiny

New Arrival:
Seizing Destiny: The Army of the Potomac's "Valley Forge" and the Civil War Winter that Saved the Union by Albert Z. Conner and Chris Mackowski (Savas Beatie, 2016).

Joe Hooker's winter resurrection of the Army of the Potomac is talked about in many studies but details are generally sparse and no one has written an entire book on the episode until now. Seizing Destiny describes how Hooker took an army demoralized by the Fredericksburg disaster, political scheming, and command infighting, and seemingly crippled by desertion and disease, and transformed it within a few short months into a splendid fighting force at top strength. Conner and Mackowski's book demonstrates Fighting Joe at his best, when he shocked many with his "amazing brilliance for organization and leadership."
"With Chief of Staff Dan Butterfield working alongside him, Hooker literally rebuilt the army from the bottom up. In addition to instituting vital logistical, ordnance, and administrative reforms, he insisted on proper troop care and rigorous inspections and battle drills. Hooker doled out promotions and furloughs by merit, conducted large-scale raids, streamlined the army’s command and control, and fielded a new cavalry corps and military intelligence organization.

Hooker’s war on poor discipline and harsh conditions revitalized a dying army and instilled individual and unit pride. During this 93-day resurgence, the Army of the Potomac reversed its fortunes and set itself on the path to ultimate victory."
The authors rank the achievement of this reversal up there with that of Washington's army at Valley Forge, noting that many at the time made the same comparison.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Booknotes: Henderson County

New Arrival:
Henderson County: Stories from the Civil War by W. Clay Crook (Main St. Pub-Author, 2016).

The book consists of "(t)wenty original stories of local events, places and people from Henderson County" in Tennessee "which was the home of the Battles of Lexington, Parker's Crossroads, Clarks Creek, Mifflin, and two battles at Jacks Creek, and was evenly divided between Union and Confederate families during the War." There is a table of contents at the link provided above.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Kentucky Rebel Town

It's rare indeed to find a self-published book reworked for publication decades later by a highly regarded university press. Back in 1995, William A. Penn published Rattling Spurs and Broad-Brimmed Hats: The Civil War in Cynthiana and Harrison County, Kentucky. Long out of print by the time I discovered it, the volume has since maintained three figure prices on the secondary market (whether they're actually selling at that price is another matter entirely). The author has always planned on revising the book and he actually released a digital 2014 edition that anyone can freely download [here]. The better news is this fall University Press of Kentucky will release Kentucky Rebel Town: The Civil War Battles of Cynthiana and Harrison County (October '16). From the description:
"In this fascinating book, William A. Penn provides an impressively detailed account of the region that saw more major military action during the Civil War than anywhere else in Kentucky. Because of its political leanings and strategic position along the Kentucky Central Railroad, Harrison County became the target of multiple raids by Confederate general John Hunt Morgan. Conflict in the area culminated in the Second Battle of Cynthiana, in which Morgan's men clashed with Union troops led by Major General Stephen G. Burbridge (the 'Butcher of Kentucky'), resulting in the destruction of much of the town by fire.

Penn draws on dozens of period newspapers as well as personal journals, memoirs, and correspondence from citizens, slaves, soldiers, and witnesses to provide a vivid account of the war's impact on the region. Featuring new maps that clearly illustrate the combat strategies in the various engagements, Kentucky Rebel Town provides an illuminating look at divided loyalties and dissent in Union Kentucky."

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Booknotes: The Last Civil War Veterans

New Arrival:
The Last Civil War Veterans: The Lives of the Final Survivors, State by State by Frank L. Grzyb (McFarland, 2016).

"Drawing on a wide range of sources including correspondence with descendants, this book covers the last living Civil War veterans in each state, providing details of their wartime service as soldiers and sailors and their postwar lives as family men, entrepreneurs, politicians, frontier pioneers and honored veterans." The entries for each soldier include both a quick unit history sketch and a brief biography, the latter averaging a few pages in length (with a photograph, if found). The appendices include even more trivia, with one detailing the last witness or survivor of a given major event like the Lincoln assassination or the Harpers Ferry Raid.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Booknotes: Lincoln and the Politics of Slavery

New Arrival:
Lincoln and the Politics of Slavery: The Other Thirteenth Amendment and the Struggle to Save the Union by Daniel W. Crofts (UNC Pr, 2016).

In Lincoln's First Inaugural, he referenced a proposed amendment to the Constitution that would deny Congress the ability to legislate against slavery where it already existed. Here's the quote:
"I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution—which amendment, however, I have not seen—has passed Congress, to the effect that the Federal Government shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of the States, including that of persons held to service. To avoid misconstruction of what I have said, I depart from my purpose not to speak of particular amendments so far as to say that, holding such a provision to now be implied constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable."
Daniel Crofts's Lincoln and the Politics of Slavery explores the political history of this particular amendment movement. The author "rejects the view advanced by some Lincoln scholars that the wartime momentum toward emancipation originated well before the first shots were fired. Lincoln did indeed become the 'Great Emancipator,' but he had no such intention when he first took office."

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Booknotes: The Red River Campaign and Its Toll

New Arrival:
The Red River Campaign and Its Toll: 69 Bloody Days in Louisiana, March - May 1864 by Henry O. Robertson (McFarland, 2016).

I've often mentioned on the site the many short, single volume treatments of the 1864 Red River Campaign that were published in the decades following Ludwell Johnson's pioneering 1958 study Red River Campaign: Politics and Cotton in the Civil War (which still holds up rather well). Among these are works by Gary Joiner, William Brooksher, Michael Forsyth, Samuel Mitcham, and Curt Anders, and the quality is highly variable. A rare entry from a professional historian, Henry Robertson's new book The Red River Campaign and Its Toll might be the briefest of the bunch in terms of page length but it's one of the deeper researched (at least that's the impression from my quick glance at the bibliography, with its significant body of archival and other primary sources). 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."

Monday, April 11, 2016

Weeks: "THE COMPLETE CIVIL WAR ROAD TRIP GUIDE: More than 500 Sites from Gettysburg to Vicksburg - Second Edition"

[The Complete Civil War Road Trip Guide: More than 500 Sites from Gettysburg to Vicksburg - Second Edition by Michael Weeks (The Countryman Press, 2016). Softcover, 10 maps, photos, bibliography, appendices, index. 688 pp. ISBN:978-1-58157-337-4. $19.95]

Though the first edition of Michael Weeks's The Complete Civil War Road Trip Guide was published only a short time ago in 2009, the country's transportation landscape is always changing and Civil War parks and sites remain in a constant state of flux in terms of preservation and interpretation. Though welcome when preservation victories are the source, unplanned obsolescence is the order of the day when it comes to Civil War touring guides. At nearly 700 pages, The Complete Civil War Road Trip Guide: More than 500 Sites from Gettysburg to Vicksburg - Second Edition is quite substantial, covering among many other places all 394 principal battles classified A through D by the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission. Those who can recall Alice Cromie's A Tour Guide to the Civil War, a popular publication that went through four print editions, will get a similar vibe here but will also find Weeks's book to have far more breadth, superior modern presentation, and much richer historical background detail.

The Complete Civil War Road Trip Guide is organized into four parts (I-The War in the West, II-The War Along the Coasts, III-The War in the East, and IV-The Wide Ranging War) further subdivided into ten "tours". It should be mentioned off the top that those expecting detailed turn-by-turn directions will not find them. Instead, a general road map (with Class A battles marked by stars) is offered and, although loops and circular courses are suggested for convenience, readers are left to their own devices for specific route planning and are encouraged to see as little or as much as they wish. With universal availability of modern travel aids in the form of driving apps and GPS-capable mobile devices, mapping out a personalized tour is as simple as it's ever been (though we've all been let astray one time or another!).

Each tour begins with a narrative overview, a note on important historical figures involved, a brief practical advice section, and a loosely suggested trip outline. The main part of each tour is a catalog of "Can't-Miss Sites," each assigned anywhere from several paragraphs to several pages of historical background narrative. The quality of the text is generally quite good, much better than the cursory effort typically found in similar volumes. The sites themselves (battlefields, museums, historical homes, farms, forts, parks, monuments, memorials, cemeteries, and more) are all described in handy sidebars. Each discusses site preservation, interpretation, access, and available touring resources (for walking, biking, and driving) as well as visiting hours, a mailing address, website URL, GPS coordinates, and admission (free vs. paid) information. A whole host of alternative sites, presented in the same full manner as the others, are also included for each tour.

With untold thousands of Civil War related locations recognized across the country, no book like this will every be truly "complete" and experienced readers and local history enthusiasts will always find opportunities to quibble about particular omissions. However, in including hundreds of places both famous and obscure and stretching all the way from California to Vermont, The Complete Civil War Road Trip Guide's impressive coverage renders the book's proud title no idle boast. The guide will undoubtedly be best utilized when accompanied by extensive home preparation, but it should prove useful to prospective road trippers. One might be tempted to think that the great abundance of resources available on the internet has made books like this superfluous, but Weeks's work here provides a fairly strong argument to the contrary.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Tim Smith's Henry and Donelson

I'm neither overjoyed with nor particularly dissatisfied with the literature of the Fort Henry and Fort Donelson campaign of February 1862, but historian Timothy Smith is rapidly becoming one of my favorite Civil War military historians and his masterful treatments of Shiloh and Corinth make his upcoming history of Grant's river campaign a welcome bit of book news. Grant Invades Tennessee: The 1862 Battles for Forts Henry and Donelson is currently scheduled for a Fall '16 release by Kansas. Though done out of order, I would consider this study with Corinth 1862: Siege, Battle, Occupation (2012) and Shiloh: Conquer or Perish (2014) the completion of a 'Twin Rivers Trilogy' (he can borrow that if he wants) accomplished at an impressive Earl Hessian rate of march.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Booknotes: Abolitionizing Missouri

New Arrival:
Abolitionizing Missouri: German Immigrants and Racial Ideology in Nineteenth-Century America by Kristen Layne Anderson (LSU Pr, 2016).

Among all the non-Anglo American ethnic and racial groups that made common cause with the Union during the Civil War, none contributed more on the home front and the battlefield than native-born and immigrant Germans. Nevertheless, in a popular American imagination dominated by the astonishing crimes of 20th century German history, ethnic Germans receive nothing like the acclaim awarded Irish or USCT soldiers and all too often are casually mocked for running away at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg or for mindlessly following inept fellow German commanders like Sigel. On the other hand, those that do study Germans in the U.S. during the Civil War most often portray them in an overwhelmingly positive fashion as radical leaning Republicans, strong Abolitionists, and sincere supporters of black civil rights. Anderson's Abolitionizing Missouri offers a more diverse corrective to this common interpretation.

Her study is:
"the first analysis of the reasons behind [German support for Border State emancipation] as well as the first exploration of the impact that the Civil War and emancipation had on German immigrants' ideas about race. Anderson focuses on the relationships between German immigrants and African Americans in St. Louis, Missouri, looking particularly at the ways in which German attitudes towards African Americans and the institution of slavery changed over time. Anderson suggests that although some German Americans deserved their reputation for racial egalitarianism, many others opposed slavery only when it served their own interests to do so. When slavery did not seem to affect their lives, they ignored it; once it began to threaten the stability of the country or their ability to get land, they opposed it. After slavery ended, most German immigrants accepted the American racial hierarchy enough to enjoy its benefits, and had little interest in helping tear it down, particularly when doing so angered their native-born white neighbors.

Anderson's work counters prevailing interpretations in immigration and ethnic history, where until recently, scholars largely accepted that German immigrants were solidly antislavery. Instead, she uncovers a spectrum of Germans' "antislavery" positions and explores the array of individual motives driving such diverse responses.. In the end, Anderson demonstrates that Missouri Germans were more willing to undermine the racial hierarchy by questioning slavery than were most white Missourians, although after emancipation, many of them showed little interest in continuing to demolish the hierarchy that benefited them by fighting for black rights."

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Booknotes: Grenville Mellen Dodge in the Civil War

New Arrival:
Grenville Mellen Dodge in the Civil War: Union Spymaster, Railroad Builder and Organizer of the Fourth Iowa Volunteer Infantry by James Patrick Morgans (McFarland, 2016).
"In 1861, Colonel Grenville Dodge organized the 4th Iowa Volunteer Infantry Regiment and led them off to war. ... Promoted to the rank of major-general, Dodge became one of the youngest divisional, corps and departmental commanders in the Army. A superb field general, he also organized a network of more than 100 spies to gather military intelligence and built railroads to supply the troops in the Western Theater. This book covers Dodge's Civil War career and the history of the 4th Iowa, who fought at Pea Ridge, Vicksburg, Chattanooga and Atlanta."
In addition to running the largest and perhaps best spy network in the western theater, Dodge was also a very capable corps commander, but he might even be more famous as the chief engineer of the Union Pacific Railroad during the construction of North America's first transcontinental railroad. According to Morgans's preface, Dodge has been the subject of two previous biographies, both unsatisfactory and the last published way back in 1967, so this should be a fresh assessment. Paralleling its coverage of Dodge's life before, during, and after the war, Morgans's book also follows the 4th Iowa's Civil War career fairly closely.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Booknotes: Two Civil Wars

New Arrival:
Two Civil Wars: The Curious Shared Journal of a Baton Rouge Schoolgirl and a Union Sailor on the USS Essex edited by Katherine Bentley Jeffrey (LSU Pr, 2016).

This book is "a double journal and a narrative about the two writers who composed its contents. The initial journal entries [dated 1859-61] were written by thirteen-year-old Celeste Repp while a student at St. Mary's Academy, a prominent but short-lived girls school in midcentury Baton Rouge." ... "Immediately following Celeste's prettily decorated pages a new title page intervenes, introducing 'An Abstract Journal Kept by William L. Park, of the U.S. gunboat Essex during the American Rebellion.' Park's diary is a fulsome three-year account of military engagements along the Mississippi and its tributaries, the bombardment of southern towns, the looting of plantations, skirmishes with Confederate guerillas, the uneasy experiment with 'contrabands' serving aboard ship, and the mundane circumstances of shipboard life."

Brown Water Navy diaries are uncommon findings and Park's journal is apparently the first from an Essex crewman to be published. In her introduction, editor Katherine Bentley Jeffrey composes brief biographies of both writers and explores the mystery of how Park might have appropriated Repp's journal for his own use. Both journals are extensively footnoted, and the book also includes an afterword discussion of the post-war lives of figures associated with the journals, a documentary appendix, and a comparative analysis of Park's journal with his later memoir.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Woodworth & Grear, eds.: "THE TENNESSEE CAMPAIGN OF 1864"

[The Tennessee Campaign of 1864 edited by Steven E. Woodworth and Charles D. Grear (Southern Illinois University Press, 2016). Hardcover, maps, photos, notes, index. 278 pp. ISBN:978-0-8093-3452-0. $34.50]

The Tennessee Campaign of 1864 is the fifth volume in SIU Press's Civil War Campaigns of the Heartland series, an excellent and steadily expanding western theater complement to the venerable, but exclusively eastern theater, Military Campaigns of the Civil War series from UNC Press and long time editor Gary Gallagher (recently joined by Caroline Janney). Like the latest volume from its eastern cousin, The Tennessee Campaign of 1864 also explores more than earlier series titles avenues of scholarly inquiry beyond the battlefield.

The first chapter is one of the book's most tantalizing offerings, a newly discovered portion of General Patrick Cleburne's campaign diary edited by Lee White. While the diary fragment covers a relatively uneventful early phase of the 1864 Tennessee Campaign (September 28 - October 16) when General John Bell Hood's advancing army was still in Georgia, it does provide insights into Cleburne's thoughts and state of mind, rare as they are for any Civil War period given the scarcity of the Irish Confederate's surviving personal writings.

The November 30, 1864 Battle of Franklin would become synonymous with mass Civil War slaughter in relatively confined spaces and two essays address its character and consequences. Andrew Bledsoe describes how the battle gutted the officer corps of the Army of Tennessee, citing factors like the late afternoon timing of the attack (which forced officers to more conspicuously expose themselves in order to be seen by their own men and to effectively exert command during winter twilight) for the unusually devastating leadership losses. Many Civil War battle histories detail killing on an individual basis, but Jonathan Steplyk shrewdly uses Dave Grossmen's influential study On Killing to further explore the psychology of taking life on the battlefield and examine factors that either facilitate or inhibit killing acts, things like the evolutionary chase instinct, the emotional release of being able to fire at an enemy without greatly exposing oneself, and instinctively choosing to club rather than stab enemies as a more psychologically acceptable compromise measure in the struggle to overcome deeply ingrained cultural prohibitions on killing fellow human beings.

Two writers focus on Union army commander George Thomas at Nashville. Brooks Simpson's chapter emphasizes poor communication (between Thomas and Grant, as well as middleman Halleck) as one of the root causes of the rocky relationship between Grant and Thomas, with the inherent limitations and pitfalls of the technology of the period accorded its own fair share of the blame. Paul Schmelzer compares the generalship of Grant and Thomas using the dictums of eminent war theorist Carl von Clausewitz. Taking a dogmatic approach to Clausewitz's definition of military "genius" and his fierce focus on campaign strategy's subservience to political policy and aims, Schmelzer inevitably finds that Grant shines and Thomas fades. It's too bad no essay in the anthology specifically addresses Hood's generalship during the campaign, especially given the volume of negative Hood mythology that persists in the face of evidence to the contrary. A large body of Hood papers has also been recently rediscovered and published, a circumstance that should spark a fresh reappraisal of the general.

Four essays in the volume are battle treatments. Stewart Bennett's full account of the small but bloody Battle of Allatoona Pass is excellent, the fight itself serving as a microcosm of the Army of Tennessee's oft repeated Civil War experience of a hard-punching rank and file that could not overcome poor planning and coordination on their own side and, on the other, rugged terrain defended by an equally tenacious opponent. John Lundberg's Spring Hill essay eschews the common tendency to assign inordinate blame to any one individual, instead finding plenty of it to spread around to the likes of army commander Hood and subordinates Frank Cheatham, John Brown, and Nathan Bedford Forrest. Perhaps more controversially, and frankly less persuasively, Lundberg does not believe that even a best case scenario resulting in the destruction of Schofield at Spring Hill would have greatly altered the final result of the campaign. D.L. Turner and Scott Stabler write about the diversionary attack by two USCT brigades manning the Union left at Nashville, the importance of which stems not from the meager tactical results but rather the broad change in perception of the fighting abilities of black troops that the action prompted. Another Nashville contribution was authored by Steven Woodworth, who describes in the book the assaults conducted by A.J. Smith's corps of three divisions of Army of the Tennessee veterans. Woodworth perceptively traces much of their effectiveness to confident veteran status gained through a history of western victories that were achieved without the accompaniment of the crippling casualties so commonly suffered by brother formations. The essay also notes the command's unusually high level of offensive field artillery coordination and effectiveness at Nashville as another key to success.

The Tennessee Campaign was also hard on civilians and John Gaines's chapter looks at the urban civilian experiences of the Franklin and Nashville battles. While property destruction and the local struggle to deal with overwhelming numbers of battle wounded and dead are appropriately placed front and center, Gaines also reminds us that many civilians gained financially from the sudden presence of the armies, trading goods with the soldiers at windfall prices. Charles Grear examines how Texas civilians and soldiers reacted to the campaign, which began with a brief upswing in morale but ended with disillusionment and desertion after twin defeats at Franklin and Nashville. But military defeat was not the sole factor involved in Texans dropping out of the war in sharply increased numbers during the winter of 1864-65. Grear also cites gross inequities in furlough awards (to the special detriment of Trans-Mississippi soldiers) as a major source of dissatisfaction among Texans.

The final two chapters, from Tim Smith and Jennifer Murray, examine battlefield preservation at Franklin and Nashville, two sites with national park potential that did not benefit from the so-called "golden era" of 1890s government interest and funding efforts. The authors examine the long history at both places of modest incremental preservation and lost opportunity. Smith and Murray properly credit local groups as instrumental forces in saving and/or rehabilitating limited parcels of hallowed ground.

The Tennessee Campaign of 1864 is another fine addition to the Civil War Campaigns of the Heartland series, with material even the most diehard students of the campaign can freshly appreciate. With twelve more titles in the planning stages, one earnestly hopes that the positive momentum will continue.

More CWBA reviews of SIUP titles:
* Engineering Victory: The Union Siege of Vicksburg
* The Vicksburg Campaign, March 29-May 18, 1863
* Grant at Vicksburg: The General and the Siege
* The Prairie Boys Go to War: The Fifth Illinois Cavalry, 1861-1865
* The Chattanooga Campaign
* Mending Broken Soldiers: The Union and Confederate Programs to Supply Artificial Limbs
* An Illustrated Guide to Virginia's Confederate Monuments
* The Notorious "Bull" Nelson: Murdered Civil War General
* The Chickamauga Campaign
* Chicago's Irish Legion: The 90th Illinois Volunteers in the Civil War
* The Shiloh Campaign

Monday, April 4, 2016

Booknotes: The Complete Civil War Road Trip Guide, 2nd Ed.

New Arrival:
The Complete Civil War Road Trip Guide: More than 500 Sites from Gettysburg to Vicksburg - Second Edition by Michael Weeks (Countryman Pr, 2016).

The first edition of The Complete Civil War Road Trip Guide was published in 2009. The new 2016 Second Edition "contains information on and reviews of almost 450 historical sites across the United States related to the Civil War, including all 384 of the principal battlefields listed by the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission. Every entry includes an in-depth overview of the history of the battle and its importance to the war, the must-see places at each site, as well as lodging and other travel information." The subtitle sells the book a bit short as many Civil War sites located in the Trans-Mississippi and Far West theaters, among other places, are also covered. The book sort of reminds me of a modernized and much better version of Cromie's classic continent-wide Civil War travel companion. For those doing more than just passing through, Weeks also includes in the book ten suggested multi-day trip schedules.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Another field guide from Reardon & Vossler

I wasn't in the market for yet another Gettysburg guidebook when I read Carol Reardon and Tom Vossler's A Field Guide to Gettysburg: Experiencing the Battlefield through Its History, Places, and People (2013) but I love these kinds of things and ended up being quite impressed with the resulting text, guide structure, and range of visual aids.

At the time, I didn't know if the above volume represented the beginning of a true series to rival those from other presses but the smart betting money is always placed on Antietam for any Gettysburg follow up. That is certainly the case here with A Field Guide to Antietam: Experiencing the Battlefield Through Its History, Places, and People (Summer 2016).

From the description, it will employ the methods used with such fine success before.
"Abundantly illustrated with maps and historical and modern photographs, A Field Guide to Antietam explores twenty-one sites on and near the battlefield where significant action occurred. Combining crisp narrative and rich historical context, each stop in the book is structured around the following questions:

What happened here?
Who fought here?
Who commanded here?
Who fell here?
Who lived here?
How did participants remember the events?

With accessible presentation and fresh interpretations of primary and secondary evidence, this is an absolutely essential guide to Antietam and its lasting legacy."

Friday, April 1, 2016

Booknotes: The Civil War Years in Utah

New Arrival:
The Civil War Years in Utah: The Kingdom of God and the Territory That Did Not Fight by John Gary Maxwell (Univ of Okla Pr, 2016).

Billed as the full treatment of the subject, Maxwell's book is also a revisionist history of Mormon Utah society's participation, or lack thereof, in the Civil War and its post-war claims of pro-Union loyalties. In his study, Maxwell "contradicts the patriotic mythology of Mormon leaders’ version of this dark chapter in Utah history."
"While the Civil War spread death, tragedy, and sorrow across the continent, Utah Territory remained virtually untouched. Although the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—and its faithful—proudly praise the service of an 1862 Mormon cavalry company during the Civil War, Maxwell’s research exposes the relatively inconsequential contribution of these Nauvoo Legion soldiers. Active for a mere ninety days, they patrolled overland trails and telegraph lines.

Furthermore, Maxwell finds indisputable evidence of Southern allegiance among Mormon leaders, despite their claim of staunch, long-standing loyalty to the Union. Men at the highest levels of Mormon hierarchy were in close personal contact with Confederate operatives. In seeking sovereignty, Maxwell contends, the Saints engaged in blatant and treasonous conflict with Union authorities, the California and Nevada Volunteers, and federal policies, repeatedly skirting open warfare with the U.S. government."
I have no idea if Maxwell's thesis is part of a scholarly consensus (if there is one) at this point, but the book definitely sounds provocatively intriguing.