Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Booknotes: The Chickamauga Campaign - Barren Victory

New Arrival:
The Chickamauga Campaign - Barren Victory: The Retreat into Chattanooga, the Confederate Pursuit, and the Aftermath of the Battle, September 21 to October 20, 1863 by David A. Powell (Savas Beatie, 2016).

"Magisterial" is an greatly overrused descriptor in book marketing, but it would be difficult to argue against the appropriateness of applying the term to David Powell's Chickamauga Campaign trilogy, which just finished up with the publication of Barren Victory. The final volume picks up where Glory or the Grave ended, on the night of September 20th, with one wing of the Union army having fled the battlefield earlier in the day and another having just completed a heroic defensive stand around Snodgrass Hill. In addition to describing the remaining fighting in intricate detail, Powell will undoubtedly tackle the most enduring controversies of the great battle's aftermath (ex. what was Rosecrans's state of mind after his defeat and what could/should Bragg have done to follow up his victory) with his typical fresh thinking. "In addition to carefully examining the decisions made by each army commander and their consequences, Powell sets forth the dreadful costs of the fighting in terms of the human suffering involved."

The narrative portion of the book runs 134 pages, making it the shortest by far of the trilogy's entries, but there are numerous lengthy appendices. The first, comprised of Union and Confederate orders of battle with annotated numbers and casualty analyses for both sides, is alone worth the price of the book. Others include a standalone treatment (with Steven Wright) of a September 21 cavalry clash between Wheeler and a Union brigade of Kentucky cavalry, another look at the controversial Rosecrans/Garfield/Dana relationship, and the October 22 strength return for Polk's Corps. The trilogy's bibliography also appears here in the final volume. Among other impressive attributes, it has perhaps the largest collection of cited manuscript sources that I've ever seen for a single project, which isn't too surprising given the scale involved and the research reputation of the author.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for noting this title, Drew. It was a long slog, but Dave was up to the task. His trilogy will stand for a long, long time.


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