Sunday, January 15, 2017

Five books on the Port Hudson Campaign

1. The Port Hudson Campaign, 1862 - 1863 by Edward Cunningham (1963).
Originally published during the Centennial (and reprinted in paperback since), Cunningham's campaign study is fairly dated and light on details but still useful for those readers looking for a quick introduction to the subject.
2. Port Hudson, Confederate Bastion on the Mississippi by Lawrence Lee Hewitt (1988).
Hewitt's book is another slim volume, but it exhibits some of the campaign literature's best scholarship. The author made the decision to not cover the siege aspect at any length, but what it does examine it does so very well. Hewitt's meticulous account of Confederate defensive preparations remains essential, and his descriptions of the naval campaign and the fortress's successful thwarting of Union attempts to carry the lines by storm are fine. If the author had expanded the volume to include the siege operation, the book would likely be regarded as a classic.
3. The Guns of Port Hudson, Volume One: The River Campaign (February - May 1863)
by David C. Edmonds (1983).
The two books by Edmonds comprise the most detailed Port Hudson campaign history yet available. I would normally list the pair together, but they were published separately and remain polar opposites today in terms of ease of acquisition. Both books are long out-of-print, but, for some reason, copies of Volume 1 have always been relatively plentiful and inexpensive to obtain while Volume 2 appears much less frequently on the secondary market and at a markedly higher three-figure price. Volume 1 effectively recounts the U.S. Navy's dangerous passage through the Port Hudson gauntlet of fire, as well as various inland diversionary operations launched by the army in support.
4. The Guns of Port Hudson, Volume Two: The Investment, Siege and Reduction
by David C. Edmonds (1984).
Substantially thicker than the first book and with superior production values, Volume 2 discusses at great length the Union approach march to Port Hudson, the investment of the fortress, the failed assaults, and the seven-week siege that ultimately proved successful. This book is easily the best single source for the land-based phase of the campaign.
5. Blood on the Bayou: Vicksburg, Port Hudson, and the Trans-Mississippi
by Donald S. Frazier (2015) [review].
Connecting events up and down both sides of the Mississippi, Frazier's book presents a wider perspective on 1863 Mississippi River Valley military operations. Emphasis is placed on failed Trans-Mississippi Confederate attempts to relieve the besieged Port Hudson and Vicksburg garrisons.


  1. Sounds like someone needs to write a new book dedicated to Port Hudson!

    1. Many big subjects were never addressed during the Sesquicentennial, though I am pretty satisfied with what we have for PH.

  2. Drew--what big issues do you think needed addressing, but were skipped over?

    1. Just for military topics I am interested in, the two biggest misses were the 1862 Peninsula battles and Department of the South operations on the South Atlantic seaboard. 1864 Red River and Indian Territory battles were also on my wish list. Still no great New Orleans study, either. I am sure I could come up with many more.

      What about you?

  3. I think the Seven Days' Battles especially need deeper study. There are a few more, but I am interested in deep new biographical studies. Beauregard needs a fair military appraisal, and Joe Johnston (hurry up, Richard McMurry) needs a deeper evaluation. At the top of my list is Longstreet, who I still believe is waiting a good in-depth military biography. Wert's is okay, but not as thorough as I would have hoped.

    On the Union side, Sherman studies have all been almost all laudatory, and I think his record is, let's just say, not at all like history portrays. (See my two-part Civil War Times article coming up. :) ) McDowell still awaits his study, but unless his personal papers are found, there will not be one.

    1. I agree that there are huge vistas of opportunity in biography. In one of the current popular mags, Krick laments the absence of a Roswell Ripley biography. He must not have heard through the grapevine yet that one will be published this summer.

  4. Hi Drew
    I agree with you and TPS that there are subjects that need a new look or a first time look. I thought the 1862 Seven Days had some upcoming titles? Gaines Mill - Krick and Malvern Hill - O'Reilly

    Don H.

  5. Hi Don,
    Yes, but the problem is "upcoming" can be next month, a decade from now, or never!

  6. Bobby has been working on Gaines' Mill for something like a decade or more. We have our toes in the water with a fellow who is doing a Seven Days' related book. More on that another time.


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