Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Booknotes: Confederate Waterloo

New Arrival:
Confederate Waterloo: The Battle of Five Forks, April 1, 1865, and the Controversy that Brought Down a General by Michael J. McCarthy (Savas Beatie, 2017).

The professional disgrace of two well-known Union major generals from the Army of the Potomac still generates a great deal of interest today. The circumstances were different (Fitz John Porter was court-martialed and dismissed from the army while Gouverneur Warren was relieved in the heat of battle), but both men were engaged in long battles to restore their reputations and history has generally judged them to have been wronged. It seems like there have been more Warren-Five Forks studies published than the reality shows. McCarthy's Confederate Waterloo lays claim to being "the first fully researched and unbiased book-length account of this decisive Union victory and the aftermath fought in the courts and at the bar of public opinion." There's also a Warren bio in the works from the same press.

A good case could be made that SB has become the preeminent outlet for Gettysburg and Petersburg Campaign military studies. McCarthy's treatment of Five Forks (with its detailed battle history and fine maps) has all the appearances of living up to this reputation.

The other half of the book explores the Warren controversy at great length. While Five Forks was an overwhelming Union victory that hastened the end of the war, it "spawned one of the most bitter and divisive controversies in the postwar army when Sheridan relieved Fifth Corps commander Gouverneur K. Warren for perceived failures connected to the battle. The order generated a life-long effort by Warren and his allies to restore his reputation by demonstrating that Sheridan’s action was both unfair and dishonorable. The struggle climaxed with a Court of Inquiry that generated a more extensive record of testimony and exhibits than any other U.S. military judicial case in the 19th Century." The book's discussion of the case "may cause students of the Civil War to reassess their views about some of the Union’s leading generals."

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this plug/mini-review, Drew.

    The book is 2/3rds sold out of its first printing, which frankly surprised us. We thought it would do well, but not as well as it is doing so quickly. It is a selection of the History Book Club, which sold out of its order in just two weeks and is seeking more. The author's tour has not even begun.



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