Saturday, April 15, 2017

Booknotes: Theater of a Separate War

New Arrival:
Theater of a Separate War: The Civil War West of the Mississippi River, 1861-1865
by Thomas W. Cutrer (UNC Press, 2017).

Even though I am not very familiar with Cutrer's entire body of work (I would guess that he's best known in Civil War circles for his Ben McCulloch biography), this was a highly anticipated title for me. "In this comprehensive military history of the war west of the Mississippi River, Thomas W. Cutrer shows that the theater's distance from events in the East does not diminish its importance to the unfolding of the larger struggle." No one has attempted this kind of project before. "Theater of a Separate War details the battles between North and South in these far-flung regions, assessing the complex political and military strategies on both sides. While providing the definitive history of the rise and fall of the South's armies in the far West, Cutrer shows, even if the region's influence on the Confederacy's cause waned, its role persisted well beyond the fall of Richmond and Lee's surrender to Grant."

I was asked for my thoughts on the severe rating given the book at the link above. One of my unwritten rules is to not read serious comments on books I plan on reviewing myself until after I've posted my own review on the site, but the unexpected savaging meted out to Theater had me curious enough to make an exception. It should be mentioned to those unfamiliar with the writer [unlike many online reviewers, he uses his real name so you can easily find it yourself] that he and his regular writing partner have published a number of excellent articles on the Civil War in the T-M theater together, so he's no crank. It's unclear from the long list of sins of omission and commission how much of the book he's actually read outside his own area of expertise, but the global 1/5 star rating seems unduly dismissive. The partial review raises legitimately troubling concerns, but I still plan on reading the thing and judging for myself its overall merits.


  1. I clicked on the link to the profile of the one star giver on Amazon. He has a total of five reviews to his name(4/15/2017). Four books and the 90300 Tanda Pearl Ionic Teeth Whitening System. He gave everything a one star. Hard to please I guess.

    1. Yes, he may not be a crank, but he sure is cranky.

  2. I leafed through it at my local Barnes and Noble and put it back on the shelf. Unless I missed it, very limited maps, and no battle maps - even at a large scale. I didn't see anything that would point to any new information to me, so I moved on and purchased a book on the WW2 fighter pilot experience....


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