Thursday, June 8, 2017

Five books on the 1862 Peninsula Campaign

1. Army of the Potomac: McClellan's First Campaign, March - May 1862 by Russel H. Beatie (2007).
I usually reserve the first spot for some kind of overview, but existing ones from Sears (1992) and Cullen (1973) never really set the bar very high from the start [I've also had a lengthy, self-published study from a fellow named Rudolph Schroeder on my hard drive since 2009 but never really looked at it]. Instead, I decided to go with Beatie Vol. 3's engrossing (and uniquely, if idiosyncratically, expansive) Union high command analysis of the early stages of the campaign through the Battle of Williamsburg.
2. The Battle of Seven Pines, May 31-June 1, 1862 by Steven Newton (1993).
The modern Peninsula literature is very strange in that worthwhile book length accounts exist for some of the smaller battles [among them Williamsburg in A Pitiless Rain (1997) and The Battle of Hanover Court House (2006)] and even mere skirmishes [with The 4th Michigan Infantry At The Battle Of New Bridge, Virginia (2007)], but studies of the major battles have largely escaped the interests and attention of talented military historians [some attempts have been ghastly failures, but Douglas Crenshaw's slim study of Glendale is an exception]. Part of the Virginia Civil War Battles and Leaders series from H.E. Howard, Newton's The Battle of Seven Pines (1993) is not a model study of a Civil War battle by any means, but I wanted to include a standalone account of the fighting at Fair Oaks and Seven Pines and it's the best available.
3. Extraordinary Circumstances: The Seven Days Battles by Brian K. Burton (2001).
Blowing away all previous attempts, Burton's book is not only the finest overall account of the crucial Seven Days 'campaign within a campaign,' but it also contains the literature's richest treatments for each battle fought during the week-long series of events, from Oak Grove through Malvern Hill.
4. The Richmond Campaign of 1862: The Peninsula and the Seven Days edited by Gary W. Gallagher (2000).
Part of the classic Military Campaigns of the Civil War series, this collection of nine essays largely focuses on battles and leaders, with two chapters also exploring the campaign as a key moment in the advent of hard war and the destruction of slavery.
5. The Peninsula Campaign Of 1862: Yorktown To The Seven Days edited by William J. Miller [Volume 1 (1995), Volume 2 (1996), Volume 3 (1997)]
Another collection of scholarly essays, this book trilogy is even more closely devoted to military affairs. Under that umbrella, topical range is rather diverse, to include unit studies, battle accounts, high command commentary, leadership analyses, and diary/journal extracts to go along with examinations of logistics, medical services, and weather.

1 comment:

  1. A good list with which I fully agree. Newton's book has always struck as one that could be both updated and expanded (including changing those God-awful maps). And this, of course, harks back to the recent post and comments regarding O'Reilly and Krick the Younger.


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