Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Review of Collins - "THE ARMY OF TENNESSEE: Organization, Strength, Casualties, 1862-1865"

[The Army of Tennessee: Organization, Strength, Casualties, 1862-1865 by Darrell L. Collins (McFarland 800-253-2187, 2017). 81/2x11 softcover, notes, bibliography, dual index. 272 pp. ISBN:978-1-4766-6821-5. $49.95]

Darrell Collins's The Army of the Potomac: Order of Battle, 1861-1865, with Commanders, Strengths, Losses and More was published in 2013. While limited in scope and source material consulted, it remains worthy of recommendation. Though still based overwhelmingly on numbers and other information gleaned from the O.R., the author's followup volume The Army of Northern Virginia: Organization, Strength, Casualties 1861-1865 was a vast improvement in terms of organization and content. Now, Collins heads out to the western theater with his latest addition to the series The Army of Tennessee: Organization, Strength, Casualties, 1862-1865, which carries on the pattern of notable improvements first seen with the ANV volume. As with the ANV book, The Army of Tennessee is divided into three main sections—I. Organization Reports, II. Present for Duty Reports, and III. Casualty Reports—with various subsections.

Officially formed on November 20, 1862 after the unsuccessful conclusion of the Kentucky Campaign, the Army of Tennessee was the Confederacy's chief field army in the western theater and the successor organization to the ill-starred Army of Mississippi/Army of the Mississippi. Because the new army was composed of various sub-elements that came and went throughout 1862, the author understandably chose to begin his organizational history back in early 1862, dealing first with those foundation pieces that would later serve as the Army of Tennessee's core units.

Beginning on January 31, 1862 and concluding on April 9, 1865, Section I provides army orders of battle in the traditional descending level format (army► corps► division► brigade► regiment/battalion► artillery battery). These full OBs are provided at intervals ranging from weeks to months. Part I gives a further nod to researchers by offering 'commander timelines' for each of the unit types mentioned above. Using these subsections, readers can readily discover who was in command of any given unit at any given time.

The first part of Section II consists of 1862-1865 army present-for-duty (PFD) numbers arranged in eight columns [headings for unit name, effective officers, effective men, effective total, total present, present and absent, % present, and guns]. These are generally presented at brigade level and higher, although regimental PFD figures are seen with some frequency as are gun compositions for the artillery batteries. This is followed by another series of tables for army, corps, and division strength data (also presented in eight columns) for a long list of specific dates.

Section III tabulates casualty reports (against mostly at a higher organization level) in seven columns [headings for unit name, number present, KIA, WIA, MIA, total, and casualty %] beginning at Fort Donelson and ending with the Battle of Bentonville. As is the case in many other sections of the book, the amount of data and information available varies widely for different dates and from battle to battle. The volume concludes with separate indexes for unit and commander names.

In creating The Army of Tennessee, author Darrell Collins has again effectively mined the Official Records for reference data related to a major Civil War army and helpfully arranged this great mass of information into easily accessible tables. Wary readers will recognize the limitations of the available information (there are many gaps) as well as the pitfalls of relying solely on the O.R. as a source, but this army reference guide will serve as a valuable research starting point.

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