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Friday, November 24, 2017

Booknotes: The Battles and Campaigns of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, 1861-1865

New Arrival:
The Battles and Campaigns of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, 1861-1865 by John R. Scales (Savas Beatie, 2017).

General Scales first came to my attention with Sherman Invades Georgia (Naval Inst, 2006), a unique examination of high command decision making during the 1864 campaign in northern Georgia. His new book The Battles and Campaigns of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, 1861-1865 was originally intended for publication in two volumes, but it was ultimately decided that one was sufficient. As its title suggests, the book is a study of Forrest's remarkable military career and "how his actions affected the war" in the western theater from beginning to end.

From the description: "Each chapter covers specific raids or campaigns, all arranged chronologically. After describing the environment within which Forrest operated, which helps readers understand the larger situation within which his movements were made and his battles were fought, Gen. Scales narrates the decisions Forrest and his opponents made and the actions they took." In this age of Civil War publishing when readers increasingly count themselves lucky to get a handful of decent maps, this volume contains an astounding 109 original theater, battlefield, and tour maps from cartographer Hal Jesperson. I guess you might say the book doubles as a Forrest atlas.

Speaking of tours, "Scales’ study is also a meticulous guide to Forrest’s campaigns. For example, each action is augmented with detailed driving directions to allow readers to examine his battlefields and the routes his cavalry took during its famous raids." "A detailed review and assessment of each raid or campaign follows the description of the actions and the associated driving instructions. Throughout, General Scales relies upon his own extensive military background to help evaluate and explain how and why Forrest grew in command ability and potential as a result of his experiences—or didn’t."

The book also addresses two of the most commonly asked questions regarding Forrest's military career: "Exactly what impact did Forrest’s dazzling raids and victories have upon the overall course of the war?" and "Had Forrest been given a higher command and/or greater opportunities, what would have been the potential outcome as regards the fate of the Confederacy?"

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