Thursday, November 30, 2017

Booknotes: Phantoms of the South Fork

New Arrival:
Phantoms of the South Fork: Captain McNeill and His Rangers by Steve French
(Kent St Univ Pr, 2017).

From the description: "In September 1862, John Hanson McNeill recruited a company of troopers for Col. John D. Imboden’s 1st Virginia Partisan Rangers. In early 1863, Imboden took most of his men into the regular army, but McNeill and his son Jesse offered their men an opportunity to continue in independent service; seventeen soldiers joined them. In the coming months, other young hotspurs enlisted in McNeill’s Rangers. Operating mostly in the Potomac Highlands of what is now eastern West Virginia, the Rangers bedeviled the Union troops guarding the B&O Railroad line. Favoring American Indian battle tactics, they ambushed patrols, attacked wagon trains, and heavily damaged railroad property and rolling stock."

McNeill's Rangers are easily most famous for their daring February 1865 nighttime raid on Cumberland, Maryland that resulted in the capture of Union generals George Crook and Benjamin Kelley. As far as I know, Steve French's Phantoms of the South Fork: Captain McNeill and His Rangers is the first real book-length study of the irregular unit's exploits to appear since Roger Delauter's slim H.E. Howard series volume published back in 1986. "Phantoms of the South Fork is the thrilling result of Steve French’s carefully researched study of primary source material, including diaries, memoirs, letters, and period newspaper articles."

This is the fourth volume in Kent State's Civil War Soldiers and Strategies series edited by Brian Steel Wills. I have been very impressed with the record of the series so far, and all of the previous three titles have been favorably reviewed on the site (Richmond Must Fall, Work for Giants, and "My Greatest Quarrel with Fortune").

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