Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Booknotes: Turning Points of the American Civil War

New Arrival:
Turning Points of the American Civil War edited by Chris Mackowski and Kristopher D. White (SIU Press, 2017).

Much like its close cousins in the 'best general' or 'best regiment' lines of debate, arguing about Civil War turning points is always much more fun than it is useful. This is a general observation on the exercise not a particular jab at Turning Points of the American Civil War, which looks pretty interesting (I wouldn't plan on reading it if it didn't grab me in some way).

The first publication to come out of a new partnership between Emerging Civil War and SIU Press (the Engaging the Civil War series), Turning Points "examine(s) key shifts in the Civil War and the context surrounding them to show that many chains of events caused the course of the war to change: the Federal defeats at First Bull Run and Ball’s Bluff, the wounding of Joseph Johnston at Seven Pines and the Confederate victory at Chancellorsville, the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, the Federal victory at Vicksburg, Grant’s decision to move on to Richmond rather than retreat from the Wilderness, the naming of John B. Hood as commander of the Army of Tennessee, and the 1864 presidential election. In their conclusion, the editors suggest that the assassination of Abraham Lincoln might have been the war’s final turning point." This makes a  total of nine turning points offered for our consideration in the book, and each is preceded by a lengthy introduction written by the editors.

If ECW's furious publishing pace elsewhere is any indication of what they have planned for this series, there will be many more to follow. They do already have a second volume in the works, Donald Pfanz's Where Valor Proudly Sleeps: A History of Fredericksburg National Cemetery, 1866–1933 (Spring 2018).

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