Monday, February 19, 2018

Booknotes: Wilson's Raid

New Arrival:
Wilson's Raid: The Final Blow to the Confederacy by Russell W. Blount, Jr. (Arcadia Pub & The Hist Pr, 2018).

It's good to see THP (now an imprint of Arcadia Publishing) once more releasing Civil War titles with some regularity. During the first half of the 2010s they published a boatload of titles under their Civil War and Civil War Sesquicentennial series, and there's been a bit of a lull (perhaps an inevitable one) over the past couple years. It seems like they caught their breath again. Four titles have arrived since the beginning of this month, the second being Russell Blount's new study of Wilson's Raid.

From the description of Wilson's Raid: The Final Blow to the Confederacy: "In the closing months of the Civil War, General James Wilson led a Union cavalry raid through Alabama and parts of Georgia. Wilson, the young, brash "boy general" of the Union, matched wits against Nathan Bedford Forrest, the South's legendary "wizard of the saddle." Wilson's Raiders swept through cities like Selma, Tuscaloosa and Montgomery, destroying the last remaining industrial production centers of the Confederacy along with any hopes of its survival. Forrest and his desperately outnumbered cavalry had no option but to try to stop the Union's advance."

The book recounts the massive 1865 federal cavalry raid through the Deep South from beginning to end (including Croxton's side operation). It covers Wilson's victory at Selma, the occupation of the city, the capture of Montgomery, the continuation of the raid from Alabama into Georgia, and the final Union victory at Columbus. In order to "place the reader in the context of the times" the main narrative is written in the present tense, which some readers may find off-putting. Apparently this presentation style is consistent with Blount's other books. The war's big raids remain popular topics and have generally received excellent coverage in book format, so it's a bit surprising that more books on Wilson's Raid haven't appeared during the more than four decades that have elapsed since the publication of James Pickett Jones's Yankee Blitzkrieg


  1. I do not like the "first person" narrative, do you?

    1. I'm with you on that matter. History isn't in the present tense.

    2. No, I don't. Any claim that it adds some kind of 'you are there' quality falls flat with me.

    3. Probably an acquired taste. I didn't have a problem with it in Castel's Atlanta Campaign study but I certainly understand the objection.

    4. I'm sure the execution has something to do with how it's received. I wasn't bothered by Castel either. In my opinion, the practice just doesn't have anything positive to recommend it.

  2. Some years ago I read Yankee Blitzkrieg: Wilson's Raid Through Alabama and Georgia by James Pickett Jones. It was thorough and interesting.


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