Sunday, February 25, 2018

Holding the Line on the River of Death

Everyone who spends time reading about Civil War mounted operations knows that Eric Wittenberg's favorite Union cavalry general is John Buford, and he's done a pretty good job of justifying it over the years (he puts it all together here). That said, Eric has often favorably compared the Union cavalry's delaying actions and tactics at Chickamauga to Buford's at Gettysburg on July 1. Now he has a book in the works about the notable exploits of the Union cavalry at a key point in the Chickamauga fight, to be titled Holding the Line on the River of Death: Union Mounted Forces at Chickamauga, September 18, 1863 (Savas Beatie).

The book "focuses on the two important delaying actions conducted by mounted Union soldiers at Reed’s and Alexander’s bridges on the first day of Chickamauga. A cavalry brigade under Col. Robert H. G. Minty and Col. John T. Wilder’s legendary “Lightning Brigade” of mounted infantry made stout stands at a pair of chokepoints crossing Chickamauga Creek. Minty’s small cavalry brigade held off nearly ten times its number on September 18 by designing and implementing a textbook example of a delaying action. Their dramatic and outstanding efforts threw Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg’s entire battle plan off its timetable by delaying his army’s advance for an entire day. That delay cost Bragg’s army the initiative at Chickamauga." It will also have Mark Moore maps (which is great, as he is one of the best cartographers around) and a touring section.

Earlier in the year, I mentioned Dennis Belcher's The Union Cavalry and the Chickamauga Campaign . With Belcher aiming at a broad treatment and Wittenberg drilling down to those cavalry actions that occurred on a single day of particular moment, it looks like both volumes might complement each other nicely. Apparently, Wittenberg has even penned the foreword to Belcher's book. With the general slipperiness of initial publication dates attached to SB's more down-the-line titles (they have a lot of irons in the fire at any given moment, and I don't recall this one even being mentioned in the 'under contract' section of their newsletter yet), I would hesitate to even guess when Holding the Line will actually be released.


  1. Drew: Good point about release dates for these titles. It's not just SB, of course. I'm still trying to figure out when Spruill's 2BR Decisions book will actually be available. As for this book, I think we can safely assume that whenever it's released, it will be worth getting.

  2. Dennis cleared his book with me before he began to write it. I've read his manuscript, and I did, in fact, write the foreword for his book. I don't view them as competition for each other, and I do believe that they are indeed complementary to each other.

    As for release dates: Savas-Beatie has had this manuscript for about 18 months now. It's definitely not a Johnny-come-lately; it has been impatiently waiting its turn in the production queue. While it's true that Ted hasn't yet gotten around to getting me a contract for it, at the same time, I have no reason to believe that it will not be out in time for the anniversary of the battle, which is what Ted has told me will be the case.


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