Friday, March 16, 2018

Book News: Fighting for Atlanta

Those that appreciated Earl Hess's three-volume study of eastern theater field fortifications [Field Armies and Fortifications in the Civil War: The Eastern Campaigns, 1861-1864 (2005), Trench Warfare under Grant and Lee: Field Fortifications in the Overland Campaign (2007), and In the Trenches at Petersburg: Field Fortifications and Confederate Defeat (2009)] will be delighted to find that he and publisher UNC Press are taking the same general theme out west to the 1864 Atlanta Campaign, where Hess has devoted a great deal of his work of late.

"As William T. Sherman's Union troops began their campaign for Atlanta in the spring of 1864, they encountered Confederate forces employing field fortifications located to take advantage of rugged terrain. While the Confederates consistently acted on the defensive, digging eighteen lines of earthworks from May to September, the Federals used fieldworks both defensively and offensively. With 160,000 troops engaged on both sides and hundreds of miles of trenches dug, fortifications became a defining factor in the Atlanta campaign battles. These engagements took place on topography ranging from Appalachian foothills to the clay fields of Georgia's piedmont."

Fighting for Atlanta: Tactics, Terrain, and Trenches in the Civil War (October 2018) "examines how commanders adapted their operations to the physical environment, how the environment in turn affected their movements, and how Civil War armies altered the terrain through the science of field fortification. He also illuminates the impact of fighting and living in ditches for four months on the everyday lives of both Union and Confederate soldiers. The Atlanta campaign represents one of the best examples of a prolonged Union invasion deep into southern territory, and, as Hess reveals, it marked another important transition in the conduct of war from open field battles to fighting from improvised field fortifications."

This is one more thing to look forward to in the fall.


  1. Drew: This author's publishing "fecundity" continues to boggle the mind. And, as with his prolific peers Smith, Wittenberg, and Powell, I have yet to regret a purchase. The one concern with Hess is maps. The spartan style lends itself to campaign maps and trench diagrams but not so much to tactical analysis where terrain features and elevation are often critical.

    1. Hi John,
      I'm expecting the same minimalist style that we saw in the earlier trilogy. I agree with your lament re: the carry over to his battle studies, where we expect more than rough utilitarian sketches.


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