Monday, April 16, 2018

Booknotes: Attacked On All Sides

New Arrival:
Attacked On All Sides: The Civil War Battle of Decatur, Georgia, the Untold Story of the Battle of Atlanta by David Allison (CreateSpace-Author, 2018).

The July 22, 1864 Battle of Decatur (not to be confused with the late October 1864 Battle of Decatur, which was really more of a slight demonstration, over in Alabama) was part of the larger Confederate attack that came to be known as the Battle of Atlanta. Sweeping deep into the Union left rear in loose concert with General Hardee's infantry corps off to the west, a large detachment of Wheeler's cavalry was ordered to attack the Army of the Tennessee's wagon train then concentrated at Decatur. Wheeler's dismounted troopers drove the train guards, a brigade of infantry, through the town but failed to capture or destroy the wagons en masse before breaking off the attack. The full story of this action is the subject of David Allison's self-published study Attacked On All Sides: The Civil War Battle of Decatur, Georgia, the Untold Story of the Battle of Atlanta.

The first half of the book recounts at length the lead up to the clash, the fighting in Decatur (with no accompanying battle map...grr), and the aftermath. Lengthy biographical features of three soldiers that participated in the Decatur battle (where two were killed) make up a large part of the volume's second half, with additional discussions of the post-Decatur lives of many others involved in the event. From the description: "Other participants in the Battle of Decatur went on to lead notable post-war lives and to become nationally prominent figures who shaped late 19th century American political, business and military events. Among the Federals, Colonel (later General) John W. Sprague, who commanded the Federal forces during the battle, later helped settle the American northwest as a founder of the city of Tacoma, Washington. Jeremiah Rusk, second in command of one of the Federal regiments in the battle, later became governor of Wisconsin and the first-ever U.S. secretary of agriculture. That regiment’s commanding officer, Milton Montgomery, founded what’s now the oldest law firm in Omaha, Nebraska. Other participants became members of Congress or state politicians. One became a close business associate of the great steel magnate Andrew Carnegie. Among the Confederates, General Joseph Wheeler after the war helped to reconcile the North and South as a member of Congress and played a role in one of the U.S. Army’s first overseas invasions in Cuba. Decatur resident Mary A.H. Gay, who was in the town at the time of the battle, later wrote a book based on what she saw that inspired Margaret Mitchell’s creation of the character Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone With The Wind,” one of the top-selling novels of all time."

There's no bibliography, but a quick browse through the endnotes gives the impression that the study is the product of serious research into a wide array of sources. I haven't read any of it yet but am intrigued enough to put the book in the to-do stack.

1 comment:

  1. This looks interesting. Having lived in the area (broadly speaking) back in the 80s, I've always wanted to know more about this fight.


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