Friday, August 10, 2018

Booknotes: The Last Siege

New Arrival:
The Last Siege: The Mobile Campaign, Alabama 1865 by Paul Brueske
  (Casemate, 2018).

The Last Siege is a study of the Union Army's month-long 1865 land campaign that captured Spanish Fort and Fort Blakely, actions which successfully forced the evacuation of Mobile itself. The closest comparable work, Sean O'Brien's Mobile, 1865: Last Stand of the Confederacy, was published back in 2001. I don't recall much about that one beyond being left wanting more detail.

At less than 200 pages of narrative, Brueske's book is not an exhaustive attempt at addressing the military aspects of a major Civil War campaign, but the research appears quite substantial. The bibliography suggests serious archival research and includes long lists of all source types related to the campaign.

Brueske is certainly correct that the 1865 land operation against Mobile is greatly understudied in comparison to other campaigns of similar size and significance. His attempt at rectifying the situation "explores the events surrounding th(e) siege and capture of Mobile, Alabama. The Union victory at the battle of Mobile Bay in 1864 ended blockade running from the port of Mobile. Uncaptured, the city remained a priority for the Confederates to defend and the Federals to attack. This book gives a new perspective on the strategic importance of Mobile as a logistical center which had access to vital rail lines and two major river systems, essential in moving forces and supplies. Included are the most detailed accounts ever written on Union and Confederate camp life in the weeks prior to the invasion, cavalry operations of both sides during the expedition, the Federal feint movement at Cedar Point, the crippling effect of torpedoes on U.S. naval operations in Mobile Bay, the tread-way escape from Spanish Fort, and the evacuation of Mobile. The entrance of Federals into the city and the reaction of the citizenry are featured. In doing so evidence is presented that contradicts the popular notion that Mobile wholeheartedly welcomed the Federals and was a predominately pro-Union town."

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