Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Booknotes: Fighting for Atlanta

New Arrival:
Fighting for Atlanta: Tactics, Terrain, and Trenches in the Civil War by Earl J. Hess
  (UNC Press, 2018).

When Earl Hess completed his highly-regarded eastern theater fortifications trilogy [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)], I'm sure many readers were like me in hoping that the author would do a similar treatment for the western theater. While, among other things, I think Hess could have put together a very interesting volume covering the development of river fortifications over the first half of the war in the West, it's hard to blame him too much for skipping all the way forward to the 1864 Atlanta Campaign, which from beginning to end involved vast, sophisticated field fortifications.

Indeed, Fighting for Atlanta: Tactics, Terrain, and Trenches in the Civil War takes a close look at eighteen distinct lines of Confederate defensive earthworks, from Rock Face Ridge in early May 1864 through Palmetto Station in late September. Union offensive and defensive earthworks are also discussed. I am less than fifty pages in at the moment, but it's readily apparent already that the book's topical range and overall style and presentation share a great deal in common with the earlier trilogy (particularly the Overland and Petersburg volumes).

In the book, "(l)eading military historian Earl J. Hess 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."


  1. Can't wait to read about Shoupades.

    1. It doesn't look like they actually get much in the way of standalone attention, no series of drawings or even their own index entry.

    2. Well, that seems a little odd since they were the foundation of Johnston's line at the Chattahoochee. Maybe the author took into account the fact that they ultimately didn't factor in the fighting.

    3. Could be. I'm still a long way from that part of the book.


Please SIGN YOUR NAME. Otherwise, your comment submission may be rejected, at my discretion. Also, outside promotions are not allowed in the comments section.