Thursday, October 18, 2018

Booknotes: Upon the Fields of Battle

New Arrival:
Upon the Fields of Battle: Essays on the Military History of America's Civil War edited by Andrew S. Bledsoe & Andrew F. Lang (LSU Press, 2018).

At least in the academic world, the intellectual utility of studying the most foundational elements of Civil War military history and science (i.e. soldiers, generals, battles, strategy, tactics, logistics, etc.) remains an oddly contentious matter, even in the face of the triumph of so-called New Military History's explosive expansion of perspectives and avenues of inquiry over the past few decades. At this point, the figurative walls separating military history from other sub-areas of Civil War study have crumbled to such a degree that it might be more effort-saving to ask what isn't military history rather than what it is or should be. 

Even with the huge existing, and still emerging, body of innovative scholarship connecting military and home fronts, editors Andrew Bledsoe and Andrew Lang argue in Upon the Fields of Battle: Essays on the Military History of America's Civil War that "research focusing on military history (still) prompts prominent and recurring debates among Civil War historians. Critics of traditional military history see it as old-fashioned, too technical, or irrelevant to the most important aspects of the war. Proponents of this area of study view these criticisms as a misreading of its nature and potential to illuminate the war. The collected essays in Upon the Fields of Battle bridge this intellectual divide, demonstrating how historians enrich Civil War studies by approaching the period through the specific but nonetheless expansive lens of military history."

Earlier in the year, I posted the full table of contents (see it here). In bringing together contributors with highly diverse interests and viewpoints, Bledsoe and Lang "present an innovative volume that deeply integrates and analyzes the ideas and practices of the military during the Civil War. Furthermore, by grounding this collection in both traditional and pioneering methodologies, the authors assess the impact of this field within the social, political, and cultural contexts of Civil War studies."

Upon the Fields of Battle "reconceives traditional approaches to subjects like battles and battlefields, practice and policy, command and culture, the environment, the home front, civilians and combatants, atrocity and memory, revealing a more balanced understanding of the military aspects of the Civil War’s evolving history."

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