Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Book News: The Fight for the Old North State

Back in February when I reviewed James White's New Bern and the Civil War (2018) and noted that it offered the first serious book-length treatment of the 1863-64 Confederate offensives in eastern North Carolina, I had no inkling that Hampton Newsome was finishing up a similar project of his own. It's another example of what I call the 'nothing-then-two-books' pattern that comes up in the Civil War military history literature frequently enough to be noticeable.

While White's slim volume took the broader overview approach, Newsome's study will focus on the 1864 offensives. The Fight for the Old North State: The Civil War in North Carolina, January-May 1864 (Kansas, Feb 2019) recounts "a momentous series of events as the Confederates, threatened by a supply crisis and an emerging peace movement, sought to seize Federal bases in eastern North Carolina. This book tells the story of these operations—the late war Confederate resurgence in the Old North State."

A number of Confederate offensive operations conducted over the first half of the year are covered. These would have varying degrees of success. "Using rail lines to rapidly consolidate their forces, the Confederates would attack the main Federal position at New Bern in February, raid the northeastern counties in March, hit the Union garrisons at Plymouth and Washington in late April, and conclude with another attempt at New Bern in early May. The expeditions would involve joint-service operations, as the Confederates looked to support their attacks with powerful, homegrown ironclad gunboats."

Analysis of events also ranges beyond the battlefield. "Newsome does not neglect the broader context, revealing how these military events related to a contested gubernatorial election; the social transformations in the state brought on by the war; the execution of Union prisoners at Kinston; and the activities of North Carolina Unionists." I can't wait to read it. Fortunately, it will be out relatively soon.

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