Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Booknotes: The Great Battle Never Fought

New Arrival:
The Great Battle Never Fought: The Mine Run Campaign, November 26 – December 2, 1863 by Chris Mackowski (Savas Beatie, 2018).

Though Jeff Hunt's planned trilogy bridging the gap between the Gettysburg and Overland campaigns will eventually cover it, the Mine Run Campaign portion of that period hasn't received a major standalone study since Graham & Skoch's 1987 treatment for the H.E. Howard series [Mine Run: A Campaign of Lost Opportunities, October 21, 1863-May 1, 1864]. Mine Run has received recent atlas coverage from Bradley Gottfried, and with Chris Mackowski's new book The Great Battle Never Fought the Emerging Civil War series of handy overviews has now addressed both of the autumn 1863 Meade vs. Lee campaigns in Virginia.

Widespread gratefulness and appreciation for the great victory at Gettysburg was quickly replaced by harsh criticism of Meade's generalship over the ensuing months when he proved unable to force Lee into a decisive battle on the enemy's home ground. From the description: "Smaller victories, like those at Bristoe Station and Rappahannock Station, did little to quell the growing clamor—particularly because out west, in Chattanooga, another Union general, Ulysses S. Grant, was once again reversing Federal misfortunes. Meade needed a comparable victory in the east. And so, on Thanksgiving Day, 1863, the Army of the Potomac rumbled into motion once more, intent on trying again to bring about the great battle that would end the war. The Great Battle Never Fought: The Mine Run Campaign, November 26-December 2 1863 recounts the final chapter of the forgotten fall of 1863—when George Gordon Meade made one final attempt to save the Union and, in doing so, save himself."

The volume exhibits the typical presentation of the series, with a profusion of maps, photographs, and period artwork illustrations. Publisher Ted Savas's afterword explores his role in rediscovering and preserving the Payne's Farm battlefield, the fighting on that ground being a major focus of Mackowski's narrative. There is a detailed 10-stop driving tour, which also incorporates the 11-stop Payne's Farm walking trail. In addition to that there are two appendices. The first traces the origins of the Culpeper National Cemetery and the second looks at the high command reorganization of the Army of the Potomac that took place prior to the beginning of the 1864 campaign season.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting this, Drew. It was fun to dust off the Payne's Farm days and recall that period of finding the field. Chris did a great job with the book. Keep up the good work.

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