Friday, March 29, 2019

Booknotes: The Last Battleground

New Arrival:
The Last Battleground: The Civil War Comes to North Carolina by Philip Gerard
  (UNC Press, 2019).

During the Sesquicentennial, the Civil War stories of fifty individuals of varying backgrounds were published on a monthly basis in the magazine Our State: Celebrating North Carolina. Their author, UNC-Wilmington creative writing professor Philip Gerard, has now anthologized the articles in book form under the title The Last Battleground: The Civil War Comes to North Carolina.

"Distilled" from the original collection, the forty-three chapters comprising The Last Battleground are not narrative biography composed in the traditional format. What the reader will immediately notice is the present tense writing, "reporting the war as if it were happening in the present rather than with settled hindsight--to capture the dreadful suspense of lives caught up in a conflict whose ending had not yet been written."

Another goal of the project was to present the ground-level picture of Civil War North Carolina using the broadest sweep of actors possible. "To understand the long march of events in North Carolina from secession to surrender is to understand the entire Civil War--a personal war waged by Confederates and Unionists, free blacks and the enslaved, farm women and plantation belles, Cherokees and mountaineers, conscripts and volunteers, gentleman officers and poor privates. In the state's complex loyalties, its sprawling and diverse geography, and its dual role as a home front and a battlefield, North Carolina embodies the essence of the whole epic struggle in all its terrible glory."

More: "As Gerard reveals, whatever the grand political causes for war, whatever great battles decided its outcome, and however abstract it might seem to readers a century and a half later, the war was always personal."

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Booknotes: The Seventh West Virginia Infantry

New Arrival:
The Seventh West Virginia Infantry: An Embattled Union Regiment from the Civil War's Most Divided State by David W. Mellott and Mark A. Snell (UP of Kansas, 2019).

"Though calling itself “The Bloody Seventh” after only a few minor skirmishes, the Seventh West Virginia Infantry earned its nickname many times over during the course of the Civil War. Fighting in more battles and suffering more losses than any other West Virginia regiment, the unit was the most embattled Union regiment in the most divided state in the war. Its story, as it unfolds in" David Mellott and Mark Snell's The Seventh West Virginia Infantry: An Embattled Union Regiment from the Civil War's Most Divided State, "is a key chapter in the history of West Virginia, the only state created as a direct result of the Civil War. It is also the story of the citizen soldiers, most of them from Appalachia, caught up in the bloodiest conflict in American history."

Though the regiment spent the early months of the war in the western Virginia highlands securing the B&O Railroad and other vital points, it was transferred east to the Army of the Potomac in 1862. It "fought in the major campaigns in the eastern theater, from Winchester, Antietam, and Fredericksburg to Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and Petersburg." Integrating military, political, and social history, the study certainly appears to have all the qualities readers expect from better quality modern regimental histories. The Seventh West Virginia Infantry "details strategy, tactics, battles, campaigns, leaders, and the travails of the rank and file. It also examines the circumstances surrounding events, mundane and momentous alike such as the soldiers’ views on the Emancipation Proclamation, West Virginia Statehood, and Lincoln’s re-election."

Along with the rest, a rich portrait of those who fought with the Seventh also emerges from the study. "The product of decades of research, the book uses statistical analysis to profile the Seventh’s soldiers from a socio-economic, military, medical, and personal point of view; even as its authors consult dozens of primary sources, including soldiers’ living descendants, to put a human face on these “sons of the mountains.” The result is a multilayered view, unique in its scope and depth, of a singular Union regiment on and off the Civil War battlefield—its beginnings, its role in the war, and its place in history and memory." This soldier information is sprinkled throughout, but the appendix section is also used for additional data presentation, with an age distribution graph and a trio of pie charts depicting birthplace, occupation categories, and hospitalization stats. Numerous photographs are included along with eleven maps.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Booknotes: Presidents, Battles, and Must-See Civil War Destinations

New Arrival:
Presidents, Battles, and Must-See Civil War Destinations: Exploring a Kentucky Divided by Cameron M. Ludwick and Blair Thomas Hess (Indiana UP, 2019).

The flu (or some other similarly horrible virus) swept through the CWBA camp last week, and I am still on light recovery duty only, so with feverish brow we'll just continue to get through the growing backlog of Booknotes entries. March was a very busy month.

Over the past few years, Cameron Ludwick and Blair Thomas Hess have teamed up to co-author a number of Kentucky road trip and adventure guides. Their fourth and latest collaboration is Presidents, Battles, and Must-See Civil War Destinations: Exploring a Kentucky Divided. In it, Ludwick and Hess "plot the course for a fun-filled road trip through history and across the Bluegrass State."

More: "Ludwick and Hess make planning a trip to historic Kentucky easy by exploring the history and stories behind each major site and highlighting nearby attractions you won't want to miss. Featuring step-by-step guidelines and exclusive tips on sites, monuments, and attractions from presidential homes to the best modern re-enactments, Presidents, Battles, and Must-See Civil War Destinations helps the whole family experience and enjoy history together."

At around 75 total pages in length it's a slim book with lots of photographs and cheery advice, definitely less hard-core and more family trip fare. Military site selections do cover some lesser-known battles and skirmishes such as Ivy Mountain, Sacramento, and Middle Creek to go along with more expected choices of Perryville, Munfordville, Mill Springs, the occupation of Columbus, and the like.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Booknotes: General Custer, Libbie Custer and Their Dogs

New Arrival:
General Custer, Libbie Custer and Their Dogs: A Passion for Hounds, from the Civil War to Little Bighorn by Brian Patrick Duggan (McFarland, 2019).

"General George Armstrong Custer and his wife, Libbie Custer, were wholehearted dog lovers. At the time of his death at Little Bighorn, they owned a rollicking pack of 40 hunting dogs, including Scottish Deerhounds, Russian Wolfhounds, Greyhounds and Foxhounds." I bet that was popular with the neighbors!

"Told from a dog owner's perspective," Brian Patrick Duggan's General Custer, Libbie Custer and Their Dogs: A Passion for Hounds, from the Civil War to Little Bighorn is a different kind of Custer family biography. Part of the publisher's Dogs in Our World series, the book "covers their first dogs during the Civil War and in Texas; hunting on the Kansas and Dakota frontiers; entertaining tourist buffalo hunters, including a Russian Archduke, English aristocrats and P. T. Barnum (all of whom presented the general with hounds); Custer's attack on the Washita village (when he was accused of strangling his own dogs); and the 7th Cavalry's march to Little Bighorn with an analysis of rumors about a Last Stand dog. The Custers' pack was re-homed after his death in the first national dog rescue effort."

I'm a bit surprised that such a huge book could be crafted from the topic. The volume is well illustrated and includes photographs of the Custers with their animals. The book also has a cultural feature, with an extensive appendix "giving depictions of the Custers' dogs in art, literature and film."

Monday, March 25, 2019

Booknotes: Exposing Slavery

New Arrival:
Exposing Slavery: Photography, Human Bondage, and the Birth of Modern Visual Politics in America by Matthew Fox-Amato (Oxford UP, 2019).

Given how deeply entwined slavery was with American society as a whole, it's not surprising to learn that photographs of slaves started to appear soon after the technology became widely available in the country. "Within a few years of the introduction of photography into the United States in 1839, slaveholders had already begun commissioning photographic portraits of their slaves. Ex-slaves-turned-abolitionists such as Frederick Douglass had come to see how sitting for a portrait could help them project humanity and dignity amidst northern racism. In the first decade of the medium, enslaved people had begun entering southern daguerreotype studios of their own volition, posing for cameras, and leaving with visual treasures they could keep in their pockets. And, as the Civil War raged, Union soldiers would orchestrate pictures with fugitive slaves that envisioned racial hierarchy as slavery fell. 

In these ways and others, from the earliest days of the medium to the first moments of emancipation, photography powerfully influenced how bondage and freedom were documented, imagined, and contested. By 1865, it would be difficult for many Americans to look back upon slavery and its fall without thinking of a photograph." You could say that about a lot of Civil War topics.

Matthew Fox-Amato's Exposing Slavery "explores how photography altered and was, in turn, shaped by conflicts over human bondage. Drawing on an original source base that includes hundreds of unpublished and little-studied photographs of slaves, ex-slaves, free American Americans, and abolitionists as well as written archival materials, it puts visual culture at the center of understanding the experience of late slavery. It assesses how photography helped southerners to defend slavery, enslaved people to shape their social ties, abolitionists to strengthen their movement, and soldiers to pictorially enact interracial society during the Civil War. With diverse goals, these peoples transformed photography from a scientific curiosity into a political tool over only a few decades."

As one would hope for and expect, the volume is heavily illustrated with crisp reproductions of contemporary photographs and images. The thick, glossy paper stock helps readers see the photos to their best effect and gives the comparatively slim book a surprising physical heft to boot.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Booknotes: All Hell Can’t Stop Them

New Arrival:
All Hell Can’t Stop Them: The Battles for Chattanooga-Missionary Ridge and Ringgold, November 24-27, 1863 by David A. Powell (Savas Beatie, 2019).

David Powell's All Hell Can’t Stop Them is the sequel to 2017's Battle Above the Clouds, which covered the Union army's breaking of the Chattanooga siege through the successful conclusion of the Battle of Lookout Mountain. "To many of the Federal soldiers watching the Stars and Stripes unfurl atop Lookout Mountain on the morning of November 25, 1863, it seemed that the battle to relieve Chattanooga was complete. The Union Army of the Cumberland was no longer trapped in the city, subsisting on short rations and awaiting rescue; instead, they were again on the attack."

All Hell Can’t Stop Them recounts Grant's attempt to finish the job. "That blow landed on the afternoon of November 25. Each of Grant’s assembled forces—troops led by Union Generals William T. Sherman, George H. Thomas, and Joseph Hooker—all moved to the attack. Stubbornly, Bragg refused to retreat, and instead accepted battle. That decision would cost him dearly."

"But everything did not go Grant’s way. Despite what Grant’s many admirers would later insist was his most successful, most carefully planned battle, Grant’s strategy failed him—as did his most trusted commander, Sherman. Victory instead charged straight up the seemingly impregnable slopes of Missionary Ridge’s western face, as the men of the much-maligned Army of the Cumberland swarmed up and over Bragg’s defenses in an irresistible blue tide." The account ends with the Confederate rear guard stand at Ringgold Gap, which "held Grant’s Federals at bay and saved the Army of Tennessee from further disaster."

A nice set of maps were commissioned for the book. In addition to a driving tour there are four appendices. The first revisits the enduring controversy surrounding the Union charge up Missionary Ridge, the second looks at Longstreet's East Tennessee campaign, the third examines monument disputes, and the last traces the redeployment of two corps from the Army of the Potomac to reinforce Chattanooga (where they would be redesignated Twentieth Corps).

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Booknotes: Illusions of Emancipation

New Arrival:
Illusions of Emancipation: The Pursuit of Freedom and Equality in the Twilight of Slavery by Joseph P. Reidy (UNC Press, 2019).

Joseph Reidy's Illusions of Emancipation: The Pursuit of Freedom and Equality in the Twilight of Slavery joins a growing number of studies primarily addressing the complicated and messy "then what?" aspect of emancipation. "As students of the Civil War have long known, emancipation was not merely a product of Lincoln's proclamation or of Confederate defeat in April 1865. It was a process that required more than legal or military action. With enslaved people fully engaged as actors, emancipation necessitated a fundamental reordering of a way of life whose implications stretched well beyond the former slave states. Slavery did not die quietly or quickly, nor did freedom fulfill every dream of the enslaved or their allies." In common with many hard war features of the military conflict, emancipation "unfolded unevenly."

More from the description: "In this sweeping reappraisal of slavery's end during the Civil War era, Joseph P. Reidy employs the lenses of time, space, and individuals' sense of personal and social belonging to understand how participants and witnesses coped with drastic change, its erratic pace, and its unforeseeable consequences. Emancipation disrupted everyday habits, causing sensations of disorientation that sometimes intensified the experience of reality and sometimes muddled it. While these illusions of emancipation often mixed disappointment with hope, through periods of even intense frustration they sustained the promise that the struggle for freedom would result in victory."

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Review - "The Army of the Cumberland: Organization, Strength, Casualties, 1862-1865" by Darrell Collins

[The Army of the Cumberland: Organization, Strength, Casualties, 1862-1865 by Darrell L. Collins (McFarland, 2019). Paperback, tables, notes, indexes. 199 pp. ISBN:978-1-4766-7507-7. $49.95]

The Army of the Cumberland: Organization, Strength, Casualties, 1862-1865 is the fourth volume in Darrell Collins's Civil War army order of battle series. With The Army of the Potomac (2013), The Army of Northern Virginia (2015), The Army of Tennessee (2017), and now the Cumberland army all in the books the primary field armies that faced off against each other in the two most important theaters of war have now been covered. Only the Army of the Tennessee remains.

The Army of the Cumberland officially came into being in October 1862 as a larger scale replacement for the early war Department/Army of the Ohio (though the latter was resurrected later), and major elements were added to its ranks throughout its existence. Beginning with the Middle Tennessee campaign leading up to the Union victory at the Battle of Stones River, the Army of the Cumberland was the Union army chiefly responsible for operating along the trans-Appalachian heartland's main axis of war, though to the frustration of its veterans the smaller Army of the Tennessee under Grant overshadowed it in western fame and fighting reputation.

As before, Collins's source material in the Cumberland book is self-limited to the Official Records. General format is also mostly consistent across the series, with the information sectioned off into three main areas—I. Organization, II. Strength, and III. Casualties.

Beginning on November 30, 1861 and concluding on July 8, 1865, Section I traces the organization of the Cumberland army from its aforementioned Army of the Ohio origins through the dissolution of its constituent corps at war's end. Orders of battle are presented in the usual cascading top-down manner, with the army commander at the top and regiments, battalions, batteries, and independent companies at bottom. For any given year, full OBs are provided at varying intervals. For example, the book compiles full departmental OBs on four occasions for 1863 (at the end of June, July, August, and October). This time around, though, the helpful "commander timelines" that afforded readers the opportunity to easily find who was in command of any unit at any given time are not present. This feature was introduced in the previous volume and the dropping of such a useful supplement is disappointing.

The strength tables compiled in Section II begin on February 14, 1862 and end on April 30, 1865. These consist of army present-for-duty (PFD) numbers arranged in eight columns across the page, their headings consisting of unit name, effective officers, effective men, effective total, total present, present and absent, percentage present, and guns. Strength figures are generally presented at brigade level and higher, although some regimental PFD figures are scattered about. In this section, the artillery complements attached to the various higher formations are only expressed in gun totals.

Section III tabulates casualty reports by battle (against mostly at a higher organization level) in seven columns [by unit, number present, KIA, WIA, MIA, total, and casualty percentage]. Battle and operations coverage, in order, include Mill Springs, Shiloh, Corinth siege operations, Perryville, Tullahoma Campaign, Chickamauga, Chattanooga Campaign, Dalton, Atlanta Campaign, March to the Sea, Franklin, Nashville, Averasboro, Bentonville, and the Carolinas Campaign. It is in this section where you'll occasionally find more detailed battery composition information. As is the case in many other sections of the book, the amount of data and information available varies widely among the various subsections. The volume concludes with an O.R. reference list and separate indexes for unit and commander names.

Though one might wish, yet again, that sources beyond the Official Records could have been consulted for corrections and also to help fill in many of the often large informational gaps that exist, consistency does have value of its own at this late stage of the series. Regardless, Collins's data mining of the O.R. has again gifted users with a tremendously useful starting point for deeper exploration. The thankless heavy lifting that went into producing the book's organization, strength, and casualty tables will save other serious investigators countless hours of base research.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Booknotes: Decisions of the Atlanta Campaign

New Arrival:
Decisions of the Atlanta Campaign: The Twenty-One Critical Decisions That Defined the Operation by Larry Peterson (UT Press, 2019).

With previous Command Decisions in America's Civil War series books covering the Stones River, Second Manassas, Chickamauga, and Chattanooga battles, Larry Peterson's Decisions of the Atlanta Campaign: The Twenty-One Critical Decisions That Defined the Operation will concentrate even more on campaign-level decision making. Though the earlier series entries certainly did address some strategic and operational level decisions leading up to a culminating battle, Atlanta will be the first volume to address the origins and conduct of an entire extended campaign (December 1863 through September 1864) consisting of a series of major battles. Presumably, the upcoming 1862 Kentucky Campaign book, also scheduled for release this year, will be similar in concept.

Decisions of the Atlanta Campaign "introduces readers to critical decisions made by Confederate and Union commanders throughout that tide-turning summer of 1864. Rather than offering a history of the Atlanta Campaign, Larry Peterson hones in on a sequence of critical decisions confronting commanders on both sides of the clash to provide a blueprint of the campaign at its tactical core. Identifying and exploring the critical decisions in this way allows students of the campaign to progress from a rudimentary sense of the what of warfare, to a mature grasp of why."

Accompanying the decision discussion is an extensive driving tour that follows the series's now well-established format. Supplementing both sections are 34 maps (20 for the main text and 14 modern road maps for the tour). Orders of battle, notes, bibliography, and index round out the volume.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Booknotes: Private Confederacies

New Arrival:
Private Confederacies: The Emotional Worlds of Southern Men as Citizens and Soldiers
  by James J. Broomall (UNC Press, 2019).

James Broomall's Private Confederacies: The Emotional Worlds of Southern Men as Citizens and Soldiers asks and attempts to answer the question "How did the Civil War, emancipation, and Reconstruction shape the masculinity of white Confederate veterans?" According to the author, "the crisis of the war forced a reconfiguration of the emotional worlds of the men who took up arms for the South. Raised in an antebellum culture that demanded restraint and shaped white men to embrace self-reliant masculinity, Confederate soldiers lived and fought within military units where they experienced the traumatic strain of combat and its privations together--all the while being separated from suffering families. Military service provoked changes that escalated with the end of slavery and the Confederacy's military defeat. Returning to civilian life, Southern veterans questioned themselves as never before, sometimes suffering from terrible self-doubt.

That's interesting that Broomall would describe southern antebellum culture as one that "demanded restraint" among its males. Unless I am misunderstanding the context (which is entirely possible as the book is a brand new arrival and obviously unread by me at this point), this determination is contrary to the mountains of modern scholarship that tend to characterize white masculine culture during the period as excessively violent and lacking in restraint.

More from the description: "Drawing on personal letters and diaries, Broomall argues that the crisis of defeat ultimately necessitated new forms of expression between veterans and among men and women. On the one hand, war led men to express levels of emotionality and vulnerability previously assumed the domain of women. On the other hand, these men also embraced a virulent, martial masculinity that they wielded during Reconstruction and beyond to suppress freed peoples and restore white rule through paramilitary organizations and the Ku Klux Klan."

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Booknotes: Lost and Buried Treasures of the Civil War

New Arrival:
Lost and Buried Treasures of the Civil War by W.C. Jameson (Lyons Pr, 2019).

In W.C. Jameson's Lost and Buried Treasures of the Civil War "(t)he most compelling and exciting tales of lost and buried treasures associated with the Civil War have been collected, extensively researched and investigated, and are included in this entertaining book from one of America's foremost treasure hunters. They represent fortunes that have been lost for over one-and-a-half centuries and involve colorful characters from lowly privates up to famous officers, including Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy. 

The thirty-one tales in this book provide backstory and pertinent information, are distributed between the Union and Confederate armies, and range from Texas to the Atlantic Cost, from Louisiana to the Canadian border."

Jameson is a professional fortune hunter who was a consultant for the old Unsolved Mysteries show and numerous more recent programs shown on the History network and the Travel Channel. There are a lot of buried treasure myths and legends associated with the Civil War, and the book addresses in a popular-style narrative a selection of both famous and obscure ones.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Confederate Centennial Studies

If you're a frequent browser of eBay offerings, one thing you'll come to expect is a steady appearance of titles from the Confederate Centennial Studies series. Oddly enough I never see them in brick and mortar bookstores, but that could just be a regional thing. The brainchild of William Stanley Hoole, the Confederate Centennial Studies series was published by (Hoole's?) Confederate Publishing Company out of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Volumes were steadily released over a decade-long period preceding the end of the Civil War Centennial. The series was reprinted in a limited edition of 750 sets by Broadfoot in 2000, and these must be the ones I most frequently see for sale online. I don't know how many first edition sets were produced.

Below are the 28 titles in no particular order, just a list I found online. Oddly, the Broadfoot set has 28 volumes while Eicher's reference lists only 27 in the first run. I don't know if the latter was a mistake or if Broadfoot added one to the original contingent. If interested you can compare the two lists (this one and the linked one) yourself to find the outlier. It's a pretty impressive range of topics and book categories.

• A TEXAS SURGEON IN THE C.S.A. By John Q. Anderson.
• A VISIT TO THE CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA IN 1863. Memoir Addressed to His Majesty Napoleon III by Charles Girard.
• CONFEDERATE EXILES IN VENEZUELA. By A. J. Hana and Kathryn Abbey Hanna.
• A CONFEDERATE MARINE: A SKETCH OF LT. HENRY LEA GRAVES. With Excerpts from the Graves Family Correspondence. Ed. by Richard B. Harwell.
• WILLIAM STANLEY HOOLE: Student, Teacher, Librarian, Author. By Martha Dubose Hoole.
• ALABAMA TORIES: THE FIRST ALABAMA CAVALRY, U.S.A., 1862-1865. By William Stanley Hoole.
• RECONSTRUCTION IN WEST ALABAMA: THE MEMOIRS OF JOHN L. HUNNICUTT. By John L. Huynnicutt and Edited by William Stanley Hoole.
• THE PEACE CONVENTION OF 1861. By Jesse L. Keene.
• “MY EVER DEAREST FRIEND”: THE LETTERS OF A. DUDLEY MANN TO JEFFERSON DAVIS, 1869-1889. By A. Dudley Mann and Ed. by John Preston Moore.
• THE CRUISE OF C.S.S. SUMTER. By Charles G. Summersell.
• THE PRIVATE JOURNAL OF GEORGIANA GHOLSON WALKER, 1862-1865. By Georgiana Gholson Walker.

I don't have any of these in my personal library and am curious to know if any of you out there own the entire set. Feel free to leave a comment about your thoughts on the series as a whole or any volumes you value in particular. Thanks in advance.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Booknotes: Armies of Deliverance

New Arrival:
Armies of Deliverance: A New History of the Civil War by Elizabeth R. Varon
  (Oxford UP, 2019).

Elizabeth Varon's Armies of Deliverance: A New History of the Civil War is a new overview of the conflict that casts the Union war effort as one of white and black liberation. In a more figurative sense the war began as a means to "deliver" whites from a social and economic system on the wrong side of progress and history. This failed appeal was followed quickly by the very real liberation of slaves in the wake of advancing armies. "Northerners imagined the war as a crusade to deliver the Southern masses from slaveholder domination and to bring democracy, prosperity, and education to the region. As the war escalated, Lincoln and his allies built the case that emancipation would secure military victory and benefit the North and South alike. The theme of deliverance was essential in mobilizing a Unionist coalition of Northerners and anti-Confederate Southerners."

As one might easily imagine, the South's Confederate majority didn't see it that way, and they were "determined to preempt, discredit, and silence Yankee appeals to the Southern masses. In their quest for political unity Confederates relentlessly played up two themes: Northern barbarity and Southern victimization. Casting the Union army as ruthless conquerors, Confederates argued that the emancipation of blacks was synonymous with the subjugation of the white South."

More from the description: "Interweaving military and social history, Varon shows that everyday acts on the ground—from the flight of slaves, to protests against the draft, the plundering of civilian homes, and civilian defiance of military occupation—reverberated at the highest levels of government. Varon also offers new perspectives on major battles, illuminating how soldiers and civilians alike coped with the physical and emotional toll of the war as it grew into a massive humanitarian crisis.

The Union's politics of deliverance helped it to win the war. But such appeals failed to convince Confederates to accept peace on the victor's terms, ultimately sowing the seeds of postwar discord.
Armies of Deliverance offers innovative insights on the conflict for those steeped in Civil War history and novices alike."

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Booknotes: Farragut's Captain

New Arrival:
Farragut's Captain: Percival Drayton, 1861-1865 by Peter Barratt (Author/Lulu, 2018).

His life bookended by major American wars, Charleston native Percival Drayton (1812-1865) was a prominent member of the Union Navy's second tier of officers, and Peter Barratt's Farragut's Captain: Percival Drayton, 1861-1865 is a slim biography that centers on the Civil War years. Drayton "played a central role in four of the key naval engagements of the American Civil War, and as a personal friend and trusted subordinate of Admiral David Glasgow Farragut and Rear Admiral Samuel Francis du Pont, Drayton made a vital contribution to the ultimate success of the Union Navy in the struggle to maintain the Union. As the son of a noted Jacksonian Unionist obligated to leave South Carolina for Philadelphia many years before the war, Drayton was the very embodiment of the romantic war between brothers" [Confederate Brig. Gen. Thomas Drayton was his older brother].

"Captain Drayton was a highly literate and intelligent observer of the world around him and the people in it. And throughout the war, he maintained a constant flow of letters to naval colleagues and friends. His letters provide a captivating insight into his service and into the personalities of many Civil War-era figures, and so his letters-and his biography-stand as a primary record of the war at sea and of the collapse of the slave system on the South Carolina coast."

Drayton's Civil War letters have been published before but my cursory search for prior book-length biographies came up empty. Barratt's bibliography doesn't reveal any either.

Book review #800

Last night I noticed that the review I posted earlier in the day was No. 800. An unofficial Guinness World Record for Civil War book reviews? Es muss sein.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Review - "Civil War Places: Seeing the Conflict through the Eyes of Its Leading Historians" by Gallagher & Gallman, eds.

[CIVIL WAR PLACES: Seeing the Conflict through the Eyes of Its Leading Historians edited by Gary W. Gallagher and J. Matthew Gallman, photographs by Will Gallagher (University of North Carolina Press, 2019). Cloth, 37 B&W photos, notes, index. 216 pp. ISBN:978-1-4696-4953-5. $32]

Earlier this decade, Gary Gallagher and Matt Gallman had the bright idea to invite a group of professional historian colleagues to contribute to an anthology of Civil War image commentaries. The resulting book Lens of War: Exploring Iconic Photographs of the Civil War (2015) was well received and undoubtedly encouraged the pair to give the same general format another go, but with a different topical theme this time and also a new publisher. For Civil War Places: Seeing the Conflict through the Eyes of Its Leading Historians, Gallagher and Gallman challenged their fellow historians* to "select a single meaningful place related to the war and narrate its significance."

In discussing the historical and cultural significance of the two dozen places examined in the volume, each chapter includes elements of scholarly and personal perspectives (their relative weight left entirely up the writer). With varying degrees of input from each writer, a professional photographer (Gallagher's son Will) was also assigned to compose a representative image of each place. Without prompting, the contributors selected a diverse range of sites with no overlap. Their essays are organized into four major categories—I. "Battlefields: Places of Fighting", II. "Cemeteries: Places of Mourning", III. "Memorials: Places of Memory", and IV. "Buildings: Enduring Places". Many sites are closely associated with the writer's professional work but others instead hearken back to early memories associated with what first sparked their interest in history as a vocation.

Books formatted like this one, in combination with the fact that the 23 contributors (plus the two editors) to Civil War Places were afforded wide latitude in framing their own chapters, don't really lend themselves particularly well to being reviewed as a whole, so perhaps some sampling will suffice. For the purposes of this review, one chapter from each category will be briefly discussed.

In chapter 4, A. Wilson Greene vividly describes his slippery drive to the criminally undervisited Camp Allegheny. An appreciation of the unique micro-climate that exists at the 4,400 ft. peak, the essay's entertaining description of Greene's travails in getting there interestingly mirrors the similarly dismayed reactions of Confederate soldiers forced to camp there. In addition to being an environmental oddity with unseasonable weather extremes, the remarkably pristine site offers visitors both breathtaking vistas and well-preserved camp and fortification remnants.

One of the many 'hidden in plain sight' places of Civil War significance in the country is discussed in Joan Waugh's Chapter 9, which recounts her familial and professional attachments to Los Angeles National Cemetery. In addition to tracing the site's Civil War connections, she explains her use of the cemetery and its monuments as open-air classroom. For the personal element to the piece, Waugh cites the incorporation her own family history into her lesson program following her discovery of an ancestor buried there. Her initial disappointment at his ordinariness was soon replaced by recognition that the war could not have been won without the collective efforts and sacrifices of 'common' soldiers like him.

Carol Reardon's Chapter 13 conveys a heartfelt appreciation of the Allegheny County Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall in Pittsburgh, a place that helped guide her personal journey from uninterested youth to distinguished military historian. Like Waugh's chapter, Reardon's essay also exhibits a strong familial element, in her case an early lesson in the value of persistence in navigating the winding course and frequent frustrations associated with serious historical inquiry.

In the last example, Jacqueline Jones revisits the magnificent Green-Meldrim House in Savannah, which was the site of a historic visit between General Sherman, Secretary Stanton, and a delegation of black leaders. In addition to briefly discussing the results of that meeting along with some background history of the house and its more distinctive architectural features, Jones laments the limited nature and scope of the official "script" upon which guides at this place and many other southern historical sites base their tour information.

The volume concludes with commentary from photographer Will Gallagher about his experience with the project. In the section he also shares some thoughts regarding shot composition and favorite places he visited.

Readers who enjoyed Lens of War will like Civil War Places just as much. There's no mention that more volumes of this kind might be in the offing, but Gallagher and Gallman have certainly come up with a workable series concept. Hopefully, this particular book will also spark increased visitation at the many lesser-known Civil War sites examined within it.


* - In addition to the editors themselves, the large contributor list includes Edward L. Ayers, Stephen Berry, William A. Blair, David W. Blight, Peter S. Carmichael, Frances M. Clarke, Catherine Clinton, Stephen Cushman, Stephen D. Engle, Drew Gilpin Faust, Sarah E. Gardner, Judith Giesberg, Lesley J. Gordon, A. Wilson Greene, Caroline E. Janney, Jacqueline Jones, Ari Kelman, James Marten, Carol Reardon, Aaron Sheehan-Dean, Brenda E. Stevenson, Elizabeth R. Varon, and Joan Waugh.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Booknotes: Longstreet at Gettysburg

New Arrival:
Longstreet at Gettysburg: A Critical Reassessment by Cory M. Pfarr (McFarland, 2019).

Cory Pfarr's Longstreet at Gettysburg: A Critical Reassessment "is the first book-length, critical analysis of Lieutenant General James Longstreet's actions at the Battle of Gettysburg. The author argues that Longstreet's record has been discredited unfairly, beginning with character assassination by his contemporaries after the war and, persistently, by historians in the decades since."

Most readers are familiar with the traditional criticisms and condemnations of Longstreet's overall performance at Gettysburg, from his obtusely circuitous approach march to the right on July 2 (though no one can discount the fierceness of his two-division assault that chewed up an entire federal corps plus a huge host of reserve troops) to the general's alleged petulance and foot-dragging in response to Lee not heeding his advice throughout the three-day battle. All of these issues and more, both large and small, are addressed in Longstreet at Gettysburg.

Pfarr divides the study into three appropriate sections: campaign through July 1, July 2, and July 3. In terms of scope, it certainly does appear to be an exhaustive reevaluation of the many controversies and myths surrounding Longstreet's actions, with the author dissecting on a point by point basis over 150 years of critical interpretation. In the book the author quotes and challenges the views and conclusions expressed in the publications of a host of major modern scholars.

"By closely studying the three-day battle, and conducting an incisive historiographical inquiry into Longstreet's treatment by scholars, this book presents an alternative view of Longstreet as an effective military leader, and refutes over a century of negative evaluations of his performance."

Booknotes: The Leviathan

New Arrival:
The Leviathan: The Greatest Untold Story of the Civil War by Paul Stack (Archway Pub, 2019).

Yes, clearly this is a novel. I guess there's plenty of blame to go around. The publicist who contacted me probably didn't read the review policy page and I didn't read the press email all the way to the end where the final paragraph mentioned it was historical fiction. Anyway, I approved the submission and every arrival gets a Booknotes entry so...

In The Leviathan, "a historical novel set during the Civil War, Paul Stack makes the case that this great ship was the means by which the South could have achieved economic independence from the North."

"The Leviathan was considered to be a marvel of engineering and the most advanced ship in the ocean. The shareholders who invested in the ship’s construction believed it would be the most profitable ship the world had ever seen. Better known as The Great Eastern, the Leviathan was perhaps the greatest engineering feat in the mid-19th century. It was designed to accommodate ten thousand troops and four thousand passengers. The ship’s hull was painted black, which made it appear sinister, and even larger than it was. The ship’s destiny to compromise the North if it ever reached the shores of The Chesapeake Bay, however, was thwarted by a complicated scheme to save the North from the ravages this massive ship could inflict."

"In September 1861, on the cusp of a winter storm in the north Atlantic, three men altered the fate of the world by pulling off one of the greatest acts of American espionage. Lincoln’s election 10 months earlier guaranteed hostilities between the free and slave states, the seemingly inevitable march to war watched closely by the Eu­ropean powers. England stood alone as the first modern industrial nation, the birthplace of machines that revolutionized the world. The Leviathan was the largest of these ma­chines. It was a giant iron steamship with a ghastly history, a mechanical marvel 60 years ahead of its time but a financial failure, a ship that the Scientific Amer­ican warned “could run down the whole of the largest steamers in any other fleet, one after another, without firing a single shot.”"

"The mission of the three Americans was to stop this Leviathan from entering a southern port without anyone knowing what transpired, ever. This is a story of treason, espionage, and geopolitics; a family sundered by the conflict between the States, and of British capitalists lusting to dismember the United States for their own benefit."

The book's website [here] lays bare all of the author's research (the site includes a downloadable pdf source document of over 1,200 pages) and displays additional features like an extensive image gallery and links to other Great Eastern related items of interest.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Booknotes: Civil War Writing

New Arrival:
Civil War Writing: New Perspectives on Iconic Texts edited by Gary W. Gallagher and Stephen Cushman (LSU Press, 2019).

Nice cover!
Gary Gallagher has been busy, co-editing at least three titles released during the first three months of 2019 alone. The latest is the nine-essay collection Civil War Writing: New Perspectives on Iconic Texts, his editing partner for this project being Stephen Cushman.

Chapters "focus on the most significant writing about the American Civil War by participants who lived through it, whether as civilians or combatants, southerners or northerners, women or men, blacks or whites. Collectively, as contributors show, these writings have sustained their influence over generations and include histories, memoirs, journals, novels, and one literary falsehood posing as an autobiographical narrative. Several of the works, such as William Tecumseh Sherman’s memoirs or Mary Chesnut’s diary, are familiar to scholars, but other accounts, including Charlotte Forten’s diary and Loreta Velasquez’s memoir, offer new material to even the most omnivorous Civil War reader. In all cases, a deeper look at these writings reveals why they continue to resonate with audiences more than 150 years after the end of the conflict." It's a very fresh and interesting idea for an anthology.

Getting back to the rest of the contents, Gallagher reexamines the Porter Alexander memoir that everyone knows he considers the finest written by a Confederate soldier. Two more famous Confederate military memoirs and memoirists are also scrutinized, with Kathryn Shively taking on Jubal Early and Keith Bohannon reevaluating what John B. Gordon's Reminiscences tells us about Gettysburg, the Wilderness, and Cedar Creek. Cushman's entry is a bit different in that he chose to look at selections from the Sherman and Johnston writings pertaining to the surrender proceedings rather than a published book. Remaining chapters include Elizabeth Varon's take on Joseph Wilson's The Black Phalanx and Matt Gallman's appreciation of Louisa May Alcott's northern home front novel Little Women.

More from the description: "As supporting evidence for historical and biographical narratives and as deliberately designed communications, the writings discussed in this collection demonstrate considerable value. Whether exploring the differences among drafts and editions, listening closely to fluctuations in tone or voice, or tracing responses in private correspondence or published reviews, the essayists examine how authors wrote to different audiences and out of different motives, creating a complex literary record that offers rich potential for continuing evaluation of the country’s greatest national trauma." All of the contributions "underscore how participants employed various literary forms to record, describe, and explain aspects and episodes of a conflict that assumed proportions none of them imagined possible at the outset."

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Book News: Johnsonville

Mention the word "Johnsonville" and some people think sausage and brats, but others think of the Civil War's only example of a major supply depot destroyed by ranged artillery fire. In late 1864, Nathan Bedford Forrest was roaming around West Tennessee on another trademark cavalry raid. He captured some Union shipping as October turned to November and repurposed two vessels as Confederate gunboats for an attack on the massive Union supply base at Johnsonville. The gunboats were lost to separate action, but on November 4-5 Forrest's shore batteries, which were positioned on the opposite shore of the Tennessee River, opened up on the densely packed Johnsonville wharf. Through an incendiary combination of shell fire and self-destruction aimed at keeping any surviving supplies out of enemy hands, a huge material loss was incurred (the estimated value of which ranged from $2 million to $6+ million).

Currently, the only book-length study of these events is Donald Steenburn's Silent Echoes of Johnsonville: Nathan B. Forrest, Rebel Cavalry & Yankee Gunboats (1994, rev. 2001) and my 2007 review cautiously recommended it primarily on those grounds. Recently, however, news has arrived of another study that promises much improvement and a wider scope. Authored by former Johnsonville State Historic Park manager Jerry Wooten, Johnsonville: Union Supply Operations on the Tennessee River and the Battle of Johnsonville, November 4-5, 1864 will hopefully be released sometime this year from publisher Savas Beatie.

Steenburn's history of the operation is presented primarily from the Confederate perspective, but Wooten's approach will be much broader. In researching Johnsonville, Wooten "unearthed a wealth of new material that sheds light on the creation and strategic role of the Union supply depot, the use of railroads and logistics, and its defense by U.S. Colored Troops. His study covers the emergence of a civilian town around the depot, and the roll all of this played in making possible the Union victories with which we are all familiar." The book promises to be "the best and most detailed account of the Battle of Johnsonville" with research that "peels back the decades to reveal significantly more on that battle as well as what life was like in and around the area for both military men and civilians." Sounds like another one to add to the must-read list.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Booknotes: France and the American Civil War

New Arrival:
France and the American Civil War: A Diplomatic History by Stève Sainlaude
  (UNC Press, 2019).

Trans-Atlantic relations during the American Civil War were complex and sometimes dangerous as Britain, France, the United States, and the upstart CSA all wrangled over sticky issues like international recognition, belligerency status, neutrality, the blockade, trade, diplomatic protocols, rights of foreign citizens during wartime, and more. With much of the Civil War international relations literature focused on interactions between the American combatants and Britain, French actions and proposals seem too often presented as mere appendages to British diplomacy. Surely much of this is unintentional and more practically based on difficulties stemming from the language barrier to research, which isn't a problem for Sorbonne historian Stève Sainlaude. His thorough examination of French diplomatic archives and other official sources has produced two groundbreaking and award-winning studies of French policy during the Civil War, with Le gouvernement impérial et la guerre de Sécession (1861-1865): L'action diplomatique (2011) offering an overview and La France et la Confédération sudiste. La question de la reconnaissance diplomatique pendant la guerre de Sécession (2011) focused on the Confederacy. His new book France and the American Civil War: A Diplomatic History is a synthesis of those two earlier French-language works for the English-speaking audience.

Sainlaude first appeared on my radar in 2017's American Civil Wars: The United States, Latin America, Europe, and the Crisis of the 1860s, with his excellent essay outlining Napoleon III's "Grand Plan" of creating a French-led Latin cultural and political alliance aimed at countering the influence of Britain and the United States in the Americas. That made me eager to read this new study, which "offers the first comprehensive history of French diplomatic engagement with the Union and the Confederate States of America during the conflict. Drawing on archival sources that have been neglected by scholars up to this point, Sainlaude overturns many commonly held assumptions about French relations with the Union and the Confederacy. As Sainlaude demonstrates, no major European power had a deeper stake in the outcome of the conflict than France."

More from the description: "Reaching beyond the standard narratives of this history, Sainlaude delves deeply into questions of geopolitical strategy and diplomacy during this critical period in world affairs. The resulting study will help shift the way Americans look at the Civil War and extend their understanding of the conflict in global context." I am already well into it, and it is excellent.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Booknotes: Lincoln's Confidant

New Arrival:
Lincoln's Confidant: The Life of Noah Brooks by Wayne C. Temple, edited by Douglas L. Wilson and Rodney O. Davis (Univ of Ill Press, 2019).

Historian Wayne Calhoun Temple was employed at the Illinois State Archives for over fifty years, retiring in 2016. Over his long writing career, he authored many influential Lincoln-related works and is also considered the leading expert on journalist and Lincoln friend Noah Brooks. His 1956 dissertation on Brooks has just been published "with a few minor changes and corrections" as the fifth volume of a series from the Knox College Lincoln Studies Center (of which editors Wilson and Davis serve as co-directors) under the title Lincoln's Confidant: The Life of Noah Brooks. The series editors believe the over six-decade-old study to still be the most valuable resource for understanding Brooks and the Brooks-Lincoln relationship.

In Lincoln's Confidant, which also includes a brief introduction by preeminent Lincoln biographer Michael Burlingame, Temple "offers the long-awaited first biography of Noah Brooks, the influential Illinois journalist who championed Abraham Lincoln in state politics and became his almost daily companion during the Civil War. Best remembered as one of the president's few true intimates, Brooks was also a nationally recognized man of letters who mingled with the likes of Mark Twain and Bret Harte."

"Temple draws on archives and papers long thought lost to re-create Brooks's colorful life and relationship with Lincoln. Brooks's closeness to the president made him privy to Lincoln's thoughts on everything from literature to spirituality. Their frank conversations contributed to the wealth of journalism and personal observations that still make Brooks a much-quoted source for biographers, historians, and Lincoln aficionados. A grand history and unparalleled scholarly resource, Lincoln's Confidant is the story of an extraordinary friendship by one of the giants of Lincoln scholarship."

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Review - "Politician in Uniform: General Lew Wallace and the Civil War" by Christopher Mortenson

[POLITICIAN IN UNIFORM: General Lew Wallace and the Civil War by Christopher R. Mortenson (University of Oklahoma Press, 2019). Hardcover, 5 maps, photos, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:xiii,198/298. ISBN:978-0-8061-6195-2. $34.95]

By any estimation, Indiana's Lew Wallace led a colorful life. For many he's best known as the author of Ben-Hur, but others see his time in uniform as his most important contribution to society. While popular focus on the dismal military performances of other Union politician-generals like Benjamin Butler, Nathaniel Banks, and Franz Sigel still unjustly colors general impressions of the group as a whole, Wallace demonstrated real ability at multiple levels of command. At the beginning of the Civil War his political lineage, militia background, and Mexican War experience led to an appointment as Indiana's adjutant general, and he quickly and efficiently filled the state's obligations for troop contributions. At the head of the 11th Indiana, a zouave regiment he raised, Wallace achieved an early measure of fame with an aggressively conducted minor victory at Romney, Virginia in 1861. Sent out west, the newly minted general quickly moved up the western theater high command before becoming embroiled in controversy related to his day one performance at Shiloh. Sidelined from further front line duty for an extensive period of time, Wallace nevertheless impressed others over the next two years with his administrative energy and prowess. Most notably, he rallied the defenses of the Ohio River line in 1862 and led with distinction the army's Middle Department during its deepest crisis moments of 1864. His military reputation was partially redeemed at the July 1864 Battle of Monocacy, which was a clear tactical defeat for Wallace but arguably a strategic success that materially aided the defense of Washington. After the war, he became a celebrated author and was territorial governor of New Mexico during the Lincoln County War.

All of these events and many more are recounted in impressively thorough, yet refreshingly compact, fashion in Christopher Mortenson's Politician in Uniform: General Lew Wallace and the Civil War. Over the past decade, a number of authors, among them Gail Stephens, Kevin Getchell, and Charles Beemer1, have examined Wallace's complicated military legacy. All vary in focus and scope. While Beemer only covers the 1861-62 period and Getchell narrowly examines the Grant-Wallace relationship, Stephens addresses the entire breadth of Wallace's military service. However, Mortenson's study can justifiably lay claim to being the most comprehensive treatment to date of Wallace's wartime activities both on and off the battlefield. Of this group, Mortenson is also the author most consistently critical in his assessment of Wallace as man and officer.

A prominent theme addressed in all Civil War studies of Lew Wallace or any other high-ranking political general is the very real tension and even outright mutual disdain that frequently existed between citizen-officers and their West Point trained peers and superiors. Mortenson's examination largely discounts the two-way aspect of this conflict as a major factor behind Wallace's seeming inability to get along smoothly with West Pointers. Even Wallace's most ardent defenders concede that the Indiana general was often his own worst enemy when it came to army relations, but Mortenson goes a step further in seeing Wallace himself as far and away the chief source of his own problems. In the author's view, Wallace's rough and aggressive outward expressions of martial manhood and honor made him personally offensive to those around him and drove deep wedges throughout the war between the general, his military superiors, and powerful politicians who could otherwise have advanced Wallace's ambitions.

Mortenson favors trying to understand Wallace's mindset and actions through the interpretive lens of Amy Greenberg's competing masculinities ("martial" vs. "restrained") and Lorien Foote's "gentlemen" and "roughs" conception of nineteenth-century expressions of manhood2. According to Mortenson, Wallace's personal values favoring physical strength, fierce independence, aggression, and bravery led him to reject the more restrained expressions of manhood that his teachers and father3 tried to instill within him early on. The author also sees Wallace's clashes with professional military officers as grounded within these conflicting masculine sensibilities, with the easily offended Wallace chafing under the more communal, regimented, and hierarchically respectful masculine order that West Point imposed upon its graduates. It's an interesting and on some levels persuasive conceptual framework of comparison, but the author's enthusiasm in applying it to nearly every choice Wallace made during the war, often attributing internal motivation for particular actions solely to Wallace's desire to prove his martial manhood, seems excessive. Generalizing these differences between West Point generals and the political appointee Wallace does seem appropriate to a point, but the war does also provide plenty of examples of glory-obsessed professionals who fumed under restraint from above, rejected strict subordination, got along poorly with their peers, and bypassed proper chain of command when is suited them.

With the details of Wallace's Civil War military career well documented at this point, differences that set the book apart from other recent studies are primarily those of interpretation. Unlike some authors and historians, Mortenson clearly believes that Wallace's difficult nature outweighed his battlefield usefulness. All of the points he raises in the book in support of this determination have merit, but it does seem that he too breezily discounts professional prejudice as a major factor underpinning some of the complaints about Wallace and the consistent efforts on the part of Grant, Halleck, and others after Shiloh to keep Wallace out of another active command. In recounting Wallace's record in the service as he rose quickly from regimental to division commander, the author consistently follows his descriptions of what could be regarded as positive (even impressive) battlefield accomplishments with one or more qualifications critical of some aspect of the general's behavior or attitude. Narrative and analytical emphasis is almost uniformly placed on the latter. For example, rather than highlighting Wallace's prominent role in restoring the crumbling Union line at Fort Donelson and seizing a key piece of ground later in the day, Mortensen instead directs reader attention more toward the alleged tardiness of Wallace's assistance and his intemperate response in the heat of battle to an order from Grant (who did not know of Wallace's actual capture of the aforementioned forward position) to retire. While there is nothing necessarily objectionable about this practice, and repetition as a tool for persuasion certainly has its place, the pairing of so much arguably trivial nitpicking to Wallace's run of early successes carries the risk of creating an overall numbing affect on the reader that diminishes the impact of the most piercing observations while also painting the author as having overexacting standards. Indeed, while Mortenson works hard to justify his conclusion that Wallace was a "failed division commander," the harsh assessment lacks expected nuance.

In carrying out its goal of evaluating the entirety of Wallace's Civil War career, the book does not dwell obsessively on Shiloh nor does it exhaustively reengage with all of the debates surrounding Wallace's performance during the battle. Defenders of Wallace will certainly not find the kind of ally in Mortenson that they do in Stephens, Beemer, Stacey Allen, and others. With some important aspects of the Shiloh controversy such as the timing and content of messages between Grant and Wallace forever shrouded in mystery due to lack of surviving documentary evidence, the author clearly is persuaded most by the Grant and Grant staff version(s) of events. Mortenson is additionally little impressed with Wallace's management of the far right flank during the April 7 counterattack. It was a steady performance that some believe to be still unfairly overshadowed by the negative repercussions surrounding the previous day's events.

Recent groundbreaking scholarship from David Work, Thomas Goss, and others has convinced most Civil War scholars to reconsider the value of political generals to the Union war effort on and off the battlefield. Their views on expanding the criteria used to assess the positive contributions of Civil War generals—to include their roles in rallying political support for the war, maintaining public morale, recruiting for the army, and administering military departments—have reached wide purchase. As someone who agrees with that line of thinking, Mortenson conveys in the book a strong appreciation of Wallace's series of accomplishments beyond the battlefield. Wallace did well in rapidly organizing the first wave of Indiana recruits, but he is also appropriately criticized in the book for refusing to do additional mid-war recruiting at the behest of Governor Morton. The author perceptively notes that Wallace, in doing so, missed a good opportunity to advance his own cause in obtaining another field command through negotiating personal command of the new regiments (similar to what General McClernand was able to pull off, at least for a while, in Illinois). By all accounts, Wallace did well in managing the defense of Cincinnati in 1862, but the author is even more impressed with how skillfully the general juggled military and political concerns after he was placed at the head of the potentially volatile Middle Department. In that capacity, Wallace successfully oversaw two critical Border State election cycles in 1864, maintained cooperative relations with the state governments in his department, and opposed the Confederate raid on Washington better than anyone could have expected given how deeply his command was drained of mobile troop strength in support operations in Virginia. In one of his relatively rare moments of unqualified praise, Mortenson sees Wallace as the only one in the Union high command, military or civilian, to have possessed a clear grasp of the military situation north of the Potomac during the crisis phase of Jubal Early's raid on Washington. Both Grant and the War Department recognized Wallace's Monocacy defeat for what it was, an important sacrifice that created precious time needed to strengthen the Washington defenses and allow for reinforcements to arrive. Wallace's exemplary Middle Department tenure did at least temporarily put him back in the good graces of Grant and Secretary Stanton, but past mistrust was too difficult to overcome. As the author keenly observes, while Wallace's stint at the head of the Middle Department at last demonstrated that he could learn from his earlier mistakes, the change in attitude and behavior occurred too late for him to secure a command at the front during the closing stages of the war.

The book covers at some length Wallace's aborted peace mission in Texas and his efforts, during and after the Civil War, to supply Mexican liberals in their own internal war against the French-installed regime. Mortenson also discusses Wallace's role in two of the most noteworthy legal proceedings stemming from the war. He was the second-ranking member of the military tribunal that oversaw the trial of the Lincoln assassination conspirators and was court president of the military commission that tried the capital case against Andersonville commandant Henry Wirz. While his actions may not have been entirely in keeping with the best practices of blind justice, he in both cases secured what the government wanted and the people expected.

Christopher Mortenson's Politician in Uniform presents itself as the first study to fulfill the literature's longstanding need for a full and truly balanced examination of General Wallace's Civil War career. The reader doesn't necessarily have to see it quite that way in order to appreciate the effort and admire the scholarship that went into it. At the very least, Mortenson constructs a strong alternative to the recent spate of works much more positively supportive of Wallace's military record, particularly over the first half of the war, and largely forgiving of his many flaws. Whether they agree with them or not, certainly all future authors writing about Wallace will have to contend with Mortenson's arguments4. Contributing materially to both Civil War biographical studies as well as ongoing debates over how best to assess the role and value of political generals, Politician in Uniform is a fascinating study that deserves a wide readership. Recommended.

1 - In order of publication, Shadow of Shiloh: Major General Lew Wallace in the Civil War (Indiana HS Press, 2010) by Gail Stephens [review], Scapegoat of Shiloh: The Distortion of Lew Wallace's Record by U. S. Grant (McFarland, 2013) by Kevin Getchell, and Charles Beemer's "My Greatest Quarrel with Fortune": Major General Lew Wallace in the West, 1861-1862 (KSU Press, 2015) [review].
2 - See Amy S. Greenberg's Manifest Manhood and the Antebellum American Empire (Cambridge UP, 2005) and Lorien Foote's The Gentlemen and the Roughs: Violence, Honor, and Manhood in the Union Army (NYU Press, 2010).
3 - Wallace's father was one of those West Point graduates who resigned after only a short period of service (one year) to pursue other ambitions, in his case law and politics. He was elected governor of Indiana in 1837. One wonders to what degree (if at all) Lew Wallace's perception of West Point officers was first painted by his sometimes strained relationship with his father, who by Mortenson's account was much his son's opposite in temperament.
4 - If someone were to inquire about the "best" study of Lew Wallace's Civil War career to date, I would highly recommend a complementary pairing of Stephens and Mortenson. Each has unique strengths, but they also represent different sides of the same coin when it comes to many important aspects of Wallace's military service .

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Booknotes: Civil War Places

New Arrival:
Civil War Places: Seeing the Conflict through the Eyes of Its Leading Historians edited by Gary W. Gallagher and J. Matthew Gallman w/ photographs by Will Gallagher (UNC Press, 2019).

Civil War Places: Seeing the Conflict through the Eyes of Its Leading Historians is a new essay collaboration between editors Gary Gallagher and Matt Gallman. From the description: "Much has been written about place and Civil War memory, but how do we personally remember and commemorate this part of our collective past? How do battlefields and other historic places help us understand our own history? What kinds of places are worth remembering and why? In this collection of essays, some of the most esteemed historians of the Civil War select a single meaningful place related to the war and narrate its significance. Included here are meditations on a wide assortment of places--Devil's Den at Gettysburg, Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, the statue of William T. Sherman in New York's Central Park, Burnside Bridge at Antietam, the McLean House in Appomattox, and more."

As they did in 2015's Lens of War, Gallagher and Gallman invite a host of colleagues (25 in all if you include the two editors) to ruminate upon a chosen theme. Selected "places" are divided into four major categories: battlefields, cemeteries, memorials, and buildings. "Paired with a contemporary photograph commissioned specifically for this book, each essay offers an unusual and accessible glimpse into how historians think about their subjects."

Monday, March 4, 2019

Booknotes: The Fight for the Old North State

New Arrival:
The Fight for the Old North State: The Civil War in North Carolina, January-May 1864
  by Hampton Newsome (UP of Kansas, 2019).

Standalone studies of mid to late war Confederate efforts in tidewater North Carolina to retake important posts lost since 1862 are rare birds. I counted myself lucky to get James White's slim New Bern volume a year ago, not knowing that Hampton Newsome was already in the latter stages of a more ambitious project of his own. Between Robert E. Lee's initial proposal in January 1864 and the opening in earnest of the Overland Campaign in Virginia that May, Confederate eyes turned toward North Carolina and Newsome's The Fight for the Old North State: The Civil War in North Carolina, January-May 1864 covers all operations in the area during that period. Lee's January dispatch to President Davis "would precipitate 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."

More from the description: "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. These offensives in early 1864 would witness the failures and successes of southern commanders including George Pickett, James Cooke, and a young, aggressive North Carolinian named Robert Hoke. Likewise they would challenge the leadership of Union army and naval officers such as Benjamin Butler, John Peck, and Charles Flusser.

Both author and publisher are well versed in the importance of cartography to detailed studies of this kind, and there are 18 original maps included. In the appendix section, you'll find opposing orders of battle for New Bern and Plymouth as well as estimated casualty tables for the latter fight.

Though primarily a military study, the book "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."

Of the books scheduled for release over the first half of the year, this is one of my most highly anticipated reads. I hope to get to it soon. 

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Booknotes: Camp Oglethorpe

New Arrival:
Camp Oglethorpe: Macon's Unknown Civil War Prisoner of War Camp, 1862-1864
  by Stephen Hoy & William Smith (Mercer UP, 2019).

"The history of Camp Oglethorpe is largely overshadowed by that of nearby Camp Sumter in Andersonville, Georgia. It exists primarily as a footnote in the telling of Civil War prison narratives. A comprehensive reckoning reveals a saga that brings to light Camp Oglethorpe's decades-long role as a military training ground for Georgia's volunteer regiments and as a venue for national agricultural fairs which drew thousands of visitors to Macon. Its proud heritage, however, attracted the attention of leaders of the Confederate government." The Civil War history of the site is recounted by Stephen Hoy and William Smith in their book Camp Oglethorpe: Macon's Unknown Civil War Prisoner of War Camp, 1862-1864.

More from the description: "To the chagrin of Macon's citizens, the acreage at the foot of Seventh Street was surreptitiously repurposed for brief periods in 1862 and 1864. Although conditions at Camp Oglethorpe never approached the appalling state experienced by POWs at Andersonville, its proximity to and association with Camp Sumter cast a specter-haunted pall over the site." As such, Camp Oglethorpe "is predominantly remembered by its association with the atrocities of war as reflected in prisoner-of-war narratives(,)" and Smith and Hoy "tell this story not only as an admonition to the consciences of humanity, but to illuminate history and paint a more complete recollection of the encampment at the foot of Seventh Street."

1864-65 military events are also a major element of the book. The narrative incorporates a chapter-length account of the July 30, 1864 Battle of (East) Macon, which pitted Stoneman's cavalry raiders against the city's defenders. This action was part of General Sherman's plan, which proved disastrous to a large portion of his mounted arm, for his cavalry to sweep around Atlanta and wreak havoc on the rail lines leading into the city. The mission was accompanied by unrealistic hopes of also freeing Union POWs held in the state's interior at places like Camp Oglethorpe. Macon's surrender and occupation during Wilson's Raid in 1865 is also covered.

A number of maps and photos support the text, and a pair of appendices offer useful reference material associated with the POW camp. The first is an 1864 prisoner roster compiled from multiple sources and the second a list of Union prisoners who died at Camp Oglethorpe and were later reinterred at the national cemetery located at Andersonville.