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.

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