Saturday, August 3, 2019

Book News: Major General Joseph King Fenno Mansfield

Many Civil War readers will likely hesitate before taking on an 800+ page biography of a Civil War general who was killed at the head of his corps during the opening moments of his first real battle, but JKF Mansfield had a long and distinguished military career before his fateful encounter at Antietam. A very highly regarded engineer and officer in the Old Army, Mansfield oversaw the construction of major coastal fortifications early in his career and was repeatedly promoted during the war with Mexico. Just before the outbreak of the Civil War, he partnered with Joseph E. Johnston for an extensive inspection tour of U.S. Army posts (if you're interested, there's a great book about it titled Texas and New Mexico on the Eve of the Civil War: The Mansfield & Johnston Inspections, 1859-1861).

Mansfield was leaned on heavily by General-in-Chief Scott with his appointment to head the Department of Washington during the chaotic uncertainty of the war's early months. Scott failed, however, in his quest to reward Mansfield with a major field command. After that, Mansfield served in the relative backwater of SE Virginia before being given command of the Army of the Potomac's Twelfth Corps only days before the Maryland Campaign's climactic battle. I haven't seen the book yet, but all of this will presumably be covered at length in Laurence Freiheit's Major General Joseph King Fenno Mansfield: A Soldier From Beginning to End (CPP, 2019), which is "profusely illustrated with period maps and images" and available now. Having authored an extensive study of cavalry operations in the eastern theater during September 1862, Freiheit is also no stranger to the Maryland Campaign.

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