Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Booknotes: Washington Roebling's Civil War

New Arrival:
Washington Roebling's Civil War: From the Bloody Battlefield at Gettysburg to the Brooklyn Bridge by Diane Monroe Smith (Stackpole Bks, 2019).

The Ken Burns Civil War documentary series was instrumental in raising the popular status of a number of diarists and letter writers, both military and civilian. Examples include Sam Watkins, Elisha Hunt Rhodes, and George Templeton Strong. Washington Roebling would have maintained a certain measure of renown from his directing the construction of the famous Brooklyn Bridge designed with his father, but the Burns series certainly played a role in highlighting another important component of Roebling's life story, his Civil War career. Roebling's 1861-65 time in uniform, which included a celebrated turn at Gettysburg, is exhaustively documented in Diane Monroe Smith's Washington Roebling's Civil War: From the Bloody Battlefield at Gettysburg to the Brooklyn Bridge.

From the description: "In addition to his brave, dramatic actions at Gettysburg, his Civil War service was remarkable: artilleryman, bridge builder, scout, balloonist, mapmaker, engineer, and staff officer. His story reveals much about Gettysburg but also about Civil War intelligence and engineering and the politics and infighting within the Army of the Potomac’s high command. Roebling’s service—leadership, engineering, decision-making, and managing personalities and politics—prepared him well for overseeing the Brooklyn Bridge."

Roebling's military service spanned the entire war, and during that period he wore many hats (see above). All of those experiences, from his accompaniment of the Union Army's initial advance into Virginia in 1861 through the Appomattox surrender, are recounted in a densely detailed, almost 400-page narrative supported by 41 maps.

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