Friday, November 1, 2019

Booknotes: Johnsonville

New Arrival:
Johnsonville: Union Supply Operations on the Tennessee River and the Battle of Johnsonville, November 4-5, 1864 by Jerry T. Wooten (Savas Beatie, 2019).

The flow of materiel shipped to the Union logistics and supply center at Nashville was frequently interrupted by low water on the Cumberland River and enemy cavalry raids against the railroad lines feeding into the city. To ensure a more consistent supply chain, federal forces built a massive logistics complex on the banks of the Tennessee River at Johnsonville, which had its own direct rail line to the Tennessee capital. Former Johnsonville SHP Park Manager James Wooten's Johnsonville: Union Supply Operations on the Tennessee River and the Battle of Johnsonville, November 4-5, 1864 recounts the history of the place, discussing its significance to the Union war effort in the West as well as the audacious Confederate operation led by Nathan Bedford Forrest that successfully destroyed much of it in late 1864.

The only previous book-length treatment of the subject is Donald Steenburn's Silent Echoes of Johnsonville: Nathan B. Forrest, Rebel Cavalry & Yankee Gunboats [see my brief 2007 review]. In the twenty-five years since the publication of Steenburn's book, 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 role all of this played in making possible the Union victories with which we are all familiar."

As expected, the book contains a full-length account of the battle. More from the description: "On November 4-5, 1864, Forrest’s troopers attacked the depot and shelled the city, destroying tons of invaluable supplies. The complex land-water operation nearly wiped out the Johnsonville supply depot, severely disrupted Gen. George Thomas’s army in Nashville, and impeded his operations against John Bell Hood’s Confederate army."

With much of the existing work on Johnsonville, including Steenburn's book, focused on the battle and Forrest's raiding operation in West Tennessee, Wooten's study "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."

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