Monday, August 31, 2020

Booknotes: Iowa and the Civil War, Volume 2

New Arrival:
Iowa and the Civil War, Volume 2: From Iuka to the Red River, 1862-1864 by Kenneth L. Lyftogt (Camp Pope Publishing, 2020).

From Iuka to the Red RiverThe first volume of a planned trilogy, Kenneth Lyftogt's Iowa and the Civil War, Volume 1: Free Child of the Missouri Compromise 1850-1862, won the 2019 A.M. Pate Award for best Trans-Mississippi Civil War book of that year. Volume 1 concluded with the Battle of Shiloh, and Lyftogt's Iowa and the Civil War, Volume 2: From Iuka to the Red River, 1862-1864 picks up from there, following Iowa's soldiers through Iuka, Corinth, Davis Bridge, Prairie Grove, Vicksburg, Chattanooga, and Red River (with the future Volume 3 beginning with the Atlanta Campaign).

As was the case with Volume 1, this book also extends its discussion of Civil War Iowa off the battlefield and to the home front. From the description: "While Iowa’s soldiers marched and fought, the people back home rallied to their support. Women such as Keokuk’s Annie Turner Wittenmyer and Ann Harlan, wife of Senator James Harlan, organized aid societies that gathered tons of clothes, food, and other supplies and saw to it that they got to the Iowa troops in the field. Women, some remembered, but most lost to history, often went to war. Many Iowa regiments had wives, mothers, and other women volunteers who worked in the hospitals and in the camps. Local newspapers kept the people of Iowa informed on the battles and politics, while war rallies and celebrations kept the war fever hot. The dead, brought home from far away, and the returning sick and wounded served as daily reminders of Iowa’s commitment to the war." Accompanying the text are sixteen original maps and a host of photographs and illustrations.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Book News: Changing Sides

A short while ago, I read an 1865 Mobile Campaign chapter from a recently published book (the title of which escapes me at the moment) that referred to as many as 500 ex-Union POWs serving in the ranks of the Confederate defenders. These men were understandably worried about how they would be treated after the forts surrendered, but the author left me hanging with no further mention of what happened to them. However, in one of those many moments of odd coincidence, news of an upcoming title that might enlighten us regarding their ultimate fate, Pat Garrow's Changing Sides: Union Prisoners of War Who Joined the Confederate Army (UT Press, Nov 2020), popped up around the same time. Most of the literature studying those Civil War soldiers who sought to escape the many hells of military prisons by joining the other side focuses on the over 5,000 Confederate prisoners who agreed to wear blue and serve on the western frontier—the "Galvanized Yankees." Though other books have followed in its wake (most prominently 2003's Galvanized Yankees on the Upper Missouri: The Face of Loyalty), Dee Brown's The Galvanized Yankees (1963, Univ. of Ill. Press) has long served as the standard general history of the subject.

Though the numbers of Galvanized Rebels were much smaller, they are significant enough to merit book-length study. The implications of their service were much different, too. While Galvanized Yankees would serve on the distant frontier against hostile Indian tribes, Galvanized Rebels could readily expect to find themselves fighting their ex-comrades in the Union Army.

Galvanizing into the Confederate Army was a late-war (1864-65) phenomenon. According to NPS research (see here), 6% of the Union soldiers at the Florence prison and 4% of Camp Lawton POWs agreed to enlist in the Confederate Army. Garrow's book Changing Sides "investigates the experience of imprisoned Union soldiers during the final years of the American Civil War, including their captivity and their repatriation into Confederate ranks. Patrick Garrow's research stems from the archaeological excavation of Florence Prison in 2006 and subsequent archival research in the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion and other primary records. Garrow's deeply researched portrait will fill a significant gap in our understanding of Union POWs."

Friday, August 28, 2020

Booknotes: The Cavalries in the Nashville Campaign

New Arrival:
The Cavalries in the Nashville Campaign by Dennis W. Belcher (McFarland, 2020).

I've mentioned before how much I appreciate Dennis Belcher's recent work on heartland cavalry and mounted operations conducted there. In addition to The Cavalry of the Army of the Cumberland (2016) and a biography of the man he credits most for its organization (General David Stanley), Belcher is the author of a series of cavalry-focused examinations of the greatest clashes between the Confederate Army of Tennessee and the Union Army of the Cumberland. Following in the footsteps of The Cavalries at Stones River: An Analytical History (2017) and The Union Cavalry and the Chickamauga Campaign (2018) is Belcher's newest work, The Cavalries in the Nashville Campaign.

From the description: "The Nashville Campaign, culminating with the last major battle of the Civil War, is one of the most compelling and controversial campaigns of the conflict. The campaign pitted the young and energetic James Harrison Wilson and his Union cavalry against the cunning and experienced Nathan Bedford Forrest with his Confederate cavalry. This book is an analysis of contributions made by the two opposing cavalry forces and provides new insights and details into the actions of the cavalry during the battle. This campaign highlighted important changes in cavalry tactics and never in the Civil War was there closer support by the cavalry for infantry actions than for the Union forces in the Battle of Nashville. The retreat by Cheatham's corps and the Battle of the Barricade receive a more in-depth discussion than in previous works on this battle. The importance of this campaign cannot be overstated as a different outcome of this battle could have altered history. The Nashville Campaign reflected the stark realities of the war across the country in December 1864 and would mark an important part of the death knell for the Confederacy."

With its detailed organization, command, and operational history narrative accompanied by very helpful original cartography, the Nashville study exhibits the same general presentation style found in the earlier Stones River and Chickamauga books. For the Union side in particular, Belcher has firmly established himself as one of the leading authorities on western theater cavalry forces.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Review - "Seceding from Secession: The Civil War, Politics, and the Creation of West Virginia" by Wittenberg, Sargus, and Barrick

[Seceding from Secession: The Civil War, Politics, and the Creation of West Virginia by Eric J. Wittenberg, Edmund A. Sargus, Jr., and Penny L. Barrick (Savas Beatie, 2020). Hardcover, maps, photos, footnotes, appendices, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:xv,186/283. ISBN:9781611215069. $32.95]

For many political leaders and citizens across the North, the 1863 creation of West Virginia was an incontestably justified reward for the loyalty of western Virginians and their significant contributions (over 30,000 men) to the Union war effort. Two more friendly senators to support Republican war aims and Reconstruction policies probably didn't hurt either. However, many others, including some of western Virginia's leading Unionist figures, opposed statehood on constitutional and philosophical grounds. Though it explores all of the many reasons why western Virginians found it in their best interest to break away from the Old Dominion, what makes Seceding from Secession: The Civil War, Politics, and the Creation of West Virginia most exceptional is its thorough and accessible addressing of constitutional and legal matters. Lending authority to that discussion of a central part of the debate over West Virginia statehood are the professional backgrounds of co-authors Eric Wittenberg (a Columbus, Ohio lawyer and well-known author of a great many Civil War military history studies), Edmund Sargus (a Federal district judge in Ohio), and Penny Barrick (a senior lawyer with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio).

Regional tensions of some kind probably exist within every state, but western Virginians were the only citizens to use an unprecedented time of national emergency to form a new state within the borders of their own. Clearly such a drastic and extraordinary measure would not have been undertaken in the absence of a longstanding history of profound grievances. Indeed, western Virginians fumed for decades over an eastern political dominance they believed to be inattentive to the needs of citizens living west of the mountains and guilty of creating a tax system that disproportionately burdened western economic activities. These issues are well summarized in the book, as are the cultural, economic, and geographical ties that connected trans-Appalachian Virginians to the northern states of Ohio and Pennsylvania more intimately than they did eastern Virginia.

The authors also devote considerable space to outlining the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad's foundational influence on the new state of West Virginia. The need to protect this critical Union-controlled transportation artery was a key factor in garnering northern support for statehood, but the B&O also directly drove border-drawing considerations as its tracks ran through pro-secession counties that needed to be annexed to the new state to secure the railroad's future. The B&O was also a useful justification for citing military expediency as reason to sidestep constitutional objections to West Virginia statehood.

Statehood supporters had to engage in a great deal of legal gymnastics to overcome the requirements of Article IV Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution [the relevant part being "New states may be admitted by the Congress into this union; but no new states shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other state; nor any state be formed by the junction of two or more states, or parts of states, without the consent of the legislatures of the states concerned as well as of the Congress."]. The book's extensive coverage of the debates over the legality and advisability of carving a new state out of Virginia's existing borders consists of a highly diverse selection of opinions expressed by influential leaders inside Virginia and across the North.

As one who opposed statehood, venerable Kentucky Rep. John Crittenden articulated perhaps the simplest and most logically unassailable reasoning. In pointing out the obvious conflict of interest involved, Crittenden wrote "It is the party applying for admission consenting to the admission. That is the whole of it. This legislature is here applying to be admitted as a new State, and at the same time and in the same character consenting that they themselves shall be so admitted!"

On the other side, the opinion of Senator Thaddeus Stevens is representative of one brand of supporting argument, a 'might makes right' justification of military expediency that took precedence over any constitutional concerns. A more soberly reflective argument can be found in Ohio Rep. John Bingham's opinion that when the majority of a state become armed rebels, then "the minority are the State" thus voiding the original State of Virginia and its duly elected representatives. Among other questionable aspects, this idea in itself possessed inherent weaknesses revolving around the legitimacy of the assumption of power (i.e. a small minority simply proclaiming themselves heads of government) while denying representation to fellow Unionists in Confederate-controlled parts of the state that might have collectively outnumbered pro-statehood western Virginians.

The president's overriding importance to the statehood debates is also made clear in the book. Lincoln was initially ambivalent on the matter. The cabinet divided 3-3 with more conservative Blair, Bates, and Welles opposed to statehood and Radicals Stanton, Chase, Seward heartily approving without much in the way of reservation. The former trio had legal and constitutional reservations while the latter hung their hats on wartime expediency and the idea that secession invalidated the need for approval by any of the voters of eastern Virginia. Lincoln claimed to not like the precedent that admitting West Virginia would set, but doubted that eastern Virginia Unionists "amounted to much" (he had views on minority representation similar on the whole to those of Chase and Bingham) and was quickly persuaded in the matter by the Wheeling leadership (particularly "Governor" Francis Pierpont, who vaguely threatened that the president vetoing the bill creating the new state would kill unionism in western Virginia). Thus, with Lincoln as well, military and political expediency overrode any constitutional and slippery slope qualms over the self-justifying legal fictions created throughout the process.

During the waning moments of the war, President Andrew Johnson appointed Pierpont governor of the Restored Government of Virginia. Ironically, given how instrumental he was in the creation of West Virginia, Pierpont moved to reclaim Berkeley and Jefferson counties for Virginia, and in December 1865 the Virginia General Assembly unanimously rescinded its formal consent for the creation of West Virginia as the borders then stood. On March 6, 1866 Congress passed a joint resolution approving the transfer of the two contested counties to West Virginia. Before Congress acted, however, the Virginia attorney general filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Supreme Court against West Virginia (with the 'state versus state' claim giving the Supreme Court original jurisdiction). The lawsuit did not challenge the legitimacy of West Virginia, but argued that the Restored Government gave only conditional consent to the transfer of the army-occupied railroad counties to West Virginia and alleged that the required elections (which were conducted under military auspices) were fraudulent. Virginia also maintained that the consent requirements of the U.S. Constitution were not met when the state withdrew its consent (which it regarded as inchoate) before Congress formally acted. In January 1868, the U.S. Supreme Court (without Chief Justice Salmon Chase, who was heavily involved in the statehood process, recusing himself) entered its 3-3 deadlock into the official record. It would be three years later, when the court was expanded to nine members under Grant's Republican presidency and questions over Virginia's official status as a state were finally resolved that the issue to finally be settled 6-3 in favor of West Virginia. Skirting any commentary on the constitutionality of West Virginia's original creation and minority Restored Government's authority over the entire state, the majority court decision rejected the notion that Virginia could revoke its own consent years later and found the election fraud allegations too "indefinite and vague" to overturn the Restored Government of Virginia governor's certification of the results.

A large portion of the book (collected together in the appendix section) consists of full transcriptions of historical documents related to West Virginia statehood. In addition to the cabinet letters to Lincoln explaining their opinions on West Virginia's constitutionality, the State of Virginia vs. State of West Virginia Supreme Court complaint, the 1871 Supreme Court decision, and the 1911 Virginia vs. West Virginia decision on public debt apportionment, the appendix also includes the January 2020 West Virginia resolution requesting a Frederick County, Virginia referendum on becoming a part of West Virginia (unlike Berkeley and Jefferson counties, Frederick County never conducted a consent vote).

Whenever you have three authors working together on a single narrative there will typically be some discontinuity in flow, but, in this case, there are no distractions in that area beyond some repetition. Instead, all of the authors deserve praise for not trying to lead the reader down any particular path of partisan reasoning. Articulating the topic's legal twists and turns in a manner easily understood by a general audience, they expertly present the most compelling arguments of both sides without ideological bent. Seceding from Secession serves a useful purpose as a comprehensive repository of relevant public and private documents related to the topic, but its greatest value lies in its lucid summaries of the social, political, economic, and legal contexts surrounding the formation and early history of West Virginia. The new standard treatment of the subject, this volume is a highly recommended resource for general and specialist readers alike.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Booknotes: Writing War and Reunion

New Arrival:
Writing War and Reunion: Selected Civil War and Reconstruction Newspaper Editorials by William Gilmore Simms edited by Jeffery J. Rogers (USC Press, 2020).

South Carolinian novelist, essayist, journalist, editor, and poet William Gilmore Simms (1806-1870) was a major American literary figure of the antebellum period. He also delved into history and biography writing, with his 1842 History of South Carolina an influential work in educational circles. Serving a single term in the South Carolina House of Representatives in the 1840s, he was even briefly a politician.

Though Simms's writings on the whole are little read today outside of the academy, most Civil War readers will recognize him for his firsthand contributions to the historiography of the 1865 burning of Columbia. First serialized in the Columbia Phoenix during the months following the state capital's near destruction, Simms's detailed eyewitness accounts of those events were first published together in pamphlet form later that year under the title The Sack and Destruction of the City of Columbia, S.C.. Most recently, the material has been edited by historian David Aiken and republished by University of South Carolina Press as A City Laid Waste: The Capture, Sack, and Destruction of the City of Columbia (2005).

According to historian Jeffery Rogers, "(p)erhaps the least considered parts of Simms's overall body of writings are those he did for newspapers, the most interesting of which are from the era of the Civil War and Reconstruction." Rogers's Writing War and Reunion: Selected Civil War and Reconstruction Newspaper Editorials by William Gilmore Simms "offers a selection of the best of those so that we can track Simms's thoughts about, and reactions to, the conflict, from its beginnings through to its conclusion and into the early years of Reconstruction. These works provide a valuable insight into how a prominent southern intellectual interpreted and participated in these momentous events in U.S. history."

More from the description: "In the decades following the Civil War, Simms's reputation suffered a steady decline. Because of his associations with the antebellum South, slavery, and Confederate defeat, as well as changes in literary tastes, Simms came to be regarded as a talented but failed Southern author of a bygone era. Today a robust scholarly literature exists (much of it, as in the case of this book, published by University of South Carolina Press) "that has reexamined Simms, his literary works, and previous scholarly judgments and finds him to have been an important figure in the development of nineteenth-century American literature and worthy of serious study."

In his foreword to Writing War and Reunion, contributor David Moltke-Hansen provides readers with a biographical sketch of Simms's life. The Simms articles are not footnoted in the volume, but Rogers contextualizes them in his general and section introductions. Part 1 of the book consists of Simms's Civil War editorial contributions to the Charleston Mercury, Columbia Phoenix, and Columbia Daily Phoenix newspapers. The Reconstruction period editorials collected in Part 2 were written for the Daily South Carolinian and the Daily Courier between 1865 and 1867.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Booknotes: Friendly Enemies

New Arrival:
Friendly Enemies: Soldier Fraternization throughout the American Civil War by Lauren K. Thompson (Univ of Neb Press, 2020).

With so much material published about the common soldier experience during the American Civil War, it is sort of surprising that no one has written a comprehensive study of field fraternization between Union and Confederate fighting men before now. Anecdotes abound in the literature, with picket exchanges along the Rappahannock during the harsh winter of 1862-63 being perhaps the most commonly cited example. "When soldiers found themselves surrounded by privation, disease, and death, many risked their standing in the army, and ultimately their lives, for a warm cup of coffee or pinch of tobacco during a sleepless shift on picket duty, to receive a newspaper from a “Yank” or “Johnny,” or to stop the relentless picket fire while in the trenches."

In many ways, Lauren Thompson's Friendly Enemies: Soldier Fraternization throughout the American Civil War interprets the practice to be a form of resistance as well as an important survival technique. In the book, the author "analyzes the relations and fraternization of American soldiers on opposing sides of the battlefield and argues that these interactions represented common soldiers’ efforts to fight the war on their own terms. Her study reveals that despite different commanders, terrain, and outcomes on the battlefield, a common thread emerges: soldiers constructed a space to lessen hostilities and make their daily lives more manageable."

In the end, "(f)raternization allowed men to escape their situation briefly and did not carry the stigma of cowardice. Because the fraternization was exclusively between white soldiers, it became the prototype for sectional reunion after the war—a model that avoided debates over causation, honored soldiers’ shared sacrifice, and promoted white male supremacy."

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Coming Soon (September '20 Edition)

*NEW RELEASES* - Scheduled for SEPT 2020:

Battle Tested!: Gettysburg Leadership Lessons for 21st Century Leaders by Jeffrey McCausland and Tom Vossler.
The Enduring Civil War: Reflections on the Great American Crisis by Gary W. Gallagher.
Imagining Wild Bill: James Butler Hickok in War, Media, and Memory by Paul Ashdown and Edward Caudill.
Rediscovering Fort Sanders: The American Civil War and Its Impact on Knoxville's Cultural Landscape by Terry and Charles Faulkner.
Weapons of the Civil War Cavalryman by John Walter.
The Maps of the Cavalry in the Gettysburg Campaign: An Atlas of Mounted Operations from Brandy Station Through Falling Waters, June 9 – July 14, 1863 by Bradley M. Gottfried.
Tullahoma: The Forgotten Campaign that Changed the Course of the Civil War, June 23 - July 4, 1863 by David A. Powell and Eric J. Wittenberg.
Defending the Arteries of Rebellion: Confederate Naval Operations in the Mississippi River Valley, 1861-1865 by Neil P. Chatelain.
Patriots Twice: Former Confederates and the Building of America after the Civil War by Stephen M. Hood.
The Bachelder Papers: Gettysburg in Their Own Words, 3 Vols. edited by David and Audrey Ladd.
Opposing Lincoln: Clement L. Vallandigham, Presidential Power, and the Legal Battle over Dissent in Wartime by Thomas C. Mackey.
Gone but Not Forgotten: Atlantans Commemorate the Civil War by Wendy Hamand Venet.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Booknotes: Tempest over Texas

New Arrival:
Tempest over Texas: The Fall and Winter Campaigns of 1863–1864 by Donald S. Frazier (State House Pr, 2020).

From the description: Tempest Over Texas: The Fall and Winter Campaigns, 1863–1864 "is the fourth installment in Dr. Donald S. Frazier’s award-winning Louisiana Quadrille series. Picking up the story of the Civil War in Louisiana and Texas after the fall of Port Hudson and Vicksburg, Tempest Over Texas describes Confederate confusion on how to carry on in the Trans-Mississippi given the new strategic realities. Likewise, Federal forces gathered from Memphis to New Orleans were in search of a new mission. International intrigues and disasters on distant battlefields would all conspire to confuse and perplex war-planners. One thing remained, however. The Stars and Stripes needed to fly once again in Texas, and as soon as possible."

I wrote a preview of this title way back in April (see here), so I'll refer you to that article for more information. I'm in the middle of reading it right now (about six chapters in), and it looks like another strong contender for being one of the best Trans-Mississippi books of the year.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Review - "The Kentucky Campaign of 1862 and Battle of Perryville" (2 Vols.) by Kenneth Hafendorfer [to be continued]

[The Kentucky Campaign of 1862 and Battle of Perryville, Volume I: Tupelo to Perryville by Kenneth A. Hafendorfer (KH Press-Author, 2017). Hardcover, 74/174 maps, illustrations, notes. Pages main/total:xxv,438/562. ISBN:0-9648550-6-2. OP]

The best part of it built up over the past three decades, the current state of the 1862 Kentucky Campaign's military history literature is more than respectable in size and quality. We have two full-length Perryville studies in Kenneth Noe's Perryville: This Grand Havoc of Battle (2001) and Kenneth Hafendorfer's Perryville: Battle for Kentucky (1981, revised and expanded in 1991). Indeed, Hafendorfer, a Kentucky physician and avocational historian, has contributed more than any other individual to the campaign literature. In addition to Perryville, his other book-length military studies include an exhaustive operational history of Confederate mounted forces during the campaign [They Died by Twos and Tens: The Confederate Cavalry in the Kentucky Campaign of 1862 (1995)], the 1997 book Nathan Bedford Forrest, The Distant Storm: The Murfreesboro Raid, July 13, 1862, and a far more detailed treatment of the Richmond battle [The Battle of Richmond, Kentucky - August 30, 1862 (2006)] than the one found in D. Warren Lambert's 1995 book When the Ripe Pears Fell: The Battle of Richmond, Kentucky. Lewis D. Nicholls's A Masterful Retreat: The Story of the 7th Division's Retreat Across Eastern Kentucky from Sept. 17 to Oct. 3, 1862 (2006, rev. and expanded 2014) covers the successful escape of Union general George Morgan's division from its encirclement at Cumberland Gap. There is also an excellent essay anthology edited by Kent Masterson Brown titled The Civil War in Kentucky: The Battle for the Bluegrass State (2000). The standard single-volume history of the campaign remains James Lee McDonough's War In Kentucky: Shiloh To Perryville (1994); however, the level of detail in that work pales in comparison to that presented in Kenneth Hafendorfer's final work, a two-volume study titled The Kentucky Campaign of 1862 and Battle of Perryville (2017). While Hafendorfer was able to complete this mammoth capstone to his Civil War writing career, he unfortunately passed away during publication. Released in a very limited print run of only 108 numbered copies, the set is out-of-print and certain to become difficult to find on the secondary market.

As indicated by its title, The Kentucky Campaign of 1862 and Battle of Perryville, Volume I: Tupelo to Perryville covers background history and all events leading up to the campaign's climactic clash of arms. There isn't a great deal of source commentary or direct engagement with other authors in either main text or notes. The positively gargantuan bibliography listing primary and secondary sources of every type (including a vast number of manuscript collections) mainly serves the author's descriptive military narrative, which is an exhaustively detailed, day-by-day account of the campaign. The maps (174 in total, 74 in this volume) come in all different scales, with both tactical and operational maps exhibiting useful unit and topography information at a high degree of detail. Assisted by very helpful captions, these numerous original maps are closely tied to the text and are of above-average craftsmanship (though magnification aids might be required for some eyes).

Hafendorfer's military treatment is remarkably comprehensive. Of course, the heart of the narrative follows the main columns of each side (Don Carlos Buell's Union army and the combined Confederate armies of Braxton Bragg and Edmund Kirby Smith). Addressed in Volume I are Bragg's redeployment to Chattanooga, Kirby Smith's bypassing of Cumberland Gap and plunge north into Central Kentucky, the "Race to Louisville" (won by Buell), and the various maneuvers from both sides leading up to the October 8 Battle of Perryville. The Battle of Munfordville is presented in detail, but the fighting at Richmond is accorded only summary treatment (likely because, as mentioned above, that battle has already been addressed thoroughly by the author in another book).

Volume I also encompasses related campaigns and movements in North Mississippi, Tennessee, and SW Virginia/SE Kentucky. In addition to Armstrong's Raid in West Tennessee, the fighting in Mississippi at Iuka, Corinth, and Davis Bridge is recounted at unexpected length in the text, and the relevance of these actions to the distant Kentucky Campaign is clearly explained. Confederate generals Price and Van Dorn were ordered to move against Union forces west of the Tennessee River in hopes of keeping Grant and Rosecrans from sending reinforcements to Buell. However, unbeknownst to the Confederates, heavy detachments from Grant's command had already been sent north, and Bragg's wish that Van Dorn and Price cover his western flank in Kentucky proved unrealistic against heavier than expected opposition. Though no one writing specifically about the Kentucky Campaign before now (including McDonough) has reserved this much space to associated events in West Tennessee and North Mississippi, emphasis on links between the fighting in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi in 1862 can be found in Earl Hess's Banners to the Breeze: The Kentucky Campaign, Corinth, and Stones River (2000). On the campaign's opposite flank, Bragg and Kirby Smith received less than hearty cooperation, at least initially, from General Humphrey Marshall's small command as it advanced into Kentucky from S.W. Virginia. As these events clearly show, the entire Confederate campaign in the Middle West during the late summer and early fall was hampered by inaccurate knowledge of the opposition and failure to employ a truly unified command structure.

While the author mostly prefers to present events as they happened and leave detailed critiques of command decisions to the reader, the most enduring and prominent points of controversy are duly addressed in some manner. Much censure has been heaped upon General Buell over the years for not immediately attacking Bragg's smaller army in Tennessee, a movement that could have quashed the Confederate campaign right from the beginning. The book's minutely detailed account of Bragg's march north from Chattanooga, which was very effectively screened by Confederate cavalry and especially by Bragg's skillful exploitation of the difficult terrain of the Cumberland mountains and plateau (a region heavily cut by steep ridges and long valleys connected through narrow gaps), seems to indicate that a decision to plunge ahead into that kind of forbidding military topography was far from straightforward in terms of weighing risk versus reward.

Buell has also been frequently criticized for not attacking Bragg's army at Munfordville during the so-called "Race to Louisville." Bragg's army was clearly more vulnerable there than it was earlier in the campaign, but Buell still declined to attack in favor of continuing on to Louisville. Though the author cites fairly substantial evidence from Union sources that Buell's consideration of his army as unfit for battle (worn-down and low on supplies after its long march through Tennessee and Kentucky) wasn't mere excuse making, it would be difficult to argue that the fighting condition of the Confederates could have been any better. Regardless, the controversial decision to avoid confronting Bragg until the army was fully refit and reinforced at Louisville was militarily (if not politically) justifiable. Indeed, the way the army was directed from Louisville in the days leading up to Perryville indicated that Buell's decision was about to pay off in a big way with a defeat of Bragg's army in detail. Alas, as is so often the case in war, the masterful setup to Buell's counterstroke from Louisville was flubbed in its final execution.

In addressing the performance of the Confederate high command, there's the usual critical discussion of the campaign's absence of unified command leadership from the outset and lack of full cooperation between Bragg, Kirby Smith, and Marshall. Like others have before him, Hafendorfer sees Bragg's performance as sharp and decisive, even brilliant, during the early phases of the campaign. However, frustration (with fellow generals and with the Kentucky population's reluctance to rise up in support) and crippling indecision set in as the operation progressed. By the time Buell's rejuvenated army left Louisville, Bragg's command was scattered and unable to respond to the new higher tempo of operations. Bragg, who believed Buell's two-division diversionary column launched toward Frankfort to be the enemy's main effort, ordered Polk to march north from Bardstown and hit the Union army on the flank. Polk, who at that moment had the better grasp of the military chessboard, realized this would take his marching corps across the front of Buell's main body and refused to comply. Examining the best evidence through the advantage of hindsight, most historians and writers (including Hafendorfer and recent Polk biographer Huston Horn) side with Polk on the matter. Nevertheless, Polk's exercise of command discretion earned Bragg's lasting enmity, and Polk's fateful October 6 message to Bragg reporting that the enemy force opposite the army's left flank west of Perryville was not large only reinforced Bragg's confusion about where the enemy's main thrust was being directed.

Another part of the army that let Bragg down during the climax of the campaign was his cavalry. Hafendorfer's narrative places heavy emphasis on the cavalry's role in the campaign. Drawing heavily from his earlier work in They Died by Twos and Tens, the author is persuasive in arguing that the Confederate mounted arm that was so instrumental to success during the early stages of the campaign, had by October been rendered only a shell of its former self. Coincident with the diminution of Bragg's cavalry strength and effectiveness was the rapid expansion, reorganization, and overall rebirth of Buell's formerly outclassed cavalry force. With mounted superiority on the other foot, Buell's multi-column advance out of Louisville was so effectively screened from prying eyes that the convergence of three Union corps on Perryville came as a complete surprise to the Confederates. The severely worn-down condition of the Confederate cavalry left them unable to render assistance to Bragg's increasingly confused mind. With little help from the eyes and ears of his army, Bragg was unable to reconcile the contradictory reports about enemy strength he received from Kirby Smith on the right east of the Kentucky River and Hardee/Polk on the left near Perryville. With their commander in the dark, Confederate forces were spread out over a wide area at the very moment when concentration was essential for any chance at success.

The Kentucky Campaign of 1862 and Battle of Perryville, Volume II: Perryville to Knoxville has also been reviewed on the site.
< < < < Click HERE to read the combined review of both volumes > > > >

Links to other books mentioned in the review:
Perryville: Battle for Kentucky* by Kenneth Hafendorfer.
Nathan Bedford Forrest - The Distant Storm: The Murfreesboro Raid of July 13, 1862 by Kenneth Hafendorfer.
War In Kentucky: Shiloh To Perryville by James Lee McDonough.
Battle of Richmond, Kentucky - August 30, 1862 by Kenneth Hafendorfer.
They Died by Twos and Tens: The Confederate Cavalry in the Kentucky Campaign of 1862 by Kenneth Hafendorfer.
A Masterful Retreat: The Story of the 7th Divisions Retreat Across Eastern Kentucky from Sept. 17 to Oct. 3, 1862 by Lewis Nicholls.
When the Ripe Pears Fell: The Battle of Richmond, Kentucky by D. Warren Lambert.
Perryville: This Grand Havoc of Battle by Kenneth Noe.
Banners to the Breeze: The Kentucky Campaign, Corinth, and Stones River by Earl Hess.
The Civil War in Kentucky: The Battle for the Bluegrass State ed. by Kent Masterson Brown.

* - I've come across secondary market listings of a 1989 printing of this title with enough frequency to believe that it exists. If it does, it's probably a straight reprint (as those same listings typically falsely claim it to be a first edition, first printing); however, it does seem odd that Hafendorfer would have done that after eight years just to release a new updated/expanded edition only two years later. As far as I know, this is the only Hafendorfer book for which multiple editions or printings exist.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Booknotes: Radical Warrior

New Arrival:
Radical Warrior: August Willich's Journey from German Revolutionary to Union General by David T. Dixon (UT Press, 2020).

"An estimated 200,000 men of German birth enlisted in the Union Army during the Civil War, far more than any other contemporary foreign-born population. One of these, Prussian Army officer Johann August Ernst von Willich, led a remarkable life of integrity, commitment to a cause, and interaction with leading lights of the nineteenth century." David Dixon's Radical Warrior: August Willich's Journey from German Revolutionary to Union General is a full biography, with over one-third of the book devoted to Willich's pre-Civil War life and most of the final three chapters covering his life after the conflict ended. "After resigning from the Prussian Army due to his republican beliefs, Willich led armed insurrections during the revolutions of 1848–49, with Friedrich Engels as his aide-de-camp. Ever committed to the goal of universal human rights, he once dueled a disciple of Karl Marx—whom he thought too conservative. Willich emigrated to the United States in 1853, eventually making his way to Cincinnati, where he served as editor of the daily labor newspaper the Cincinnati Republican."

More from the description: "With exhaustive research in both English and German language sources (the bibliography lists archives in Germany, France, and the Netherlands), author David T. Dixon chronicles the life of this ingenious military leader—a man who could also be stubborn, impulsive, and even foolhardy—risking his life unnecessarily in the face of overwhelming odds."

"As soon as shots were fired at Fort Sumter, fifty-year-old Willich helped raise a regiment to fight for the Union. Though he had been a lieutenant in Europe, he enlisted as a private. He later commanded an all-German regiment, rose to the rank of brigadier general, and was later brevetted major general." Willich distinguished himself in numerous campaigns from West Virginia in 1861 through the 1864 Atlanta Campaign. He was wounded badly (losing an arm) during the latter but returned to the army to serve in rear area postings for the remainder of the war. 

Dixon's "narrative places the Civil War in a global context. For Willich and other so-called “Forty-Eighters” who emigrated after the European revolutions, the nature and implications of the conflict turned not on Lincoln’s conservative goal of maintaining the national Union, but on issues of social justice, including slavery, free labor, and popular self-government."

Friday, August 14, 2020

Booknotes: Fort Clinch, Fernandina and the Civil War

New Arrival:
Fort Clinch, Fernandina and the Civil War by Frank A. Ofeldt III (Arcadia Pub and The Hist Press, 2020).

From the description: "Even though Fernandina was tucked away in the far southern reaches of the Confederacy, Fort Clinch had been abandoned to Federal forces by March 1862. It proved a boon to the Union war effort, and the island became a haven for runaway slaves, with many joining the Federal army. The military occupation of this vital seaport helped end the war, and the Reconstruction period that followed bore witness to Union and Confederate veterans working together to bring Fernandina into a golden era of prosperity."

With its fine ocean port and rail connection to the Florida interior, Fernandina and its nearby protector, Fort Clinch, seemed destined to play significant roles in the war. However, both were abandoned early in the conflict, casualties of Confederate realization that they could not defend everywhere. I'm always up for anything related to the coastal war and am not aware of another book dedicated in full to this topic, so this should make for an interesting read.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Review - "The 6th Michigan Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War: A History and Roster" by Eric Faust

[The 6th Michigan Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War: A History and Roster by Eric R. Faust (McFarland, 2020). Softcover, maps, appendix, roster, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:viii,188/301. ISBN:978-1-4766-8075-0. $49.95]

The state of Michigan supplied some iconic units to the Union Army order of battle. The 24th Michigan was part of the legendary Iron Brigade, and General George A. Custer's Michigan Brigade achieved fame as one of the eastern theater's best cavalry formations. The state even gleamed brightly on the logistical support front, with the 1st Regiment Michigan Volunteer Engineers and Mechanics having an outsized impact on Union victory in the West. However, among all of the state's regiments, it was the comparatively unsung Sixth Michigan that suffered the highest number of war deaths. Their up and down war story is recounted in full in Eric Faust's The 6th Michigan Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War.

Mustered into service in August 1861, the Sixth Michigan joined many other western regiments in being rushed east to defend Washington. There they garrisoned unruly Baltimore in judicious fashion and combed Maryland's Eastern Shore for Confederate activity. In 1862, they sailed to the Gulf with General Benjamin Butler's New Orleans expedition as part of General Thomas Williams's brigade. After the Crescent City fell into Union hands, the Sixth pulled garrison duty there and at the abandoned Louisiana capital. That May, they steamed upriver and participated in the failed first attempt to seize Vicksburg before returning to Baton Rouge. They fought their first battle of the war at Baton Rouge on August 5 and spent the ensuing ten months conducting small-scale raids on both sides of the Mississippi. Though the regiment did not fight in any major battles between the capture of New Orleans and the end of 1862 (with both sides heavily depleted, Baton Rouge was essentially a brigade-sized affair), they lost a startling 300 men that year alone to death (by wound or disease) and medical discharge. In May 1863, the Sixth once again was pushed upriver, this time as part of General Nathaniel Banks's operation against Port Hudson. Though failed by their commanding officers, the company leaders and men in the ranks acquitted themselves well during two major assaults (on May 27 and June 14). After besieged Port Hudson was surrendered in July, the now vastly understrength regiment returned to occupation duties and was converted into a heavy artillery regiment. Their artillery service is not detailed in the text, nor are the many new recruits needed to fill out the ranks included in the roster.

Utilizing a very large collection of primary and secondary sources of all kinds, Faust's richly-detailed narrative of the Sixth's Civil War history is profoundly enhanced by the author's seamless integration of the great number of firsthand accounts obtained through archival research. Faust's meticulous recounting of the regiment's part in the fighting at the Baton Rouge battle (where the Sixth was instrumental in repulsing Confederate attacks on the Union right and center) and Port Hudson siege (the Sixth led the attack of Dow's Brigade across the Slaughter Plantation on May 27 and faced "The Citadel" on June 14) will be highly useful to future scholars writing about those operations. In addition, Faust's detailed coverage of Union raids and skirmishes north of New Orleans over the second half of 1862 and first half of 1863 significantly enhances our knowledge of Lower Gulf guerrilla warfare. Those sections of the book also fully document many little-known actions around Lake Maurepas, Lake Pontchartrain, and the stretch of New Orleans, Jackson, and Great Northern Railroad tracks between Camp Moore and the Crescent City.

To his credit, Faust's warts-and-all treatment discusses at great length the regiment's many internal flaws. Throughout the book, the author cites vast evidence of the regiment's serial insubordination and extraordinary propensity to destroy private buildings and plunder the inhabitants of areas under their control. The regiment started out quite well in Baltimore, where they earned the respect and even admiration of many of its citizens, but it was all downhill from there beginning with the Eastern Shore Expedition. On the whole, the Sixth's field grade officers were either unwilling or unable to curtail this activity, and they continually clashed in grossly insubordinate ways with their brigade commanders. Speaking of the unit's highest ranking officers, the regiment was burdened with a string of drunkards and incompetents throughout its infantry service, with only the unit's original commander uniformly respected by both officers and men. Unfortunately, Colonel Curtenius age and health could not stand up to the rigors of field service. He was often incapacitated and eventually resigned. Typically, units like this (with weak, divisive leadership at the top and chronic indiscipline in the ranks) performed poorly in the field, but Faust amply demonstrates that the regiment fought remarkably well under the circumstances. He ascribes this to the professional-level drill and training received at Fort Wayne in 1861 and the natural leadership abilities of company officers, several of whom excelled at moments of crisis during the absence or incapacity of the regiment's field grade officers.

As part of the final chapter, Faust also delves into the first-generation regimental histories authored by four veterans of the Sixth. Particularly noteworthy among the four major published recollections are their stark differences in content and motivation. For example, self-serving Major Edward Bacon's highly critical history offered only scant praise for the common soldiers that served under him while the rest were highly celebratory in that regard. Too often relegated to scattered footnote coverage or omitted altogether, main-text evaluation of the historiographical influence and value of a unit's veteran-authored histories should really be a standard feature of all modern regimental studies. Finally, in the appendix section can be found a set of statistical tables and a full roster, both of which should prove highly useful to future researchers.

Eric Faust's  The 6th Michigan Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War is a model regimental history. Certainly anyone with a passion for Michigan Civil War units both famous and obscure will want to obtain a copy of this excellent volume, but it is also highly recommended reading for those having a more general interest in 1862-63 Gulf Department campaigns and events.

[If you want to learn more about the Sixth Michigan's Civil War, click here to read my June 4, 2020 author Q&A session with Eric Faust.]

Monday, August 10, 2020

Booknotes: The War for Missouri

New Arrival:
The War for Missouri: 1861-1862 by Joseph W. McCoskrie (Arcadia Pub & The Hist Press, 2020).

From the description: "Missouri was filled with bitter sentiment over the Civil War. Governor Claiborne Jackson had a plan to seize the St. Louis Arsenal and arm a pro-secessionist force. Former governor and Mexican-American War hero Sterling Price commanded the Missouri State Guard charged to protect the state from Federal troops. The disagreements led to ten military actions, causing hundreds of casualties before First Bull Run in the East. The state guard garnered a series of victories before losing control to the Union in 1862. Guerrilla and bushwhacker bands roamed the state at will. Author Joseph W. McCoskrie Jr. details the fight for the Show Me State."

McCoskrie is also the author of The Civil War Missouri Compendium (2017) from the same publisher. This new book is an introductory overview of the first eighteen months of the conflict in Missouri. Among the volume's 1861-62 battles and campaigns covered in brief (detailed treatments are beyond the scope of the book) are Boonville, Carthage, Wilson's Creek, Lexington, Belmont, 1862 Southwest Missouri Campaign (ending with Pea Ridge), Porter's campaign in NE Missouri, Island No. 10, Island Mound, and Lone Jack. Contextualizing those military events are discussions of Missouri's economic, social, demographic, racial, and political background history. Numerous photographs, period illustrations, and county maps supplement the text.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

2020 Civil War book award winners list

Tom Watson Brown Award:
Thomas J. Brown for Civil War Monuments and the Militarization of America (UNC Press).

Bobbie and John Nau Book Prize in American Civil War Era History:
Joseph P. Reidy for Illusions of Emancipation: The Pursuit of Freedom and Equality in the Twilight of Slavery (UNC Press).

A.M. Pate Award:
Christopher M. Rein for The Second Colorado Cavalry: A Civil War Regiment on the Great Plains (OU Press).

Albert Castel Book Award:
Carl Guarneri for Lincoln’s Informer: Charles A. Dana and the Inside Story of the Union War (UP of Kansas).

Dan and Marilyn Laney Prize:
Donald L. Miller for Vicksburg: Grant's Campaign That Broke the Confederacy (Simon & Schuster).

Richard Barksdale Harwell Book Award:
Hampton Newsome for The Fight for the Old North State: The Civil War in North Carolina, January-May 1864 (UP of Kansas).

Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize:
Elizabeth R. Varon for Armies of Deliverance: A New History of the Civil War (Oxford UP).

Wiley-Silver Prize:
Christopher R. Mortenson for Politician in Uniform: General Lew Wallace and the Civil War (OU Press).

Fletcher Pratt Award:
Stephen Davis for Texas Brigadier to the Fall of Atlanta: John Bell Hood (Mercer UP).

Douglas Southall Freeman History Award:
Christian B. Keller for The Great Partnership: Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and the Fate of the Confederacy (Pegasus).

American Civil War Museum awards:
No 2020 award(s). The museum is "re-imagining its annual awards for scholarship about the Civil War." Presumably, that means their nearly five-decade old Jefferson Davis Award is no more.

OAH Civil War and Reconstruction Book Award:
W. Caleb McDaniel for Sweet Taste of Liberty: A True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America (Oxford UP).

Also, CWBA Book of the Year recognition goes to Zachary Stuart Garrison for German Americans on the Middle Border: From Antislavery to Reconciliation, 1830–1877 (SIU Press).

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Review - "America’s Buried History: Landmines in the Civil War" by Kenneth Rutherford

[America’s Buried History: Landmines in the Civil War by Kenneth R. Rutherford (Savas Beatie, 2020). Hardcover, maps, photos, illustrations, footnotes, glossary, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:xviii,165/206. ISBN:9781611214536. $29.95]

Among the multitude of Confederate military innovations that emerged during the American Civil War (including advancements in ironclad warships, torpedo boats, submarines, and mine warfare), no widely-used killing technology was more controversial than their extensive use of land torpedoes (roughly equivalent to what we would call landmines today) and "subterra shells" (artillery shell conversions akin to modern IEDs). The development, deployment of, and attitudes toward these weapons are the subject of Kenneth Rutherford's America’s Buried History: Landmines in the Civil War.

With landmines being defensive weapons, their employment during the Civil War was almost exclusively Confederate [see pg. 88 for an account of repurposed torpedoes ordered by Union General Phil Sheridan to be planted in the cellar of a civilian home as retaliation for nearby mine casualties]. Inspired in part by Crimean War reports, the first mastermind of Confederate mine warfare was the famous Virginia scientist and naval officer Matthew Fontaine Maury. Though Maury first tested his explosive devices at Richmond in early 1861, battlefield use of these weapons is commonly believed to have started on the Peninsula in 1862. However, Rutherford notes that General Leonidas Polk solicited mine engineers as early as 1861 in the West and ended up seeding his Columbus, Kentucky defenses with two major mine belts covering the land approaches to his imposing Iron Banks river batteries.

Predictably, Union military and civilian authorities along with many fellow Confederate officers decried the use of such weapons as violations of the laws of civilized warfare. At least from the Union side, harshly condemnatory rhetoric regarding mines persisted throughout the war (with words such as "uncivilized," "diabolical," and "devilish" commonly used when describing the enemy's deployment of these "infernal machines"). On the Confederate side, however, moral resistance to mine warfare rapidly faded on most fronts in the face of mounting invasion pressures squeezing conventional southern resources to the breaking point. The fact that the weapons were relatively cheap to produce with obtainable (at least most of the time) materials also made them appealing force multipliers in areas where desperate defense was required.

Minute descriptions of device specifications and construction are beyond the scope of the book1, but Rutherford provides more than adequate base levels of information regarding the devices and their inventors. Featured individuals in addition to Maury include Torpedo Bureau head Gabriel Rains2 and Singer Secret Service Corps founder Edgar Singer3. Indeed it would be Rains, an amateur chemist and developer of a highly effective fuse that bore his name, who would become the face of the torpedo program that spread to ports, forts, and battlefields across the Confederate South. Administration orders banning published material that might be of use of the enemy meant that there was no consistent mine warfare manual or doctrine developed during the war, but Rains and representatives of the Singer Corps traveled in person to various hotspots to instruct local commanders on their use. Beyond the questionable practice of forcing Confederate POWs to clear minefields under threat of death, there's not much discussion in the book regarding specific Union mine location, disarming, or disposal techniques and strategies (though there is mention of one dangerous-sounding method of disabling torpedoes that involved drilling into the device and pouring water down the hole).

With official documentation discouraged during the war and most existing papers destroyed when the war was winding down, Rutherford's research effort was nevertheless able to assemble a pretty solid collection of Union and Confederate primary sources written by those with direct experiences of mine warfare during a number of important campaigns and battles. These informative accounts are supported by an excellent set of tactical-scale maps that specifically show critical battlefield areas that were heavily seeded with mines. The book's coverage of places where landmines comprised a significant part of Confederate defense planning includes Columbus, Yorktown, Williamsburg, Port Hudson, Morris Island, Yellow Tavern, Richmond Defenses (Chaffin's Farm area), Fort McAllister, Fort Fisher, Spanish Fort, Fort Blakeley, and Goldsboro (1865).

In reviewing those siege and battle actions described in the book, it can't be argued (and the author certainly does not attempt to do so) that mines were the decisive factor in stopping any major attack. Instead mines were a cost effective psychological weapon and (as mentioned before above) force multiplier. Land torpedoes were never decisive in any Civil War siege or battle, but they did in many cases slow the pace of Union operations, cause fairly significant casualties, and limit nighttime activities key to successful siege operations. On the other hand, the indiscriminate nature of minefields also hindered the defenders' ability to conduct their own sorties and picket line arrangements. Indeed, the book clearly reinforces the reality that torpedoes only were truly effective when part of an overall defensive system that closely integrated manpower, firepower, natural topography, earthworks, and man-made obstructions (with the Confederates most consistently deficient in the first two factors).

The author, himself a landmine victim and internationally-recognized leader in negotiating their global eradication, also discusses in the book the protracted legacy of landmines. Though it was not the first war to see their use, the American Civil War was the first conflict to bury mines on the battlefield en masse. Their deployment chiefly to front-line defenses sharply limited civilian casualties, but the same could not be said for the twentieth-century proliferation of the weapons (which reputedly were killing or maiming over 26,000 people worldwide, mostly civilians, on a yearly basis by the time landmines were mostly banned by international treaty in 1997).

Well researched, full of case studies from all theaters, and written in a manner that can attract a wide audience, America's Buried History is the new standard overview history of the Confederate use of landmines on the Civil War battlefield. It is highly recommended reading for all.

1 - See the Herbert Schiller-edited volume Confederate Torpedoes (2011).
2 - For a fine Rains primer see Gabriel Rains and the Confederate Torpedo Bureau (2017).
3 - See Mark Ragan's excellent Confederate Saboteurs: Building the Hunley and Other Secret Weapons of the Civil War (2015) for more detailed information about the Singer Corps.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Text block sag and what you can do about it

With another news-starved week of releases in the rearview mirror, let's fill the void by talking about something else related to books and collecting. The Civil War literature has its share of behemoths, and I'm certainly not alone in wanting to keep the most valuable books in the collection in the best shape possible. So many things make this difficult (among them the fact that few shippers make an effort to properly package a book anymore), but the hindering factor under discussion here will be text (a.k.a. page or book) block sag. That is when the gravitational weight of a shelved book's pages collectively pull downward on the binding, eventually forming the infamous smile-shaped droop to the text block's lower-corner, the edge of which then drags on the shelf bottom leading to unwanted applications of grime and wear. Just how much the block visibly pulls away from the spine head (forming a kind of tunnel between the spine face and text block backing) can be random. Anyone who stores their books in the classic upright position will come across this annoyance. Though some presumably vulnerable titles seem to miraculously escape the phenomenon, essentially every very thick book with modern binding will get it to some degree. Beyond being unsightly, the deformation, when severe, can certainly have a negative affect on a book's value and overall binding stability.

So what can you do about it?

(Option 1): Do nothing. If the affected book doesn't have much value or you never plan on selling it, you can just let it happen gracefully and worry about more important things.

(Option 2): Store your thickest books spine-down. This is a big no-no. Though it might seem like a reasonable preventative measure, the consensus among experts on modern binding techniques is that spine-down storage places undue pressure on all the wrong places.

(Option 3): Store books upright but very tightly pressed together. Theoretically, these horizontal forces will counteract, at least to some degree, the downward force created by the text block. This is another big no-no. Shelving books in this manner will over time result in damaging wear and can even cause harmful sticking between adjacent covers. Also, if books shelved this way have different heights, the covers will warp each other over time.

(Option 4): Flip the spines over occasionally, with the idea that the 'counter-sag' effect will tend to bring things well enough into realignment. I came to this solution independently for my mid-sized saggers. Though not ideal, from what I've read it seems to be an acceptable practice among bibliophiles. I find that it works pretty good on most offenders.

(Option 5): Fashion custom-sized support blocks. This is one in the category of too extreme for most, but I've read that some rare book collectors will make rectangular blocks (covered with acid-free material, of course) precisely measured to fit between front and back boards and slid underneath the text block to carry its weight.

(Option 6): Stack these kinds of books horizontally. This is the ideal solution; but, if you own a very large collection and have limited storage capacity, it's entirely impractical in terms of how much space it uses. Depending on the weight, you are limited to two or three additional books in the stack. That's a lot of wasted square footage.

So what do I do? For the most valuable big doorstoppers I try to find some place for horizontal storage. For the rest, I do a combination of #4 and reasonably (not too) tight shelving. If you have any advice on the topic or just think I'm insane to even care about such things, feel free to comment below.