Friday, October 2, 2020

Booknotes: Tullahoma

New Arrival:
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 (Savas Beatie, 2020).

Much of General William S. Rosecrans's famous remark about his brilliantly successful campaign of maneuver in Middle Tennessee being relatively overlooked among the summer 1863 run of major Union successes due to it being a victory "not written in letters of blood" also applies to its treatment in the literature. Mostly discussed in magazine articles, essays, and book chapters, the campaign's most useful standalone volume has long been Michael Bradley's slim overview published in 1999. Now in 2020, the need for a full-length study of the campaign that "nearly cleared the state (Tennessee) of Rebels and changed the calculus of the Civil War in the Western Theater" has finally been addressed in David Powell and Eric Wittenberg's Tullahoma: The Forgotten Campaign that Changed the Course of the Civil War, June 23 - July 4, 1863.

From the description: "On June 23, 1863, Rosecrans, with some 60,000 men, initiated a classic campaign of maneuver against Bragg’s 40,000. Confronted with rugged terrain and a heavily entrenched foe, Rosecrans intended to defeat Bragg through strategy rather than bloodshed by outflanking him and seizing control of Bragg’s supply line, the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad, at Tullahoma and thus force him to fight a battle outside of his extensive earthworks. It almost worked.

The complex and fascinating campaign included deceit, hard marching, fighting, and incredible luck—both good and bad. Rosecrans executed a pair of feints against Guy’s Gap and Liberty Gap to deceive the Rebels into thinking the main blow would fall somewhere other than where it was designed to strike. An ineffective Confederate response exposed one of Bragg’s flanks—and his entire army—to complete disaster. Torrential rains and consequential decisions in the field wreaked havoc on the best-laid plans. Still Bragg hesitated, teetering on the brink of losing the second most important field army in the Confederacy. The hour was late and time was short, and his limited withdrawal left the armies poised for a climactic engagement that may have decided the fate of Middle Tennessee, and perhaps the war. Finally fully alert to the mortal threat facing him, Bragg pulled back from the iron jaws of defeat about to engulf him and retreated—this time all the way to Chattanooga, the gateway to the rest of the Southern Confederacy.

Given Powell and Wittenberg's combined record in crafting definitive-level Civil War campaign studies, the over 350-page narrative (supported by 16 maps) presented in Tullahoma will undoubtedly meet or exceed the expectations of even the most demanding reader.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Drew.

    The first edition sold out almost immediately and it has been reprinted. (I think we have a case of first editions left at Savas Beatie though). It is exciting to get this massive hole in the literature of the war filled so competently. Onward.


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