Monday, December 14, 2020

Upcoming Port Hudson Campaign titles

There are currently two Port Hudson titles scheduled for release sometime in 2021. Russell Blount's The Longest Siege: Port Hudson, Louisiana, 1863 will be published by McFarland. Its webpage doesn't have much information yet. However, if we take the author's existing body of work in the areas of campaign and battle studies (four books examining the Atlanta Campaign battles of New Hope Church and Kennesaw Mountain, the Mobile Campaign of 1865, and Wilson's Raid) as a measuring stick of future expectations, it seems likely that his Port Hudson Campaign history will be an overview-type affair of similar depth.

At least for me, the more highly anticipated of the two is Larry Hewitt's Port Hudson: A History in Photographs. University of Tennessee Press's website currently has it as a late-September 2021 release. In this case, we certainly have a perfect match between author and topic. In addition to his published work, which includes 1987's Port Hudson, Confederate Bastion on the Mississippi, Hewitt was "the first manager of the Port Hudson State Historic Site. There, he began collecting photographs related to the Civil War battle. Carefully analyzing a vast and remarkable photographic record of Port Hudson, Hewitt has now brought his four decades of research and collecting together in this book. The quantity, diversity, and in some cases uniqueness of these photos help widen our perspective not only on Port Hudson and the Civil War’s impact on its people and environment, but also on the history of photography."

The images collected in the volume are the work of six photographers. Their biographies and "the captions in this volume also brim with fresh information about both the photographs and the campaign, attesting to the author’s meticulous scholarship and skilled analysis." According to Hewitt, in addition to documenting the siege and its aftermath, the Port Hudson photography can also lay claim to possessing images that are unique to Civil War photography as a whole. More from the description: "Together the six cameramen claimed many “firsts,” including the first-ever photograph of soldiers engaged in battle, first exterior shots at night, and first “composition print.” The collection—arranged chronologically—allows readers to follow the changes in the landscape during and after the siege. The sheer range of subjects represented is impressive. A cotton gin, a grist mill, and a Methodist church—all showing signs of damage—caught the eyes of photographers. At the request of a Union soldier’s mother, there was a photograph taken of his burial site. There is even the only known photograph of a Confederate army surrendering." I am greatly looking forward to examining this one.

3 comments:

  1. The photo history sounds interesting; it would be fun to do some "now and then" comparisons on the parts of the field that are accessible to the public.

    Joel Manuel
    Baton Rouge

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    Replies
    1. Do you get up there very often?

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    2. A couple of times a year; usually to bring my wife and kids and then a solo hike. I'm going to wait until January or February this year to see it completely without leaves. I did a private tour on land owned by Georgia Pacific (arranged through State Park) to the southern part of the Confederate lines a couple of years ago; shell fragments still sitting on the ground. There's some good, hilly hiking, which is odd for a flat place like south Louisiana; the last gasp of the loess hills made famous in Vicksburg I think.

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