Thursday, January 21, 2021

Book News: Suffering in the Army of Tennessee

The premier scholarly publishing outlet for Civil War soldier and civilian manuscript materials, University of Tennessee Press's Voices of the Civil War series has for decades maintained a steady production of expertly edited diaries, memoirs, and letter collections. However, Christopher Thrasher's upcoming series volume Suffering in the Army of Tennessee: A Social History of the Confederate Army of the Heartland from the Battles for Atlanta to the Retreat from Nashville offers something a bit different from the usual formula.

From the description: Suffering in the Army of Tennessee "doesn’t just draw upon one single diary or letter collection, and it does not use brief quotations as a way to fill out a larger narrative. Rather, across eight chapters spanning the Atlanta Campaign to the Battle of Nashville in 1864, Thrasher draws upon a remarkably broad set of primary sources—newspapers, manuscripts, archives, diaries, and official documents—to tell a story that knits together accounts of senior officers, the final campaigns of the Western Theater, and the experiences of the civilians and rebel soldiers who found themselves deep in the trenches of a national reckoning. While volumes have been written on the Atlanta Campaign or the Battles of Nashville and Franklin, no previous historian has constructed what amounts to a sweeping social history of the Army of Tennessee—the daily details of soldiering and the toll it took on the men and boys who mustered into service foreseeing only a small skirmish among the states."

In trying to think of notable comparables, Larry Daniel's now 30-years-old (yikes!) book Soldiering in the Army of Tennessee: A Portrait of Life in a Confederate Army immediately comes to mind. I wonder if the similarity in title phrasing was intentional. In focusing only on the army's final campaigns in Georgia and Tennessee, Thrasher's time window is certainly more narrow than Daniel's, and his incorporation of non-military accounts into a broader social history narrative is another distinguishing factor. UT Press has always been involved in Civil War publishing but never (at least that I can recall) at the variety and rate of output we've been witnessing in recent years. I don't know what's behind it, but I like it.

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