Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Review - "The Complete Pickett's Mill Battlefield Trail Guide" by Brad Butkovich

[The Complete Pickett's Mill Battlefield Trail Guide by Brad Butkovich (Historic Imagination, 2021). 8.5"x11" softcover, color maps, color photos, orders of battle. 76 pp. ISBN:9781732597631. $21.95]
The stretch of large-scale 1864 Atlanta Campaign maneuvers conducted north of the Chattahoochee River consisted of a great deal of flanking and retreating, with General William T. Sherman's massive army group obliging the enemy's desire to be attacked behind its field fortifications on only a few occasions. One of those bloody noses delivered by General Joseph E. Johnston's Army of Tennessee occurred at Pickett's Mill on May 27. The Confederate defensive victory achieved by General Patrick Cleburne's reinforced division over elements of three Union corps, all placed under the overall command of General O.O. Howard, is perhaps best described in the pages of Brad Butkovich's 2013 volume The Battle of Pickett's Mill: Along the Dead Line. Unlike so many other Atlanta Campaign events overtaken by modern development, Pickett's Mill has been the beneficiary of strong preservation initiatives, the result of which is today's 765-acre Pickett's Mill Battlefield State Historic Site. Though a pristine green space crisscrossed with miles of walking trails, site interpretation is minimal. Bridging that gap between armchair historical reading and useful guided battlefield exploration is Butkovich's The Complete Pickett's Mill Battlefield Trail Guide.

A brief but excellent introductory history of the battle is provided over the first twelve pages of the book, with the narrative overview of the fighting closely supported by seven highly detailed battle maps tied closely to events described in the text. The maps contain all of the information necessary to understand troop positions and movements along with the battlefield terrain (then and now). The historical map information provided is very easily correlated with features and stops indicated on today's park trail map.

Generally speaking, Butkovich's guide follows the park's established network of connected trail loops, which are four in number and labeled blue, red, white, and orange. Butkovich incorporates the numbered official trail stations from those loops into the guide and generously supplements them with his own "Extra" stations that represent other "areas where historically significant or interesting events occurred" (pg. 14). For the most part, the loops cover different phases of the battle (and the red loop mostly "focuses on fighting that occurred in the park for the week after the May 27th battle") so there isn't an excessive amount of overlap present in the guide. For those with the most limited time available, the author recommends the blue loop.

Each trail station is given its own page in the guide, with orientation summary (including GPS coordinates) at the top, a photograph in the middle, and text at the bottom. The attached text, in most cases filling around half of each 8.5 in. by 11 in. page, further establishes view orientation and incorporates firsthand accounts from the author's research into a vivid description of the action that occurred there. A modern color photograph of the viewshed is also included for every station. Unlike the author's previous photographic study of Antietam, where he carefully matched modern images with historical event timing estimates, for Pickett's Mill many off-season autumn photographs are included to provide views of the ground unobstructed by spring and summer's dense leaf growth. Even so, most photographs consist of forested views with relatively narrow framing, so they are primarily useful for in-person sight line orientation rather than providing armchair readers with panoramic images of the modern battlefield. An order of battle completes the volume.

Anyone planning a serious visit to the park should have a copy of this highly functional guide in hand. Recommended.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Booknotes: The Boy Generals

New Arrival:
The Boy Generals: George Custer, Wesley Merritt, and the Cavalry of the Army of the Potomac by Adolfo Ovies (Savas Beatie, 2021).

Back in 2004, Adolfo Ovies self-published Crossed Sabers: General George Armstrong Custer and the Shenandoah Valley Campaign. Comparing a review of it (see the link above) to the blurbs attached to his new book The Boy Generals: George Custer, Wesley Merritt, and the Cavalry of the Army of the Potomac, it sounds like the author has been more than willing to address the shortcomings displayed in his first attempt at a serious foray into the topic of G.A.C.'s Civil War career.

Part of an ambitious new project, The Boy Generals is "the first installment in a remarkable trilogy to examine the strategy, tactics, and relationships of the leading Union army’s mounted arm and their influence on the course of the Civil War in the Eastern Theater." Every year sees the release of multiple Custer books, but Ovies claims that this book adopts an uncommon approach. According to the author, "most Custer-related studies focus on his decision-making and actions to the exclusion of other important factors, including his relationships with his fellow officers. Custer developed his tactical philosophy within the politically ridden atmosphere of the Army of the Potomac’s Cavalry Corps. His relationship with his immediate superior, Wesley Merritt, was so acrimonious that even Custer’s wife Libbie described him as her husband’s “enemy.”"

Eric Wittenberg's recent book Six Days of Awful Fighting (which I will review here sometime soon) contrasts Custer's more old school saber-charging fighting style with the firepower-focused dismounted tactics favored by the other cavalry generals in the Army of the Potomac in 1864. Apparently, that opposing philosophical stance was firmly embodied in the relationship/rivalry between Custer and division commander Wesley Merritt.

More from the description: "With these diametrically opposed belief systems, it was inevitable that these officers would clash. What has often been described as a spirited rivalry was in fact something much darker, an association that moved from initial distaste to acrimony, and finally, outright insubordination on Custer’s part." In devoting an entire book to this topic, Ovies "exposes the depths of one of the most dysfunctional and influential relationships in the Army of the Potomac and how it affected cavalry operations in the Eastern Theater," and it is suggested that a reading of his study "will change the way Civil War readers think of the premier Union army’s mounted arm, as well as George Custer’s legacy."

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Coming Soon (July '21 Edition)

**NEW RELEASES1** Scheduled for JULY 2021:

Strategies of North and South: A Comparative Analysis of the Union and Confederate Campaigns by Gerald Earley.
The Union Blockade in the American Civil War: A Reassessment by Bonner & McCord.
The Western Press in the Crucible of the American Civil War edited by Cronin & Tuyll.
Marching for Union: A Civil War Soldier's Walk across the Reconstruction South by Randy Bishop.
Buying and Selling Civil War Memory in Gilded Age America edited by Marten & Janney.
Armistead and Hancock: Behind the Gettysburg Legend of Two Friends at the Turning Point of the Civil War by Tom McMillan.
The Long Civil War: New Explorations of America's Enduring Conflict edited by Smith & Arsenault.
Passing Through the Fire: Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain in the Civil War by Brian Swartz.
The Most Hated Man in Kentucky: The Lost Cause and the Legacy of Union General Stephen Burbridge by Brad Asher.
The Summer of ’63: Vicksburg and Tullahoma: Favorite Stories and Fresh Perspectives from the Historians at Emerging Civil War edited by Mackowski & Welch.
Lincoln Comes to Gettysburg: The Creation of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address by Gottfried & Gottfried.

Comments: It looks like the Asher book is out already. As was the case in June, the release schedule is heavily weighted toward the second half of the month.

1 - These monthly release lists are not meant to be exhaustive compilations of non-fiction releases. They do not include non-revised/expanded reprints of previously published books and digital-only titles. Works that only tangentially address the war years are also generally excluded. Inevitably, one or more titles on this list will get a rescheduled release (and they do not get repeated later), so revisiting the past few "Coming Soon" posts is the best way to pick up stragglers.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Review - "Meade and Lee at Rappahannock Station: The Army of the Potomac’s First Post-Gettysburg Offensive, From Kelly’s Ford to the Rapidan, October 21 to November 20, 1863" by Jeffrey Hunt

[Meade and Lee at Rappahannock Station: The Army of the Potomac’s First Post-Gettysburg Offensive, From Kelly’s Ford to the Rapidan, October 21 to November 20, 1863 by Jeffrey Wm. Hunt (Savas Beatie, 2021). Hardcover, 27 maps, photos, illustrations, appendices, footnotes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:xiv,273/333. ISBN:978-1-61121-539-7. $32.95]

Regardless of their size, strategic significance, or worthiness of study as exemplars of the operational art, military campaigns that lack a major culminating battle often inspire little attention until coverage saturation naturally redirects research and writing toward a conflict's more obscure events. A good, perhaps even the best, example from the American Civil War is the 1863 Tullahoma Campaign, which did not receive a full-length published history of any kind until just last year1. Another example is the fighting in northern Virginia between the end of the Gettysburg Campaign and the onset of the 1864 Overland Campaign. Beginning in August 1863 and stretching into December, Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia and George Meade's Army of the Potomac traded offensive blows, none of which were decisive in result (though they produced a series of small-scale infantry and cavalry battles along with numerous skirmishes). While all had the potential for major results, their sputtering nature (albeit with rather significant casualties on the Confederate side) led to little modern interest beyond the release of a pair of book-length overviews published by H.E. Howard in the mid-1980s. Coverage has greatly improved and expanded over the past decade, though, with published output including a full-length Bristoe Campaign history from British author Adrian Tighe, a major atlas study, and a pair of Emerging Civil War series overviews2.

As good as much of that recent work is, the most significant development has been the emergence of historian Jeffrey Hunt's exhaustive treatment of the subject matter spread among multiple volumes. Originally conceived as a trilogy but since expanded to a planned four volumes, Hunt's "Meade and Lee" series offers by far the most complete military history of the period. Preceded by 2017's Meade and Lee After Gettysburg and 2019's Meade and Lee at Bristoe Station3, Hunt's Meade and Lee at Rappahannock Station: The Army of the Potomac’s First Post-Gettysburg Offensive, From Kelly’s Ford to the Rapidan, October 21 to November 20, 1863 examines General Meade's first opportunity to conduct his own major offensive operation (albeit with some constraints and interference from Washington) from start to finish as an army commander in Virginia. Though the sharp repulse of A.P. Hill's corps at Bristoe Station took some of the sting out of Meade being thoroughly outgeneraled and thrown on the defensive by Lee during that October operation, the Lincoln administration remained mostly disappointed with Meade's overall performance that summer into fall and anticipated further action before mud and winter set in. The dilemma lay in finding a way to catch Lee's army, which had fallen back behind the Rappahannock River after the Bristoe Campaign ended in early November and was thoroughly ensconced there, at a disadvantage.

Restricted by the administration to operations along the line of the Orange & Alexandria Railroad, Meade was confronted by significant challenges in planning and executing his next move. A casual glance at a period map of the area's road and rail network might suggest that Culpeper County possessed fine campaigning possibilities; however, a deeper look reveals significant, and at the time thoroughly recognized, problems for both attacker and defender. All of these are shrewdly noted and analyzed at length by Hunt in the book. A Union advance southward along the O&A would angle away from rather than toward the Confederate capital while also exposing the army's ever lengthening lines of supply and communications to interdiction by cavalry raiders and guerrillas, but the bigger problem was not wanting to be caught at a disadvantage within the narrow confines of the sideways-slanted "V" formed by the confluence of the Upper Rappahannock and Rapidan rivers. Because fighting within the dreaded V meant that both attacking and defending forces would have a significant river barrier to their immediate rear, neither Meade nor Lee looked forward to being involved in a major battle there. Nevertheless, at the conclusion of the Bristoe Campaign Lee's army settled into what increasingly seemed like winter quarters behind the Rappahannock while Meade, under pressure to resume operations before seasonal weather shut down the roads, pondered the best way get at his foe.

In the book Hunt presents readers with a clear description and insightful appraisal of the potentially dangerous "trap" laid by Lee and the ways by which Meade, who well recognized the inherent dangers imposed by Lee's crafty dispositions but was forbidden from altering his line of operations, might deal with it. By establishing both a fortified bridgehead north of the river at Rappahannock Station and light covering defenses along the south bank at Kelly's Ford (the two places that Meade needed possession of to support his leap across the Rappahannock), Lee hoped to force Meade to divide the Army of the Potomac in a way that might give the Confederate commander an opening to mass his own army against a portion of the enemy's. Meade, seeing that a Confederate force could use the Rappahannock Station bridgehead to launch a counterattack on his flank and rear if he used Kelly's Ford as his main crossing point, was indeed induced to divide his army, though if Meade could attack quickly and successfully enough at both places he could neutralize the threat and reunite enough of his army on the other side of the river to minimize the chances of being defeated in detail. If the bridgehead could not be taken quickly and a strong force pushed across, Meade's right wing commander (John Sedgwick) was to mask the position and reinforce the Kelly's Ford front. This back up plan would lessen the amount of time the Union army would be divided with equal halves on both sides of the river. What follows that perceptive introductory assessment of Meade's options and problems is the author's narrative detailing the Union advance (two wings of two corps each against Rappahannock Station and Kelly's Ford), the November 7 Union victories at both bridgehead and ford, the hurried Confederate retreat, the cautious federal follow-up movement toward Culpeper Court House, and, finally, the escape of Lee's army across the Rapidan without a major battle. All of the accounts of these events are amply supported by the volume's excellent set of over two dozen strategic, operational, and tactical-scale maps.

The author's thorough knowledge and nuanced appreciation of the military challenges imposed by the area's contested ground is readily apparent throughout the book, and detailed explanation of how terrain influenced operational and tactical decision-making during the campaign is one of the book's chief strengths. A good example can be seen in Lee's defense arrangements for the river line. An armchair general unfamiliar with the ground might expect that all crossings would be closely defended, but the physical features of the ground on both sides of the river dictated otherwise. Due to disadvantageous topography (ex. the higher ground was on the north side of this stretch of the Rappahannock), Lee did not intend to vigorously contest a full-scale assault on the crossings. The bulk of his army was deployed a few miles to the rear, hidden and out of range of the enemy's superior weight of long-range artillery, but ready to take advantage of any opportunities that might be offered.

Leadership performances on both sides during movement and battle come under similarly judicious consideration in the book. In his new role as wing commander, Union general William French efficiently marched his two corps to Kelly's Ford, captured it after a brief fight, and secured the south bank with a small force while the bulk of his troops remained on the north side of the river. Up to that time, French had had little opportunity to distinguish himself in command responsibilities commensurate with his high rank, and Hunt appropriately praises his performance before and during the battle as meeting all expectation. Sedgwick's right wing of the army approached its more strongly held fortified target far more cautiously. Hunt persuasively argues that Sedgwick, seemingly content with developing the enemy bridgehead and bringing it under bombardment, would not have ordered a storming of the enemy works at all on November 7 had one of his more enterprising subordinates, division commander David Russell, not pressed for permission to conduct a dusk assault. Using only a tiny part of Sedgwick's available force, Russell's attack was a splendid success, the victory a function of approaching darkness limiting cross-river artillery fire, enemy disorganization, and high-order tactical competence on the part of the assault units. The availability of only a single escape route also substantially increased the prisoner haul, with Russell's victory reducing two of the Army of Northern Virginia's best brigades to mere skeletons. The lack of defensive improvements such as deep ditches, abatis, and the like also contributed to the Confederate mini-disaster, but the author astutely reminds critics that the bridgehead's usefulness as a jumping off point for offensive movement would have been limited by such obstructions. On the other hand, Hunt might also have conceded that the very small capacity of the fortified bridgehead, its exceedingly shallow depth (the trenches were backed up close to the river along their entire length), and single bridge crossing would have made it suboptimal as a point from which to swiftly launch a major counterstroke. One might argue that the bridgehead, as constructed and manned, was improperly sized for both effective defense and offensive springboard roles. Lee, and to a lesser extent Jubal Early, whose division was tasked with defending that sector, were criticized for not withdrawing the troops in the face of Sedgwick's overwhelming force, but Hunt is more forgiving than some observers. By late in the day, Lee's overall plan was working as designed and Sedgwick's command had demonstrated for hours little inclination to do anything beyond bombarding the Rappahannock Station bridgehead from afar. Hindsight is always 20/20, and in Hunt's view Lee, who rode away from the front very late in the day in full expectation that the status quo would remain, assumed a reasonable risk by maintaining the bridgehead.

With the mini-disaster suffered at Rappahannock Station ending all hope of engaging Meade's army to advantage, Lee ordered a retreat. According to Hunt, Confederate teamsters and quartermasters were the heroes of the hour. With only moments of advance notice, they managed to save a mountain of supplies, ammunition, and personal baggage accumulated for winter. The transport of that amount of material, which could not be evacuated in a single trip, was covered by the withdrawal of the army to a new position near Culpeper Court House. Though the Army of Northern Virginia quickly dug a strong line of entrenchments there, both flanks were in the air and an impetuous Union advance could have caused Lee serious problems. However, Meade was not one for risky throws of the dice, and his methodical concentration and measured advance only covered half the distance to Lee's entrenchments by nightfall on November 8. While listing compelling reasons for Meade's exercising caution (or overcaution), Hunt notes that the Union commander's assignment of the bulk of his cavalry to flank protection rather than screening duties made his forward march even slower and left the general underinformed as to Lee's dispositions. Confederate cavalry also conducted an effective delaying action that contributed another element to Meade's painfully slow pace of advance.

Still out of close contact with the enemy and free to finally withdraw without risking disaster, Lee's army and its supply and baggage trains crossed the Rapidan without incident, leaving both armies roughly where they were back in August. In the early stages of his first major Virginia offensive Meade had acquitted himself well, but, as the author maintains, the general's "deliberate" command style almost immediately surrendered the initiative so effectively seized from the start. Lacking the audacity that might turn local tactical success into glorious victory, Meade in the end accomplished little beyond a chunk of Virginia front and another incremental increase in Army of the Potomac self-confidence. One might imagine that the final volume in the series will contain a full summation of the author's thoughts on Meade's strengths and weaknesses as an army commander. On the other side, none of Lee's hopes of striking a divided enemy army came to fruition and his own command suffered a heavy blow to its order of battle with the near destruction of two veteran infantry brigades. Both combatants in Virginia would not be going into winter quarters just yet, however, and the ensuing Mine Run Campaign will be covered in Hunt's fourth and final installment of this definitive-scale series. With the exceptional quality of its prose, research, depth of description, and informed analysis, Hunt's masterful multi-volume effort is well on its way to becoming a modern classic every bit deserving of rank and praise similar to that bestowed upon Gordon Rhea's Overland Campaign series.

1 - See David Powell and Eric Wittenberg's Tullahoma: The Forgotten Campaign that Changed the Course of the Civil War, June 23 - July 4, 1863 (Savas Beatie, 2020).
2 - Both H.E. Howard titles were published in 1987. They are William Henderson's The Road to Bristoe Station: Campaigning with Lee and Meade, August 1 – October 20, 1863 and Mine Run: A Campaign of Lost Opportunities, October 21, 1863 – May 1, 1864 by Martin Graham and George Skoch. The self-published Adrian Tighe title referred to in the review is 2010's The Bristoe Campaign: General Lee's Last Strategic Offensive with the Army of Northern Virginia October 1863. The largest and most significant revival of interest in the Meade vs. Lee campaigning in Virginia during the latter half of 1863 has been led by publisher Savas Beatie. This ongoing effort has produced a number of worthy titles large and small, including Bradley Gottfried's The Maps of the Bristoe Station and Mine Run Campaigns: An Atlas of the Battles and Movements in the Eastern Theater after Gettysburg, Including Rappahannock Station, Kelly's Ford, and Morton's Ford, July 1863 - February 1864 (2013), 2015's A Want of Vigilance: The Bristoe Station Campaign, October 9–19, 1863 by Bill Backus and Robert Orrison [CWBA review], and Chris Mackowski's The Great Battle Never Fought: The Mine Run Campaign, November 26–December 2, 1863 (2018).
3 - Links: Meade and Lee After Gettysburg: The Forgotten Final Stage of the Gettysburg Campaign, from Falling Waters to Culpeper Court House, July 14-31, 1863 (2017) and Meade and Lee at Bristoe Station: The Problems of Command and Strategy after Gettysburg, from Brandy Station to the Buckland Races, August 1 to October 31, 1863 (2019). The established pattern suggests that volume four will be released sometime in 2023.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Booknotes: Matchless Organization

New Arrival:
Matchless Organization: The Confederate Army Medical Department by Guy R. Hasegawa (SIU Press, 2021).

"Matchless organization" is not a phrase that frequently comes to mind when considering the merits of any particular element of the Confederate military bureaucracy, but Guy Hasegawa, author of Matchless Organization: The Confederate Army Medical Department, nevertheless maintains that "(d)espite the many obstacles it had to overcome—including a naval blockade, lack of a strong industrial base, and personnel unaccustomed to military life—the Richmond-based Confederate Army Medical Department developed into a robust organization that nimbly adapted to changing circumstances."

More from the description: "In the first book to address the topic, Guy R. Hasegawa describes the organization and management of the Confederate army’s medical department. At its head was Surgeon General Samuel Preston Moore, a talented multitasker with the organizational know-how to put in place qualified medical personnel to care for sick and wounded Confederate soldiers."

Even amid the extreme exigencies of war, the department managed to fulfill its most immediately pressing tasks while also looking toward the future. In the book, Hasegawa "investigates how political considerations, personalities, and, as the war progressed, the diminishing availability of human and material resources influenced decision-making in the medical department. Amazingly, the surgeon general’s office managed not only to provide care but also to offer educational opportunities to its personnel and collect medical and surgical data for future use, regardless of constant and growing difficulties."

Just going from the chapter headings, the book appears be a pretty broad survey of the topic. Among other things, the volume addresses medical department organization, personnel, and leadership matters; both domestic and foreign sources of medical supplies; battlefield, hospital, and prison care; examining boards; and contributions to medical science that outlasted the war.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Various Book News Items

This month's release schedule is pretty heavily backloaded, so hopefully the second half of June will make up for the paltry first half.

1. Larry Peterson's Decisions of the 1862 Kentucky Campaign avoided Perryville battlefield decisions with the intention of possibly addressing them in a future volume. It turns out that that will indeed be the case as Decisions at Perryville: The Twenty-Two Critical Decisions That Defined the Battle has been added to the series schedule as an October '21 release. As far as I know from my most recent contact with the publisher, the Seven Days installment is still on for the end of this month.

2. Publishers staying comfortable with digital-only review copies has had an unfortunate impact on the CWBA bookshelves during the pandemic. Though the numbers they put out overall were drastically reduced in 2020, I still rather missed getting my regular allotment of McFarland titles of all kinds over the past fifteen months. They do have a bunch of intriguing titles on the docket for this year, including Myron Smith's final volume of his inland west naval history series After Vicksburg: The Civil War on Western Waters, 1863-1865 , Andrew English's The Laird Rams: Britain's Ironclads Built for the Confederacy, 1862-1923, Todd Cathey and Ricky Robnett's The River Batteries at Fort Donelson: Construction, Armament and Battles, 1861-1862, and Gerald Earley's Strategies of North and South: A Comparative Analysis of the Union and Confederate Campaigns. I've already talked about Russell Blount's Port Hudson book and what will likely be the final volume of Roger Hunt's Colonels in Blue series. If you are interested in the Windy City's Civil War connections, they are also putting out unit histories of the 39th Illinois infantry regiment and the Chicago Board of Trade Battery. There's more, but those are the strongest blips on my radar.

3. Christopher Grasso is far from being done with John R. Kelso. I positively reviewed his 2017 book Bloody Engagements: John R. Kelso’s Civil War, which was selected as the A.M. Pate Award winner of 2018. As a bit of an aside, Kelso's writings were a prominent source in Piston and Rutherford's new account of the Second Battle of Springfield in their book "We Gave Them Thunder". Losing none of his enthusiasm for the subject, Grasso has now moved on to a full biographical treatment of Kelso's life of colorful and odd twists and turns. Teacher, Preacher, Soldier, Spy: The Civil Wars of John R. Kelso is set for a September '21 release from Oxford UP.

4. As every regular CWBA visitor knows, I'm not the most eager biography reader, but another one from 2021 that has my attention is Allen Ottens's General John A. Rawlins: No Ordinary Man (Indiana Univ Pr). I am not sure how much scholarly disagreement exists regarding the nature of the Grant-Rawlins relationship and the impact Rawlins had on his chief's career (I would guess that most differences lie in how much advisory credit Rawlins deserves), but those matters will surely figure prominently in the book. Look for it in around six weeks.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Review - "Life in the Mississippi Marine Brigade: The Civil War Diary of George Painter" by Beverly Kerr, ed.

[Life in the Mississippi Marine Brigade: The Civil War Diary of George Painter edited by Beverly Wencek Kerr (Author, 2020). Softcover, diary images, bibliography. Pages:xi,240. ISBN:979-8-559686-03-5. $14.95]

Consisting of an infantry battalion, a cavalry battalion, and an artillery battery (all transported by the Ellet ram fleet), the regiment-sized Mississippi Marine Brigade assumed a number of notable combat and support roles up and down its namesake river. Organized during the winter of 1862-63 and independent of both army and navy hierarchies over most of its existence, the MMB proved useful as an all-arms, amphibious strike force before its unfortunate penchant for looting and indiscriminate destruction led to it being disbanded in August 1864. Not much has been published about the Mississippi Marine Brigade in book-length format during or subsequent to the near century that passed between former MMB captains Isaac Newell and Warren Crandall's History of the Ram Fleet and the Mississippi Marine Brigade in the War for the Union on the Mississippi and Its Tributaries: The Story of the Ellets and Their Men (1907) and Chester Hearns's Ellet's Brigade: The Strangest Outfit of All (2000). Published letters and diaries are similarly scarce. Norman E. Clarke edited the correspondence of one of the formation's most prominent officers and published the book in 1961 under the title Warfare Along the Mississippi: The Letters of Lieutenant Colonel George E. Currie, but there is little else*. That dearth of available works makes Beverly Kerr's Life in the Mississippi Marine Brigade: The Civil War Diary of George Painter all the more valuable to the western theater literature.

At first glance it might seem that service in the Mississippi Marine Brigade would be attractive, but filling the ranks proved highly difficult. Eventually, recruiting officers had to resort to visiting hospital wards to sign up medical transfers and discharges, their pitch being that service in the unit would be less than arduous. One of those recruits was Private George Painter, who suffered multiple typhoid complications and remained sickly throughout his enlistment. He joined the MMB in January 1863 and immediately started a daily diary that ran unbroken, despite frequent health relapses, from January 4 through December 31. Though his weakened constitution often relegated him to guard duty while his comrades were experiencing more dangerous adventures, Painter did observe firsthand more than enough events to make his diary appeal to readers outside research specialists. At the very least, Painter's dedication as a diarist makes his writing an invaluable record of the unit's whereabouts and actions on a daily basis over an entire year.

Painter's diary exposes the full range of MMB activities, which included extensive foraging, destruction of rivercraft (to deny their use to the enemy), chasing guerrillas, breaking up river blockades, transporting army units, and occasional rear-area garrisoning. In March, two ships from the MMB fleet were tasked with passing the Vicksburg batteries, and one was sunk. The following month, the brigade escorted Abel Streight's raiders over the first leg of their journey before returning to the Vicksburg front. There, during May through July, the MMB garrisoned Snyder's Bluff for a time and did more scouting and foraging along both banks of the Mississippi. However, complaints about the sharp increase in their incendiary proclivities soon led General Grant to employ them as troop transports through much of August, as much to keep them out of trouble as to be useful. The men of the brigade could not have been completely unaware of their growing negative reputation within the military, but Painter does not comment upon the matter. Perhaps that speaks to the insularity within independently operating units such as this one.

The MMB was primarily tasked with counterguerrilla operations through the end of September, when their boats were taken away for detached service and the men relegated to shore duty. This was only temporary, though, and by November they were back afloat and operating against both irregular and conventional foes. Those events are documented in Painter's diary before his entries finally cease in late December. Unfortunately for us, Painter did not pick up his pen to describe the MMB's controversial role in the 1864 Red River Campaign or his unit's subsequent actions ashore in Arkansas against Confederate attempts to blockade the Mississippi. Painter's views on the brigade's sullied reputation and ultimate disbandment are also lost to history. Sadly, Painter himself did not live far beyond the MMB's demise, succumbing in September 1864 to his old typhoid nemesis while a patient in a Vicksburg military hospital.

Editor Beverly Kerr expresses some concern that the diary might not be exciting enough for many readers, but, though most entries are only a few sentences in length, there is enough meat on the bone to attract those interested in the wartime actions of the MMB as well as Mississippi Valley military operations more generally. Though the volume is not formally annotated and possesses only a slim bibliography, Kerr's connecting narrative does provide between diary entries some persons, places, and events background information of the kind normally found in footnotes. Diary presentation is a bit unusual in that each entry appears twice. Unedited diary text is shown in italics and immediately below that, in a box, is the same text edited for modern spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Painter writes more than well enough (especially in comparison to many other Civil War letter writers and diarists) to have not made this feature necessary, but it doesn't detract from anything. The book does not include any maps, illustrations, or historical photographs, the only images being photographs of original diary pages used as chapter separators. Though the absence of those supplements is felt, the diary itself stands on its own merits as a quite useful firsthand account of the activities of the controversial Mississippi Marine Brigade during much of its relatively brief existence. The book also serves as a compassionate memorial to Pvt. Painter's long-suffering but uncomplaining Civil War service, which likely would have remained, like so many others, completely unknown and unremembered by all but a few without this publication.

* - I am not familiar with 1994's Brown Paper Rams and Horse Marines: The History of the United States Ram Fleet and the Mississippi Marine Brigade in the American Civil War, self-published by Stephen R. Howard. The Diary of Josiah Henry Goodwin: Fife Major for the Fife and Drum Band of the Mississippi Marine Brigade, Covering the Period January 1, 1863 Through June 1, 1864 was apparently transcribed and bound in a single copy for library use.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Patterson's Independent Company of Engineers and Mechanics

The impact on Civil War campaigns of army support units and their activities has received increased attention of late. Engineers and engineering have been explored in a number of recent books, among them Thomas Army's Engineering Victory: How Technology Won the Civil War (2016), Justin Solonick's Engineering Victory: The Union Siege of Vicksburg (2015), Mark Hoffman's "My Brave Mechanics": The First Michigan Engineers and Their Civil War (2007), and Mark Smith's A Volunteer in the Regulars: The Civil War Journal and Memoir of Gilbert Thompson, US Engineer Battalion (2020). As suggested by the selection of titles referenced above, Union military engineers and their accomplishments have received the most interest from researchers and historians.

Another title to add to this growing collection is Patterson's Independent Company of Engineers and Mechanics, 1861-1865 by Charles H. Bogart. Published almost a year ago exactly, I missed its initial release, but long-time reader Curtis T. brought it to my attention last week. Curt and I both liked the author's earlier book, 2012's Railroad Defenses of the Blue Grass: The Defenses of the Kentucky Central Railroad, Lexington & Frankfort Railroad and Kentucky River during the Civil War (1861-1865), and the new book does sound like it might be right up my alley.

From the description: "Patterson's Independent Kentucky Company of Engineers & Mechanics was organized at Camp Haskin near Somerset KY and mustered into service on 25 Sep 1861 under the command of Captain William F. Patterson. The unit was also known as the "Pioneer Corps" or "KY Pioneer Infantry". The regiment served unattached, Army of the Ohio, to March 1862. Engineers, 7th Division, Army of the Ohio, to October 1862. Cumberland Division, District of West Virginia, Department of the Ohio, to November 1862. 9th Division, Right Wing, XIII Corps (Old), Department of the Tennessee, to December 1862. Unattached, Sherman's Yazoo Expedition, to January 1863. Unattached, 9th Division, XIII Corps, to July 1863. Unattached, XIII Corps, Army of the Tennessee and Department of the Gulf, to October 1863. Unattached, XIII Corps, Texas, to July 1864. Engineer Brigade, Department of the Gulf, to January 1865. Patterson's Company mustered out of service at Louisville KY on January 22, 1865."

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Booknotes: Campaign for the Confederate Coast

New Arrival:
Campaign for the Confederate Coast: Blockading, Blockade Running and Related Endeavors During the American Civil War by Gil Hahn (W 88th St Pr, 2021).

Citing figures documenting how porous the Union blockade was before the last major southern ports fell late in the war, some have argued that the blockade was not a cost effective use of military resources and did not have a major impact on the outcome of the war. Of the view that blockade running figures (ex. success rates in and out of specific ports) don't tell the entire story, others have more persuasively maintained otherwise. Joining this latter group, Gil Hahn's new book Campaign for the Confederate Coast: Blockading, Blockade Running and Related Endeavors During the American Civil War asserts that the "Federal blockade of the Confederate coast during the American Civil War (1861-1865) did not cause the ultimate Federal victory, but it contributed to that victory to a significant degree."

From the description: In Campaign for the Confederate Coast "readers will learn the story of blockade running from a nuanced, all-points-of-view perspective. Without recounting hundreds of encounters between pro-Confederate blockade runners and Federal blockading forces, it traces the ebb and flow of events as the U.S. Navy, blockade runners, and foreign governments (primarily the British) all pressed for advantage. At first unable to detect blockade runners, the Federals developed tactics that made them increasingly effective at making captures, although they did not eliminate blockade running altogether until they captured the principal Confederate ports. And although blockade running sustained the Confederates' ability to continue the battle for four years, the effect of this economic warfare substantially weakened the armies upon which the Confederate assertion of independence rested."

As part of his advance praise of the work, historian Allen Guelzo opines that Hahn's book should be regarded as the "single best survey" of the topic. In addition to providing an overview of the blockade and its effects, the study "embraces ship and weapons technology, coastal forfifications, charts and data on coastal sailing vessels, even sailors' rations."

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Review - "'We Gave Them Thunder': Marmaduke’s Raid and the Civil War in Missouri and Arkansas" by Piston & Rutherford

["We Gave Them Thunder": Marmaduke’s Raid and the Civil War in Missouri and Arkansas by William Garrett Piston and John C. Rutherford (Ozarks Studies Institute, 2021). Softcover, 13 maps, photos, illustrations, footnotes, orders of battle, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:xiii,278/356. ISBN:978-1-7346290-1-9. $29.95] [NOTE: There is also a Special Library Limited Edition (ISBN: 978-1-7321222-3-9) in hardcover]

There were some shaky moments (though less dangerous in hindsight) during the first eighteen months of the war, but Union military forces and the pro-Union provisional state government under Governor Hamilton Gamble were in solid control of Missouri by the beginning of 1863. The guerrilla problem was intractable, and in some places growing in intensity, but the overall situation was manageable, and the high command was confident enough by that time to withdraw most volunteer forces for deployment elsewhere. That left Missouri's defense largely to the militia forces created in 1862—the federally armed and funded Missouri State Militia with local support from the part-time and much less professionalized Enrolled Missouri Militia. A solid core of MSM units became highly proficient in counterinsurgency operations, and a number of them eventually attained a combat effectiveness in traditional mounted roles comparable to experienced volunteer cavalry regiments. Drawn from the general population, the EMM suffered from issues of dependability and divided loyalty that were later addressed by the creation of yet another militia organization, the Provisional EMM.

Confederates forces were not content to concede control over all parts of Missouri, however, and military incursions of varying strength and range continued. Those operations typically took the form of cavalry raids, of which there were three major ones in 1863. None of the trio has been the subject of exhaustive treatment in the literature. General John S. Marmaduke's Second Raid (which was capped by an inconclusive demonstration at Cape Girardeau on April 26, 1863) is the least well documented. Jo Shelby's "Great Raid" of September-October 1863, the longest and most sustained of the three, has received book-length attention in Sean McLachlan's Ride Around Missouri: Shelby's Great Raid 1863 (2011) and Mark Scott's converted thesis The Fifth Season: General "JO" Shelby's Great Raid of 1863 (2001). Conducted during the winter of 1862-63, Marmaduke's First Raid has also been accorded book format coverage on more than one occasion. For over two decades now, the standard account has been Frederick Goman's Up From Arkansas: Marmaduke's First Missouri Raid, Including the Battles of Springfield and Hartville (1999). Most recently, Larry Wood addressed its central event, the Second Battle of Springfield, in Civil War Springfield (2011)1. Goman's book is also very usefully supplemented by Daniel Plaster’s privately printed Marmaduke’s First Missouri Raid, 1862-1863: The Roles of Federal Scouts and Outposts in the Defense of Springfield (1999). However, a much more comprehensive treatment of the raid as a whole, with in-depth accounts of both the January 8, 1863 battle at Springfield and January 11 clash at Hartville, is finally now available through William Garrett Piston and John Rutherford's "We Gave Them Thunder": Marmaduke’s Raid and the Civil War in Missouri and Arkansas.

In the opening chapters Piston and Rutherford do a fine job of contextualizing the raid, explaining the reasons why and where it was conducted. The importance of the southwest-northeast running transportation/invasion corridor between Fort Smith, Arkansas and St. Louis, Missouri is well established through the volume's summary of campaigns fought along that axis between the time of General Lyon's 1861 Missouri campaign and the Battle of Prairie Grove in December 1862. The corridor's transportation network and geography are also described in a manner that effectively contrasts the extremes in logistical apparatus and capability that existed at each end. Indeed, supply and communications at the Arkansas end of the corridor were so tenuous that when Fort Smith finally fell to Union forces in September 1863 the attackers arrived from an entirely different line of direction. During the retreat after Prairie Grove and in the wake of the surprise Union raid across the Boston Mountains that wreaked destruction upon the supply depots at Van Buren, the Confederate Trans-Mississippi army raised through General Thomas Hindman's draconian measures started to melt away. Something needed to be done to take the pressure off that cascading disaster, and that would be a return to the corridor in the form of a cavalry raid led by General Marmaduke.

Piston and Rutherford note that Union authorities that winter in Missouri, through the experiences of 1861-62 (particularly the sweeping Confederate recruitment drives of the previous summer2), were well cognizant that swift-moving mounted raids formed the primary threat to the state and had instituted measures to address them. These included major earthwork fortification networks at key Missouri cities and towns (ex. St. Louis, Jefferson City, Rolla, and Springfield), the construction of wooden blockhouses at more isolated strategic locations, and the fortifying of county courthouses3. The works would be manned by militia forces stiffened by a cadre of experienced volunteer units, the latter mainly from neighboring Iowa and Illinois. All of these elements of the Union defense network in Missouri would be encountered by Marmaduke's men during the raid.

As recounted in this book (see also Plaster's aforementioned study), Marmaduke's division—divided into two columns, one led by Marmaduke himself and the other by Col. Joseph Porter—captured and burned a number of blockhouses and dismantled the courthouse palisade at Hartville during the early stages of the winter raid. While these actions eliminated major parts of the outer ring of established defenses in Union-held SW Missouri, the authors note that the Union "tripwire" system nevertheless did its job in alerting authorities to the presence and general direction of Marmaduke's raiding force. This early warning allowed the Union commander, General Egbert Brown, the time necessary to prepare Springfield for an attack and call in neighboring units to the town's defense. Brown's hurried but orderly arrangements included the manning of fixed defenses (five mostly unfinished forts surrounded Springfield in a south-facing arc) by a mixed force of militia and volunteer units along with the cobbling together of a reserve (the celebrated "Quinine Brigade") gleaned from military hospitals.

The attack and repulse of Marmaduke's force (Jo Shelby's brigade and the regiment of Col. Emmett MacDonald) at Springfield on January 8 is recounted in the text in a detailed manner. The authors persuasively view the result as a success story of the integrated Union defense system for Missouri, but the action also served as another clear lesson, repeated throughout the war, of the ineffectiveness of light cavalry in attacking fortified towns. Having only a section of obsolete artillery available and a limited ammunition supply overall, Marmaduke could not batter his way into the enemy defenses. Piston and Rutherford surmise that the result of the battle may have been different had Porter's brigade been present. Earlier, deeming Springfield vulnerable to a coup de main, Marmaduke altered the raid's original plan (with its initial rendezvous point at Hartville) by attacking Springfield on his own and hoping that Porter might arrive on his right in a timely manner to attack the town from the east. Brown himself worried about the eastern and northern approaches to his lines, but they were not tested. In support of the text are a series of color battle maps that trace the movements and positions of the units of each side. Based on the Springfield map found in the atlas to the O.R., the map set materially aids reader understanding of the course of the battle.

Failing to capture Springfield and its abundance of much needed horses, arms, and supplies, Marmaduke broke off his attack and moved off to the east, where he finally combined forces with Porter west of Hartville. This latter stage of the raid is the part least well covered in the literature, and the account provided in the book of the January 11 clash between Marmaduke's reunited division and a much smaller Union force commanded by Col. Samuel Merrill should be considered the new standard history of the Battle of Hartville4. Each stage of the battle, from the initial race to Hartville to the pitched battle fought along the high ground just northwest of the town, is recounted at length and is once again supported by a good set of tactical-scale maps that trace each step of the action. The Union defenders were vulnerable and had an oversized wagon train to protect, but the authors credit their successful defense of the heights (and the failure of Jo Shelby's vaunted brigade to make a dent into the Union line) to an astute selection of ground and steady volume of fire. Merrill's veteran force of volunteer infantry, cavalry, and artillery (always a strong combination with which to oppose an enemy command composed entirely of cavalry and few supporting guns) was effectively able to keep the enemy at range and off its flanks. On the other side, Marmaduke's fatigued men suffered from a severe post-Springfield ammunition shortage, and Porter's brigade, formed in a dense column, was broken up by Merrill's concentrated fire. Post-battle Confederate claims that the lack of proper military arms was a major factor in their inability to overwhelm Merrill are mostly discounted by the authors, who note that infantry rifles had been distributed to many of the men in Marmaduke command by the time of the raid5. Already limited Confederate command talent took a significant hit as well with the deaths of Porter and MacDonald.

On the face of it, the raid's benefits to the Confederate war effort seem meager. Marmaduke's division failed to capture Springfield's depots, allowed Merrill's brigade to escape a potential trap at Hartville intact, further exhausted its already critical supply of horseflesh, and suffered significant high command losses along with relatively small but not inconsiderable rank and file casualties. As the authors note, this was in exchange for the destruction of much of Brown's tripwire system in the region as well as the redirection of some Union forces from the corridor's active front. It is the book's conclusion that, upon weighing results versus cost, the raid was worth it, but one might reasonably argue otherwise. Such things are always open to healthy debate.

The product of deep research in both unpublished and published sources, Piston and Rutherford's study represents by far the most comprehensive description and analysis of Marmaduke's First Raid. It is a notable new contribution to Trans-Mississippi military history studies, the publication record of which has been undergoing a bit of a drought in recent years. The Missouri State University system's Ozarks Studies Institute also deserves a great deal of credit for putting out such an attractive package of well-edited manuscript and uncommonly rich collection of color maps, photographs, and other illustrations. One hopes that they will continue to publish more works of this kind.

1 - Follow the links provided here for CWBA reviews or commentary on: Sean McLachlan's Ride Around Missouri: Shelby's Great Raid 1863, Mark Scott's The Fifth Season: General "JO" Shelby's Great Raid of 1863, Frederick Goman's Up From Arkansas: Marmaduke's First Missouri Raid, Including the Battles of Springfield and Hartville, and Larry Wood's Civil War Springfield.
2 - See Michael Banasik's Embattled Arkansas: The Prairie Grove Campaign of 1862 (1996) for the best available single source documenting the Confederate recruitment drives that swept across Missouri during the summer of 1862 and resulted in numerous small-scale but sharply fought skirmishes and battles.
3 - See McLachlan's American Civil War Guerrilla Tactics (2009) for a useful overview of the practice of fortifying county courthouses for local defense against irregular forces.
4 - There is one book-length publication dedicated to Hartville that is at least worthy of mention. In 1997, the Wright County Historical Society published The Civil War Battle of Hartville and Related Events, a spiral-bound collection of historical source material related to the battle.
5 - It is a common refrain among Trans-Mississippi Confederates that their mounted forces were often armed only with civilian-use shotguns. It is such a widespread contention/complaint lodged by officers and soldiers of all ranks that it has become part of the accepted historical record, yet recent battlefield archeological investigations by teams led by Douglas Scott have challenged the veracity of such claims. For one example, see "The Battle Raged... With Terrible Fury:" Battlefield Archaeology of Pea Ridge National Military Park.

[Special thanks to James Baumlin (consulting editor, Ozarks Studies Institute/Ozarks Books Series) for sending me an early copy of the book, which will be available for general purchase in August]

Friday, June 4, 2021

Booknotes: The Complete Pickett's Mill Battlefield Trail Guide

New Arrival:
The Complete Pickett's Mill Battlefield Trail Guide by Brad Butkovich (Historic Imagination, 2021).

Of course, every Atlanta Campaign study covers the May 27, 1864 Battle of Pickett's Mill to some degree or another, but the finest standalone treatment is Brad Butkovich's The Battle of Pickett's Mill: Along the Dead Line, which was published by The History Press back in 2013. His newest work, The Complete Pickett's Mill Battlefield Trail Guide, should serve as a very useful companion to that narrative history account.

I haven't visited the park yet, but the preservation effort there sounds impressive. From the description: "Today’s Pickett’s Mill Battlefield State Historic Site is a 765 acre oasis of green forest in suburban Atlanta. The battlefield is in near pristine form, with no monuments and little signage, ensuring that it looks as close to its 1864 condition as possible. In addition to history supporters, the park is enjoyed by hikers as well as flora and fauna enthusiasts."

Butkovich's guide takes advantage of an established network of trail loops. More from the description: The guide "provides visitors and students with an in-depth explanation of the 1864 battle by walking the trail system. Building upon the park’s own interpretive literature, this Trail Guide expands both the number of way points for visitors and offers more details of the battle through first-person participant accounts and extensive modern research."

The volume is introduced with a brief summary of the battle's history that also contains an excellent set of seven color maps depicting in great detail the battlefield terrain and the positions of the regiments and batteries of both sides. The guide itself is based on the park's four trail loops (Blue, Red, White, and Orange). Butkovich incorporates the numbered official trail stations from those loops into the guide and generously supplements them with his own "Extra" stations that represent other "areas where historically significant or interesting events occurred" (pg. 14).

Each station has its own page in the guide and is labeled with GPS coordinates. The attached text, around 2-3 paragraphs in length, establishes view orientation and incorporates firsthand accounts into a description of the action that occurred there. A modern color photograph of the viewshed is also included for every station. An order of battle completes the volume.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Booknotes: Lincoln and Citizenship

New Arrival:
Lincoln and Citizenship by Mark E. Steiner (SIU Press, 2021).

In Abraham Lincoln's political thinking, those eligible for U.S. citizenship "encompassed different groups at different times." That developing philosophical stance is at the center of Mark Steiner's book Lincoln and Citizenship, which "analyzes and contextualizes Lincoln’s evolving views about citizenship over the course of his political career."

Early in his political career Lincoln supported very restrictive ideas about who deserved voting rights. From the description: "As an Illinois state legislator, Lincoln subscribed to the by-then-outmoded belief that suffrage must be limited to those who met certain obligations to the state. He rejected the adherence to universal white male suffrage that had existed in Illinois since statehood. In 1836 Lincoln called for voting rights to be limited to white people who had served in the militia or paid taxes. Surprisingly, Lincoln did not exclude women, though later he did not advocate giving women the right to vote and did not take women seriously as citizens."

Of the opinion that blacks should be be excluded from the body politic while at the same time being a strong anti-nativist when it came to European immigration, Lincoln long incorporated race into his publicly expressed ideas of citizenship. More from the description: "For years Lincoln presumed that only white men belonged in the political and civic community, and he saw immigration through this lens. Because Lincoln believed that white male European immigrants had a right to be part of the body politic, he opposed measures to lengthen the time they would have to wait to become a citizen or to be able to vote. Unlike many in the antebellum north, Lincoln rejected xenophobia and nativism. He opposed black citizenship, however, as he made clear in his debates with Stephen Douglas. Lincoln supported Illinois’s draconian Black Laws, which prohibited free black men from voting and serving on juries or in the militia. Further, Lincoln supported sending free black Americans to Africa—the ultimate repudiation and an antithesis of citizenship."

However, as president, Lincoln's views on black citizenship evolved quickly toward "a broader vision of citizenship for African Americans." As outlined in the book, a number of factors guided that change in Lincoln's outlook. Steiner's study "establishes how Lincoln’s meetings at the White House with Frederick Douglass and other black leaders influenced his beliefs about colonization, which he ultimately disavowed, and citizenship for African Americans, which he began to consider. Further, the battlefield success of black Union soldiers revealed to Lincoln that black men were worthy of citizenship. Lincoln publicly called for limited suffrage among black men, including military veterans, in his speech about Reconstruction on April 11, 1865. Ahead of most others of his era, Lincoln showed just before his assassination that he supported rights of citizenship for at least some African Americans."

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Booknotes: The Civil War Memoir of a Boy from Baltimore

New Arrival:
The Civil War Memoir of a Boy from Baltimore: The Remembrance of George C. Maguire, Written in 1893 edited by Holly I. Powers (UT Press, 2021).

A circumstance and practice that is unthinkable in modern western militaries, Civil War history is replete with examples of preteen children and older boys being taken into regiments and adopted by the men. John Clem , a.k.a. "Johnny Shiloh," is the most famous example, serving as a drummer boy in the 22nd Michigan. Sometimes called a "mascot," such a child informally inducted into a regiment could be assigned tasks attached with responsibility and experience physical dangers in ways inconceivable today. This was certainly the case with Maryland's George Maguire. From the description: "Fourteen-year-old George Maguire was eager to serve the Union when his home state, Maryland, began raising regiments for the coming conflict. Too young to join, he became a “mascot” for the Fifth Maryland Infantry Regiment, organized in September 1861."

In 1893 at age 43, Maguire wrote down his wartime experiences, which survived in original form in the hands of his descendants and are published for the first time in The Civil War Memoir of a Boy from Baltimore: The Remembrance of George C. Maguire, Written in 1893, edited by Holly Powers. In his memoir, Maguire, who "never formally enlisted or carried a weapon," "recounts several pivotal events in the war, including the sea battle of the Monitor vs. Merrimac, Peninsula Campaign action, and the Battle of Antietam." Though an observer of military events, Maguire's own contributions would be in the medical sphere of Union Army operations.

According to Powers, the Maguire memoir is a rarity, "one of the few from a Maryland unit." It represents "a distinctive blend of the adventures of a teenage boy with the mature reflection of a man. His account of the Peninsula Campaign captures the success of the mobilization of forces and confirms the existing historical record, as well as illuminating the social structure of camp life. Maguire’s duties evolved over time, as he worked alongside army surgeons and assisted his brother-in-law (a “rabid abolitionist” and provost marshal of the regiment). This experience qualified him to work at the newly constructed Thomas Hicks United States General Hospital once he left the regiment in 1863; his memoir describes the staffing hierarchy and the operating procedures implemented by the Army Medical Corps at the end of the war, illuminated with the author’s own sketches of the facility."

The memoir itself is a quick read, running sixty pages in the book. As part of her editorial duties, Powers contributes an introduction, conclusion, and extensive endnotes to the volume. Illustrations are numerous, and include reproductions of Maguire's own crude sketches of maps, hospital layouts, and other things of interest to him.

More from the description: "From the Pratt Street riot in Baltimore to a chance encounter with Red Cross founder Clara Barton to a firsthand view of Hicks Hospital, this sweeping yet brief memoir provides a unique opportunity to examine the experiences of a child during the war and to explore the nuances of memory. Beyond simply retelling the events as they happened, Maguire’s memoir is woven with a sense of remorse and resolve, loss and fear, and the pure wonderment of a teenage boy accompanying one of the largest assembled armies of its day."