Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Booknotes: Ends of War

New Arrival:
Ends of War: The Unfinished Fight of Lee's Army after Appomattox by Caroline E. Janney (UNC Press, 2021).

Symbolic of the tidiest aspects of the end of the Civil War, the formal surrender at Appomattox has received the lion's share of past attention in both scholarly and popular publishing, but the less tidy features of the immediate postwar period have received increasingly intensive coverage of late. Caroline Janney's Ends of War: The Unfinished Fight of Lee's Army after Appomattox aims to contribute to that growing body of work. While most officers and men of the Army of Northern Virginia submitted to battlefield defeat and accepted their paroles, "others broke south and west, hoping to continue the fight. Fearing a guerrilla war, Grant extended the generous Appomattox terms to every rebel who would surrender himself. Provost marshals fanned out across Virginia and beyond, seeking nearly 18,000 of Lee's men who had yet to surrender."

As the book demonstrates, shock waves emanating from the Lincoln assassination also changed much of the character of war's end and the demobilization of Lee's army. The killing of the president "led Northern authorities to see threats of new rebellion in every rail depot and harbor where Confederates gathered for transport, even among those already paroled. While Federal troops struggled to keep order and sustain a fragile peace, their newly surrendered adversaries seethed with anger and confusion at the sight of Union troops occupying their towns and former slaves celebrating freedom."

A "new history of the weeks and months after Appomattox," Janney's study "reveals that Lee's surrender was less an ending than the start of an interregnum marked by military and political uncertainty, legal and logistical confusion, and continued outbursts of violence. Janney takes readers from the deliberations of government and military authorities to the ground-level experiences of common soldiers." The book also examines the post-surrender paths of noncombatants, black and white, who were attached to Lee's army. The full range of the civilian response to the presence of hungry ex-soldiers passing through their farms and communities is addressed as well. "Ultimately, what unfolds is the messy birth narrative of the Lost Cause, laying the groundwork for the defiant resilience of rebellion in the years that followed."

Monday, August 30, 2021

Booknotes: A Fine Introduction to Battle

New Arrival:
A Fine Introduction to Battle: Hood's Texas Brigade at The Battle of Eltham's Landing, May 7, 1862 by Joseph L. Owen (Fox Run Pub, 2021).

From the description: "The Battle of Eltham's Landing on May 7, 1862 was the baptism by fire for the Texas Brigade of Gen. John Bell Hood. The Texans distinguished themselves throughout the war as members of Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. The Battle of Eltham's Landing was considered small compared to the battles the brigade fought soon afterwards: Gaines' Mill, Second Manassas/Second Bull Run, Sharpsburg/Antietam, Gettysburg and Chickamauga. However, the brunt of the fighting at Eltham's Landing was done by the Texans. Hood's Texas Brigade's first combat experience proved they were a force to be reckoned with."

As was the case in Owen's earlier compilations Texans at Gettysburg, Texans at Antietam, and Lone Star Valor, the new book is also a collection of transcribed reports, letters, newspaper articles, diary entries, and interviews. Most accounts included in the book were first published in newspapers, but material was drawn from other sources (including books, articles, manuscript collections, and magazines), too.

More from the description: "In these accounts, the soldiers wrote how bravely the brigade fought in its first battle. Newspapers throughout Texas, Georgia and the whole South expressed their pride about the gallantry and aggressiveness of Hood's Brigade in their first battle, and began building the reputation of Hood's Texans becoming Robert E. Lee's "Grenadier Guard."" Together, they "provide a valuable view of this overlooked, early battle through the eyes of the Texans that reflected pride not only in themselves but in fellow brigade members of the 18th Georgia and Hampton's Legion." These brigade sources are organized in four main chapters organized by unit (First, Fourth, and Fifth Texas along with a very brief Eighteenth Georgia section). There is also a chapter-length collection of material written by generals, and the volume concludes with a useful casualty appendix.

Owen does not provide a narrative history of the battle written in his own hand that explores the action in detail, but the introduction section of the book does contain a very brief summary of events. In addition to some writer biography remarks preceding each source entry, the author contributes other background and bridging text throughout the volume. Many accounts have a photograph of the writer attached. Certainly if one were to begin a research project on the battle, this book would be a very valuable resource to own.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Coming Soon (September '21 Edition)

**NEW RELEASES1** Scheduled for SEPT 2021:

Crosshairs on the Capital: Jubal Early’s Raid on Washington, D.C., July 1864 - Reasons, Reactions, and Results by James Bruns.
Teacher, Preacher, Soldier, Spy: The Civil Wars of John R. Kelso by Christopher Grasso.
The Union League and Biracial Politics in Reconstruction Texas by Carl Moneyhon.
The River Batteries at Fort Donelson: Construction, Armament and Battles, 1861-1862 by Cathey & Robnett.
Lincoln and Native Americans by Michael Green.
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 by Christopher Thrasher.
Lincoln's Northern Nemesis: The War Opposition and Exile of Ohio's Clement Vallandigham by Martin Gottlieb.
Port Hudson: A History in Photographs by Lawrence Hewitt.
Ends of War: The Unfinished Fight of Lee's Army after Appomattox by Caroline Janney.
Civil War Witnesses and Their Books: New Perspectives on Iconic Works by Gallagher & Cushman, eds.
The Generals' Civil War: What Their Memoirs Can Teach Us Today by Stephen Cushman.
Robert E. Lee: A Life by Allen Guelzo.
Confederates and Comancheros: Skullduggery and Double-Dealing in the Texas–New Mexico Borderlands by Blackshear & Ely.

Comments: Janney's book arrived in the mail already, so it looks like it might get a slightly earlier general release. The biggest title of the month, at least in terms of sparking wide discussion and differing opinions, will surely be Guelzo's Lee biography. I hope I can get a review copy of it from Knopf.

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.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Booknotes: Lincoln Comes to Gettysburg

New Arrival:
Lincoln Comes to Gettysburg: The Creation of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address by Bradley M. Gottfried & Linda I. Gottfried (Savas Beatie, 2021).

Lincoln Comes to Gettysburg "recounts the events surrounding the creation of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, its dedication, and concentrates on Lincoln’s visit to Gettysburg on November 18- 19, 1863."

As one might imagine, burying the dead from the Gettysburg battle in a suitable manner was a pressing matter as well as a huge organizational and logistical challenge. From the description: "First, appropriate land needed to be identified and purchased. After the State of Pennsylvania purchased the 17 acres, a renowned landscape architect designed the layout of the cemetery. All was now ready for the bodies to be interred from their uneasy resting places around the battlefield, placed in coffins, marked with their names and units, and transported to the new cemetery to be permanently reinterred. More than 3,500 men were moved to the Soldiers National Cemetery."

The cemetery dedication planning involved some touchy considerations. More: "Most of the program was easily decided. It would be composed of odes, singing, prayers, and remarks by the most renowned orator in the nation, Edward Everett. The committee argued over whether President Abraham Lincoln should be invited to the ceremony and, if so, his role in the program. The committee, divided by politics, decided on a middle ground, inviting the President to provide “a few appropriate remarks.”" Lincoln accepted the invitation, of course, and his journey to Gettysburg, activities in town, his famous address, its reception, and its legacy are all discussed by co-authors Bradley and Linda Gottfried in the volume.

The appendix section includes a pair of tours (one focusing on Lincoln's activities and another on National Cemetery sites) along with an essay discussing the centennial commemorative event that featured a speech by former president Dwight Eisenhower (then president JFK was invited to be the keynote speaker but had to pass on it due to his fateful commitment to a Texas political visit of which we are all familiar).

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Booknotes: Passing Through the Fire

New Arrival:
Passing Through the Fire: Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain in the Civil War by Brian F. Swartz (Savas Beatie, 2021)

Brian Swartz's Passing Through the Fire: Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain in the Civil War "chronicles Chamberlain’s swift transition from college professor and family man to regimental and brigade commander. A natural leader, he honed his fighting skills at Shepherdstown and Fredericksburg. Praised by his Gettysburg peers for leading the 20th Maine Infantry’s successful defense of Little Round Top—an action that would eventually earn him Civil War immortality—Chamberlain experienced his most intense combat after arriving at Petersburg."

Military biographies are not a common part of the ECW series lineup, but I would welcome more of these, especially some covering figures who don't already have extensive biographical treatment. Chamberlain's story, of course, has been abundantly covered in books, magazines, and films, and popular interest in his Civil War career continues to remain steady. Using "Chamberlain’s extensive memoirs and writings and multiple period sources," Swartz's book "follows Chamberlain across Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia while examining the determined warrior who let nothing prevent him from helping save the United States."

Passing Through the Fire dutifully covers the entirety of Chamberlain's Civil War service, including Fredericksburg and his most famous leadership exploit at Little Round Top, but well over half the book recounts the general's activities during the 1864-65 Richmond-Petersburg Campaign. Nearly forced to retire from the service due do his horrific injuries, Chamberlain did return to the army and was present at the Appomattox surrender, where he contributed yet another episode to famous Civil War legend and lore.

Twelve maps support the text along with numerous period and modern photographs. The appendix section contains three essays. The first is a tour of Chamberlain-related historical sites across Maine while the second discusses Chamberlain's relationship with his wife Fanny (a subject much explored and debated in the extensive Chamberlain literature) and the third looks at how Chamberlain gained (largely through the Shaara Gettysburg novel and the Burn's documentary series) his lofty and enduring stature in modern Civil War popular culture and history.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Review - "Matchless Organization: The Confederate Army Medical Department" by Guy Hasegawa

[Matchless Organization: The Confederate Army Medical Department by Guy R. Hasegawa (Southern Illinois University Press, 2021). Softcover, photos, illustrations, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:xiii,183/275. ISBN:978-0-8093-3829-0. $26.50]

The American Civil War's mass mobilization of the military-age populations of both sections presented near insuperable challenges to the army medical departments of the US and Confederate governments. Though neither belligerent was adequately prepared to meet the healthcare needs of hundreds of thousands of newly inducted men, or the casualties incurred during war's early battles (which were small by later standards), the United States did have the benefit of an existing bureaucracy to help it at least begin to effectively address those trials. On the other side, the Confederate medical department possessed nowhere near the same resources but also did not have to start completely from scratch. A number of senior and experienced medical department officers left their posts in the US Army and were able to essentially copy that well-established bureaucratic system and put it to use in the new Confederate Army. The history of that process and its wartime application is the primary focus of Guy Hasegawa's excellent new book Matchless Organization: The Confederate Army Medical Department.

Hasegawa's study is remarkable through the extent by which the author was able to mitigate basic source limitations. Most of the records of the Confederate Army Medical Department did not survive the chaos of the war's final moments, being either destroyed at Richmond or lost during the retreat from the capital. Nevertheless, Hasegawa's research effort was able to collect more than enough supporting sources of all types to provide a very comprehensive survey of the medical department's key personnel, organization, breadth of operations and responsibilities, and overall war record.

In the book, Hasegawa explains at some length the duties and responsibilities of the key cogs in the medical department bureaucracy—most specifically the Surgeon General but also the medical directors of army hospitals, medical inspectors responsible for enforcing regulations, and medical purveyors tasked with obtaining all of the department's necessary medicines and supplies. It quickly became apparent to the last group of officers that obtaining adequate medical supplies would be an enormous challenge that could only be adequately met by a combination of importation through the blockade and renewed exploitation of domestic sources. Procurement would always be limited by supply and payment shortages, but there was also considerable resistance to the official use of many native remedies (especially from the allopathic medical community), and that conflict within the profession (which still exists today) is outlined in the text. Also addressed in some detail are the roles of medical department officers and personnel in battlefield care, general hospital administration, and prison hospital operation. The department's recognition of the need for examining boards to ensure competence of surgeons and other medical staff is discussed as well. In conjunction with Confederate lawmakers, the department also assumed a key role in the army's disability certification, medical discharge, and even furlough procedures. The ways in which that process became more involved and more controversial as the war progressed (particularly after national conscription was enacted) is well explained in the book.

As much as the volume serves the reader well as a general history of the medical department, it is just as much an account of the wartime role of the Confederate Office of the Surgeon General (SGO) and a detailed professional biography of its longest serving and most influential leader, Surgeon General Samuel Preston Moore. Though he could be abrupt in manner, Moore was by nearly all accounts a gifted, no nonsense administrator. While, as mentioned above, the Confederacy avoided having to create a medical department out of whole cloth by adopting the existing US Army system of organization, regulations, and seniority, that mostly sound decision sometimes had the detrimental effect of stifling innovative initiatives that might have helped mitigate problems attached to the Confederacy's inferior material and human resources. Nevertheless, Moore often took a pragmatic approach to addressing those problems. For example, like his Union counterpart, Moore was impressed with the French model of battlefield casualty care and evacuation, but he also recognized that his own organization did not have the resources to emulate it for every major army. Instead, Moore attempted to create a "Reserve Surgical Corps" that would be sent as needed to major battlefields, which was a good idea in theory that was derailed in practice by legal barriers and resource, staff availability, and transportation limitations outside of his control. The impossibility of being able to anticipate when or where major battles would occur was another drawback to Moore's otherwise promising idea of a central medical reserve. Another Moore initiative was in the area of medicine procurement. With the blockade affecting supplies of prepared medicines, Moore sought, with considerable opposition in some quarters, to supplement unreliable supplies of allopathic medicines with plant remedies indigenous to the South by creating a regulated procurement and testing program. Moore also recognized the need to document for future education purposes the discoveries and advances made in military surgery and medicine, and made that a priority as well (although, as Hasegawa explains, those efforts mostly went unappreciated at the time because much of the data was collected immediately but held back for publication until after the war).

While the medical department was described by one qualified contemporary observer as a "matchless organization," a combination of forces frequently thwarted promising initiatives involved with the ongoing quest for improvements in organizational structuring and patient care. Those self-constructed barriers against further refinement form one of the book's major themes and offer a powerful explanation of the ways by which SGO efficiency, while laudable overall, was negative impacted by factors outside of money, manpower, and resource scarcity. As an example, the stubbornly honest Moore as a rule refused to grant special favors to influential persons and in that way failed to procure powerful legislative friends in Congress. While he seems to have got along well with President Davis on a personal level, Moore found many of his plans and suggestions that did make it through Congress thwarted by presidential veto, frequently on the grounds of legal technicality. In another example, army commanders often interfered with medical department prerogatives when it came to authority over army general hospitals. Intra-departmental interferences included things such as surgeon resistance to examining boards and officers assuming grand titles and responsibilities of no legal basis. While these factors challenge the admittedly exaggerated idea that the Confederate Medical Department operated as a truly matchless organization, they do not collectively muster striking opposition to the book's conclusion that the department generally exceeded expectations.

In Matchless Organization: The Confederate Army Medical Department, author Guy Hasegawa has created a history that is arguably the greatest single-source advancement in our knowledge of the Confederate Army's medical apparatus since Cunningham's Doctors in Gray (1958). The book's highlighting of the talents and achievements of Surgeon General Moore, a figure largely unknown to most Civil War students, also effectively reminds us that the Union did not possess a complete monopoly on the war's most talented top-level administrators. While there isn't enough surviving source material to offer a fair comparison between the Union and Confederate medical departments, Hasegawa makes a strong argument that Moore's organization could very well have been the Confederate government's best-run department, one that served its wounded soldiers remarkably well given the many limitations imposed upon their care.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Booknotes: The Summer of ’63 Vicksburg and Tullahoma

New Arrival:
The Summer of ’63: Vicksburg and Tullahoma - Favorite Stories and Fresh Perspectives from the Historians at Emerging Civil War edited by Chris Mackowski & Dan Welch (Savas Beatie, 2021)

By any estimate, the first week of July 1863 was a momentous time that encompassed the concluding moments of major Union campaign victories in Mississippi, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania. The companion volume to The Summer of ’63: Gettysburg - Favorite Stories and Fresh Perspectives from the Historians at Emerging Civil War, this book addresses the other two events from that triumvirate of triumphs referenced above. While Vicksburg has received plenty of recognition along with solid coverage in the literature, the Tullahoma Campaign received its first major study only this year with David Powell and Eric Wittenberg's Tullahoma: The Forgotten Campaign that Changed the Course of the Civil War, June 23 - July 4, 1863, an exhaustive operational history that cannot be recommended highly enough.

As is the case with the Gettysburg volume, The Summer of ’63: Vicksburg and Tullahoma is based on the public history work of a number of Emerging Civil War contributors who engage their audience through "writing for the popular Emerging Civil War blog, speaking on its podcast, or delivering talks at its annual Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge in Virginia." This book "is a compilation of some of their favorites, anthologized, revised, and updated, together with several original pieces. Each entry includes helpful illustrations."

In addition to a foreword and introductory comments on photographing Vicksburg, the book includes 29 chapters of Vicksburg discussion (with some crossover) and 10 chapters of Tullahoma coverage, all of varying degrees of length and depth. Leadership, strategy, battles, firsthand military and civilian experiences, memorialization, and remembrance of both campaigns are among the many topics and themes explored in the book. In support of these are eight maps.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Various Things

1. A regular reader recently notified me that Craig Swain's website is back. It is still under construction and also undergoing a bit of a rebranding (in addition to Civil War matters, Craig will also be getting into modern subjects on the site), but I've bookmarked the link [you can find it here] and will be checking back frequently to see how things are going. Welcome back, Craig.

2. Accounts of the 1864 Battle of Mobile Bay begin with the surprise sinking of the Canonicus-class monitor USS Tecumseh, an event that doesn't get a whole lot of attention beyond inducing from the reader a brief shudder of horror at the grim fate of most of the crew trapped within (the vessel went under so fast that only a small number could escape) before moving on the famous damning of torpedoes, battering of the Tennessee into submission, and Union victory. Hopefully, the story will finally get the attention it deserves in David Smithweck's The USS Tecumseh in Mobile Bay: The Sinking of a Civil War Ironclad. Look for it in October.

3. A number of Savas Beatie titles recently popped up on the long-range radar (2022 and beyond). Among the major releases are The Maps of Spotsylvania through Cold Harbor and “If We Are Striking for Pennsylvania” (the latter the first of a pair of volumes covering the march to Gettysburg by both armies), but there are three others that closely align with my interests.

Perhaps no one is more qualified than Richard Hatcher to discuss Fort Sumter, and I've been looking forward to reading his ECW title on the topic. However, the publication date keeps getting pushed back. Perhaps the reason behind that is the author has been fleshing out the subject for a full-length study. I'm not sure if the ECW entry has been entirely abandoned in favor of this larger scale treatment, but they share the same title (though the subtitles differ) so I am thinking that that might be the case. Thunder in the Harbor: Fort Sumter and the Civil War will cover the fort's role in the entire conflict.

Also related to the Charleston campaign is James Morgan's Six Miles from Charleston, Five Minutes to Hell: The Battle of Secessionville. Patrick Brennan's Secessionville study remains my favorite military history related to Civil War Charleston, and, given the quality of Morgan's earlier work on a small but significant Civil War battle, I am looking forward to the new take on the same subject.

Finally, I am no fan at all of Joe Johnston's military character and generalship, but he is intimately connected with many topics that interest me greatly, including the Vicksburg, Atlanta, and Peninsula campaigns. Thus, I was excited to discover news of an upcoming two-volume reassessment of the general by Richard McMurry. As the title suggests, The Civil Wars of Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston: Volume 1: Virginia to Mississippi, 1861-1863 addresses the general's Civil War career from the war's beginning through the failure to relieve Vicksburg. Out of all of the books in this group, this one interests me most.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Booknotes: Our Comfort in Dying

New Arrival:
Our Comfort in Dying: Civil War Sermons by R. L. Dabney, Stonewall Jackson’s Chief-of-Staff transcribed and edited by Jonathan W. Peters (Sola Fide Pub, 2021).

Religious revivals were pretty common events in the Civil War camps of both sides, but the one that began in spring 1863 in the Army of Northern Virginia (before spreading to other armies) is sometimes viewed as another "Great Awakening." One individual who played a key role in that process was Robert Lewis Dabney, who was a Presbyterian pastor and Stonewall Jackson's chief of staff.

From the description: Dabney preached "in Confederate camps throughout the American Civil War, serving as the chaplain of the 18th Virginia in 1861 and the parson-adjutant to Stonewall Jackson during the Valley and Peninsula Campaigns of 1862. Poor health forced Dabney eventually to resign, but his "sturdy piety," gripping sermons, and fervent prayers were "a great impetus" to the religious awakening which later swept through the Army of Northern Virginia."

According to the Encyclopedia Virginia entry on the general topic of ACW revivals written by historian Steven Woodworth "the soldier revivals tended to be ecumenical and to cross class boundaries. They were often marked by frequent, fervent, and heavily attended religious ceremonies, including preaching services, organized prayer meetings, and “experience meetings,” or gatherings in which individual soldiers took turns sharing with the group how God had brought them to faith in Christ. They were also evidenced by much private Bible reading and small informal prayer meetings among the troops." This restored faith is often said to have sustained many southerners, soldiers and civilians alike, through the dual traumas of war and abject defeat.

More from the description: "In the 1880s, Dabney wrote out a number of his wartime sermons which "were formed indelibly impressed upon [his] memory," hoping to have them published under the title, Army Sermons, or Discourses." Since that time, the manuscript has been stored in the archives of Union Theological Seminary, where Dabney studied and graduated from in 1846. Edited by Jonathan Peters, the collection has now been published under the title Our Comfort in Dying: Civil War Sermons by R. L. Dabney, Stonewall Jackson’s Chief-of-Staff.

The twenty sermons collected in the book discuss a variety of topics, among them temptation, patriotism, prayer, dying (see the title), procrastination, mercy, grace, courage, faith, and sin. According to Dabney's own preface, the "primary object" of the hoped-for publication of his sermons was "to glorify God in Christ, and to bless the souls of men, by giving further currency, in the way, to the doctrines of redemption." He also intended that the text would comfort veterans in their faith and recollections of past service and comrades, while also serving as a defense of the cause under which they fought.

In addition to the full text of the sermons, the volume contains a "glossary and introduction, along with some additional sermons. Eyewitness accounts are also included to illuminate Dabney's effectiveness as a minister of the Protestant faith in the Confederate armies." The bibliography lists a range of both unpublished and published sources, and the explanatory endnotes are extensive. The appendix section houses additional Dabney writings, but also includes a "humorous anecdote" about Dabney at the Battle of Malvern Hill.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Booknotes: Grant’s Left Hook

New Arrival:
Grant’s Left Hook: The Bermuda Hundred Campaign, May 5-June 7, 1864 by Sean Michael Chick (Savas Beatie, 2021).

From the description: "Robert E. Lee feared the day the Union army would return up the James River and invest the Confederate capital of Richmond. In the spring of 1864, Ulysses Grant, looking for a way to weaken Lee, was about to exploit the Confederate commander’s greatest fear and weakness. After two years of futile offensives in Virginia, the Union commander set the stage for a campaign that could decide the war."

"Grant sent the 38,000-man Army of The James to Bermuda Hundred, to threaten and possibly take Richmond, or at least pin down troops that could reinforce Lee. Jefferson Davis, in desperate need of a capable commander, turned to the Confederacy’s first hero: Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard." During the ensuing fighting, Beauregard turned back Butler's army between Richmond and Petersburg and forced a stalemate.

The campaign has been covered well in the literature, with two full-length studies published a year apart in the late 1980s. Both William Glenn Robertson's Backdoor to Richmond and Herbert Schiller's The Bermuda Hundred Campaign are fine, complementary works, though I prefer the former overall. Sean Chick's new ECW book Grant’s Left Hook: The Bermuda Hundred Campaign, May 5-June 7, 1864 is the first serious standalone study to be published since then. It "analyzes and explains the plans, events, and repercussions of the Bermuda Hundred Campaign...The book contains hundreds of photographs, new maps, and a fresh consideration of Grant’s Virginia strategy and the generalship of Butler and Beauregard. The book is also filled with anecdotes and impressions from the rank and file who wore blue and gray."

Grant's Left Hook also includes an 11-stop driving tour. ECW series books often contain interesting essay-length appendix pieces, and those features form a prominent part of this volume. They discuss the Lee-Beauregard command relationship, the flight of President Davis's "most trusted" slave (Jim Pemberton), more details on the June 16-17 fighting at Bermuda Hundred, the story of the effort in some quarters to promote Ben Butler as a presidential candidate to replace Lincoln in 1864, more information on Butler's postwar life, and some preservation history. I'm looking forward to reading it. Hopefully, we'll get Chick's Beauregard book soon, too.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Booknotes: Decisions of the Seven Days

New Arrival:
Decisions of the Seven Days: The Sixteen Critical Decisions That Defined the Battles by Matt Spruill (UT Press, 2021).

From the description: "From June 25 to July 1, 1862, Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia engaged Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac in a series of battles at the end of the Peninsula Campaign that would collectively become known as the Seven Days Battles. Beginning with the fighting at the Battle of Beaver Dam Creek, Lee consistently maneuvered against and attacked McClellan’s Army of the Potomac as it retreated south across the Virginia Peninsula to the James River. At the conclusion of the Battle of Malvern Hill, Lee’s second most costly battle, where McClellan’s strong defensive position of infantry and artillery repelled multiple frontal assaults by Lee’s troops, the Federal army slipped from Lee’s grasp and brought the Seven Days to an end. The Seven Days was a clear Confederate victory that drove the Union army away from the capital at Richmond, began the ascendancy of Robert E. Lee, and commenced a change in the war in the Eastern Theater. It set the stage for the Second Manassas Campaign followed by the Maryland Campaign of 1862."

That critical week of fighting is now the subject of the latest volume in University of Tennessee Press's Command Decisions in America’s Civil War series. Authored by series developer Matt Spruill, Decisions of the Seven Days: The Sixteen Critical Decisions That Defined the Battles "explores the critical decisions made by Confederate and Union commanders during the Seven Days Battles and how these decisions shaped the outcome. Rather than offering a history of the battles, Matt Spruill hones in on a sequence of critical decisions made by commanders on both sides of the contests to provide a blueprint of the Seven Days at its tactical core. Identifying and exploring the critical decisions in this way allows students of the battles to progress from knowledge of what happened to a mature grasp of why events happened." If you're new to the series, you can examine any number of reviews on this website to get an impression of what's involved. To read my reviews of two other Spruill volumes go here and here.

Though the decision analysis format is pretty much set in stone, series authors have a great deal of freedom when it comes to organizational grouping and in identifying decision types that range among "strategy, operations, tactics, organization, logistical, and personnel" considerations. Spruill arranges his sixteen Seven Days decisions into four time frames: "Before the Battles" (6), "Mechanicsville and Gaines' Mill" (3), "White Oak Swamp and Glendale" (4), and "Malvern Hill and Retreat" (3). Three of these are strategic, four are operational, eight tactical, and one personnel related. As with the other volumes, there are numerous maps sprinkled throughout (mostly brigade and division scale here), and decision identification and analysis are accompanied by an extensive battlefield guide based upon them. Detailed orders of battle are also included.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Booknotes: Ohio at Antietam

New Arrival:
Ohio at Antietam: The Buckeye State’s Sacrifice on America’s Bloodiest Day by Kevin W. Pawlak & Dan Welch (Arcadia Pub and The Hist Press, 2021).

From the description: "Among the thousands who fought in the pivotal Battle of Antietam were scores of Ohioans. Sending eleven regiments and two batteries to the fight, the Buckeye State lost hundreds during the Maryland Campaign's first engagement, South Mountain, and hundreds more "gave their last full measure of devotion" at the Cornfield, the Bloody Lane and Burnside's Bridge."

The participation of Ohio units, leaders, and men in the Antietam battle is the focus of Kevin Pawlak and Dan Welch's Ohio at Antietam: The Buckeye State’s Sacrifice on America’s Bloodiest Day. Chapters in the book address the role of Ohio regiments at South Mountain with the Kanawha Division, the Cornfield and West Woods attacks of Tyndale's Brigade (the fellow bookended by Cox and Crook on the cover art is Major Orrin Crane of that brigade), and the Eighth Ohio's assault on Bloody Lane with Kimball's Brigade. A pair of chapters explore the fighting on the Union left commanded by Ambrose Burnside, their focus being on the Ohio brigades of Crook and Ewing. The text is supported by an abundance of photographs (of individuals, graves, landscapes, and monuments) as well as a handful of detailed maps.

More from the description: "Many of these brave men are buried at the Antietam National Cemetery. Aged veterans who survived the ferocious contest returned to Antietam in the early 1900s to fight for and preserve the memory of their sacrifices all those years earlier." The second to last chapter presents a selection of stories of individuals buried at Antietam National Cemetery (also attached is a table of burial information for the Ohio slain). The final chapter briefly addresses Ohio remembrance and commemoration of the 1862 Maryland Campaign, while the volume's appendix offers a short history of future president William McKinley's Civil War service at Antietam and elsewhere.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Review - "Military Prisons of the Civil War: A Comparative Study" by David Keller

[Military Prisons of the Civil War: A Comparative Study by David L. Keller (Westholme Publishing, 2021). Hardcover, map, photos, tables, notes, appendices, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:xix,116/183. ISBN:978-1-59416-357-9. $32]

Rather than contributing anew to the mostly unproductive debates regarding whose American Civil War POW camps were worse given the attitudes and priorities adopted and the relative resources available, David Keller's Military Prisons of the Civil War: A Comparative Study instead frames itself around the larger truth that the camps of both sides were all too often terrible places to be confined within. A product of research in both primary and secondary sources that was sponsored by grants from the Andersonville National Site POW Research Program, Keller's lean study identifies and illuminates what the author's investigation has determined to have been the five most significant problems that both sides commonly addressed poorly.

Keller begins by explaining that confining large numbers of captured men for long periods of time was not a routine part of western warfare as adapted to the North American continent (with the exception of the infamous prison hulks of the American Revolution) until the Civil War, when hundreds of thousands of officers and men on both sides spent significant time in prisons. Dealing with that unprecedented situation made a certain amount of teething problems inevitable. The author also provides a good introductory summary of living conditions commonly present in the POW camps of the American Civil War. That section includes coverage of prison facilities and prisoner demographics along with brief discussions of essential issues related to shelter, clothing, food, medical care, sanitation, prisoner abuse, and more.

Getting back to the central theme of the book, upon close examination of dozens of Union and Confederate prison camps spread across the eastern and western theaters [Camp Ford, Texas is the only Trans-Mississippi facility examined. See Appendix II for the full list and data table] Keller has identified five major commonalities that led, to some degree or another, to needless suffering and mortality among confined persons. As first outlined in Chapter 2, these are (1) "Lack of a strategic plan for handling prisoners," (2) "Inadequate plans for long-term incarceration," (3) "Poor selection and training of camp command," (4) "Lack of training of guards," and finally (5) "Failure to provide soldiers with information on how to behave as a prisoner."

In addressing each of these points, Keller applies realistic expectations that do not hinge on the perfect hindsight available to today's critical observers. In discussing the lack of a truly comprehensive strategic plan for processing, transporting, and housing prisoners as well as similarly flawed planning when it came to holding and caring for those prisoners long term, the author points to the reasonable assumption made by Union and Confederate authorities that the parole and exchange system successfully implemented during the first half of the war would continue. Clearly the need to quickly mobilize mass national volunteer armies, of which no one had prior experience at that scale, drowned out other concerns, but there remains at least some room for criticizing the lack of contingency planning for POW camp development and expansion for 1862 onward. Because of that omission, the Union camp system was vastly underdeveloped when confronted all at once with mass incarceration upon suspension of the Dix-Hill Cartel, and the equally pressed Confederacy had the added burden of needing to constantly move facilities due to the approach of enemy armies. The author's suggestion that modern advances in transportation technology (i.e. railroads and steamships) and logistics should have made the leaders of both sides recognize earlier that parole would become an increasingly dispensable option for handling prisoners, and that those changes would make mass incarceration inevitable, is interesting to contemplate if perhaps a bit overcritical. The author does not dismiss the possibility of intentional neglect on either side, though his contention that if the South could feed its fighting men adequately it could also have fed its prisoners equally well seems an overly simplistic, and in some ways logically unconvincing, appraisal of a complex problem.

Similar expectations regarding prisoner exchange led to camp commanders having no training for the complicated task of leading and managing large POW facilities. Keller credits Union authorities for assigning higher-ranking officers as camp commandants but observes, as others have, that the priority of parsimony over prisoner care diminished many of the possible benefits of having a greater sphere of authority. With expediency being the primary selective factor on both sides and high turnover in the role, there was diminished chance of consistent enhancements in prisoner care even if training, however rudimentary, was applied. What is not discussed is how both sides should have selected camp commanders, what list of qualifications should have been viewed as essential, and where the desired training would have been best found or developed.

Just as camp commanders lacked training and preparation, camp guards (those with the most close and frequent contact with prisoners) generally lacked any kind of specialized direction. This deficiency was worsened by both sides commonly assigning guards that did not possess even the rudiments of military training, weapons handling instruction, and discipline to watch over prisoners. Casual brutality and other forms of inhumane treatment that ensued were never truly addressed by either side, although the author credits Union use of Veteran Reserve Corps soldiers and USCT units as camp guards as going some distance toward rectifying those issues (although employing the latter had obvious additional complications).

Finally, neither side ever codified or provided general guidelines about prisoner behavior once they were incarcerated. As explained at length in Kathryn Shively Meier's 2013 study Nature's Civil War, soldiers addressed the challenges of their environment in camp and in the field through a combination of army regulations and self care, but Keller points out that the US Army did not issue formal regulations for POWs to follow until the mid-twentieth century. In support of his findings that this lack of training led to avoidable suffering on a large scale, Keller refers us to the greatly reduced mortality present among the more internally regimented officer prisons of the Civil War, though that contrast could also be attributed to a number of other factors including better physical condition at initial incarceration and better overall treatment due to rank. Even so, it does seem more than likely that prisoner training, if for nothing else than in health and sanitation, might have significantly lessened overall mortality.

The final two chapters of the book contain the author's summaries of each Union and Confederate camp's performance in relation to the five factors that negatively impacted all Civil War prisons. The appendix section contains a number of relevant tables and documents. Perhaps of particular interest to readers is the one (Appendix VII) that weighs, for each camp, the relative impact (numerically scored from one, least important, to five, most important) of the five factors referenced throughout the book, and provides a ranked total. It will come as no surprise that Andersonville, Georgia and Elmira, New York—the two Civil War prisons with the most infamous reputations—lie at the top of the list.

Over recent decades, the scholarly and popular literature of Civil War prisons and prisoners has considerably enhanced our knowledge of the subject (as well as cut through much of the enduring mythology), and one clear conclusion is that the military bureaucracies that operated the facilities of both sides were deeply flawed in ways that could, and should, have been far better managed. Detailed explanation of how those shortcomings could have been realistically addressed is mostly beyond the scope of the book, but David Keller's Military Prisons of the Civil War certainly does identify and critically assess in a useful manner key failings common to the military prison systems of both belligerents.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Booknotes: The Summer of ’63 Gettysburg

New Arrival:
The Summer of ’63: Gettysburg - Favorite Stories and Fresh Perspectives from the Historians at Emerging Civil War by Chris Mackowski & Dan Welch (Savas Beatie, 2021).

Gettysburg will always be the foremost Civil War battle in the public imagination, and that level of interest and attention is certainly matched by that of many historians and writers working today. "The public historians writing for the popular Emerging Civil War blog, speaking on its podcast, or delivering talks at the annual Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge in Virginia always present their work in ways that engage and animate audiences. Their efforts entertain, challenge, and sometimes provoke readers with fresh perspectives and insights born from years of working at battlefields, guiding tours, presenting talks, and writing for the wider Civil War community."

Collected and edited by ECW head Chris Mackowski and Dan Welch, The Summer of ’63: Gettysburg - Favorite Stories and Fresh Perspectives from the Historians at Emerging Civil War "is a compilation of some of their favorites, anthologized, revised, and updated, together with several original pieces. Each entry includes original and helpful illustrations (among them nine maps)."

In addition to the foreword and an essay on photographing Gettysburg, there are (by my count) 26 essays/chapters in a book running nearly 300 pages. Generals and leaders are always among the most popular topics and that interest is present here along with discussions of enduring questions (ex. who were the first federal infantry to arrive on the field?), famous places and events (ex. the Railroad Cut, Oak Ridge, Pickett's Charge, etc.), Gettysburg memorialization, reunion, the plight of the wounded, logistical concerns, the retreat, politics, and more.

Of course, other major military events occurred during the summer of 1863, and this volume is meant to be read in conjunction with its companion book, The Summer of ’63: Vicksburg and Tullahoma. According to the distributor, that one is also currently available.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Booknotes: The Long Civil War

New Arrival:
The Long Civil War: New Explorations of America's Enduring Conflict edited by John David Smith & Raymond Arsenault (UP of Ky, 2021).

Reasonable people can agree to disagree over how much the emerging tenets of the "Long Civil War" school of thought shortchange the real and permanent results and accomplishments of the 1861-65 period (Gary Gallagher is a leading critic), but it has proven to be a popular interpretive movement in the academic literature. The Long Civil War: New Explorations of America's Enduring Conflict, edited by John David Smith and Raymond Arsenault, is another attempt to "build on the growing body of work on the "Long Civil War" and break new ground."

The ten essays in the book "cover a variety of related subjects, including antebellum missionary activity and colonialism in Africa, the home front, the experiences of disabled veterans in the US Army Veteran Reserve Corps, and Dwight D. Eisenhower's personal struggles with the war's legacy amid the growing civil rights movement. The contributors offer fresh interpretations and challenging analyses of topics such as ritualistic suicide among former Confederates after the war and whitewashing in Walt Disney Studios' historical Cold War–era movies." Other chapters look at the abolition lobby of the 1836-45 decade, Emory Upton's modernization of the US Army, slavery's shadow in the WW1 training camp at Camp Gordon (Ga), and Lincoln's image in black history and memory.

"Featuring many leading figures in the field," The Long Civil War "meaningfully expands the focus of mid-nineteenth-century history as it was understood by previous generations of historians."

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Booknotes: Hell Comes to Southern Maryland

New Arrival:
Hell Comes to Southern Maryland: The Story of Point Lookout Prison and Hammond General Hospital by Bradley M. Gottfried & Linda I. Gottfried (Turning Point Pub, 2018).

Located on a narrow spit of land where the Potomac River meets Chesapeake Bay, Point Lookout's breezy location was thought to be a fine place for building a military hospital. The first patients arrived in August 1862, and the massive Maryland facility began to take Confederate wounded the following year (including up to 10,000 from Gettysburg alone). After the exchange system broke down, new POW facilities were needed and construction of what would become the military prison at Point Lookout was ordered in summer 1863. Unfortunately, what was believed to be a healthy location turned out to be a troublesome site subjected to seasonal weather extremes and mosquito-born illnesses from nearby swamp lands. Hell Comes to Southern Maryland: The Story of Point Lookout Prison and Hammond General Hospital "takes a fresh look at all aspects of the prison from its formation to its closing and lasting legacy. Loaded with first-person accounts of both Confederate prisoners and Union personnel, the book helps the reader get a vivid picture of what it was like to be incarcerated in the camp."

A slim volume with a main narrative running 115 pages, the book introduces readers to the history of the Point Lookout's hospital (much of that in Chapter 1) and POW camp. For the latter, topics examined include camp leadership, prison discipline, living conditions at the facilities, military actions that occurred in the vicinity, the effects of overcrowding and disease on prisoner health, and more.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Review - "Moonlit Mayhem: Quantrill's Raid of Olathe, Kansas" by Jonathan Jones

[Moonlit Mayhem: Quantrill's Raid of Olathe, Kansas by Jonathan A. Jones (Author-Floating Spark Publishing, 2021). Paperback, maps, photos, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. Pp. 240. ISBN:978-1-7364633-0-7. $23.99]

Due in great measure to the target being the region's most prominent abolitionist stronghold, the incredible bloodshed involved, and the infamy of its perpetrators (among them William C. Quantrill and William T. "Bloody Bill" Anderson), the 1863 raid on Lawrence, Kansas and horrific civilian massacre that ensued have collectively gathered the lion's share of publishing attention on the topic of the Missouri-Kansas "Border War" within the larger American Civil War. However, a great number of towns on both sides of the state divide were visited with death, looting, and destruction inflicted by either pro-Confederate Missouri guerrilla bands or regularly enrolled (but all too often no less lawless) Kansas "Jayhawkers" led by Union officers such as James Montgomery, Charles "Doc" Jennison, and US Senator James Lane. Book-length works covering those raids appear only rarely (recent examples include locally published volumes detailing the destruction of the Missouri towns of Dayton and Osceola). Jonathan Jones's Moonlit Mayhem: Quantrill's Raid of Olathe, Kansas adds another title to the literature's short list of obscure border town raids deserving of more attention. In contrast to some of the affected settlements, several of which never recovered from the war's destruction, Olathe continues to grow by leaps and bounds, undoubtedly benefiting from being a part of metropolitan Kansas City.

Much of the book is composed of background and epilogue material. Of the former, chapters address Kansas statehood, the 1850s "Bleeding Kansas" period, and biographical sketches of key figures (most in-depth for Quantrill) in the many Missouri-Kansas border conflicts before and during the Civil War. Chapters following the volume's detailed coverage of the Olathe Raid summarize subsequent affairs in the region such as the 1863 Lawrence Raid and the draconian official response to it in the form of Order No. 11. The further careers of notable bushwhacker and Jayhawker leaders are also discussed, as are postwar events such as Quantrill raider reunions and the peculiar odyssey of Quantrill's bones. Depending on the background of the reader, some of these sections might be considered extraneous, and a strong editor might have usefully trimmed content and narrowed the focus down a bit, but the necessity of doing that is always in the eye of the beholder. The research behind those background sections of the book is primarily a synthesis of both popular and scholarly secondary works. That in itself can be a bit problematic, as the author perceptively acknowledges. A number of excellent works have been produced in recent decades that address the Bleeding Kansas period and broader aspects of guerrilla warfare in Civil War Missouri, but publications covering specific persons and events closely associated with the 1861-65 border conflict are still all too often the domain of either dated scholarship or local writers with heavily one-sided perspectives. Though quotes from several of the more deeply partisan authors are sprinkled about Jones's text, his own overall approach to the matters discussed in the book is more evenhanded than that found in many of the works referenced inside.

The volume's central topic, the September 1862 raid on Olathe, is covered thoroughly and well. Evidence seems to show that it was sparked by the execution at Fort Leavenworth of Perry Hoy, an early guerrilla associate and friend of Quantrill. Though Missouri bushwhackers jealously guarded their independence and flaunted most attempts at imposing formal military organization and behavior upon them, they did try to insist that they be treated as prisoners of war when captured. Thus, they were outraged by the issuing of General Henry Halleck's 1862 General Order No. 2, especially its stipulation that captured guerrillas not be treated as lawful combatants and instead summarily executed. After Hoy ran afoul of that order, Quantrill proclaimed that he would kill ten enemies in retaliation and targeted Olathe for a raid that would be the means of achieving that grim score. Using a combination of maps and text, Jones meticulously charts the course and conduct of the raid during which Quantrill's men (perhaps 140 in number, though estimates vary) killed both civilians and new military recruits along the route to Olathe and in the town itself. The physical layout of Olathe, the movements of the raiders in and around it, and the plundering that ensued in the town and across surrounding homesteads are all detailed.

The precise number of men killed during the raid cannot be determined, but sources seem to agree that somewhere between ten and fourteen individuals lost their lives (Quantrill himself claimed that his men killed ten, as promised). The raid demonstrated the vulnerability of Kansas border towns after the infamous depredations of Jayhawker leaders and units led Union authorities to remove them from the border altogether and deploy them elsewhere (for example, the Seventh Kansas Cavalry regiment, a.k.a. "Jennison's Jayhawkers," was sent all the way down to North Mississippi). Unfortunately for the Kansas citizens living near the border, no adequate replacement force was redirected for their protection. When Quantrill's band raided Olathe, the town had no plan of defense (antebellum courthouse squares were often fenced in and during the war some were converted into palisade defenses against surprise guerrilla and cavalry raids, but that was not the case at Olathe). Additionally, there was no organized garrison beyond a group of raw military recruits, all of whom were quickly captured. Estimates of the number of military prisoners taken by Quantrill vary widely up to 150, but the author offers sound reasons for believing that they did not actually number more than 25 or so. Quantrill paroled the prisoners after marching them some distance from the town, keeping a pair for use as hostages but who were later released unharmed under threat of retaliation. The raiders lost to pursuing forces their wagon train of plunder but escaped back to Missouri unharmed before once again disappearing into the brush.

The volume is abundantly illustrated. Historical events and movements are traced over dozens of modern maps, making it easy for readers to follow the marches and actions presented in the text. As a self-published effort, the book lacks some polish, and the odd statement or error that an independent proofreader or editor might have caught occasionally crop up. As an example of the latter, in the book's discussion of the retaliatory execution of Union Lt. Levi Copeland after bushwhacker Perry Hoy was shot (the instigating event of the Olathe Raid), the author more than once confuses Union General James Blunt with Quantrill lieutenant Andrew (Andy) Blunt. Devoid of most of the trappings that hinder so many other local histories of similar events, however, Moonlit Mayhem ends up shining substantial light on an often overlooked episode of the Missouri-Kansas border conflict during the Civil War.