Monday, October 11, 2021

Booknotes: Crosshairs on the Capital

New Arrival:
Crosshairs on the Capital: Jubal Early’s Raid on Washington, D.C., July 1864 - Reasons, Reactions, and Results by James H. Bruns (Casemate, 2021).

Second Corps (ANV) commander Jubal Early's dramatic summer 1864 raid on Washington DC served a dual purpose of clearing out the Shenandoah Valley breadbasket of marauding enemy troops and relieving the growing pressure on Richmond by directly threatening the US capital. Beginning with Frank Vandiver's Jubal's Raid (1960), a number of books have examined the operation in detail. B.F. Cooling's Jubal Early's Raid on Washington, 1864 is the best regarded overall history, and he's also authored related studies of the Washington defenses, the attack on Fort Stevens, and the battle of Monocacy (of the last, Cooling is joined by works large and small from Glenn Worthington, Mark Leepson, Ryan Quint, and others). The overambitious and predictably aborted extension of Early's raid, the plan to attack Point Lookout by land and sea and free the thousands of Confederate POWs housed there, has received book and article coverage, too.

From the description: James Bruns's new study Crosshairs on the Capital "focuses on the reasons, reactions and results of Jubal Early’s raid of 1864. History has judged it to have been a serious threat to the capital," but Bruns "examines how the nature of the Confederate raid on Washington in 1864 has been greatly misinterpreted—Jubal Early’s maneuvers were in fact only the latest in a series of annual southern food raids. It also corrects some of the thinking about Early’s raid, including the reason behind his orders from General Lee to cross the Potomac and the thoughts behind the proposed raid on Point Lookout and the role of the Confederate Navy in that failed effort."

In its renewed emphasis on the 'food raid' aspect of the operation, Bruns feels that Union authorities, given what happened in Maryland and Pennsylvania in 1862 and 1863, should have been better prepared in 1864 for another of the eastern Confederacy's summer grocery runs. As stated in the preface, the author also believes this book sets itself apart from other studies of Early's Raid by focusing more "on the feelings, fears, and facts of the region's civilian population, its causal connections, and its results" (x). In doing that, Bruns's work also "highlights how some of the region's everyday civilians fought back" (xv).

Crosshairs on the Capital "presents a new prospective in explaining Jubal Early’s raid on Washington by focusing on why things happened as they did in 1864. It identifies the cause-and-effect connections that are truly the stuff of history, forging some of the critical background links that oftentimes are ignored or overlooked in books dominated by battles and leaders."

1 comment:

  1. The author includes an interesting discussion on the technology of the blockade runners.


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