Monday, November 22, 2021

Book Snapshot: "The Summer of ’63: Vicksburg and Tullahoma"

Concurrent (though not necessarily coordinated) offensive operations across multiple theaters figured prominently in several of the Civil War's key intervals (ex. the series of Confederate late summer-early fall 1862 advances and the Union Army's massive offensive of spring 1864). Certainly one of the most significant of these confluences of events occurred in the middle of 1863 when large-scale campaigns conducted within all three major fighting corridors—the eastern theater, the Mississippi River Valley, and the western heartland—all resulted in major Union victories. Created as a companion volume to The Summer of ’63: Gettysburg - Favorite Stories and Fresh Perspectives from the Historians at Emerging Civil War (2021), Chris Mackowski and Dan Welch's The Summer of ’63: Vicksburg and Tullahoma - Favorite Stories and Fresh Perspectives from the Historians at Emerging Civil War (Savas Beatie, 2021) addresses the other two campaigns forming that summer's trio of Union triumphs.

The book's content consists of a potpourri of 39 pieces drawn from the now extensive ECW multimedia archives. Highly variable in length and encompassing both formal and informal styles of presentation (among the latter are some personal journeys written in first person), the collection includes a great range of categories and topics, among them battle history, biography, contemporary poetry, firsthand battle accounts, book chats, interviews, civilian experiences, leader analysis, strategic discussion, memorialization, and transcriptions of tours and speaking events. The theme of Vicksburg and Gettysburg coverage greatly overshadowing that of Tullahoma in both the Civil War literature and the popular imagination (the book was compiled before the publication of David Powell and Eric Wittenberg's Tullahoma: The Forgotten Campaign that Changed the Course of the Civil War, June 23 - July 4, 1863) is reflected in the volume's own chapter distribution (29 Vicksburg versus 10 Tullahoma Campaign pieces).

With some original contributions added along with transcriptions of audio and visual presentations, the book is not entirely a clip show of previously published ECW material. Blog pieces have also been updated, expanded, and/or annotated for this publication. A selection of favorite chapters includes an appreciation of the Grant-Porter partnership, a deep dive into the story of Abraham (the slave who was allegedly blown into Union lines during the second Vicksburg mine explosion), the story of the 8th Wisconsin's eagle mascot "Old Abe," a good account of the Battle of Liberty Gap, and a look at dying Confederate general John S. Bowen's role in the Vicksburg surrender. The book's lengthy transcription of a live ECW tour of the Vicksburg Campaign (which included a photo of a large structure constructed atop high stilts) also evoked fond memories of my hurried, and probably unwise, side trip to Grand Gulf amid disconcertingly rising Mississippi River waters.

Supplementing the text are numerous photographs and eight maps. The two volumes of The Summer of '63 are part of the new ECW Anniversary Series, and there is another one already in the release pipeline titled Grant vs Lee: Favorite Stories and Fresh Perspectives from the Historians at Emerging Civil War.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the snapshot! Your use of "potpourri" is an apt description. We couldn't cover either campaign exhaustively, but we hope we provided enough of a mix of military history and human interest pieces to shed some light on both.


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