Monday, December 27, 2021

Booknotes: Suffering in the Army of Tennessee

New Arrival:
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 (UT Press, 2021).

Suffering in the Army of Tennessee is very different from most volumes in University of Tennessee Press's Voices of the Civil War series in that it "doesn’t just draw upon one single diary or letter collection, and it does not use brief quotations as a way to fill out a larger narrative." Instead, "across eight chapters spanning the Atlanta Campaign to the Battle of Nashville in 1864," author Christopher Thrasher "draws upon a remarkably broad set of primary sources—newspapers, manuscripts, archives, diaries, and official documents—to tell a story that knits together accounts of senior officers, the final campaigns of the Western Theater, and the experiences of the civilians and rebel soldiers who found themselves deep in the trenches of a national reckoning."

Over the past couple decades, Civil War readers have finally been gifted with a relative abundance of book-length coverage of the marching and fighting that occurred in Tennessee and Georgia during the 1864 campaigning season. However, there is always room for new angles, and Thrasher's book lays claim to being the first to offer "what amounts to a sweeping social history of the Army of Tennessee—the daily details of soldiering and the toll it took on the men and boys who mustered into service foreseeing only a small skirmish among the states."

The book will undoubtedly touch upon many common themes found in modern Civil War soldier studies, and though the history of the fighting men of the Confederacy's principal western army has not been neglected (see Larry Daniel's 1991 book Soldiering in the Army of Tennessee: A Portrait of Life in a Confederate Army) it will be interesting to see what thesis develops from Thrasher's more detailed concentration on the late-war period. It's also a generously illustrated book, with 18 maps and a host of photos, tables, and other figures.

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