Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Booknotes: Unconquerable

New Arrival:
Unconquerable: The Story of John Ross, Chief of the Cherokees, 1828–1866 by John M. Oskison, ed. by Lionel Larré (Univ of Neb Press, 2022).

From the description: Unconquerable "is John Milton Oskison’s biography of John Ross, written in the 1930s but unpublished until now. John Ross was principal chief of the Cherokees from 1828 to his death in 1866. Through the story of John Ross, Oskison also tells the story of the Cherokee Nation through some of its most dramatic events in the nineteenth century: the nation’s difficult struggle against Georgia, its forced removal on the Trail of Tears, its internal factionalism, the Civil War, and the reconstruction of the nation in Indian Territory west of the Mississippi."

Mixed-race (one-eighth Cherokee, like Ross) John M. Oskison (1874–1947) was a Stanford and Harvard-educated novelist, editor, and journalist whose works remain little known today (at least among non-academic readers). He was also a veteran of the Great War. His biographical projects include works on Sam Houston, Tecumseh, and Ross. According to Oskison scholar Lionel Larré, the editor of this volume, it's most likely that Oskison wrote the Ross biography in the latter half of the 1930s, sometime between the publication of his third novel and his Tecumseh biography.

From the University of Oklahoma Press archived correspondence between editor and reviewers, it seems that the three expert readers assigned to the project did not feel that the manuscript, which is undocumented, full of unsourced quotations, and includes some fictional passages, met scholarly standards. However, there were also many positive remarks regarding the historical soundness of the biography.

Mitigating those original flaws in Oskison's work, Larré adds explanatory endnotes, corrects quotations, and updates the author's meager reference list (which, according to Larré, did at least include the best secondary sources available at the time along with "significant" primary sources and government documents). Larré's lengthy introduction offers insights into the story of the manuscript (and its rejection), discussion of its quality, speculation as to Oskison's motivation(s) in writing it, and a larger contextual conversation about political and cultural issues surrounding US-Cherokee citizenship, sovereignty, and integration.

Of course, this being CWBA, we are chiefly concerned with the Civil War period of Ross's life. In contrast to its very extensive Removal coverage, Unconquerable does not contain a great deal of content addressing the 1861-65 period (the war years are compressed within the 12 pages of Chapters 24-25).

More than a dated but still valuable biography, Unconquerable "sheds light on the critical work of an author who deserves more attention from both the public and scholars of Native American studies."

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Coming Soon (June '22 Edition)

**NEW RELEASES1** Scheduled for JUNE 2022:

Lost Causes: Confederate Demobilization and the Making of Veteran Identity by Bradley Clampitt.
Grant, Lincoln and the Freedmen: Reminiscences of the Civil War by John Eaton ed. by Larson & Smith.
Hidden History of Civil War Florida by Robert Redd.
The Families’ Civil War: Black Soldiers and the Fight for Racial Justice by Holly Pinheiro.
James Longstreet and the American Civil War: The Confederate General Who Fought the Next War by Harold Knudson.
The Atlanta Daily Intelligencer Covers the Civil War by Davis & Hendrick.
Faces of Union Soldiers at Fredericksburg by Stahl & Borders.
The Man Who Started the Civil War: James Chesnut, Honor, and Emotion in the American South by Anna Koivusalo.
Yours Affectionately, Osgood: Colonel Osgood Vose Tracy’s Letters Home from the Civil War, 1862–1865 ed. by Burrows & Keating.
Early Struggles for Vicksburg: The Mississippi Central Campaign and Chickasaw Bayou, October 25-December 31, 1862 by Timothy Smith.

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, special editions not distributed to reviewers, 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, May 26, 2022

Review - "Dreams of Victory: General P.G.T. Beauregard in the Civil War" by Sean Chick

[Dreams of Victory: General P.G.T. Beauregard in the Civil War by Sean Michael Chick (Savas Beatie, 2022). Softcover, maps, photos, illustrations, appendix section, reading list. Pages main/total:xxii,147/191. ISBN:978-1-61121-521-2. $16.95]

A full-length, modern reassessment of the Civil War career of Confederate general Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard is long overdue. Books covering Robert E. Lee's life and military campaigns continue to be published at a steady pace, but we also have very recent studies offering in-depth examinations of the Civil War generalship of several other major Confederate field army commanders. Such a list includes Earl Hess's 2016 Braxton Bragg book, Stephen Davis's two-volume biography of John Bell Hood (2019-20), and Richard McMurry's forthcoming two-volume history of Joseph E. Johnston's Civil War (which is currently in advanced stages of development). By contrast, General Beauregard has not been the subject of a major biographical treatment in over sixty-five years. A reappraisal of the general's contributions to the Confederate war effort would also be very timely given the recent flood of high-quality scholarship documenting and analyzing the 1864-65 Richmond-Petersburg campaign. At several key moments (but particularly during the 1864 Bermuda Hundred Campaign and the initial defense of Petersburg itself), Beauregard proved instrumental in keeping the vital Richmond-Petersburg corridor open and firmly in Confederate hands. Some have argued that this period of Beauregard's stormy, up-and-down military career contained his finest moments as a Civil War general. Sean Michael Chick, the author of recent studies of both aforementioned series of events around Richmond and Petersburg in 1864, is certainly sympathetic to that point of view. His latest book, Dreams of Victory: General P.G.T. Beauregard in the Civil War, adopts a wider perspective that offers readers a broad introduction to, and perhaps new appreciation of, the Louisiana general's life and military service.

Though all agree that Beauregard was a gifted military engineer who, for example, did much to ensure that Charleston, SC never fell to direct attack during the war, his flaws are what stick in the minds of most. In the popular imagination, Beauregard is frequently dismissed as a vain military fantasist who placed his own ego and punctiliousness over points of honor (charges similar to those leveled against Joe Johnston) above the interests of the Confederacy. In the late 2010s, his Confederate connections and assumptions regarding his attitudes toward slavery and postwar black citizenship rights led to his New Orleans statue being removed. As expected, Chick's own tracing and analysis of Beauregard's Civil War career arc and postwar activities, with all their highs and low, is a far more nuanced one.

Perhaps the Confederate republic's greatest military hero after the successful bombardment of Fort Sumter and the victory at First Manassas, Beauregard at Shiloh crafted perhaps the worst tactical deployment of any Civil War army about to engage in a major battle. Chick's response to those who would argue that Beauregard robbed his army of victory by halting the offensive too early on April 6 is in line with the more commonly accepted view that total victory was already impossible by the time Beauregard assumed overall command upon the death of Albert Sidney Johnston. After the withdrawal from Corinth, an ailing Beauregard placed himself on medical leave without seeking prior approval from above. Chick agrees that this was a serious breach in protocol, especially given the general's very strained relations with the civilian leadership, but he also believes that the Davis administration's determination that the general had deserted his post (according to the author, Beauregard hadn't actually physically left army HQ at the time of his removal) was not an entirely fair one.

Davis himself might have been content to let the general's removal become permanent, but admirers remained and Beauregard continued to be in demand. Beauregard's return to Charleston in 1863 was a successful one and his aforementioned triumphs in Virginia in 1864 restored some of his career's lost luster. However, after the retreat from Corinth in mid-1862 he was never again seriously considered for a major field army command appointment. Chick's overview does not go into Beauregard's health problems at any depth (though that subject would have been a good fit for an appendix), but it is interesting to contemplate how differently the war in the West might have evolved had Beauregard remained in command there. According to Chick, Bragg and Beauregard were initially on good terms after the former replaced the latter, and Beauregard supported the western army's lateral move to Chattanooga after the abandonment of Corinth. Perhaps a bigger what-if involves Beauregard, instead of Johnston, replacing Bragg after Chattanooga. We'll never how how he would have fared against Sherman in North Georgia but the Atlanta Campaign might have been very different in conduct and result.

While acknowledging the general's unfortunate penchant for bombarding superiors with unsolicited strategic advice, Chick's narrative does provide some push against the common characterization of Beauregard as an irrational planner of grandiose operations devoid of realistic time, space, and logistical considerations. As just one example, Beauregard, in the capacity of western department commander, was largely responsible for bringing a degree of order to a largely destroyed theater logistical apparatus in late 1864. Under trying conditions, his efforts helped make Hood's late-1864 offensive campaign possible.

Chick fully concedes that Beauregard was an equal partner in his unseemly professional disputes with others, however his postwar employments (ex. two stints leading southern railroads) often mirrored his wartime appointments when it came to being victimized by more powerful individuals. Additionally, the general's personal reputation took a major hit through his association with the controversial Louisiana Lottery Company, though most today, including Chick, do not believe Beauregard's figurehead position extended into active participation in the corruption involved. The author also believes the general to be significantly misunderstood when it comes to matters of race. According to Chick, Beauregard, unlike most of his ex-Confederate peers, was a moderate when it came to biracial political integration during Reconstruction and beyond.

In common with all Emerging Civil War titles, the pages of Chick's study are filled with useful maps and illustrations. In this particular case, the extent of the main narrative left little room for a large appendix section. However, include in it are profiles of the general's son, Rene (who was an artillery officer during the Civil War); a historical account of the Beauregard equestrian statue erected in New Orleans (and later removed); and the text of a poetic tribute read at the general's funeral.

Sean Chick's Dreams of Victory is a very solid introduction to the life and Civil War career of General P.G.T. Beauregard. It's a thoughtful foray that successfully invites readers to rethink opinions (formed either through self-study or passively gained through the literature) on one of the war's most controversial, and perhaps most misunderstood, generals. This brisk narrative's able chronicling of Beauregard's many significant victories and defeats, both on and off the battlefield, also serves as a powerful reminder of the need for a new major biography. Recommended.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Booknotes: The Left-Armed Corps

New Arrival:
The Left-Armed Corps: Writings by Amputee Civil War Veterans edited by Allison M. Johnson (LSU Press, 2022).

Allison Johnson's The Left-Armed Corps is definitely a one of a kind study. It "collects and annotates a unique and little-known body of Civil War literature: narrative sketches, accounts, and poetry by veterans who lost the use of their right arms due to wounds sustained during the conflict and who later competed in left-handed penmanship contests in 1865 and 1866." What an ingenious way to address a multiplicity of related issues of historical significance, from the physical and emotional trauma of battlefield wounding and limb amputation to the challenges surrounding recovery and the uphill climb many veterans faced when it came to reintegration into society and productive employment.

From the description: "Organized by William Oland Bourne, the contests called on men who lost limbs while fighting for the Union to submit “specimens” of their best left-handed “business” writing in the form of personal statements. Bourne hoped the contests would help veterans reenter the work force and become economically viable citizens. Following Bourne’s aims, the contests commemorated the sacrifices made by veterans and created an archive of individual stories detailing the recently ended conflict. However, the contestants and their entries also present visible evidence―in the form of surprisingly elegant or understandably sloppy handwriting specimens―of the difficulties veterans faced in adapting to life after the war and recovering from its traumas. Their written accounts relate the chaos of the battlefield, the agony of amputation, and the highs and lows of recovery."

"A detailed introduction provides background information on the contests and comments on the literary and historical significance of the veterans and their writings." Contestants are introduced with a photo (where available), unit information, and a often pretty extensive annotated biography. Of course, that is followed by the full text of the writer's contest submission.

Johnson made a sound decision in organizing the great multitude of writing "specimens" by theme. In that way the collection can best "highlight issues crucial to the experiences of Civil War soldiers, veterans, and amputees, offering invaluable insights into the ways in which former fighting men understood and commemorated their service and sacrifice." Such organizing themes include "political and philosophical treatises by veterans, amateur but poignant poetic testaments, and graphic accounts of wounding and amputation." Other themes address enlistment motivation (to include details regarding the civilian to soldier transformation), soldier life, battle descriptions, the immigrant experience, and discussion of what life was like as an amputee.

The Left-Armed Corps contextualizes and "makes accessible this archive of powerful testimony and creative expression from Americans who fought to preserve the Union and end slavery."

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Booknotes: Count the Dead

New Arrival:
Count the Dead: Coroners, Quants, and the Birth of Death as We Know It by Stephen Berry (UNC Press, 2022).

The doubling of life expectancy between 1850 and 1860 was "arguably one of the most consequential developments in human history, undergirding massive improvements in human life and lifestyles." From the description: "Examining the development of death registration systems in the United States—from the first mortality census in 1850 to the development of the death certificate at the turn of the century—Count the Dead argues that mortality data transformed life on Earth, proving critical to the systemization of public health, casualty reporting, and human rights."

While disease management and health care pioneers (ex. "Jenner and vaccination, Lister and antisepsis, Snow and germ theory, Fleming and penicillin") deserve, and have received, a great deal of credit for this revolution in human life expectancy, author Stephen Berry argues that "the lion's share of the credit belongs to the men and women who dedicated their lives to collecting good data." The main protagonists of Berry's narrative are not the giants of medicine but rather the collective host of critical data gatherers and organizers. Count the Dead "shows how a network of coroners, court officials, and state and federal authorities developed methods to track and reveal patterns of dying. These officials harnessed these records to turn the collective dead into informants and in so doing allowed the dead to shape life and death as we know it today."

Count the Dead is a slim volume of three main chapters (plus a prologue and epilogue) that can be read in a single sitting. The first chapter recounts the earliest effort at compiling a national death record for the US. Chapter Two examines wartime casualty reporting and how it affected the way in which American wars would be fought. The third chapter delves into class and racial disparities in death reporting.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Booknotes: Lost Causes

New Arrival:
Lost Causes: Confederate Demobilization and the Making of Veteran Identity by Bradley R. Clampitt (LSU Press, 2022).

The return of ex-Confederate soldiers traumatized in mind and body to a devastated homeland after unconditional surrender was a profoundly challenging mass transition unique in American history, both unprecedented up to that time and not repeated since (thankfully). Bradley Clampitt's Lost Causes: Confederate Demobilization and the Making of Veteran Identity "examines the state of mind of Confederate soldiers in the immediate aftermath of war." Specifically focused on that key adjustment, the book "analyzes the interlude between soldier and veteran, suggesting that defeat and demobilization actually reinforced Confederate identity as well as public memory of the war and southern resistance to African American civil rights."

More from the description: "Intense material shortages and images of the war’s devastation confronted the defeated soldiers-turned-veterans as they returned home to a revolutionized society. Their thoughts upon homecoming turned to immediate economic survival, a radically altered relationship with freedpeople, and life under Yankee rule―all against the backdrop of fearful uncertainty."

Clampitt recognizes the challenges that sources written after the war offer when it comes to accurately identifying attitudes and beliefs from the period under consideration. However, in the author's own words, he "embraces the opportunity" to use wartime and postwar source writings for both content and comparison. One sees this process immediately in the book's first chapter, which examines the mindset of Confederate soldiers around the time of surrender using both types of sources to reveal both "consistencies and discrepancies" between accounts written during and after the war.

Subsequent chapters look at the system of demobilization (to include the parole process along with feeding and transportation), prominent themes/patterns that emerged during the journey home, and the chaos of demobilization embodied in the "lawless summer of 1865." The final chapter explores the events of homecoming and the initial priorities and challenges involved in rebuilding shattered lives and communities.

All of this went into the establishment of a Confederate veteran identity "forged in war (and) based upon shared suffering and sacrifice, a pervasive commitment to white supremacy, and an aversion to Federal rule and all things northern."

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Also just in

Occasionally, books submitted here for review consideration address historical topics that are a bit too far outside the Civil War-era coverage range of CWBA. Nevertheless, I appreciate receipt of any title that someone makes the effort to send my way and wish to give all of them some form of acknowledgment. Below are two Colonial/Rev War subject matter releases that arrived recently in the CWBA mailbox.

1. From the description: "When Connecticut Yankees began to settle the Wyoming Valley in the 1760s, both the local Pennsylvanians and the powerful native Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) strenuously objected. The Connecticut Colony and William Penn had been granted the same land by King Charles II of England, resulting in the instigation of the Yankee-Pennamite Wars." Kathleen A. Earle's An Early History of the Wyoming Valley: The Yankee-Pennamite Wars & Timothy Pickering (The History Press, 2022) covers that conflict as well as a prominent associated event that occurred during the period of the Early Republic. More from the description: "In 1788, during ongoing conflict, a band of young Yankee ruffians abducted Pennsylvania official Timothy Pickering, holding him hostage for nineteen days. Some kidnappers were prosecuted, and several fled to New York's Finger Lakes as the political incident motivated state leaders to resolve the fighting." In chronicling a decades-long struggle between colonial Pennsylvania and Connecticut that also involved the powerful Iroquois Confederacy and the Delaware people that were allowed by the Iroquois to settle there, Earle's study "covers the early history of colonial life, war and frontier justice in the Wyoming Valley." Books like this are always welcome. I can't speak for what's covered in the history school rooms of today's New England and Pennsylvania, but I would venture to guess that mention of this regional conflict from long ago would draw a blank stare from the vast majority of Americans (although Sullivan's retaliatory campaign against the Iroquois during the period is well known). The narrative itself is peppered with quoted passages from firsthand writings, and illustrations are fairly abundant.

2. The next title, Robert W. Sands, Jr. and Patricia E. Millen's Washington Crossing (Arcadia Publishing, 2022), is a new installment from the publisher's Images of America series of photographic histories. From the description: The site of General George Washington's famous crossing of the Delaware during one of the darkest moments of the American Revolution "is marked by the creation of two historic parks: Washington Crossing State Park, New Jersey, created in 1912, and Washington Crossing Historic Park, Pennsylvania, created in 1917." The book "illustrates how these two parks commemorate George Washington's courage to lead his army across the ice-choked Delaware River on Christmas night 1776 to attack an isolated garrison of Hessians located at Trenton, which would turn the tide of the American Revolution." Containing well over 200 authoritatively captioned images, the compilation is drawn from "from the collections of historian Peter Osborne, the Washington Crossing Foundation, the Bucks County Historical Society, the Trenton Free Public Library, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the book includes an exposé of Emanuel Leutze's famous painting Washington Crossing the Delaware--a world-renowned symbol of freedom."

Friday, May 20, 2022

Review - "Fortress Nashville: Pioneers, Engineers, Mechanics, Contrabands & U.S. Colored Troops" by Mark Zimmerman

[Fortress Nashville: Pioneers, Engineers, Mechanics, Contrabands & U.S. Colored Troops by Mark Zimmerman (Author-Zimco Publishing, 2022). 8.5" x 11" Paperback, maps, photos, illustrations, appendices, source notes, bibliography. 338 pp. ISBN:978-0-578-37936-4. $29.95]

Though no exhaustive microstudy of the December 15-16, 1864 fighting at Nashville yet exists, solid coverage is spread among numerous narrative history, essay, and periodical sources. All acknowledge the immense strength of the fortifications constructed around the Tennessee capital during the years following its surrender to Union forces in February 1862. However, details have always been sparse, and certainly no single volume has approached the level of comprehensiveness displayed in Mark Zimmerman's new book Fortress Nashville: Pioneers, Engineers, Mechanics, Contrabands & U.S. Colored Troops.

Soon after General Don Carlos Buell's Army of the Ohio entered Nashville, ambitious plans were hatched to construct a series of large forts that would bristle with heavy guns and be of cutting edge military engineering design. Zimmerman traces in meticulous fashion the evolution of these fortifications from an initial collection of detached works overlooking key roads, bridges, and government buildings to a vastly more integrated network of massive forts connected by two (inner and outer) lines of earthworks fronting the city and anchored on both flanks by a wide bend in the Cumberland River. In the book, the author examines at greatest length the jewel of Nashville's defense, the masterpiece of military architecture that was Fort Negley. Close attention is also paid to the design and construction of other major Nashville forts (ex. Morton, Andrew Johnson, Houston, Gillem, Whipple, and Garesche) along with a host of lesser works.

The reason why so much blood, sweat, and treasure went into fortress Nashville went far beyond the city being the political center of occupied Tennessee. Ideally situated in Middle Tennessee, Nashville was quickly transformed into the administrative and logistical nerve center of the Union Army's invasion of the Confederate heartland. That indispensable strategic point, with its critical road, rail, and river connections radiating in all directions, needed to be augmented and protected at all costs. Making that years-long process a major theme of the book, Zimmerman, in highly informative fashion, expands the narrative beyond the city itself and into the integrated logistics and defense system established across Middle Tennessee. In addition to describing networks of blockhouses protecting the existing railroad system, the author discusses at length the construction of major strategic logistical enhancements (ex. Fortress Rosecrans near Murfreesboro and Johnsonville on the Tennessee River) along with forts overlooking key garrison towns across the region. Attacks by both conventional and irregular Confederate forces against some of those points at various times during the war are also recounted.

Closely supporting the text is a tremendous assemblage (easily hundreds in number and often full page in size) of maps, historical illustrations, photographs, fortification design drawings, charts, and modern artwork. Locations partly or fully erased by modern development are helpfully marked on modern maps (though GPS coordinates are not provided). Many of these items have appeared in other publications (for example, in the atlas to accompany the O.R.), but nothing like the magnitude of this astounding collection of visual material related to the Union defense of Nashville and Middle Tennessee has ever been published before in a single volume.

In addition to a summary of the region's frontier-era fortification history and a general recounting of western theater Civil War events leading up to the Union capture and occupation of Nashville, numerous sidebars and even entire chapters are devoted to a great variety of topics associated with the defenses of Civil War Nashville. A sampling of these includes biographies of notable military engineers, histories of specialized engineer/pioneer units involved in fortification construction, and numerous preservation matters. The region's contraband camps and the role former slaves played in constructing the Nashville fortifications are also highlighted, as are locally organized USCT units and their attacking role in the Battle of Nashville. The Nashville fortifications were never directly assaulted, so the battle itself is only briefly discussed, mostly in the context of the Union seizure of redoubts protecting the left flank of General Hood's army and the aforementioned assaults by the USCT troops on the Confederate right flank.

In addition to paying close attention to details and perspectives on the design and construction of the fortifications, information regarding garrison units and their artillery inventories is found in the main text, in tables, and in the addendum/appendix section. Especially useful for reference are the series of 1862-66 inspection reports reproduced in Addendum C. The material presented in the book is not formally annotated, although sources are frequently mentioned in the main text and Zimmerman includes at the rear of the book both source note discussion and bibliography sections.

An interesting contrast with the Washington defenses, and Civil War fortification engineering as a whole, is the degree to which stone was used in the Nashville forts, a consequence of the ground in and around the city being so rocky. Western theater students know that the scale of Nashville's defenses were second only to Washington's, but they might be surprised to learn how long it took to get to that point. While Washington, when properly garrisoned, was rendered largely impervious to direct assault by 1862, Nashville, according to Zimmerman, had only advanced toward completion a relative handful of major strongpoints by the end of that year. Given the degree to which the city had developed by 1862-63 into the western theater's most important advance base of operations (and the threats directed toward it by the Confederacy's western army over that time), it's rather surprising that the double line of connected fortifications so carefully described in the text had not been completed until late 1864. It seems likely that shifting priorities, funding, inconsistent labor availability, and geology were key issues behind that slow progression.

Meticulously detailed and densely packed with visual aids of all kinds, Fortress Nashville ranks among the most compelling descriptive and illustrated histories of major Civil War fortification networks. Readers of this study will also gain a keen appreciation of the multitude of factors underpinning Nashville's central role in sustaining the Union war effort in the West. Paired with B.F. Cooling's work on the nation's capital, readers now have authoritative reference studies of the two most strongly fortified cities in the country during the Civil War. Highly recommended.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Booknotes: Dreams of Victory

New Arrival:
Dreams of Victory: General P. G. T. Beauregard in the Civil War by Sean Michael Chick (Savas Beatie, 2022).

It's surprising that there hasn't been a major Beauregard biography published since T. Harry Williams's P.G.T. Beauregard: Napoleon in Gray (1955). The fascinating breadth of Beauregard's up and down Civil War career, his status as one of the war's most controversial high-ranking generals, and the postwar evolution of his political and racial views all offer fertile ground for a full-length, modern exploration. Perhaps a work like this one, Sean Chick's Dreams of Victory: General P. G. T. Beauregard in the Civil War, can inspire more Civil War students to rethink their beliefs and opinions when it comes to Beauregard's historical stature and significance both on and off the battlefield.

As the fifth most senior general in the Provisional Army of the CSA, Beauregard was well placed to realize his potential. His reputation soared after the successes of Sumter and Bull Run only to have it collapse just as quickly as defeat at Shiloh was compounded by Beauregard's evacuation of strategic Corinth. Though the circumstances of his removal from western army command and his persistent inability to get along with President Davis meant that he would never be entrusted with another field army command of similar stature, Beauregard made himself more than useful in defending Charleston in 1863 and the vital Petersburg-Richmond corridor in 1864. Indeed, Chick's previous books covering the early fighting at Petersburg and the Bermuda Hundred Campaign suggest that those linked operations should not only rank among Beauregard's finest moments as a commanding general but also be considered some of the war's most underappreciated feats of generalship on either side.

Though the book is primarily focused on Beauregard's military career, it does also address his personal and public life during Reconstruction and beyond. From the description: "After the war, he was a successful railroad executive and took a stand against racism, violence, and corruption during the Reconstruction. Yet, he was ousted from both railroads he oversaw and his foray into Reconstruction politics came to naught. Although he provided for his family and left them a hefty sum after his death, the money was mostly gained by working for the corrupt Louisiana Lottery."

In summary, Dreams of Victory "explores a life of contradictions and dreams unrealized—the first real hero of the Confederacy who sometimes proved to be his own worst enemy."

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Booknotes: James Montgomery

New Arrival:
James Montgomery: Abolitionist Warrior by Robert C. Conner (Casemate, 2022).

Joined by James Lane and Charles "Doc" Jennison, James Montgomery completes the trio of most prominent, and infamous, Kansas Jayhawkers who transitioned into Civil War officers of considerable rank and responsibility. Given his status as close Lincoln associate and US senator, Lane gets the most attention by far. Back in the mid-2000s, two Lane bios appeared (here and here) as well as a good history of the Lane Brigade. I've yet to come across a Jennison biography, but there is a well-received history of the regiment he raised (see Stephen Starr's 1974 book Jennison's Jayhawkers). With the publication of Robert Conner's James Montgomery: Abolitionist Warrior, we now have the first full-length biography of the third member of the Jayhawker triumvirate.

From the description: "James Montgomery was a leader of the free-state movement in pre-Civil War Kansas and Missouri, associated with its direct-action military wing. He then joined the Union Army and fought through most of the war. A close associate and ally of other abolitionists including John Brown, Harriet Tubman, Colonels Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Robert G. Shaw, Montgomery led his African-American regiment along with Tubman and other civilians in the 1863 Combahee River raid, which freed almost 800 slaves from South Carolina plantations. He then commanded a brigade in the siege of Fort Wagner, near Charleston." You might recall the very negative portrayal of Montgomery's character, leadership, and treatment of his men in the movie Glory.

In 1864, Montgomery led troops on both the eastern and western fringes of the conflict. More from the description: "In 1864, still in brigade command, he fought at the Battle of Olustee in Florida, helping prevent the collapse and disintegration of Union General Truman Seymour’s army. Later that year he returned home and played a significant role in defeating Confederate General Sterling Price’s great raid, especially at the Battle of Westport."

I thought I had a copy of Conner's other Civil War biography, 2013's General Gordon Granger: The Savior of Chickamauga and the Man Behind "Juneteenth" , but it looks like I am mistaken on that. The bibliography in this one isn't exhaustive in nature, but that doesn't mean the book won't have anything valuable to say about Montgomery (and it is the only game in town when it comes to Montgomery's life and pretty extensive Civil War career). As Conner notes, Montgomery "was and remains a controversial figure." As part of that conversation, James Montgomery: Abolitionist Warrior "uncovers and deals honestly with his serious flaws, while debunking some wilder charges, and also bringing to light his considerable attributes and achievements. Montgomery’s life, from birth to death, is seen in the necessary perspective and clear delineation of the complex racial, political and military history of the Civil War era." I am interested in reading Conner's take on these topics and will give this one a whirl.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Booknotes: The Civil War Abroad

New Arrival:
The Civil War Abroad: How the Great American Conflict Reached Overseas by Charles Priestley (McFarland, 2022).

Charles Priestley's The Civil War Abroad is part of a recent upsurge in the study of the international dimensions of the American Civil War. Like many popular and scholarly publications in this area, Priestley's book focuses heavily on Britain and France, but it also explores other connections. From the description: "The impact of the Civil War was felt far beyond American shores. Many sites associated with the war remain in Britain and France--the two countries most affected--and traces of it can still be found in such unlikely places as Sweden and Turkey."

More from the description: "Both Union and Confederate agents sought support overseas, aided by local sympathizers. Some Victorian Britons, despite their disdain for slavery, saw the South as an incipient nation struggling for recognition, like the Italians or the Poles, but linked to Britain by ties of blood, language and history." In that vein, one chapter looks at the pro-Confederate lobbying efforts of A.J.B. Beresford Hope, a featured topic of Michael Turner's recent study.

Priestley also seeks to add new information to otherwise well-trodden ground, one example being his coverage of the famous nautical duel fought between the USS Kearsarge and CSS Alabama. He has published articles in both English and French, and this book's examination of that event utilizes French sources unused (or seldom used) in the research behind English-language writings on this popular topic.

The volume is not written as narrative history, its format being more akin to an essay collection. Many chapters began life as articles in the periodical of the UK's American Civil War Round Table (of which Priestley, a Briton, is a member). One chapter appeared previously in North & South magazine. Others originated as ACWRT presentations by the author or were published in another form in Belgium. Reworked for inclusion in this compilation, "all have been revised, extended and, where necessary, rewritten."

Through a diverse cast of featured individuals from both sides of the Atlantic, The Civil War Abroad seeks to expand our knowledge and appreciation of the war's international component.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Booknotes: Decisions at Perryville

New Arrival:
Decisions at Perryville: The Twenty-Two Critical Decisions That Defined the Battle by Larry Peterson (UT Press, 2022).

Readers of Larry Peterson's Decisions of the 1862 Kentucky Campaign (2019) might recall the intentional omission of most Perryville coverage in anticipation of the author's planned standalone treatment of the state's largest Civil War battle. We now have that promised Command Decisions in America’s Civil War series volume in this year's Decisions at Perryville: The Twenty-Two Critical Decisions That Defined the Battle. Indeed, Peterson notes in the preface to this volume his preference going forward for devoting separate volumes to campaigns and their component battles.

From the description: Decisions at Perryville "explores the critical decisions made by Confederate and Union commanders during the battle and how these decisions shaped its outcome. Rather than offering a history of the battle, Larry Peterson hones in on a sequence of critical decisions made by commanders on both sides of the contest to provide a blueprint of the Battle of Perryville at its tactical core. Identifying and exploring the critical decisions in this way allows students of the battle to progress from a knowledge of what happened to a mature grasp of why events happened."

Readers of the campaign companion might also remember that Peterson is a bit more bullish than most when it comes to Confederate prospects for success in Kentucky. In this volume, the author sets the stage for his look at the battle itself with a brief introduction to the campaign that frames it within the context of the so-called "Confederate High Tide" of late-summer 1862. Addressing the week and a half period preceding Perryville are six critical decisions. Four more decisions are set during the morning phase of Perryville, ten during the heat of battle in the afternoon, and two are related to the aftermath of the campaign and battle.

The book's collection of 22 critical decisions is well balanced between the sides, and, as expected, the great majority (15) are tactical in nature. Filling in the rest are four strategic decisions and one personnel, logistical, and operational decision each. Reflective of their roles as primary decision-makers on multiple levels, Don Carlos Buell is the author of six decisions, Braxton Bragg five, and Leonidas Polk four.

Fourteen maps accompany the decision analysis. The sixty-page driving tour, itself supported by eleven maps, is tied to the main section's decision analysis and retains the same general format presented in the rest of the series. The tour text is generously supplemented by lengthy excerpts from official reports along with scattered modern battlefield photographs. Readers "looking for a concise introduction to the battle can tour this sacred ground—or read about it at their leisure—with key insights into the campaign and a deeper understanding of the Civil War itself." Orders of battle comprise the remaining two parts of the appendix section.

Monday, May 9, 2022

Booknotes: Chicago to Appomattox

New Arrival:
Chicago to Appomattox: The 39th Illinois Infantry in the Civil War by Jason B. Baker (McFarland, 2022).

From the description: "With assistance from Governor Richard Yates, the 39th Illinois Infantry--"The Yates Phalanx"--enlisted young men from Chicago, its modern-day suburbs, and small towns of northern and central Illinois." According to Jason Baker, the author of Chicago to Appomattox: The 39th Illinois Infantry in the Civil War, the extent of direct connection Yates might have had with the officers and men of the 39th remains murky. Nevertheless, the governor was involved in selecting where they would fight. By offering the 39th as the final cog in the organization of a new brigade forming for duty in Virginia, the governor ensured another small but visible eastern theater presence for his state. On a side note, I was curious about how many Illini units did serve in the east. This page notes that the 39th was indeed in pretty rare company.

By the author's estimate, the regiment traveled as much as 6,000 miles by foot, boat, and train during the length of its service. "While most Illinois Civil War regiments fought in the west, the 39th marched through the Shenandoah Valley to fight Stonewall Jackson, to Charleston Harbor for the Second Battle of Fort Sumter and to Richmond for the year-long siege at Petersburg."

Part III of the book, which details the regiment's 1864-65 attachment to the Army of the James around Richmond and Petersburg, appears to be the meatiest section, undoubtedly due to that theater hosting the unit's heaviest and most prolonged fighting experience. More from the description: "This book chronicles day-to-day life in the regiment, the myriad factors that determined its path, and the battles fought by the Chicagoans--including two Medal of Honor recipients--who fired some of the last shots before the Confederate surrender."

As revealed in the preface, Baker's modern study has its basis in regimental surgeon Charles Clark's 1889 history as well as published firsthand accounts written by four other members of the 39th. Each chapter, of which there are 21, begins with a short biography of a unit member. Further information about the men can be found in the roster appendix, which is based on Clark's veteran history but fact-checked from other sources. Organized by company, the roster includes the typical service record information one finds for individuals while also adding organizational summaries and data tables. Maps and illustrations (including both modern and archival photographs) supplement the main text.

Friday, May 6, 2022

Review - "Animal Histories of the Civil War Era" by Earl Hess, ed.

[Animal Histories of the Civil War Era edited by Earl J. Hess (Louisiana State University Press, 2022). Hardcover, illustrations, notes, index. Pages:vii/277. ISBN:978-0-8071-7691-7. $45]

In the new essay anthology Animal Histories of the Civil War Era volume editor and heavy contributor Earl Hess provides us with the first book-length attempt at integrating, in a more formal manner than before, the academic disciplines of animal history and Civil War history. The result is thirteen essays exploring that interdisciplinary crossover as applied to topics before, during, and after the Civil War. The contributing writers are, as Hess describes them, three animal historians with an interest in Civil War history and eight Civil War historians with an interest in animal history. The clear emphasis is on fostering professional ties between largely disengaged disciplines, but the volume could also appeal to those readers outside the academy who have a more than casual interest in emerging areas of study.

Many Civil War readers are at least passingly familiar with the general story behind the antebellum US Army's failed experiment with camel transport, but Michael Woods's opening chapter argues that the idea of using camels in the US (particular in cotton growing areas of the Deep South) was more widespread than previously thought. Several importation schemes surrounding the use of camels as plantation beasts of burden are discussed in his essay, but the writer goes even further in suggesting that those plans were deeply intertwined with the activities of radical proslavery expansionists. The degree to which that connection is integrated with, rather than incidental to, so-called Slave Power conspiracies remains debatable, but it's at the very least suggestive of the kinds of interdisciplinary approaches the anthology wants to promote.

As interesting as camels might be, it's obvious that horses and mules, due to their essential support roles in army supply, transport, and mobility, remain by far the Civil War historical literature's most prominent source of big animal engagement. In this volume, David Gerleman provides readers with an excellent introduction to Civil War horse and mule physical requirements, procurement systems, welfare, physical treatment, and field use. Previously published conclusions regarding Union veterinary care practices being tardy and inadequate are reinforced, yet overall the US system of managing its army's animal motive power was clearly superior to that of its opponent and an important element in Union victory. Undoubtedly drawn from the research behind his upcoming study of Civil War artillery, Earl Hess's first anthology contribution offers a brief glimpse into the world of artillery horses and the heavy demands made upon them. Abraham Gibson follows that with an insightful perspective on the Confederate Army horse supply, maintenance, and replacement policies and practices that reached crisis levels by the middle of the war. Both the Gibson and Gerleman essays offer illuminating contrasts between Union and Confederate military horse management.

The Civil War literature is slowly expanding its horizons when it comes to examining human and animal world interactions in areas beyond the latter's capacity for transmitting disease (about which some fine work has been done). Heavily influenced by Kelby Ouchley's Flora and Fauna of the Civil War (2010), another Hess piece offers an interesting survey of the diversity of soldier-wildlife interactions in the field. Mark Smith gets more specific in the following chapter in his discussion of bees, explaining how they informed both directly and metaphorically the lives and rhetorical perspectives of the Civil War-era generation.

In the anthology's section on animal use as food, Jason Phillips summarizes the interdependency between the southern pig and human populations. Along the way, Phillips points out some significant differences between the sections when it came to hog range management and pork packing. Accompanying that are insights into what the outbreak of war meant to the South's pork supply, which was heavily dependent prewar on northern and Border State imports, both of which were quickly shut down once fighting erupted. Every Civil War student knows that army food supply, quality, and preparation was inconsistent on both sides, and another Hess article, written from a vegetarian perspective, discusses the ways in which unbalanced, meat-centric soldier diets inhibited their personal health and, by extension, their military effectiveness.

A pair of chapters look at canine roles and influences. In Joan Cashin's brief summary of dog exploitation during the war, she comes to the conclusion that they were "weaponized" to a greater extent than commonly believed. In the Civil War-era literature, dogs are frequently discussed in the context of their bloodhound work tracking runaway slaves, anti-Confederate "Brush Men," and escaped Union POWs, but Lorien Foote also reminds us how practically and culturally important they were to game hunting and general security across the South from large plantations to subsistence farms. Critically, she extends that examination into the postwar period when unregulated dog ownership sparked legislative concerns (with all their political, class, economic, and racial implications) over controlling canine numbers and the alleged toll those animals took on livestock (specifically the sheep industry). A wide range of abatement proposals, ranging from taxation all the way to lethal measures, were debated.

Many different animal species were adopted as unit mascots during the conflict, and Brian Matthew Jordan uses the story of "Old Abe," the venerated eagle mascot of the 8th Wisconsin, as a case study highlighting the longstanding bonds forged between Union veterans and those animals. In a strong reminder that the roots of anthropomorphizing pets has a long history, the Old Abe story also reveals how some 8th Wisconsin veterans believed that the eagle came through association and shared experience to communicate the same partisan ideological attitudes held by its human comrades. A time during which animals intersected with national politics and ongoing debates over the role of government is interestingly expressed through Daniel Vandersommers's examination of the 1888-91 congressional debates (which frequently took on sectional overtones) regarding the proposed establishment of a national zoo in Washington, D.C. Finally, Paula Tarankow uncovers the postwar story of the celebrated entertainment duo of horse talent "Beautiful Jim Key" and his ex-slave performance handler William Key. Tarankow argues that their popular traveling show helped transform old views on equine intelligence as well as, perhaps, deeper connections between human and animal ethical understanding.

Society's views on animal sentience and ethical expectations regarding the limits of animal exploitation are, of course, ever evolving, and Hess and his contributors point readers toward unresolved debates over animal agency as well as differing conclusions surrounding the degree to which Civil War traumas and experiences transformed popular views on animal treatment and conservation. Drawing connections between animal history studies and a number of established Civil War history sub-disciplines, Animal Histories of the Civil War Era is an engaging introduction to "animal-centered" Civil War history in its currently nascent form. Only time will tell what future depth and direction Civil War animal history might take, but this volume certainly provides ample food for thought for those prospective scholars who might be interested in embarking on that journey toward a new branch of Civil War scholarship.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Booknotes: True Blue

New Arrival:
True Blue: White Unionists in the Deep South during the Civil War and Reconstruction by Clayton J. Butler (LSU Press, 2022).

Close study of Southern Unionism during the Civil War era has proceeded in leaps and bounds over recent decades, with the scholarship's greatest focus placed (understandably) on the more numerous proslavery Unionists of the Border State and Upper South regions. This makes Clayton Butler's concentration on Deep South Unionists welcome and important. In his book True Blue, Butler "investigates the lives of white Unionists in three Confederate states, revealing who they were, why and how they took their Unionist stand, and what happened to them as a result."

The study's investigative themes are examined primarily through three unit case studies representational of different regions. These units, all cavalry, are the First Louisiana, First Alabama, and Bradford's Battalion of the Thirteenth Tennessee. Astute readers might interject that Tennessee was Upper South, not Deep South, and they would be right, but Butler maintains that West Tennessee as akin enough to the Deep South in culture, politics, etc. to make inclusion of a unit raised there appropriate for his study. The choice was also undoubtedly made to further a major theme of the book contrasting the willingness of these men to fight and die alongside black soldiers during the war in order to save the Union (Bradford's Battalion fought at Fort Pillow) with their unwillingness to support full citizenship rights for their former comrades during Reconstruction "when many of these veterans played a key role both as elected officials and as a pivotal voting bloc."

More from the description: "Northerners and southerners alike thought a considerable amount about Deep South Unionism throughout the war, often projecting their hopes and apprehensions onto these embattled dissenters. For both, the significance of these Unionists hinged on the role they would play in the postwar future. To northerners, they represented the tangible nucleus of national loyalty within the rebelling states on which to build Reconstruction policies. To Confederates, they represented traitors to the political ideals of their would-be nation and, as the war went on, to the white race, making them at times a target for vicious reprisal."

In strongly focusing its lens on both the war and the Reconstruction period that followed, Butler's study better reveals "the character of Unionism during the era as a whole."

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Booknotes: Unhonored Service

New Arrival:
Unhonored Service: The Life of Lee's Senior Cavalry Commander, Colonel Thomas Taylor Munford, CSA by Sheridan R. Barringer (Fox Run Pub, 2022).

Beginning in my early teen years I spent a lot of time collecting and playing both board and computer wargames, and my introduction to many Civil War officers and generals was through them rather than books. One sim that became a favorite gave me my first impression of Col. Thomas Munford, and it was a confusing one. Through what was surely a mistake, the designer assigned an armament to Munford's command, and to no other unit on either side, that made it utterly useless given the system and scale of the game. Nevertheless, I loved the game and played it to death, and to teenager me Munford was just that guy that led useless cavalry. Gradually, more serious reading revealed that Munford was a useful officer after all, often entrusted with commands larger than his rank typically handled. Then the question arises as to why, in an army full of its share of prideful men who could be hard to get along with, Munford never got promoted above the rank of colonel. Undoubtedly, all will be revealed in Sheridan Barringer's impressive-looking biography Unhonored Service: The Life of Lee's Senior Cavalry Commander, Colonel Thomas Taylor Munford, CSA.

Eric Wittenberg, who knows a thing or two about Union and Confederate cavalry in the eastern theater, declares in his introduction to this volume that the VMI-educated Munford was "an extremely talented commander of horse." He goes on to note that Munford frequently led brigades and sometimes even a division when called upon to do so. On the less than admirable side of things, Munford also engaged in a running feud with general (and JEB Stuart favorite) Thomas Rosser. According to Wittenberg, the interpersonal clash between Munford and Rosser "caused significant problems with field operations," and that unsavory aspect of Munford's service will undoubtedly be illuminated at length in this book. Wittenberg also notes that Munford was, until now, the highest-ranking ANV cavalry officer not to have a full biography. Author Sheridan Barringer, now the biographer of both men, is perhaps uniquely placed to provide us with the clearest and most objective characterization of the conflict between Munford and Rosser.

The heart of the book is a very detailed account of Munford's extensive Civil War career, which seems to have involved in some way or another nearly every major campaign from First Bull Run through Appomattox. The book description offers the opinion that Munford was "the most senior, and likely the most important, cavalry colonel in Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia." In his research Barringer consulted a large body of published and unpublished sources, and his narrative (which is supported by 17 maps) is also peppered with numerous lengthy excerpts from Munford's own writings. Those passages recount Munford's personal experiences of many campaigns and provide "insight into important officers within the cavalry corps of the Army of Northern Virginia." Barringer believes that Munford's lack of a West Point background "contributed to his being overlooked repeatedly for promotion to brigadier general, despite having commanded Fitzhugh Lee's brigade in some of the war's most important battles and commanding a division at the end of the war."

The extensive military biography portion of the book is bookended by similarly substantial coverage of Munford's life before and after the war. The first three chapters address his early life, his education at VMI, and his eventual purchase of a large plantation below the Blue Ridge Mountains. Postwar chapters address his farm and business ventures, his renewed involvement with VMI, and his move late in life to Alabama (where he died in 1918 at the age of 86). If a deep study of Col. Thomas Taylor Munford and his place in the inner workings of the ANV's cavalry arm throughout the war is what you're seeking, initial impressions certainly suggest that this is the book for you.

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Some more titles to keep an eye out for later in '22

Gleaned from the LSU catalog alone, these are (at least from my own personal perspective) some of this year's most highly anticipated titles.

1. A number of recent studies contain major sections extolling the might and superiority of Union engineering prowess. There's even a major work specifically focused on that theme, Thomas Army's Engineering Victory: How Technology Won the Civil War (2016). On the other hand, Confederate military engineers were no slouches either, and soon we'll finally have a specialized study of that other half of the equation. Geographically centered on "the vast region between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River," Larry Daniel's Engineering in the Confederate Heartland (SEPT '22) documents the vital contributions of Confederate engineers across a wide diversity of challenging natural landscapes. Compensating for the section's comparative dearth of trained military engineers by utilizing the considerable cross-application skills of talented civilian engineers, Confederate forces accomplished feats of engineering that together offer a significant challenge to "the long-held thesis that the area lacked adept professionals."

2. In retirement, Earl Hess is clearly not resting on his laurels. If anything, he's only increased upon an already prolific rate of output. My most recent back to back reading has been of a pair Hess-edited or co-edited titles, and now comes confirmation of a CWBA reader intelligence report that publication of Hess's highly anticipated field artillery study is just off the horizon. Civil War Field Artillery: Promise and Performance on the Battlefield (OCT '22) "is the first comprehensive general history of the artillery arm that supported infantry and cavalry in the conflict." "(A)n exhaustive examination with abundant new interpretations that reenvision the Civil War’s military," Hess's book explores a great multitude of artillery-related issues and topics, including hardware, logistics, organization, tactics, environmental factors, and the field experiences of man and beast. One unconventional interpretation contests the long-held view that the evolution of artillery branch organization within the main armies of both sides improved their ability to mass guns on the battlefield.

3. The recent renewal of interest in writing Union corps histories has been largely confined to the eastern theater, so Eric Michael Burke's Soldiers from Experience: The Forging of Sherman's Fifteenth Army Corps, 1862–1863 (OCT '22) will provide us with a welcome foray out west. Burke's book "examines the tactical behavior and operational performance of Major General William T. Sherman’s Fifteenth US Army Corps during its first year fighting in the Western Theater of the American Civil War." Burke, a historian at the US Army Combined Arms Center who holds a PhD in history from UNC, ranks among a number of Iraq/Afghanistan veterans who have combined what they experienced and learned in the modern service and in the classroom to invigorate both new and old Civil War topics (in this case, unit culture). In Soldiers From Experience, Burke "analyzes how specific experiences and patterns of meaning-making within the ranks led to the emergence of what he characterizes as a distinctive corps-level tactical culture." Burke questions, at least in the case of Fifteenth Corps, the popular notion that Civil War units generally adopted the characteristics of their commanding officer, arguing instead that many other factors at play were more significant. The book makes two claims to uniqueness in that it is "the first book-length examination of an army corps operating in the Western Theater" and its own particular way of examining Civil War military culture "introduces a new theoretical construct of small unit–level tactical principles wholly absent from the rapidly growing interdisciplinary scholarship on the intricacies and influence of culture on military operations."