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."


  1. Drew: One aspect of the Hess blurb that may be a bit of hype is the statement that the book's "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". I think that may set up a "straw man", at least to the extent it suggests a consensus that effective massing was materially hindered until the formal re-organizations. Everyone knows that guns were effectively massed at Shiloh (Confederates), Malvern Hill (Union), Second BR (Confederates), and Stones River (Union). And there wouldn't seem to be much in the way of convincing analysis to reject the notion that having multiple batteries under unified artillery command makes the process easier. If the analysis is based on Tidball's post-war papers, it may overstate Tidball's criticism of the way batteries were parceled out to brigades/divisions early on. This inevitably created "friction" in the assembling of large ad hoc commands. I guess we'll find out.

  2. The work on artillery is long overdue. I've always wondered about the succes as defensive weapon vs the offensive failure. From the very first battle, Rickett and Griffin wipe out, to Alexander' s effort in Gettysburg, or the Pelham 's effectivness vs Hunt inability to suppress Longstreet. I have great expectations here.


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