Thursday, October 27, 2022

Booknotes: Six Miles from Charleston, Five Minutes to Hell

New Arrival:
Six Miles from Charleston, Five Minutes to Hell: The Battle of Secessionville, June 16, 1862 by James A. Morgan (Savas Beatie, 2022).

When I read it back in the late 1990s, I was wow'd by Patrick Brennan's Secessionville: Assault On Charleston (1996). Up until that time, detailed and worthwhile book-length narratives of Civil War operations around the Cradle of the Confederacy were slim pickings, the best offerings being E. Milby Burton's The Siege of Charleston, 1861-1865 (1970) and Stephen Wise's Gate of Hell: Campaign for Charleston Harbor, 1863 (1994). Sadly, there were no follow-ups to Brennan's masterpiece, and my hopes that he might become the new 'Charleston Guy' were dashed. What his book did do, in conjunction with Hinze and Farnham's The Battle of Carthage, was hook me into the Savas publishing universe, the current iteration of which has now returned to Secessionville with the new ECW volume Six Miles from Charleston, Five Minutes to Hell: The Battle of Secessionville, June 16, 1862.

From the description: "The battle at Secessionville was as bloody and hard fought as any similar-sized encounter during the war. But it was poorly planned and poorly led by the Union commanders whose behavior did not do justice to the courage of their men [that's an understatement!]." James Morgan's Six Miles from Charleston, Five Minutes to Hell "examines the James Island campaign and its aftermath. By including several original sources not previously explored, he takes a fresh look at this small, but potentially game-changing fight, and shows that it was of much more than merely local interest at the time."

The dismal performance of the Union commander on the ground, General Henry Benham, produced one the war's more cautionary tales of misplaced initiative. On the other side, Confederate general John C. Pemberton's successful defense of Charleston undoubtedly played some role in President Davis later putting him charge of protecting another major fortress city, Vicksburg. More from the description: "For the Federals, the campaign on James Island was a joint Army-Navy operation that suffered from inter-service rivalries and no small amount of mutual contempt. Brig. Gen. David Hunter, the overall Union commander, lost interest in the campaign and turned effective control over to his subordinate, Brig. Gen. Henry Benham, whose ego and abrasive personality was a significant problem for the officers who served directly under him. On the Confederate side were men like John C. Pemberton, a West Point classmate of Benham’s, who never gained the respect of his subordinates either. The civilian authorities diligently worked behind his back to have him relieved and replaced. He did, however, oversee the construction of a formidable line of defensive works that proved strong enough in the end to save Charleston for much of the war."

Ten maps and numerous photographs supplement the text. The main narrative is extended, leaving little extra room for a more typically lengthy and eclectic appendix section. However, there is a brief driving tour and a short discussion of brothers that faced each other during the campaign for Charleston.


  1. I recall working closely with Pat (who has remained a good friend, and just finished up both volumes of Gettysburg in Color) and enjoyed it very much. His Secessionville was and remains a masterpiece. Morgan's is designed differently and tackles a few different angles, intended for another generation. It is also very strong and we are excited to publish it.

    Thanks for sharing, Drew.

  2. Drew Two other Savas titles published at about the time of Brennan's and Hinze and Farnham's that started me on my collecting of Savas material were:
    The Campaign for Atlanta and Sherman's March to The Sea and The Wilmington Campaign, The Last Rays of Departing Hope.
    Don Hallstrom

    1. Hi Don--those remain some of my favorite books. Thanks for all your support over the years.


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