Wednesday, December 14, 2022

2022 - The CIVIL WAR BOOKS and AUTHORS Top Ten Year in Review

1. SOLDIERS FROM EXPERIENCE: The Forging of Sherman's Fifteenth Army Corps, 1862–1863 by Eric Michael Burke (LSU Press).

From its critical leadership analysis to its top-notch tactical discussion and development of a comprehensive new framework (at least as applied to Civil War units and formations) through which to understand the origins and evolution of corps-wide military culture on and off the battlefield, Burke's study is masterfully composed and highly original. Every part of it is insightful and unfailingly interesting. Little variation in the content and format of Civil War unit studies has emerged over the past decade or so, and one can readily imagine elements of Burke's revelatory new approach being gainfully applied to practically any part of the Civil War army order of battle. All of this and more makes this first-rate publication the CWBA Book of the Year. [For more thoughts on this title, see the full Review (11/30/22)]

The Rest of the Year's TOP TEN (in no particular order)

[Reminder: It has become increasingly the case that a large proportion of any given year's best titles are 4Q releases. Because there isn't enough time to review all of them by December, such books become eligible for the following year's list (thus the reason why there are 2021 books in this compilation).]

2. Destruction of the Steamboat Sultana: The Worst Maritime Disaster in American History by Gene Eric Salecker (Naval Inst Press).

If any single volume can be considered the definitive-level history of the Sultana disaster, this is it. Salecker's study also conclusively puts to rest persistent claims made by the most die-hard sabotage and conspiracy theorists [for more, see the full 4/14/22 Review].

3. 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 (UTenn Press).

Thrasher impressively combs through the archives to reconstruct a comprehensive picture of rank and file suffering in the Confederate Army of Tennessee over the second half of 1864. Associated with that theme development are well-supported findings that both challenge and confirm important aspects of how the men who fought in those final western heartland campaigns have been portrayed in popular and scholarly writings [see the full 4/6/22 Review].

4. Gettysburg's Southern Front: Opportunity and Failure at Richmond by Hampton Newsome (UP of Kansas).

The latest military history masterpiece from Newsome, this volume deals with yet another lesser-known operation, in this case a large-scale but largely forgotten raid closely tied to the Gettysburg Campaign. Indeed, this is one of the most notable expansions of the Gettysburg military historiography in recent memory [see the 12/8/22 Review].

5. The Confederate Military Forces in the Trans-Mississippi West, 1861-1865: A Study in Command by William Royston Geise, ed. by Michael J. Forsyth (Savas Beatie).

This manuscript has played an important part in shaping the modern historiography of the Confederate Trans-Mississippi Department. From a reader's perspective, Geise's work has been too long confined to footnotes and bibliographies, and kudos to publisher and editor for finally bringing it to print [see the 11/16/22 Review].

6. Civil War Field Artillery: Promise and Performance on the Battlefield by Earl J. Hess (LSU Press).

Moving well beyond existing reference studies of artillery weapons, ammunition, and equipment, Hess's volume is the first comprehensive examination of the organization, training, leadership, uses, tactics, and performance of field artillery on the Civil War battlefield [see the 11/10/22 Review].

7. Confederate Conscription and the Struggle for Southern Soldiers by John M. Sacher (LSU Press).

Replacing Moore's 1924 classic as the new standard history, Sacher's broad examination of Confederate conscription and conscription law, in all their wartime evolutions, significantly reshapes our understanding of conscription's efficiency and its impact on sustaining support for the war both within the army and among the general population. Sacher also convincingly addresses enduring popular misconceptions surrounding the topic [see the 3/3/22 Review].

8. Fortress Nashville: Pioneers, Engineers, Mechanics, Contrabands & U.S. Colored Troops by Mark Zimmerman (Author-Zimco).

Wartime Nashville has been explored at length in other works, but the actual defenses of the city have never been presented before at this depth. The sheer number and diversity of illustrations found in Zimmerman's book alone are worth the purchase price [see the 5/20/22 Review].

9. At War With King Alcohol: Debating Drinking and Masculinity in the Civil War by Megan L. Bever (UNC Press).

Bever's book is a marvelous social and military history study of the culture and practice of alcohol consumption during the Civil War period, all presented within the context of the larger temperance movement and attempts by both sides to regulate liquor sales and distribution [see the 10/20/22 Review].

10. The Nashville and Decatur in the Civil War: History of an Embattled Railroad by Walter R. Green, Jr. (McFarland).

The breadth, depth, and overall quality of Green's study is head and shoulders above other Civil War railroad histories of recent vintage, a bit of an ironic outcome given that the N&D was the shortest and, though important, arguably the least strategically significant railroad of the group [see the 9/21/21 Review].

*** See also the 2022 Honorable Mentions ***

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