Friday, June 18, 2021

Various Book News Items

This month's release schedule is pretty heavily backloaded, so hopefully the second half of June will make up for the paltry first half.

1. Larry Peterson's Decisions of the 1862 Kentucky Campaign avoided Perryville battlefield decisions with the intention of possibly addressing them in a future volume. It turns out that that will indeed be the case as Decisions at Perryville: The Twenty-Two Critical Decisions That Defined the Battle has been added to the series schedule as an October '21 release. As far as I know from my most recent contact with the publisher, the Seven Days installment is still on for the end of this month.

2. Publishers staying comfortable with digital-only review copies has had an unfortunate impact on the CWBA bookshelves during the pandemic. Though the numbers they put out overall were drastically reduced in 2020, I still rather missed getting my regular allotment of McFarland titles of all kinds over the past fifteen months. They do have a bunch of intriguing titles on the docket for this year, including Myron Smith's final volume of his inland west naval history series After Vicksburg: The Civil War on Western Waters, 1863-1865 , Andrew English's The Laird Rams: Britain's Ironclads Built for the Confederacy, 1862-1923, Todd Cathey and Ricky Robnett's The River Batteries at Fort Donelson: Construction, Armament and Battles, 1861-1862, and Gerald Earley's Strategies of North and South: A Comparative Analysis of the Union and Confederate Campaigns. I've already talked about Russell Blount's Port Hudson book and what will likely be the final volume of Roger Hunt's Colonels in Blue series. If you are interested in the Windy City's Civil War connections, they are also putting out unit histories of the 39th Illinois infantry regiment and the Chicago Board of Trade Battery. There's more, but those are the strongest blips on my radar.

3. Christopher Grasso is far from being done with John R. Kelso. I positively reviewed his 2017 book Bloody Engagements: John R. Kelso’s Civil War, which was selected as the A.M. Pate Award winner of 2018. As a bit of an aside, Kelso's writings were a prominent source in Piston and Rutherford's new account of the Second Battle of Springfield in their book "We Gave Them Thunder". Losing none of his enthusiasm for the subject, Grasso has now moved on to a full biographical treatment of Kelso's life of colorful and odd twists and turns. Teacher, Preacher, Soldier, Spy: The Civil Wars of John R. Kelso is set for a September '21 release from Oxford UP.

4. As every regular CWBA visitor knows, I'm not the most eager biography reader, but another one from 2021 that has my attention is Allen Ottens's General John A. Rawlins: No Ordinary Man (Indiana Univ Pr). I am not sure how much scholarly disagreement exists regarding the nature of the Grant-Rawlins relationship and the impact Rawlins had on his chief's career (I would guess that most differences lie in how much advisory credit Rawlins deserves), but those matters will surely figure prominently in the book. Look for it in around six weeks.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Review - "Life in the Mississippi Marine Brigade: The Civil War Diary of George Painter" by Beverly Kerr, ed.

[Life in the Mississippi Marine Brigade: The Civil War Diary of George Painter edited by Beverly Wencek Kerr (Author, 2020). Softcover, diary images, bibliography. Pages:xi,240. ISBN:979-8-559686-03-5. $14.95]

Consisting of an infantry battalion, a cavalry battalion, and an artillery battery (all transported by the Ellet ram fleet), the regiment-sized Mississippi Marine Brigade assumed a number of notable combat and support roles up and down its namesake river. Organized during the winter of 1862-63 and independent of both army and navy hierarchies over most of its existence, the MMB proved useful as an all-arms, amphibious strike force before its unfortunate penchant for looting and indiscriminate destruction led to it being disbanded in August 1864. Not much has been published about the Mississippi Marine Brigade in book-length format during or subsequent to the near century that passed between former MMB captains Isaac Newell and Warren Crandall's History of the Ram Fleet and the Mississippi Marine Brigade in the War for the Union on the Mississippi and Its Tributaries: The Story of the Ellets and Their Men (1907) and Chester Hearns's Ellet's Brigade: The Strangest Outfit of All (2000). Published letters and diaries are similarly scarce. Norman E. Clarke edited the correspondence of one of the formation's most prominent officers and published the book in 1961 under the title Warfare Along the Mississippi: The Letters of Lieutenant Colonel George E. Currie, but there is little else*. That dearth of available works makes Beverly Kerr's Life in the Mississippi Marine Brigade: The Civil War Diary of George Painter all the more valuable to the western theater literature.

At first glance it might seem that service in the Mississippi Marine Brigade would be attractive, but filling the ranks proved highly difficult. Eventually, recruiting officers had to resort to visiting hospital wards to sign up medical transfers and discharges, their pitch being that service in the unit would be less than arduous. One of those recruits was Private George Painter, who suffered multiple typhoid complications and remained sickly throughout his enlistment. He joined the MMB in January 1863 and immediately started a daily diary that ran unbroken, despite frequent health relapses, from January 4 through December 31. Though his weakened constitution often relegated him to guard duty while his comrades were experiencing more dangerous adventures, Painter did observe firsthand more than enough events to make his diary appeal to readers outside research specialists. At the very least, Painter's dedication as a diarist makes his writing an invaluable record of the unit's whereabouts and actions on a daily basis over an entire year.

Painter's diary exposes the full range of MMB activities, which included extensive foraging, destruction of rivercraft (to deny their use to the enemy), chasing guerrillas, breaking up river blockades, transporting army units, and occasional rear-area garrisoning. In March, two ships from the MMB fleet were tasked with passing the Vicksburg batteries, and one was sunk. The following month, the brigade escorted Abel Streight's raiders over the first leg of their journey before returning to the Vicksburg front. There, during May through July, the MMB garrisoned Snyder's Bluff for a time and did more scouting and foraging along both banks of the Mississippi. However, complaints about the sharp increase in their incendiary proclivities soon led General Grant to employ them as troop transports through much of August, as much to keep them out of trouble as to be useful. The men of the brigade could not have been completely unaware of their growing negative reputation within the military, but Painter does not comment upon the matter. Perhaps that speaks to the insularity within independently operating units such as this one.

The MMB was primarily tasked with counterguerrilla operations through the end of September, when their boats were taken away for detached service and the men relegated to shore duty. This was only temporary, though, and by November they were back afloat and operating against both irregular and conventional foes. Those events are documented in Painter's diary before his entries finally cease in late December. Unfortunately for us, Painter did not pick up his pen to describe the MMB's controversial role in the 1864 Red River Campaign or his unit's subsequent actions ashore in Arkansas against Confederate attempts to blockade the Mississippi. Painter's views on the brigade's sullied reputation and ultimate disbandment are also lost to history. Sadly, Painter himself did not live far beyond the MMB's demise, succumbing in September 1864 to his old typhoid nemesis while a patient in a Vicksburg military hospital.

Editor Beverly Kerr expresses some concern that the diary might not be exciting enough for many readers, but, though most entries are only a few sentences in length, there is enough meat on the bone to attract those interested in the wartime actions of the MMB as well as Mississippi Valley military operations more generally. Though the volume is not formally annotated and possesses only a slim bibliography, Kerr's connecting narrative does provide between diary entries some persons, places, and events background information of the kind normally found in footnotes. Diary presentation is a bit unusual in that each entry appears twice. Unedited diary text is shown in italics and immediately below that, in a box, is the same text edited for modern spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Painter writes more than well enough (especially in comparison to many other Civil War letter writers and diarists) to have not made this feature necessary, but it doesn't detract from anything. The book does not include any maps, illustrations, or historical photographs, the only images being photographs of original diary pages used as chapter separators. Though the absence of those supplements is felt, the diary itself stands on its own merits as a quite useful firsthand account of the activities of the controversial Mississippi Marine Brigade during much of its relatively brief existence. The book also serves as a compassionate memorial to Pvt. Painter's long-suffering but uncomplaining Civil War service, which likely would have remained, like so many others, completely unknown and unremembered by all but a few without this publication.

* - I am not familiar with 1994's Brown Paper Rams and Horse Marines: The History of the United States Ram Fleet and the Mississippi Marine Brigade in the American Civil War, self-published by Stephen R. Howard. The Diary of Josiah Henry Goodwin: Fife Major for the Fife and Drum Band of the Mississippi Marine Brigade, Covering the Period January 1, 1863 Through June 1, 1864 was apparently transcribed and bound in a single copy for library use.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Patterson's Independent Company of Engineers and Mechanics

The impact on Civil War campaigns of army support units and their activities has received increased attention of late. Engineers and engineering have been explored in a number of recent books, among them Thomas Army's Engineering Victory: How Technology Won the Civil War (2016), Justin Solonick's Engineering Victory: The Union Siege of Vicksburg (2015), Mark Hoffman's "My Brave Mechanics": The First Michigan Engineers and Their Civil War (2007), and Mark Smith's A Volunteer in the Regulars: The Civil War Journal and Memoir of Gilbert Thompson, US Engineer Battalion (2020). As suggested by the selection of titles referenced above, Union military engineers and their accomplishments have received the most interest from researchers and historians.

Another title to add to this growing collection is Patterson's Independent Company of Engineers and Mechanics, 1861-1865 by Charles H. Bogart. Published almost a year ago exactly, I missed its initial release, but long-time reader Curtis T. brought it to my attention last week. Curt and I both liked the author's earlier book, 2012's Railroad Defenses of the Blue Grass: The Defenses of the Kentucky Central Railroad, Lexington & Frankfort Railroad and Kentucky River during the Civil War (1861-1865), and the new book does sound like it might be right up my alley.

From the description: "Patterson's Independent Kentucky Company of Engineers & Mechanics was organized at Camp Haskin near Somerset KY and mustered into service on 25 Sep 1861 under the command of Captain William F. Patterson. The unit was also known as the "Pioneer Corps" or "KY Pioneer Infantry". The regiment served unattached, Army of the Ohio, to March 1862. Engineers, 7th Division, Army of the Ohio, to October 1862. Cumberland Division, District of West Virginia, Department of the Ohio, to November 1862. 9th Division, Right Wing, XIII Corps (Old), Department of the Tennessee, to December 1862. Unattached, Sherman's Yazoo Expedition, to January 1863. Unattached, 9th Division, XIII Corps, to July 1863. Unattached, XIII Corps, Army of the Tennessee and Department of the Gulf, to October 1863. Unattached, XIII Corps, Texas, to July 1864. Engineer Brigade, Department of the Gulf, to January 1865. Patterson's Company mustered out of service at Louisville KY on January 22, 1865."

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Booknotes: Campaign for the Confederate Coast

New Arrival:
Campaign for the Confederate Coast: Blockading, Blockade Running and Related Endeavors During the American Civil War by Gil Hahn (W 88th St Pr, 2021).

Citing figures documenting how porous the Union blockade was before the last major southern ports fell late in the war, some have argued that the blockade was not a cost effective use of military resources and did not have a major impact on the outcome of the war. Of the view that blockade running figures (ex. success rates in and out of specific ports) don't tell the entire story, others have more persuasively maintained otherwise. Joining this latter group, Gil Hahn's new book Campaign for the Confederate Coast: Blockading, Blockade Running and Related Endeavors During the American Civil War asserts that the "Federal blockade of the Confederate coast during the American Civil War (1861-1865) did not cause the ultimate Federal victory, but it contributed to that victory to a significant degree."

From the description: In Campaign for the Confederate Coast "readers will learn the story of blockade running from a nuanced, all-points-of-view perspective. Without recounting hundreds of encounters between pro-Confederate blockade runners and Federal blockading forces, it traces the ebb and flow of events as the U.S. Navy, blockade runners, and foreign governments (primarily the British) all pressed for advantage. At first unable to detect blockade runners, the Federals developed tactics that made them increasingly effective at making captures, although they did not eliminate blockade running altogether until they captured the principal Confederate ports. And although blockade running sustained the Confederates' ability to continue the battle for four years, the effect of this economic warfare substantially weakened the armies upon which the Confederate assertion of independence rested."

As part of his advance praise of the work, historian Allen Guelzo opines that Hahn's book should be regarded as the "single best survey" of the topic. In addition to providing an overview of the blockade and its effects, the study "embraces ship and weapons technology, coastal forfifications, charts and data on coastal sailing vessels, even sailors' rations."

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Review - "'We Gave Them Thunder': Marmaduke’s Raid and the Civil War in Missouri and Arkansas" by Piston & Rutherford

["We Gave Them Thunder": Marmaduke’s Raid and the Civil War in Missouri and Arkansas by William Garrett Piston and John C. Rutherford (Ozarks Studies Institute, 2021). Softcover, 13 maps, photos, illustrations, footnotes, orders of battle, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:xiii,278/356. ISBN:978-1-7346290-1-9. $29.95]

There were some shaky moments (though less dangerous in hindsight) during the first eighteen months of the war, but Union military forces and the pro-Union provisional state government under Governor Hamilton Gamble were in solid control of Missouri by the beginning of 1863. The guerrilla problem was intractable, and in some places growing in intensity, but the overall situation was manageable, and the high command was confident enough by that time to withdraw most volunteer forces for deployment elsewhere. That left Missouri's defense largely to the militia forces created in 1862—the federally armed and funded Missouri State Militia with local support from the part-time and much less professionalized Enrolled Missouri Militia. A solid core of MSM units became highly proficient in counterinsurgency operations, and a number of them eventually attained a combat effectiveness in traditional mounted roles comparable to experienced volunteer cavalry regiments. Drawn from the general population, the EMM suffered from issues of dependability and divided loyalty that were later addressed by the creation of yet another militia organization, the Provisional EMM.

Confederates forces were not content to concede control over all parts of Missouri, however, and military incursions of varying strength and range continued. Those operations typically took the form of cavalry raids, of which there were three major ones in 1863. None of the trio has been the subject of exhaustive treatment in the literature. General John S. Marmaduke's Second Raid (which was capped by an inconclusive demonstration at Cape Girardeau on April 26, 1863) is the least well documented. Jo Shelby's "Great Raid" of September-October 1863, the longest and most sustained of the three, has received book-length attention in Sean McLachlan's Ride Around Missouri: Shelby's Great Raid 1863 (2011) and Mark Scott's converted thesis The Fifth Season: General "JO" Shelby's Great Raid of 1863 (2001). Conducted during the winter of 1862-63, Marmaduke's First Raid has also been accorded book format coverage on more than one occasion. For over two decades now, the standard account has been Frederick Goman's Up From Arkansas: Marmaduke's First Missouri Raid, Including the Battles of Springfield and Hartville (1999). Most recently, Larry Wood addressed its central event, the Second Battle of Springfield, in Civil War Springfield (2011)1. Goman's book is also very usefully supplemented by Daniel Plaster’s privately printed Marmaduke’s First Missouri Raid, 1862-1863: The Roles of Federal Scouts and Outposts in the Defense of Springfield (1999). However, a much more comprehensive treatment of the raid as a whole, with in-depth accounts of both the January 8, 1863 battle at Springfield and January 11 clash at Hartville, is finally now available through William Garrett Piston and John Rutherford's "We Gave Them Thunder": Marmaduke’s Raid and the Civil War in Missouri and Arkansas.

In the opening chapters Piston and Rutherford do a fine job of contextualizing the raid, explaining the reasons why and where it was conducted. The importance of the southwest-northeast running transportation/invasion corridor between Fort Smith, Arkansas and St. Louis, Missouri is well established through the volume's summary of campaigns fought along that axis between the time of General Lyon's 1861 Missouri campaign and the Battle of Prairie Grove in December 1862. The corridor's transportation network and geography are also described in a manner that effectively contrasts the extremes in logistical apparatus and capability that existed at each end. Indeed, supply and communications at the Arkansas end of the corridor were so tenuous that when Fort Smith finally fell to Union forces in September 1863 the attackers arrived from an entirely different line of direction. During the retreat after Prairie Grove and in the wake of the surprise Union raid across the Boston Mountains that wreaked destruction upon the supply depots at Van Buren, the Confederate Trans-Mississippi army raised through General Thomas Hindman's draconian measures started to melt away. Something needed to be done to take the pressure off that cascading disaster, and that would be a return to the corridor in the form of a cavalry raid led by General Marmaduke.

Piston and Rutherford note that Union authorities that winter in Missouri, through the experiences of 1861-62 (particularly the sweeping Confederate recruitment drives of the previous summer2), were well cognizant that swift-moving mounted raids formed the primary threat to the state and had instituted measures to address them. These included major earthwork fortification networks at key Missouri cities and towns (ex. St. Louis, Jefferson City, Rolla, and Springfield), the construction of wooden blockhouses at more isolated strategic locations, and the fortifying of county courthouses3. The works would be manned by militia forces stiffened by a cadre of experienced volunteer units, the latter mainly from neighboring Iowa and Illinois. All of these elements of the Union defense network in Missouri would be encountered by Marmaduke's men during the raid.

As recounted in this book (see also Plaster's aforementioned study), Marmaduke's division—divided into two columns, one led by Marmaduke himself and the other by Col. Joseph Porter—captured and burned a number of blockhouses and dismantled the courthouse palisade at Hartville during the early stages of the winter raid. While these actions eliminated major parts of the outer ring of established defenses in Union-held SW Missouri, the authors note that the Union "tripwire" system nevertheless did its job in alerting authorities to the presence and general direction of Marmaduke's raiding force. This early warning allowed the Union commander, General Egbert Brown, the time necessary to prepare Springfield for an attack and call in neighboring units to the town's defense. Brown's hurried but orderly arrangements included the manning of fixed defenses (five mostly unfinished forts surrounded Springfield in a south-facing arc) by a mixed force of militia and volunteer units along with the cobbling together of a reserve (the celebrated "Quinine Brigade") gleaned from military hospitals.

The attack and repulse of Marmaduke's force (Jo Shelby's brigade and the regiment of Col. Emmett MacDonald) at Springfield on January 8 is recounted in the text in a detailed manner. The authors persuasively view the result as a success story of the integrated Union defense system for Missouri, but the action also served as another clear lesson, repeated throughout the war, of the ineffectiveness of light cavalry in attacking fortified towns. Having only a section of obsolete artillery available and a limited ammunition supply overall, Marmaduke could not batter his way into the enemy defenses. Piston and Rutherford surmise that the result of the battle may have been different had Porter's brigade been present. Earlier, deeming Springfield vulnerable to a coup de main, Marmaduke altered the raid's original plan (with its initial rendezvous point at Hartville) by attacking Springfield on his own and hoping that Porter might arrive on his right in a timely manner to attack the town from the east. Brown himself worried about the eastern and northern approaches to his lines, but they were not tested. In support of the text are a series of color battle maps that trace the movements and positions of the units of each side. Based on the Springfield map found in the atlas to the O.R., the map set materially aids reader understanding of the course of the battle.

Failing to capture Springfield and its abundance of much needed horses, arms, and supplies, Marmaduke broke off his attack and moved off to the east, where he finally combined forces with Porter west of Hartville. This latter stage of the raid is the part least well covered in the literature, and the account provided in the book of the January 11 clash between Marmaduke's reunited division and a much smaller Union force commanded by Col. Samuel Merrill should be considered the new standard history of the Battle of Hartville4. Each stage of the battle, from the initial race to Hartville to the pitched battle fought along the high ground just northwest of the town, is recounted at length and is once again supported by a good set of tactical-scale maps that trace each step of the action. The Union defenders were vulnerable and had an oversized wagon train to protect, but the authors credit their successful defense of the heights (and the failure of Jo Shelby's vaunted brigade to make a dent into the Union line) to an astute selection of ground and steady volume of fire. Merrill's veteran force of volunteer infantry, cavalry, and artillery (always a strong combination with which to oppose an enemy command composed entirely of cavalry and few supporting guns) was effectively able to keep the enemy at range and off its flanks. On the other side, Marmaduke's fatigued men suffered from a severe post-Springfield ammunition shortage, and Porter's brigade, formed in a dense column, was broken up by Merrill's concentrated fire. Post-battle Confederate claims that the lack of proper military arms was a major factor in their inability to overwhelm Merrill are mostly discounted by the authors, who note that infantry rifles had been distributed to many of the men in Marmaduke command by the time of the raid5. Already limited Confederate command talent took a significant hit as well with the deaths of Porter and MacDonald.

On the face of it, the raid's benefits to the Confederate war effort seem meager. Marmaduke's division failed to capture Springfield's depots, allowed Merrill's brigade to escape a potential trap at Hartville intact, further exhausted its already critical supply of horseflesh, and suffered significant high command losses along with relatively small but not inconsiderable rank and file casualties. As the authors note, this was in exchange for the destruction of much of Brown's tripwire system in the region as well as the redirection of some Union forces from the corridor's active front. It is the book's conclusion that, upon weighing results versus cost, the raid was worth it, but one might reasonably argue otherwise. Such things are always open to healthy debate.

The product of deep research in both unpublished and published sources, Piston and Rutherford's study represents by far the most comprehensive description and analysis of Marmaduke's First Raid. It is a notable new contribution to Trans-Mississippi military history studies, the publication record of which has been undergoing a bit of a drought in recent years. The Missouri State University system's Ozarks Studies Institute also deserves a great deal of credit for putting out such an attractive package of well-edited manuscript and uncommonly rich collection of color maps, photographs, and other illustrations. One hopes that they will continue to publish more works of this kind.

1 - Follow the links provided here for CWBA reviews or commentary on: Sean McLachlan's Ride Around Missouri: Shelby's Great Raid 1863, Mark Scott's The Fifth Season: General "JO" Shelby's Great Raid of 1863, Frederick Goman's Up From Arkansas: Marmaduke's First Missouri Raid, Including the Battles of Springfield and Hartville, and Larry Wood's Civil War Springfield.
2 - See Michael Banasik's Embattled Arkansas: The Prairie Grove Campaign of 1862 (1996) for the best available single source documenting the Confederate recruitment drives that swept across Missouri during the summer of 1862 and resulted in numerous small-scale but sharply fought skirmishes and battles.
3 - See McLachlan's American Civil War Guerrilla Tactics (2009) for a useful overview of the practice of fortifying county courthouses for local defense against irregular forces.
4 - There is one book-length publication dedicated to Hartville that is at least worthy of mention. In 1997, the Wright County Historical Society published The Civil War Battle of Hartville and Related Events, a spiral-bound collection of historical source material related to the battle.
5 - It is a common refrain among Trans-Mississippi Confederates that their mounted forces were often armed only with civilian-use shotguns. It is such a widespread contention/complaint lodged by officers and soldiers of all ranks that it has become part of the accepted historical record, yet recent battlefield archeological investigations by teams led by Douglas Scott have challenged the veracity of such claims. For one example, see "The Battle Raged... With Terrible Fury:" Battlefield Archaeology of Pea Ridge National Military Park.

[Special thanks to James Baumlin (consulting editor, Ozarks Studies Institute/Ozarks Books Series) for sending me an early copy of the book, which will be available for general purchase in August]

Friday, June 4, 2021

Booknotes: The Complete Pickett's Mill Battlefield Trail Guide

New Arrival:
The Complete Pickett's Mill Battlefield Trail Guide by Brad Butkovich (Historic Imagination, 2021).

Of course, every Atlanta Campaign study covers the May 27, 1864 Battle of Pickett's Mill to some degree or another, but the finest standalone treatment is Brad Butkovich's The Battle of Pickett's Mill: Along the Dead Line, which was published by The History Press back in 2013. His newest work, The Complete Pickett's Mill Battlefield Trail Guide, should serve as a very useful companion to that narrative history account.

I haven't visited the park yet, but the preservation effort there sounds impressive. From the description: "Today’s Pickett’s Mill Battlefield State Historic Site is a 765 acre oasis of green forest in suburban Atlanta. The battlefield is in near pristine form, with no monuments and little signage, ensuring that it looks as close to its 1864 condition as possible. In addition to history supporters, the park is enjoyed by hikers as well as flora and fauna enthusiasts."

Butkovich's guide takes advantage of an established network of trail loops. More from the description: The guide "provides visitors and students with an in-depth explanation of the 1864 battle by walking the trail system. Building upon the park’s own interpretive literature, this Trail Guide expands both the number of way points for visitors and offers more details of the battle through first-person participant accounts and extensive modern research."

The volume is introduced with a brief summary of the battle's history that also contains an excellent set of seven color maps depicting in great detail the battlefield terrain and the positions of the regiments and batteries of both sides. The guide itself is based on the park's four trail loops (Blue, Red, White, and Orange). Butkovich incorporates the numbered official trail stations from those loops into the guide and generously supplements them with his own "Extra" stations that represent other "areas where historically significant or interesting events occurred" (pg. 14).

Each station has its own page in the guide and is labeled with GPS coordinates. The attached text, around 2-3 paragraphs in length, establishes view orientation and incorporates firsthand accounts into a description of the action that occurred there. A modern color photograph of the viewshed is also included for every station. An order of battle completes the volume.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Booknotes: Lincoln and Citizenship

New Arrival:
Lincoln and Citizenship by Mark E. Steiner (SIU Press, 2021).

In Abraham Lincoln's political thinking, those eligible for U.S. citizenship "encompassed different groups at different times." That developing philosophical stance is at the center of Mark Steiner's book Lincoln and Citizenship, which "analyzes and contextualizes Lincoln’s evolving views about citizenship over the course of his political career."

Early in his political career Lincoln supported very restrictive ideas about who deserved voting rights. From the description: "As an Illinois state legislator, Lincoln subscribed to the by-then-outmoded belief that suffrage must be limited to those who met certain obligations to the state. He rejected the adherence to universal white male suffrage that had existed in Illinois since statehood. In 1836 Lincoln called for voting rights to be limited to white people who had served in the militia or paid taxes. Surprisingly, Lincoln did not exclude women, though later he did not advocate giving women the right to vote and did not take women seriously as citizens."

Of the opinion that blacks should be be excluded from the body politic while at the same time being a strong anti-nativist when it came to European immigration, Lincoln long incorporated race into his publicly expressed ideas of citizenship. More from the description: "For years Lincoln presumed that only white men belonged in the political and civic community, and he saw immigration through this lens. Because Lincoln believed that white male European immigrants had a right to be part of the body politic, he opposed measures to lengthen the time they would have to wait to become a citizen or to be able to vote. Unlike many in the antebellum north, Lincoln rejected xenophobia and nativism. He opposed black citizenship, however, as he made clear in his debates with Stephen Douglas. Lincoln supported Illinois’s draconian Black Laws, which prohibited free black men from voting and serving on juries or in the militia. Further, Lincoln supported sending free black Americans to Africa—the ultimate repudiation and an antithesis of citizenship."

However, as president, Lincoln's views on black citizenship evolved quickly toward "a broader vision of citizenship for African Americans." As outlined in the book, a number of factors guided that change in Lincoln's outlook. Steiner's study "establishes how Lincoln’s meetings at the White House with Frederick Douglass and other black leaders influenced his beliefs about colonization, which he ultimately disavowed, and citizenship for African Americans, which he began to consider. Further, the battlefield success of black Union soldiers revealed to Lincoln that black men were worthy of citizenship. Lincoln publicly called for limited suffrage among black men, including military veterans, in his speech about Reconstruction on April 11, 1865. Ahead of most others of his era, Lincoln showed just before his assassination that he supported rights of citizenship for at least some African Americans."

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Booknotes: The Civil War Memoir of a Boy from Baltimore

New Arrival:
The Civil War Memoir of a Boy from Baltimore: The Remembrance of George C. Maguire, Written in 1893 edited by Holly I. Powers (UT Press, 2021).

A circumstance and practice that is unthinkable in modern western militaries, Civil War history is replete with examples of preteen children and older boys being taken into regiments and adopted by the men. John Clem , a.k.a. "Johnny Shiloh," is the most famous example, serving as a drummer boy in the 22nd Michigan. Sometimes called a "mascot," such a child informally inducted into a regiment could be assigned tasks attached with responsibility and experience physical dangers in ways inconceivable today. This was certainly the case with Maryland's George Maguire. From the description: "Fourteen-year-old George Maguire was eager to serve the Union when his home state, Maryland, began raising regiments for the coming conflict. Too young to join, he became a “mascot” for the Fifth Maryland Infantry Regiment, organized in September 1861."

In 1893 at age 43, Maguire wrote down his wartime experiences, which survived in original form in the hands of his descendants and are published for the first time in The Civil War Memoir of a Boy from Baltimore: The Remembrance of George C. Maguire, Written in 1893, edited by Holly Powers. In his memoir, Maguire, who "never formally enlisted or carried a weapon," "recounts several pivotal events in the war, including the sea battle of the Monitor vs. Merrimac, Peninsula Campaign action, and the Battle of Antietam." Though an observer of military events, Maguire's own contributions would be in the medical sphere of Union Army operations.

According to Powers, the Maguire memoir is a rarity, "one of the few from a Maryland unit." It represents "a distinctive blend of the adventures of a teenage boy with the mature reflection of a man. His account of the Peninsula Campaign captures the success of the mobilization of forces and confirms the existing historical record, as well as illuminating the social structure of camp life. Maguire’s duties evolved over time, as he worked alongside army surgeons and assisted his brother-in-law (a “rabid abolitionist” and provost marshal of the regiment). This experience qualified him to work at the newly constructed Thomas Hicks United States General Hospital once he left the regiment in 1863; his memoir describes the staffing hierarchy and the operating procedures implemented by the Army Medical Corps at the end of the war, illuminated with the author’s own sketches of the facility."

The memoir itself is a quick read, running sixty pages in the book. As part of her editorial duties, Powers contributes an introduction, conclusion, and extensive endnotes to the volume. Illustrations are numerous, and include reproductions of Maguire's own crude sketches of maps, hospital layouts, and other things of interest to him.

More from the description: "From the Pratt Street riot in Baltimore to a chance encounter with Red Cross founder Clara Barton to a firsthand view of Hicks Hospital, this sweeping yet brief memoir provides a unique opportunity to examine the experiences of a child during the war and to explore the nuances of memory. Beyond simply retelling the events as they happened, Maguire’s memoir is woven with a sense of remorse and resolve, loss and fear, and the pure wonderment of a teenage boy accompanying one of the largest assembled armies of its day."

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Coming Soon (June '21 Edition)

**NEW RELEASES1** (Scheduled for JUNE 2021):

Historic and Civil War Sites in the Kansas-Missouri Border Region: A Road Trip Guide to the 'Big Divide' by Eickhoff & Barnhart.
A Notable Bully: Colonel Billy Wilson, Masculinity, and the Pursuit of Violence in the Civil War Era by Robert Cray.
A House Divided: Slavery and American Politics from the Constitution to the Civil War by Ben McNitt.
Meade at Gettysburg: A Study in Command by Kent Masterson Brown.
Rebel Salvation: Pardon and Amnesty of Confederates in Tennessee by Kathleen Liulevicius.
The Battle of Richmond, Kentucky: 1862 Weather and Civil War Digest by Paul Rominger.
The Siege of Vicksburg: Climax of the Campaign to Open the Mississippi River, May 23-July 4, 1863 by Timothy Smith.
Campaign for the Confederate Coast: Blockading, Blockade Running and Related Endeavors During the American Civil War by Gil Hahn.
Military Prisons of the Civil War: A Comparative Study by David Keller.
Matchless Organization: The Confederate Army Medical Department by Guy Hasegawa.
Decisions of the Seven Days: The Sixteen Critical Decisions That Defined the Battles by Matt Spruill.
Southern Strategies: Why the Confederacy Failed ed. by Christian Keller.
From Arlington to Appomattox: Robert E. Lee’s Civil War, Day by Day, 1861-1865 by Charles Knight.
Grant’s Left Hook: The Bermuda Hundred Campaign, May 5-June 7, 1864 by Sean Chick.
The Boy Generals: George Custer, Wesley Merritt, and the Cavalry of the Army of the Potomac by Adolfo Ovies.
The Summer of ’63: Gettysburg: Favorite Stories and Fresh Perspectives from the Historians at Emerging Civil War ed. by Mackowski & Welch.

Comments: These are titles listed in rough order of release date (although those can change, of course). Brown's Meade book is already out, but it's an early release that wasn't listed in May so it is included here. Most of the links to the SB titles show July or later dates, but I have been told by the publisher that they are all June releases.

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 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 27, 2021

Review - "John P. Slough: The Forgotten Civil War General" by Richard Miller

[John P. Slough: The Forgotten Civil War General by Richard L. Miller (University of New Mexico Press, 2021). Cloth, maps, photos, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:xv,226/304. ISBN:978-0-8263-6219-3. $34.95]

On the face of it, Brigadier General John Potts Slough isn't the kind of Civil War general that typically draws much interest and attention from modern biographers. He was not a key figure in any large, well-known battle that altered the course of the war, and the vast majority of his time in Union service was spent administering a rear area occupation district (albeit an important one adjacent to the nation's capital). Nevertheless, the totality of Slough's military and civilian public service during his short and turbulent life, as recounted in Richard Miller's new biography John P. Slough: The Forgotten Civil War General, does merit remembrance and appreciation of the small but significant leadership role the man played in many different episodes of mid-nineteenth century U.S. history.

As Slough remains a relatively obscure player in the national drama before, during, and after the Civil War, it might help to briefly summarize his life for those who are unfamiliar with him. Making his home in Cincinnati, Ohio, John Slough's family, professional (he was a successful lawyer), and social connections propelled him into state politics. In the Ohio General Assembly his conservative Democratic views clashed with those of the rising Republican influence in the state, and his uncontrolled emotional volatility led to expulsion from that legislative body after Slough physically assaulted an abolitionist colleague. Failing to regain a seat during an ensuing special election and conceding the end of his Ohio political career, Slough sought opportunity elsewhere in 1857 Kansas. There the Douglas loyalist opposed the proslavery Lecompton constitution and was a leader of the Democratic minority during the contentious Wyandotte constitutional convention. Though the uncompromising Republican majority thwarted Slough and his fellow Democrats at every turn, Miller does credit Slough for being an important figure in Kansas statehood through his leadership participation in the constitutional process. Subsequently losing both Lieutenant Governor and hometown Leavenworth mayoral races, Slough once again put himself on the move to advance his economic and political fortunes, this time to frontier Denver in Colorado Territory. Once war broke out, the Colorado governor appointed Slough to lead the territory's first volunteer regiment, which he led to victory at Glorieta in March 1862. Resigning from the army soon after, Slough was immediately back in service with a promotion to brigadier general and a posting to Harpers Ferry in Virginia, where his brigade briefly opposed a Confederate demonstration on the town's defenses during Stonewall Jackson's famous Valley Campaign. Resigning yet again, this time after failing to get the division command he felt he deserved, Slough also reentered service once again. This final reentry into the war would last for the duration, and Slough ended up being the military governor of Alexandria and district commander there for nearly three years. Slough cleaned up the city, rigidly enforced discipline, guarded the district's lines of communication from attack, and attempted to adequately care for Alexandria's burgeoning black refugee population. After the war, Slough tried and failed to obtain the territorial governor post of New Mexico, settling in January 1866 for the Johnson administration appointment as Chief Justice of the New Mexico Territorial Supreme Court. Undone there by a combination of his own abrasive (even abusive) personal and professional conduct along with the territory's virulently partisan political scene, Slough was murdered in 1867 by a Republican official he had previously showered with defamatory language in a local Santa Fe hotel.

As mentioned above, while Slough did not lead troops during any big battles fought in any of the war's major theaters, forces under his command did achieve a small but significant victory in the climactic contest of the New Mexico Campaign. One enduring question regarding Slough's Civil War service is why he abruptly resigned his commission so soon after the Union expulsion of all Confederate forces from New Mexico, of which Slough played a significant part through his strategic victory at Glorieta. An alleged martinet who was aloof from all below him, Slough was generally disliked by both the men in the ranks and fellow officers who angled for his job. Though through his being in overall command he received proper credit officially for the Glorieta victory, the main force Slough led in person at Pigeon Ranch was tactically outfought and yielded the field to the Confederates, and it was Major John Chivington's flank march and destruction of the enemy supply train at Johnson's Ranch (of which others later claimed credit for planning and execution) that transformed the battle into a clear Union victory. It has been suggested that Slough resigned because he feared being court-martialed for leaving Fort Union vulnerable (he was ordered to keep it secure at all costs but instead marched most of the garrison away to fight). Newspapers conjectured that he left the army because he felt there were few remaining opportunities in the territory for military glory and ambitiously sought it elsewhere. Slough himself later said that he resigned out of fear of assassination by his enemies within his command. The author's belief that a combination of factors was involved in the decision, with military ambition ranking among the highest, is a prudent reading of the available evidence.

Why a successful officer who resigned from the army would almost immediately be promoted is another question with no easy answer. Slough's relationship with Secretary of War Edwin Stanton is one of the biography's more interesting through stories. Miller conjectures that Slough's wife, who was a niece of deceased U.S. Supreme Court justice and Stanton friend John McLean, might have exerted influence in obtaining her husband's promotion recommendation from the War Department. It might seem like a tenuous connection, but one can argue that other officers received wartime plums through even thinner networking threads. According to the author, Slough developed a friendly relationship with Stanton during the general's time in Alexandria, and he certainly came through with Stanton-approved guilty votes during the Fitz John Porter and William Hammond court martial proceedings, both cases of which were thought by disinterested observers to be almost sure acquittals based on evidence presented. It's unclear why the author believes as strongly as he does that the timing of Stanton's renewed recommendation in late December 1862 (which would have been mid-trial in the Porter case) for Senate confirmation of Slough's promotion discounts suggestion of quid pro quo, but he does go on to say that Slough's own consideration of the value of Stanton's "good will" may well have played a factor in his guilty vote.

Much of the book is spent recounting Slough's long tenure as district commander headquartered in Alexandria. The town was a dirty and disordered place before Slough's arrival, overrun with intoxicated soldiers and criminal activity while also suffering from the onset of a very serious refugee problem. The author documents thoroughly and well the general's successful efforts at cleaning up the town, dealing with pro-secessionist elements, managing the district's defenses, and addressing the always challenging problem of adequately housing, feeding, and employing the large influx of freedpeople into an already crowded city. Slough's management was accompanied by his typically abrasive manner (even his supporters found him "haughty & curt"), and his determination to end illegal liquor sales made him many enemies who constantly schemed to have him removed. Northern abolitionist aid workers, chief among them Julia Wilbur, also routinely challenged his authority and complained about his treatment, inadequate in their view, of black refugees. Such complaints eventually led to a Joint Committee on the Conduct of War investigation (which did not always go well for Democratic officers like Slough), but its February 1864 findings exonerated Slough of all charges of corruption and refugee abuse. Getting back to the Stanton relationship, Slough was unable to leverage his friendship with the Secretary of War in order to obtain an active field command and threatened resignation for the third time if he did not get his way. Miller persuasively interprets Stanton's studied refusal as a product of sound evaluation of Slough's strengths and weaknesses as a military officer.

In assessing Slough's performance as Chief Justice of territorial New Mexico's Supreme Court, Miller points to some notable achievements. Citing further involuntary servitude as incompatible with recent abolition of slavery in the nation, Slough struck down the territory's practice of debt peonage, which had been a tradition among nuevomexicanos since the Spanish colonial period. In 1867, he came down with another locally controversial decision in recognizing Pueblo Indians as U.S. citizens. Both decisions made him deeply unpopular among many segments of the population. Those who benefited from the peonage system cursed Slough as did the Republican opposition who feared how Pueblo votes might affect upcoming elections. The poorer non-Anglo citizens of New Mexico also found fault with Slough for his frequent derogatory comments about their culture and society. Additionally, the many individuals from jurors to litigants to officers of the court who suffered under Slough's intemperate exercise of power during court proceedings had grievances of their own. There is little wonder that  amid the frequent violence and lawlessness of frontier society a man of Slough's offending nature might meet a violent end.

In addition to documenting the life of a man with notable political, judicial, and military achievements to his record, Richard Miller's biography of John Slough is also framed by elements of a celebrated nineteenth-century American life narrative, wherein a wandering man of drive, talent, and ambition grasps opportunity and attains some measure of elevated stature and accomplishment. Though others had more humble origins, Slough was an individual with no prior military background or experience who nevertheless rose to the rank of brigadier general and achieved success along the way. Slough's existence until his untimely death at the age of 38 was also one of constant geographical movement. When opportunities for personal advancement (economic, political, and otherwise) dried up in one place, there was always someplace else of notable promise, often further west, where one could go to start anew. That classic portrait of American life and myth is vividly reproduced through Miller's recounting of Slough's meandering westward path from Ohio to Kansas, Colorado, and New Mexico. This fascinating biography is highly recommended.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Booknotes: Meade at Gettysburg

New Arrival:
Meade at Gettysburg: A Study in Command by Kent Masterson Brown (UNC Press, 2021).

George Gordon Meade's reputation, a mixed one historically, has enjoyed an unparalleled uptick in recent times. Always believing himself unfairly maligned and overlooked, the old snapping turtle would have loved to see this twenty-first century treatment back when he was still alive. His actions and accomplishments while leading the Army of the Potomac from mid-1863 through the end of the war, as discussed among numerous books now, have at this point received abundant attention (much of it favorable) and discussion of his 1864-65 tenure as army commander has largely emerged out of Grant's deep shadow. Of course, achieving victory in a war's signature battle will earn a commander a lot of good will in the historiography, and Meade's winning performance on July 1-3 was unquestionably the general's career highlight and something his admirers can always hang their hat upon. The latest deep dive into the topic of Meade's army leadership capabilities is Kent Masterson Brown's Meade at Gettysburg: A Study in Command.

From the description: Brown "draws on an expansive archive to reappraise Meade's leadership during the Battle of Gettysburg. Using Meade's published and unpublished papers alongside diaries, letters, and memoirs of fellow officers and enlisted men, Brown highlights how Meade's rapid advance of the army to Gettysburg on July 1, his tactical control and coordination of the army in the desperate fighting on July 2, and his determination to hold his positions on July 3 insured victory."

For a long time, Meade detractors, many undoubtedly taking their cue from Lincoln himself, have alleged that the general conducted an overcautious pursuit that allowed Lee's vulnerable army to escape destruction. However, that popular opinion has largely dissipated in strength after the publication of multiple book-length retreat studies since 2005 that have collectively found less fault with Meade's pursuit. More from the description: "Brown argues that supply deficiencies, brought about by the army's unexpected need to advance to Gettysburg, were crippling. In spite of that, Meade pursued Lee's retreating army rapidly, and his decision not to blindly attack Lee's formidable defenses near Williamsport on July 13 was entirely correct in spite of subsequent harsh criticism."

The book's nearly 400-page narrative examines at great length Meade's decisions and actions from the moment of his appointment mid-campaign to command the Army of the Potomac to the ultimate escape of Lee's defeated army back home to Virginia. Providing visual reinforcement to all that text, maps, photos, and other illustrations are sprinkled throughout the volume in large numbers. In the end, Meade at Gettysburg "deepens our understanding of the Army of the Potomac as well as the machinations of the Gettysburg Campaign, restoring Meade to his rightful place in the Gettysburg narrative."

Monday, May 24, 2021

Various Things

1.  Helpful reader Mark H. recently pointed me toward a recent Scott Hartwig Facebook update (dated April 15) discussing the progress of the much-anticipated second volume of the author's 1862 Maryland Campaign opus. The update notes that the writing is all done, and the author is currently beavering away on an "edit review of all twenty five chapters," with the goal of submitting the manuscript to the publisher (I can only assume it will be Johns Hopkins University Press again) before the end of the year.

2.  Published back in 2017, Thomas Cutrer's Theater of a Separate War was the first of its kind, a comprehensive military overview of the Civil War in the Trans-Mississippi theater. Unfortunately, it was released in a semi-rough draft state riddled with factual errors and editing issues of all kinds. Oddly enough, most print reviewers failed to appreciate the seriousness of the book's shortcomings, and I did not believe it likely that we would get a corrected reissue. Much to my surprise and delight, however, the new UNC Press F/W catalog has announced that a Theater of a Separate War: The Civil War West of the Mississippi River, 1861–1865 - Revised Edition will be released in paperback in August. I have a review copy scheduled and am looking forward to seeing how thoroughly the first edition's problems were addressed.

3. Brad Butkovich, the author of an excellent history of the Battle of Pickett's Mill (see my 2013 review), published a tour book on the topic earlier this month (I learned about it too late to include it in May's "Coming Soon" list). I don't know if I will ever get down there myself, but The Complete Pickett's Mill Battlefield Trail Guide looks like it might be the next best thing to tramping around the battlefield in person. It seems that the book sample available in the 'Look Inside' feature found at the link above has been much reduced since my first visit. I don't have a copy in hand to refresh my first impression, but the samples of text and color maps that I saw earlier looked rather impressive.

4. As I've mentioned before, any new study related to the 1862 Kentucky Campaign will grab my attention, and it seems we will soon have another major treatment of the Battle of Richmond to go along with existing full-length studies from Hafendorfer and Lambert. Paul Rominger's The Battle of Richmond, Kentucky: 1862 Weather and Civil War Digest will be released next month by Acclaim Press, a frequent publisher of Civil War Kentucky-related titles. In addition to providing another account of the battle, it looks like the impact of that summer's dry weather on the campaign will be a major theme of the book.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Booknotes: Life in the Mississippi Marine Brigade

New Arrival:
Life in the Mississippi Marine Brigade: The Civil War Diary of George Painter edited by Beverly Wencek Kerr (Author, 2021).

The Union war effort was gifted with numerous idea men of both civilian and military backgrounds along with superiors flexible enough in their thinking to shepherd those ideas through the established army and navy bureaucracies. In the vast West, where extremely long waterborne supply lines were the norm, Union river transportation was continually harassed by highly mobile guerrillas and conventional Confederate forces armed with artillery. Addressing the problem head on was the creation of an independent, all-arms (infantry, cavalry, and artillery) rapid reaction force transported by a fleet of swift rams. This formation, the Mississippi Marine Brigade, was small but had a wide reach and the capability of punching well above its weight. On numerous occasions the unit proved effective in countering shore threats, though its punitive missions were often applied indiscriminately.

Beverly Kerr's Life in the Mississippi Marine Brigade is the edited 1863 diary of George Painter. Painter was a member of an Ohio infantry regiment before receiving a medical discharge, after which he enlisted in the M.M.B. and was assigned to the Diana. The diary runs from January 4 through December 31, 1863, the main event over that period being the Vicksburg Campaign.

Painter's diary entries are brief (just a few sentences at most), and Kerr provides two versions of each, the unedited text (which is boxed) and a version in italics edited for modern grammar, punctuation, and spelling. The material is divided into chapters, with pretty extensive supporting narrative throughout but no footnotes. The only illustrations are some sample images of original diary pages. Chronological lists of letters written and received, along with the bibliography, round out the volume.

The only modern book-length history of this unique unit is Chester Hearns's Ellet's Brigade: The Strangest Outfit of All (2000), which traces the organization's history from its Ram Fleet origins through its evolution into the celebrated "Horse Marines" of the M.M.B., so it's nice to see other material related to the topic pop up occasionally.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Booknotes: "We Gave Them Thunder"

New Arrival:
"We Gave Them Thunder": Marmaduke’s Raid and the Civil War in Missouri and Arkansas by William Garrett Piston and John C. Rutherford (Ozarks Studies Inst, 2021).

During the Civil War, Confederate cavalry general John Sappington Marmaduke conducted two major raids from an Arkansas base into his native Missouri. Conducted on opposite sides of the state and achieving little to compensate for the cost and effort expended, the first reached its climax in SW Missouri at the Second Battle of Springfield on January 8, 1863 while Marmaduke's second Missouri raid, this time into SE Missouri, was thwarted by the strongly fortified defenses of Cape Girardeau in late April of that year. The Springfield operation has received far more book-length attention in the historiography, and that trend will continue with the publication this summer of William Piston and John Rutherford's "We Gave Them Thunder": Marmaduke’s Raid and the Civil War in Missouri and Arkansas.

The book is substantial in size, with the main narrative running 280 pages in length, and is divided into four parts. Part I provides extensive background and context for the raid, Part II a detailed account of the January 8 battle at Springfield, and Part III a similarly extensive history of the January 11 follow-on battle fought at Hartville. Part IV discusses the raid in "history and memory." Presentation looks very nice, with the text supplemented by a number of color maps and images. Maps are essential to any military history study, but doubly so for more obscure operations fought over ground less familiar to most Civil War readers. The 13 maps commissioned for this book should be very helpful in that regard.

Big thanks to the Missouri State University system's Ozarks Studies Institute for getting a copy in my hands this far in advance of the August publication date. A pretty common practice long ago but an extreme rarity in recent years, it will give me plenty of time to prepare the review prior to release (though I'm sure it's already an instabuy for those interested in the topic and familiar with Piston's award-winning work on another Springfield-area battle, Wilson's Creek).