Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Review - "Union General Daniel Butterfield: A Civil War Biography" by James Pula

[Union General Daniel Butterfield: A Civil War Biography by James S. Pula (Savas Beatie, 2024). Hardcover, 13 maps, photos, illustrations, footnotes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:xii,246/277. ISBN:978-1-61121-700-1. $32.95]

The military talents and accomplishments of Major General Daniel Adams Butterfield (1831-1901) were well recognized during his lifetime. However, that justly earned acclaim steadily diminished over the decades following his death. Today he is primarily remembered by Civil War students for his role in composing "Taps" and for his initiative in creating the army corps badges that, in simple but effective fashion, readily identified formation affiliation at a glance and contributed to unit pride. Most unfortunately, Butterfield is also often presented not as an individual officer with a sterling record of battlefield and administrative contributions but as a military politico connected at the hip to the ever controversial generals Joseph Hooker and Daniel Sickles.

Regardless of how he's been portrayed, a general of Butterfield's stature should have drawn the attention of at least one major biographer before now, but that has not been the case. Julia Lorrilard Butterfield, the general's second wife, did edit the 1904 volume A Biographical Memorial of General Daniel Butterfield, Including Many Addresses and Military Writings, but no full-length biography has ever been published before now. Finally rectifying that long-standing historiographical oversight is James Pula's Union General Daniel Butterfield, a relatively slim volume that nevertheless thoroughly explores Butterfield's prodigious civilian and military records of success. In addition, Pula's thoughtful study offers well-aimed and highly convincing answers to questions such as why Butterfield's rapid rise in the eastern theater's army high command peaked at Fredericksburg (where he led Fifth Corps in the field) and why his multifaceted career in uniform has been largely uncelebrated in the Civil War literature.

Although the source material necessary to provide a detailed portrait of Butterfield's earliest life apparently does not exist, Pula's biography is still a true cradle to grave treatment. Butterfield was born into a wealthy and well-connected family (his father was one of the founders of what would become American Express) and he received a strong education. Pre-Civil War coverage is most notable for Butterfield's successful integration into his family's business pursuits, where he made his own marks in management, innovation, and logistics, all of which informed the administrative genius that he demonstrated during his tenure as Army of the Potomac chief of staff under generals Hooker and George Gordon Meade. The same could be said for the management of his many different field commands, which were always maintained in proper fighting trim.

Pula details and judiciously assesses the progression of Butterfield's rise from regimental colonel to corps commander. A complete military amateur, Butterfield immersed himself in military self-learning, a process that he managed both thoroughly and at a breakneck pace. His 12th New York was widely lauded as being one of the volunteer army's best drilled and disciplined 90-Day regiments (even earning the highest praise from prickly old U.S. Army general in chief Winfield Scott). From there, Butterfield's brigade leadership on the Peninsula was instrumental to the Union victory at Hanover Court House, and his management of the extreme left flank at Gaines's Mill was solid as a rock before the line collapsed around him. For his personal bravery there he was later awarded the Medal of Honor. Butterfield assumed temporary command of a division at Second Manassas and stepped into that larger role with the same level of competence. Promoted to command of Fifth Corps over more senior professional officers (Meade being the most consequential complainant), his leadership conduct during the Battle of Fredericksburg and the skill he showed in fulfilling his assigned task of covering the withdrawal of the army upon its defeat both earned Butterfield additional performance plaudits.

Even after proving himself one of that dismal campaign's shining lights, Butterfield, to his complete dismay, was replaced at the head of Fifth Corps with Meade. Sidelined, Butterfield's fading star was rescued by Joseph Hooker when the newly appointed Army of the Potomac commander made Butterfield his chief of staff. It remains unclear exactly the degree to which Butterfield was the mastermind behind the grand suite of transformative winter 1862-63 army reforms so masterfully laid out in Albert Conner and Chris Mackowski's study Seizing Destiny: The Army of the Potomac's "Valley Forge" and the Civil War Winter that Saved the Union (2016), but it is unquestionable that it was Butterfield's task to carry them out. Unfortunately, defeat at Chancellorsville, and how it unfolded, overshadowed what was accomplished earlier by the duo.

When Hooker resigned just ahead of Gettysburg, Meade kept Butterfield on for the duration of the campaign but once the danger was over Butterfield left the army again, his flagging health forcing upon him another poorly timed sick leave. Meade took advantage of the indefinite absence and permanently replaced the ailing Butterfield with West Point career officer and engineer (and now major general) Andrew Humphreys. Once again, Butterfield's relationship with Hooker resurrected a stalled career arc, and he was brought in to serve as Hooker's chief of staff for the two-corps rescue operation sent west after the September 1863 Confederate victory at Chickamauga. During both campaigns, as Pula details, Butterfield was an untiring and exceptionally skilled handler of organization, logistics, intelligence processing, and march orders. When Hooker's men were consolidated into Twentieth Corps, Butterfield's chief of staff position was dropped and, though he was disappointed to not receive command of a corps, he was tasked with leading one of Hooker's divisions during the Atlanta Campaign. As Pula recounts, Butterfield distinguished himself at Resaca and other places before his delicate health failed him yet again. With that, Butterfield's fighting career was essentially over, though he did return to serve out the rest of the war in minor, less physically taxing administrative posts.

Off the battlefield, Butterfield found time early in the war to create an army manual, Camp and Outpost Duty for Infantry (1862), the practical value of which was so well received by professional army officers that it was recommended for army-wide use. In devising his own bugle calls to assist in managing his men amid the chaos and din of battle, Butterfield collaborated with bugler Oliver Norton, but he's better known for the composition of "Taps." Citing existing compositions such as the "Scott Tattoo," the originality of Butterfield's "Taps" has been disputed, but Pula is unconvinced by those arguments. In the book, he simply provides the sheet music of both for comparison while briefly noting his own view that "Taps" and the "Scott Tattoo" are "dramatically different in length and style," with only "modest similarities" in the last line (pg 60-61).

So, for all of those laurels and accomplishments earned in both combat leadership and military administration (none of which drew any corresponding degree of criticism from superiors, fellow officers, or political leaders), why was Butterfield's Civil War career progression characterized by a 'one step forward, two steps back' process that left him bitterly disappointed? Pula addresses that key question with powerful persuasiveness. At the top of the list of factors is the general's background and politics. Butterfield was not a West Pointer, and he was a Republican in an eastern army where West Point graduates of the more Democratic persuasion dominated top levels of command. Associated with those limitations were Butterfield's personal rivalry with Meade over who should command Fifth Corps and the former's injudicious decision to back the Sickles faction during the partisan post-Gettysburg Joint Committee investigation.

Perhaps equally significant was the degree to which Butterfield's career was tied to those of Hooker and Sickles. Outward appearances and perceptions mattered, and Butterfield came to be seen by critics as one of the defining figures in an army headquarters that became notorious in some circles as being "a combination of barroom and brothel" that no gentleman or lady could respectably enter. While most recent historians justly question the validity of that infamous assessment from the pen of Charles Francis Adams, Jr., it still has popular traction and was certainly damaging to Butterfield at the time. Unfortunately and unfairly, the result is that popular opinions of Butterfield lean more toward comparisons with politically tinged (or compromised) citizen-officers such as fellow major generals Stephen Hurlbut and Dan Sickles than they do the more truthfully fitting likes of highly capable non-professionals of similar rank such as John Logan, Grenville Dodge, and Jacob Cox.

From the collection of primary source observations that Pula cites, it is apparent that Butterfield's reputation within the army also suffered from being personally disliked by many brother officers. In reading the negative opinions presented in the book by those who came into contact with Butterfield, it seems he possessed the kind of 'smartest guy in the room' imperiousness that rubs people the wrong way regardless of the proven competence and intelligence behind its source.

Mentioned at regular intervals in the text, but perhaps not given enough emphasis by the author on its overall role in inhibiting Butterfield's career progression, was the precarious nature of the general's physical health throughout the war. Timing and simply being present and ready always figure prominently in military appointments, and plum corps-level assignments did not come up very often. Butterfield's sick leave after Gettysburg made it very easy for Meade to remove him and similar bodily health problems that arose during the first half of the 1864 campaign in North Georgia Campaign removed Butterfield from consideration during the many western high command shufflings that occurred subsequent to his health-induced absence. Assessing the degree to which overwork or a weak constitution figured most in his frequent absences (likely it was a combination of both) is difficult, but one might justly question whether Butterfield could stayed in the saddle consistently enough to reach his highest potential regardless of outside forces working against him.

The general also missed out on opportunities for self promotion. Even with those wartime health concerns referenced above, Butterfield still lived a long life, and his lack of interest in penning a Civil War memoir of the kind that propped up and cemented the martial reputations of so many other brother Civil War officers most certainly contributed to his relatively obscure status today. Taking all of the above into account, it becomes less puzzling as to the probable hows and whys behind Butterfield's Civil War field command ceiling and his rather disproportionately modest position in Civil War memory.

While Pula is quite obviously a great admirer of Butterfield, he also doesn't shrink from criticizing his subject when it's merited, nor does he fail to address the more damaging attacks on the general's character. In addition to lamenting Butterfield's siding with Sickles over the post-Gettysburg Sickles-Meade controversy, the author points to Butterfield's association with a major political and financial scandal after the war. During the partisan feeding frenzy attached to such things, there's a lot of guilt by association bandied about by various parties, and Pula concludes that the extent of Butterfield's involvement in gold market manipulation (he was a high-level U.S. Treasury appointee of the Grant administration) remains murky. What is beyond dispute was the hit to his reputation.

After the war, Butterfield greatly expanded upon his prewar business pursuits and amassed considerable wealth, which he generously applied to promotion of Union veteran affairs and war remembrance. Butterfield always returned to the short period of his life when he served his country with bravery and distinction, and it was fitting that his desire to be buried at West Point, for which special exception was needed, was granted.

James Pula's Union General Daniel Butterfield: A Civil War Biography comprehensively and responsibly restores the distinguished military reputation of its subject, a man who cheerfully shed the safety and comforts of the civilian world when his country called and proved to be both a gifted field general and one of the most able military administrators that the war produced. Upon finishing this volume, one is quite strongly tempted to go against the grain of popular understanding and rank Dan Butterfield among the war's top citizen-generals. Highly recommended.

Monday, July 22, 2024

Booknotes: The Last Days of the Schooner America

New Arrival:

The Last Days of the Schooner America: A Lost Icon at the Annapolis Warship Factory by David Gendell (Lyons Pr, 2024)

From the description: "The schooner America was a technological marvel and a child star. In the summer of 1851, just weeks after her launching at New York, she crossed the Atlantic and sailed to an upset victory against a fleet of champions. The silver cup she won that day is still coveted by sportsmen. Almost immediately after that famous victory, she began a decades-long run of adventure, neglect, rehabilitations, and hard sailing, always surrounded by colorful, passionate personalities." Though its title is suggestive of a more limited focus, David Gendell's The Last Days of the Schooner America: A Lost Icon at the Annapolis Warship Factory is a complete history of the America, with additional focus directed toward its connection to the Annapolis Yacht Yard.

Gendell's book "traces the history of the famous vessel, from her design, build, and early racing career, through her lesser-known Civil War service and the never-before-told story of her final days and moments on the ground at Annapolis. The schooner's story is set against a vivid picture of the entrepreneurial forces behind the fast, focused rise of the Annapolis Yacht Yard as the United States prepares for and enters World War II."

America had quite the long and varied career afloat. More: It "ran and enforced wartime blockades. She carried spies across the ocean. And she was on the scene as yachtsmen and business titans spent freely and competed fiercely for the cup she first won. By the early twentieth century, she was in desperate need of a thorough refit. The old thoroughbred floated in brackish water at the United States Naval Academy, stripped of her sails and rotting in the sun." Because it was a celebrated vessel, the America's role in the Civil War is often mentioned in various texts, albeit only briefly. Around thirty pages in this study are devoted to the yacht's Civil War career, which began as a Confederate blockade runner based out of Florida. Trapped by U.S. ships in the Saint Johns River, the America was submerged by its operators in hopes of escaping detection. However, it was duly discovered, raised, and put into Union blockade enforcement service.

As mentioned above, on the eve of WW2 the yacht was a deteriorating mess. Refitting it "would be a massive project—expensive and potentially distracting for a nation struggling to emerge from the Great Depression and preparing for a world war. But the project had a powerful sponsor. On a windy evening in December 1940, the eighty-nine-year-old America was hauled "groaning and complaining" up a marine railway at Annapolis: the first physical step in a rehabilitation rumored to have been set in motion by President Franklin Roosevelt himself."

There the narrative shifts to the Annapolis Yacht Yard and its development into a significant naval construction facility. "The haul-out brought the famous schooner into the heart of the Annapolis Yacht Yard, a privately owned company with a staff capable of completing such a project, but with leadership determined to convert their facility into a modern warship production plant on behalf of the United States and its allies."

In order to bring these stories to light, the author "delved into archival sources and oral histories and interviewed some of the last living people who saw America at the Annapolis Yacht Yard." The text is further enhanced through a wonderful collection of historical photographs.

Friday, July 19, 2024

Booknotes: The Cavalry of the Army of the Ohio

New Arrival:

The Cavalry of the Army of the Ohio: A Civil War History by Dennis W. Belcher (McFarland, 2024).

Over the past decade, historian Dennis Belcher has become the most prolific chronicler of cavalry operations in the Civil War's western heartland. Beginning in 2014 with a biography of General David Stanley, one of the chief architects of Union mounted forces in the western theater, Belcher has since authored Chickamauga, Stones River, and Nashville campaign cavalry studies and a comprehensive history of the Army of the Cumberland's mounted arm. A companion to the last is Belcher's latest book, The Cavalry of the Army of the Ohio: A Civil War History.

As the Army of the Ohio had more than one life, lack of continuity will be a big part of the story. The first Army of the Ohio under Don Carlos Buell was dissolved by his successor William Rosecrans and renamed the Army of the Cumberland, but the Army of the Ohio was revived by Ambrose Burnside in spring 1863. By the beginning of the 1864 Atlanta Campaign, the army was one in name only, consisting of just the Twenty-Third Corps under John Schofield. From the description: "At the outset of the Civil War, the cavalry of the Army of the Ohio (Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Tennessee) was a fledgling force beginning an arduous journey that would make it the best cavalry in the world. In late 1862, most of this cavalry was transferred to the Army of the Cumberland and a second cavalry force emerged in the second Army of the Ohio."

The study is divided into two parts, with Part I following the first Army of the Ohio during 1861-62 and Part II the second Army of the Ohio in the years 1863-64. While there is a Nashville Campaign coda of sorts, the study essentially ends in October 1864 with the post-Atlanta consolidation of the Union cavalry in Sherman's Military Division of the Mississippi. More from the description: "Throughout the war," Army of the Ohio cavalry forces "fought in some of the most important military operations of the war, including Camp Wildcat; Mill Springs; the siege of Corinth; raids into East Tennessee; the capture of Morgan during his Great Raid; and the campaigns of Middle Tennessee, Perryville, Knoxville, Atlanta, and Nashville. This is their complete history."

As is the case with Belcher's other books, this one is profusely illustrated with photos and contemporary drawings. At regular intervals in the text, readers will also find detailed orders of battle and information tables of numerous kinds. Excellent George Skoch maps were also commissioned for this volume. All of the expected source types are strongly represented in the bibliography, including a large number of unpublished letters, diaries, memoirs, and records housed in manuscript repositories located all across the country. I was quite impressed with Belcher's similarly formatted Army of the Cumberland book and expect to have the same reaction to this one.

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Review - "North Carolina Troops, 1861-1865: A Roster, Volume XXII - Confederate States Navy, Confederate States Marine Corps, and Charlotte Naval Yard" by Hatton & Meekins

[North Carolina Troops, 1861-1865: A Roster, Volume XXII - Confederate States Navy, Confederate States Marine Corps, and Charlotte Naval Yard edited by Katelynn A. Hatton & Alex Christopher Meekins (North Carolina Office of Archives and History, 2024). Cloth, maps, photos, illustrations, roster, appendix section, index. Pages:xi,468. ISBN:978-0-86526-504-2. $55]

Currently under the auspices of the North Carolina Office of Archives and History, the origins of the North Carolina Troops, 1861-1865: A Roster series stretch all the way back to 1961. As explained on the jacket flap, the project's mission is "to publish a service record for every man who served in a unit raised in North Carolina during the Civil War, and to publish a history of each of these units." With previous entries focused on army and militia units and leaders, the final Confederate volume*, North Carolina Troops, 1861-1865: A Roster, Volume XXII - Confederate States Navy, Confederate States Marine Corps, and Charlotte Naval Yard, awards the nautical service's sailors, marines, and naval station support personnel their just due. The book compiles roster information on roughly 2,450 individuals.

To call the volume's text a supporting narrative to the roster feature does not do justice to its depth and quality. Many aspects of the naval war fought on North Carolina rivers and sounds have been well addressed among numerous specialized manuscripts, scholarly articles, and chapters within broader studies, but editors Katelynn Hatton and Christopher Meekins employ both synthesis and their own primary research to create for this series a remarkably fresh and comprehensive overview of the subject. In fact, no other single-volume study of the Confederate Navy in North Carolina waters approaches the inclusiveness of this one. In it, Hatton and Meekins provide important big picture views and interpretations of events and strategy, but they also explore on a more tactical level an extensive array of squadron-level operations and single-ship actions along with a host of land and seaborne raids of both well known and highly obscure natures.

The text offers in-depth explanations of the many military, economic, and political challenges involved with creating a Confederate naval presence in North Carolina from scratch. The most defining setback to that process was the great success of the Burnside Expedition in seizing strategic points located along the North Carolina coastline. Similar to how the fall of New Orleans in April 1862 dramatically decreased Confederate capacity for building a navy to serve on the western waters, the quick loss of eastern North Carolina, according to the authors, set Confederate naval construction in the area back by at least a year. That was critical lost time that could not be made up. Additionally, outside of Wilmington's preserved facilities, enemy seizure of the rest of the North Carolina coast's shipyards and ports forced new warships to be constructed at ad hoc facilities located some distance upriver, an inescapable liability that limited design possibilities (ex. displacement and draft considerations). So equipment saved from Gosport in Virginia went to the new naval yard at Charlotte, North Carolina and to additional yard facilities for ironclad construction established at places such as Tarboro on the Tar River and Whitehall on the Neuse. In carrying out the region's ironclad program, well-defended Wilmington had it better when it came to industrial potential, but the authorities there labored under similar manpower and resource restrictions.

Indeed, the leadership, strategy, organization, interservice relations, and resource allocation associated with the ironclad construction program in the state is a major focus of attention. In addition to limited availabilities of everything needed (especially skilled labor, powerful steam engines, and iron for armor plating), the naval yards in North Carolina also had to compete with the supply and logistical needs of the army in Virginia for use of the region's overworked rail system. The various naval construction yards also had to compete with each other for pieces of the human and material resource pie, and the dispersal of effort involved in all that greatly extended the project finishing times for every ironclad and exposed the safety of many to ever increasing Union land and naval encroachment. The careers of the CSS North Carolina, Albemarle, Neuse, and Raleigh (along with the particular challenges and problems associated with each of those ironclads) are discussed at some length, as are the fates of others either burned on the stocks to escape capture or destroyed by enemy raiders.

The Confederacy's overall return on investment when it came to its ironclad programs is a hotly debated topic. Some have argued that coordinated defense systems of torpedoes, obstructions, and fortified heavy batteries could have fulfilled the same defensive purposes as ironclad squadrons and at a fraction of the cost. On the other hand, ironclads, even deployed singly, held significant "fleet in being" value, and adoption of purely defensive measures also meant that strategic locations once lost had almost no possibility of being regained without the punching power provided by ironclads. As editors Hatton and Meekins note, aside from the Albemarle's signal contribution to the recapture of Plymouth in 1864, the overall benefits the Confederate war effort gained from use of its North Carolina ironclads (most of which were destroyed or dismantled by their own crews after experiencing relatively little action over the course of their existence) were not in favorable proportion to the sheer amount of scarce financial and material investment poured into their construction. With active ironclad operations being primarily a middle-late war phenomenon in North Carolina, one also really sees the impact of the lost year referenced earlier.

Analysis of the merits and strategic impact of commerce raiding missions based out of North Carolina, specifically those of the Tallahassee and the Chickamauga, is another strong element of the study. The popularly celebrated exploits of those vessels are recounted at some length, but perhaps the most interesting issues raised by the writers surround the animosity that developed between the commerce raiders (and their mission supporters in Richmond) on one side and both local army authorities and blockade runners on the other. At Wilmington, General W.H.C. Whiting believed that the raiders only served to bring more unwanted enemy attention to the port, making his job much more difficult that it already was by 1864-65, and the runners decried being forced to allocate precious anthracite coal from their own limited stocks to the raiding ship bunkers. Accurately or not, complaining blockade runner captains also tied the successes of the cruisers against northern merchant shipping to a tightening of the North Carolina blockade and its heightened dangers to their own ships.

In addition to the differences in strategy espoused by state leaders and the Confederate authorities in Richmond, the book also reveals the interservice divisions that greatly hampered efficiency. Far different from the cooperative spirit so often demonstrated between Union generals and naval officers on the western waterways, so many incidents of serious tensions between the Confederate Army and Navy are cited in the book that it is suggestive of far more than traditional service rivalry and more of a pervasive conflict over authority, objectives, and resources that proved harmful to the general war effort in North Carolina. For example, army-navy relations were so bad for so long at the Wilmington station that an armed standoff developed between the respective commands of General Whiting and Commodore William F. Lynch, the situation only defused after both leaders were ordered to Richmond to explain themselves. Things were better elsewhere, the best example being the triumph at Plymouth, but such occasions of brotherly interservice cooperation tended to be few and far between in North Carolina.

The significant sailor and marine contributions to the land defenses of Fort Fisher and surrounding batteries during both major Union efforts to take them are well outlined in the book; however, as Hatton and Meekins explain, much of the heroics of the rank and file were hampered by the less than stellar Confederate leadership at the top from generals Braxton Bragg and Chase Whiting. As Union land and naval forces gradually overwhelmed the defenses in North Carolina and remaining naval vessels were scuttled, officers and crews were incorporated into land units that served as infantry up in Virginia during the eastern war's final campaign.

As is the case with many reference book projects, visual aids and frills are relatively few here, with just a handful of maps, photographs, and drawings scattered about the volume. There is no bibliography, but the source material is fully documented in the footnotes. In terms of strength and quality of construction, the physical package is built to withstand decades of heavy use. The jacket is lightweight, but gray cloth binding and paper are both of high standards.

It appears that no stone was left unturned in the quest for obtaining roster information. Sources used include "ship muster rolls, newspapers (casualty lists, officer appointments, etc.), Confederate paymaster receipts, North Carolina Governor's Office records, diaries, and personal letters." "Confederate pension records, the dicennial federal censuses (1860-1930), cemetery records, published reminiscences," and previous roster series titles were also consulted (pg. 243). Entries are organized alphabetically, and the most detailed ones offer personal and service-related information such as rank, birth and death dates and locations, burial site identification, enlistment/commission dates, list of appointments/commands (dates, stations, ships, etc.), promotions, transfers, wounding(s)/POW/KIA dates and info (if applicable), and sickness records. Impressed black sailors and naval yard laborers are also included. The C.S. Marine Corps and Charlotte Naval Station rosters are presented separately, as are lists of ships stationed in North Carolina, blockade runners that passed in and out of Wilmington, and other vessels upon which North Carolinians served.

In this first exposure to the North Carolina Civil War roster series, this reviewer has come away roundly impressed by the depth of research and effort that went into both the history and roster features of Volume XXII. The narrative portion alone ranks as one of the best naval histories in the Civil War literature. If the other series installments display the same degree of thorough and authoritative excellence, one is surely left with a truly monumental reference tool for future generations of scholars, genealogists, and topic enthusiasts.

Additional Note:
* - As mentioned in the earlier CWBA Booknotes entry, in fulfillment of the ongoing mission the editors are now working on the Union series, which will "include service records of North Carolinians who served in the U.S. Army, Navy, and Marine Corps." However, that doesn't automatically mean that the Confederate series is finished for good with the release of Volume XXII, as new information is always being solicited from the public and an addendum is cited as a distinct possibility. If you feel you have any information that might help, follow the series link provided in the review above and you'll find submission requirements and suggestions.

Monday, July 15, 2024

Booknotes: The Atlanta Campaign - Volume 1

New Arrival:

The Atlanta Campaign - Volume 1: Dalton to Cassville, May 1-19, 1864 by David A. Powell (Savas Beatie, 2024).

Albert Castel's 1992 tome Decision in the West: The Atlanta Campaign of 1864 remains a classic operational study, but, truth be told, giving the North Georgia campaign of that year the full treatment it deserves was always going to require multiple volumes. The question was who, if anyone, was going to be willing to take up the banner and charge ahead with it. Recent years have gifted us with a stream of excellent Atlanta Campaign battle studies that have filled in details, provided persuasive answers to long-debated questions, and raised new ones. Now David Powell, he who never disappoints, is going to put it all together in a planned five-volume series, the first of which is The Atlanta Campaign - Volume 1: Dalton to Cassville, May 1-19, 1864.

During the period covered in the book, it quickly became clear that the character of the fighting in Georgia between Joseph E. Johnston's Confederate Army of Tennessee and William T. Sherman's Union army group would be very different from the no holds barred match up between Grant and Lee in Virginia. From the description: "Johnston eschewed the offensive while hoping to lure Sherman into headlong assaults against fortified lines. Sherman disliked the uncertainty of battle and preferred maneuvering. When Johnston dug in, Sherman sought his flanks and turned the Confederates out of seemingly impregnable positions in a campaign noted Civil War historian Richard M. McMurry dubbed “the Red Clay Minuet.”"

Dancing analogy aside, there was certainly some serious fighting going on during the campaign's early moments. More: "This first installment of The Atlanta Campaign relies on a mountain of primary source material and extensive experience with the terrain to examine the battles of Dalton, Resaca, Rome Crossroads, Adairsville, and Cassville—the first phase of the long and momentous campaign. While none of these engagements matched the bloodshed of the Wilderness or Spotsylvania, each witnessed periods of intense fighting and key decision-making. The largest fight, Resaca, produced more than 8,000 killed, wounded, and missing in just two days. In between these actions the armies skirmished daily in a campaign its participants would recall as the “100 days’ fight.”" It will definitely be interesting to read Powell's takes on the most debated aspects of those events, including McPherson at Snake Creek Gap and the Cassville Affair (the latter the subject of a highly illuminating recent book—see here).

As expected, the volume's nearly 550-page main narrative is supported by a strong map set of differing scales (19 in number). May 1 orders of battle are provided, too. Also, rather than compiling a single big bibliography for the entire project and placing it in the final installment, it looks like each volume will have its own. This is one of the big releases of 2024, and I'm looking forward to getting into it soon.

Friday, July 12, 2024

Booknotes: The Blood-Tinted Waters of the Shenandoah

New Arrival:

The Blood-Tinted Waters of the Shenandoah: The 1864 Valley Campaign’s Battle of Cool Spring, July 17-18, 1864 by Jonathan A. Noyalas (Savas Beatie, 2024).

Though I didn't pick up a copy of it until 2006, my first significant exposure to the Battle of Cool Spring was through reading Peter Meaney's The Civil War Engagement at Cool Spring, July 18, 1864: The Largest Battle Ever Fought in Clarke County, Virginia (1980). In addition to being a bit of a novelty [I don't know of any other Civil War battle history authored by a Catholic priest (Meaney was a Benedictine monk)], it's a pretty good little book on a fascinating little battle. More recently, the Battle of Cool Spring was well contextualized in Scott Patchan's Shenandoah Summer: The 1864 Valley Campaign (2007) and additional perspective on it can be found in one of the chapters inside Clarence Geier and Stephen Potter's edited anthology Archaeological Perspectives on the American Civil War (2003). Fast forward to today and this lesser-known engagement has just received a new standalone treatment in Jonathan Noyalas's The Blood-Tinted Waters of the Shenandoah: The 1864 Valley Campaign’s Battle of Cool Spring, July 17-18, 1864.

From the description: "While largely overlooked or treated as a footnote to Gen. Jubal A. Early’s raid on Washington in the summer of 1864, the fight at Cool Spring, which one soldier characterized as “a sharp and obstinate affair,” proved critical to Washington’s immediate safety. The virtually unknown combat became a transformative moment for those who fought along the banks of the Shenandoah River in what ultimately became the war’s largest and bloodiest engagement in Clarke County, Virginia."

More: The latest installment of the Emerging Civil War series, The Blood-Tinted Waters of the Shenandoah "examines Gen. Horatio Wright’s pursuit of Jubal Early into the Shenandoah and the clash on July 17–18, 1864. It analyzes the decisions of leaders on both sides, explores the environment’s impact on the battle, and investigates how the combat impacted the soldiers and their families—in its immediate aftermath and for decades thereafter." The text is enhanced through five maps and a multitude of photos and illustrations.

Happily, much of the battlefield has been preserved, and the appendix section includes a seven-stop tour. Other appendices discuss the Civil War career and death of Col. Joseph Thoburn, provide a roster and analysis of the battle's Union and Confederate dead, highlight the little-known Civil War poem "A Christopher of the Shenandoah," and recognize the battlefield preservation duties assumed by Shenandoah University. Another appendix contains a collection of Cool Spring participant accounts, and the final one briefly explores some of the responsibilities involved in battlefield interpretation.

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Booknotes: Vicksburg National Cemetery

New Arrival:

Vicksburg National Cemetery by Elizabeth Hoxie Joyner (Arcadia Pub, 2024).

After the Civil War ended, the U.S. government moved to provide more proper burials to the fallen. To meet that end, twenty-one national cemeteries were established in 1866. Under consideration here is Vicksburg National Cemetery, located just north of the city and near the Cairo museum. It is Stop 8 on the Vicksburg National Military Park tour road. According to the NPS, there are over 17,000 burials there making it the "largest Union cemetery in the nation." Sadly, the names of nearly 13,000 of the persons interred there are unknown.

Retired NPS employee and museum curator Elizabeth Hoxie Joyner honors these men and more in her book Vicksburg National Cemetery, a new volume in Arcadia's Images of America series. The book "explores the history of Vicksburg National Cemetery, reveals recent discoveries, and notes how the addition of various elements through the years helped to beautify this sacred ground. It examines the lives of a small fraction [I would say something over 100] of the cemetery's approximately 18,000 interments."

The introduction provides a brief history of the cemetery's development over the first 75 years or so of its existence. According to Joyner, it is believed that as many as 40% of the 17,077 Civil War burials are USCT troops. There are even a few Confederates (at least four by current count) mistakenly buried there. More from the description: "Military service is the common thread that all of them share," and among them are "cemetery superintendents, a Civil War nurse, a female veteran, a member of a popular local band (the Red Tops), a former Vicksburg alderman, a Tuskegee airman, and a Vick family descendant (Vicksburg's namesake)."

As the series name reveals, the image-focused book primarily consists of captioned B&W photographs (period and modern), artwork, illustrations, artifacts, and historical documents. These captions "illustrate who these people were, what they did, and the sacrifices they made to protect this great nation." CDV-style photos and close-up shots of cemetery grave stones are the subject of a great many of the book's images, with the accompanying caption offering important service-related details.

Chapters are devoted to veterans of the Mexican and Civil wars; the Spanish-American, Indian, Korean, and both World wars; and Vietnam. The final chapter focuses on the aforementioned cemetery superintendents, enlisted men or noncoms honorably discharged and often disabled through their service. Along with general oversight and management duties, primary superintendent tasks included site security and engagement with visitors. Four of those men are interred in the cemetery. Finally, a burial index is provided for those featured in the volume. It "documents the section and number of each interment to aid in grave location."

Monday, July 8, 2024

Review - "Dranesville: A Northern Virginia Town in the Crossfire of a Forgotten Battle, December 20, 1861" by Ryan Quint

[Dranesville: A Northern Virginia Town in the Crossfire of a Forgotten Battle, December 20, 1861 by Ryan T. Quint (Savas Beatie, 2024). Hardcover, 6 maps, photos, illustrations, footnotes, appendix section, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:xviii,194/252. ISBN:978-1-61121-693-6. $32.95]

Located in Fairfax County, Virginia close to the Potomac River and roughly halfway between Washington, D.C. and Leesburg, Dranesville sat in the proverbial no man's land between frontline Union and Confederate forces in 1861. The small settlement's early involvement in the Civil War is the subject of Ryan Quint's Dranesville: A Northern Virginia Town in the Crossfire of a Forgotten Battle, December 20, 1861. The volume is a dual wartime community history and battle study that offers admirable contributions to both of those scholarly arenas.

The local history element of the book explores the founding and early history of Dranesville along with the growing social and political divisions among its residents as secession and Civil War forced citizens to take sides. As was the case across the country, neutrality was never really a lasting option for any Dranesville family naively hoping to ride out the growing conflict. Quint's investigation uncovers many of the hallmarks of the inner war, household war, or whatever one chooses to call the multi-faceted intersection between battlefield and home fronts. In this case, emphasis is placed on the formation of a pro-Confederate Home Guard and that group's monitoring and harassment of Dranesville's pro-Union minority. The roles of prominent individuals and families involved are traced, and one particular set of local episodes—the ambush at Lowe's Island and the subsequent military arrest and confinement of its alleged Home Guard perpetrators—spotlights the dynamics of the situation and the early-war struggles U.S. authorities underwent in trying to determine how to effectively deal with active enemy civilians (and others of doubtful loyalty) residing near the fighting front.

Internal political divisions aside, communities such as Dranesville were also caught between the opposing military forces. During the 1861 period covered in the book, Dranesville was occupied by neither side's army but was nevertheless subjected to foraging expeditions and other temporary military incursions. Highlighted among the latter in the book are the September 11 engagement at Lewinsville, an October reconnaissance mission conducted by Pennsylvania Reserves that roughly coincided with the Ball's Bluff debacle, and First Pennsylvania Cavalry Colonel George Bayard's November raid on Dranesville that made the civilian arrests referred to earlier.

As fall went into winter, the food and forage resources collected around Dranesville assured the continued interest of quartermasters from both sides, and the resulting December 20 battle was a clash between competing 'use it or lose it' foraging expeditions and the desire by Union leaders to press back the enemy's forward picket lines in the area. On one side was J.E.B. Stuart leading four infantry regiments, a small contingent of cavalry, and an artillery battery and on the other a combined arms force of Pennsylvania Reserves led by Third Brigade brigadier general E.O.C. Ord and consisting of five infantry regiments, a cavalry regiment, and a battery. The resulting clash between the two was an unexpected meeting engagement of roughly two hours duration. Having the advantage of both numbers (Ord had perhaps twice the number of men available to Stuart) and position, Union forces halted the Confederate advance that struggled through thick woods all along its front, inflicting 195 casualties and receiving 73 in return. Quint pens a very fine account of the battle, the most deeply researched, meticulously detailed, and best overall narrative of the action currently available.

A common thread in the historiography is that Dranesville, a small affair though it was, represented a significant setback to Stuart's otherwise rising reputation. It has been argued that elements of the defeat presaged personality, judgment, and generalship flaws in Stuart that would be more significantly exposed on a larger stage later on in the war. The author of this study as well as the most recent Stuart biographer, Edward Longacre, seem to largely adhere to those notions. On the other hand, much of the effusive praise heaped upon Ord along with many of the sharp criticisms leveled against Stuart by civilian and military critics (all of which are well outlined by Quint) might also be viewed to some extent as products of the time. During the early months of the conflict when everything about the war and those who fought it was still new, the larger meaning and merits of victories or defeats in tiny battles (along with the reputation boosts or hits that went with those events) were very often considerably exaggerated by soldier, civilian, political, and newspaper observers not yet exposed to the unprecedented, mass slaughter horrors of the post-Shiloh period. Perhaps it is appropriate to review conclusions regarding Dranesville through that contextual lens as well.

With that in mind, one might argue that the contemporary backlash against Stuart, while merited to a degree, was a bit excessive in places. While no documentary evidence confirms who ordered Stuart to undertake his mission to Dranesville, Quint offers a convincing scenario that the most likely candidate was D.H. Hill, and a cynic of human nature might assign some portion of of Hill's scathing criticism of Stuart's generalship to Hill's own professional self-protection. In this reviewer's mind, Quint's thorough and excellent account of the battle complicates more than confirms the reductive assessment that Stuart displayed poor leadership and simply lost control of the battle. As referred to earlier, in addition to being outnumbered roughly two to one Stuart faced a number of distinct challenges that mitigate against the most extreme charges against him. Indeed, in visually arresting fashion, the book's fine battle map reveals the striking elevation disadvantage that Stuart faced, the rough wooded terrain that the still inexperienced Confederates were obliged to maneuver through, and the consequent lack of good options when it came to deploying the command's lone battery (which was heavily mauled on the roadway). Suffering somewhere around 10% casualties during his failed mission, Stuart cleanly disengaged from the two-hour meeting engagement (in the process saving his vulnerable train of forage wagons) and was not pursued. For all his criticisms of Stuart, though, Quint does credit the cavalry officer for learning from his first experience leading infantry, with proof of that professional growth exhibited later on at Chancellorsville in 1863. There, as we all know, Stuart instantly stepped into Stonewall Jackson's shoes after the latter's mortal wounding and delivered a highly competent, and in some opinions even brilliant, handling of Second Corps under very challenging command circumstances.

On other other side, while Union forces achieved some successes in other theaters, Dranesville gave the northern public focused on the eastern theater some cause for celebration after a series of embarrassing defeats at Bull Run, Big Bethel, and Ball's Bluff. On an individual level, Ord's military reputation received a strong boost from his deftly handled defensive victory, marking him as a man solidly on the path toward higher command. As the author further notes, the result at Dranesville also went some way toward establishing the fighting reputation of the Pennsylvania Reserves, a division that would go on from there to forge a strong combat record with the Army of the Potomac for the duration of its existence.

Before now, the military history literature has presented students of the eastern theater's early-war period, even the most well read ones in that group, with a pretty vague picture of the Dranesville battle and battlefield. Ryan Quint's eye-opening study more than satisfactorily addresses that gap with the first full treatment of both. In its similarly extensive examination of the targeting of civilians by both sides (along with a number of issues tied to that, including legal justifications for indefinite detainment and the need to more clearly define who was and who wasn't a lawful combatant) Quint's Dranesville also succeeds as a meaningful glimpse into a small rural community riven from within and caught between the lines.

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Booknotes: "Strong Men of the Regiment Sobbed Like Children"

New Arrival:

“Strong Men of the Regiment Sobbed Like Children”: John Reynolds’ I Corps at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863 by John Michael Priest (Savas Beatie, 2024).

Entire books have been devoted to the July 1 fighting at Gettysburg, most notably the Martin and Pfanz titles, but John Michael Priest's latest book “Strong Men of the Regiment Sobbed Like Children” offers a different kind of window into the events of that bloody day. In addition to focusing its attention on the Army of the Potomac's First Corps, the book primarily presents the day's action "from the perspective of the rank and file of both armies." Those familiar with Priest's earlier work of this nature (for me his South Mountain, Antietam, and Wilderness books) will know what that 'soldiers' battle' perspective entails. Having authored Pickett's Charge and Gettysburg Day 2 books as well, Priest is no stranger to the three-day battle in Pennsylvania.

From the description: During the confused July 1 meeting engagement fought north and west of Gettysburg, "(b)rigades and regiments often engaged on their own initiatives without the direction of a division or corps commander. The men of both armies fought with determination born of desperation, valor, and fear. By the time the fighting ended, the I Corps was in shambles and in pell-mell retreat for Cemetery Hill. Its bold stand, together with the XI Corps north of town, bought precious hours for the rest of the Army of the Potomac to arrive and occupy good defensive ground." The nearly four-hundred pages of main text cover the action from first contact through the devastating afternoon collapse and retreat of the corps between 3pm and 4:30pm.

More: In order to build the ground-level fighting man's outlook of battle that he's become best known for recreating, Priest "spent a decade researching this study and walking the ground to immerse readers into the uncertain world of the rank-and-file experience. He consulted more than 300 primary sources, including letters, diaries, memoirs, newspaper accounts, recollections, casualty lists, and drill manuals to present the battle from the ground up." Those sources are identified in the footnotes, which also frequently contain additional commentary and interpretation.

Preceded by a reprint edition of Elwood's Christ's Bliss Farm classic, Priest's book is Volume 2 of The Savas Beatie Essential Gettysburg Series. Follow the link for more information about the material enhancements that the series titles possess over the publisher's more standard releases. Included in the book are nineteen excellent maps that mostly represent 15-minute intervals in the fighting.

Monday, July 1, 2024

More coverage of Missouri 1861 in the works

Last week's CWBA book review [here] discussed a new title addressing the early months of the Civil War in Missouri, and now comes news of a budding trilogy (so far) that goes into even greater depth on the small but strategically significant campaign that placed most of the state, including the capital and all of Missouri's vital railroads and river communications, under permanent Union control.

Back in 2012, McFarland published Kenneth Burchett's The Battle of Carthage, Missouri: First Trans-Mississippi Conflict. While it did not supplant Hinze & Farnham's ground-breaking and excellent study The Battle of Carthage: Border War in Southwest Missouri, July 5, 1861 (1997), the book nevertheless stood very well on its own, filling in some gaps in the earlier work.

Next, Burchett will be going back to the beginning with Massacre at St. Louis: The Road to the Camp Jackson Affair and Civil War. McFarland announces their titles well in advance, so release dates are always tentative. Currently, this one has been pushed to September of this year. Of course, numerous fine books and articles have addressed topics surrounding the St. Louis arsenal, the forced surrender of the state militia at Camp Jackson, and the resulting St. Louis clash between soldiers and civilians that left dozens (numbers vary) of the latter dead. Burchett promises new information. According to the description: "Previously unpublished materials about Governor Claiborne Jackson are included, as well as the role of Montgomery Blair in the fight for Missouri, an analysis of the number of arms in the St. Louis Arsenal and the unknown total number of casualties of the St. Louis massacre."

Now comes news of yet another upcoming title from Burchett, Nathaniel Lyon’s River Campaign of 1861: Securing Missouri for the Union [I'll add a preorder link when one becomes available]. Though they will be published out of sequence, each book essentially picks up where another left off, together forming a trilogy detailing political and military events through the end of the Battle of Carthage. I don't know if the author plans to cap it all off with a new study of Wilson's Creek, or even better continue on from there through the autumn campaigns in western Missouri (we still don't have a study of Fremont's 100 Days), but I am looking forward to whatever transpires. The late Jim McGhee (the foremost expert on the Missouri State Guard) and I often commiserated on matters related to how much the conventional fighting in the state was still being neglected in favor of more coverage of the guerrilla conflict. He would have been very interested in these developments, too.

Friday, June 28, 2024

Review - "Union "Tales of the War" in the Trans-Mississippi - Part One: 1861" ed. by Michael Banasik

[Union "Tales of the War" in the Trans-Mississippi - Part One: 1861 edited by Michael E. Banasik (Camp Pope Publishing, 2024). Softcover, 4 maps, photos, footnotes, appendix section, bibliography, index. Pages:xii,276. ISBN:978-1-929919-95-6. $17.95]

If this is your first exposure to Camp Pope Publishing's "Tales of the War" in the Trans-Mississippi series, which is itself a sub-series of the press's Unwritten Chapters of the Civil War West of the River series, its constituent volumes are edited compilations of newspaper articles written by Civil War veterans of all ranks. Those reminiscences were printed by The Missouri Republican (St. Louis) in the paper's Saturday editions between 1885 and 1887. Comprising the writings of ex-Confederates, "Tales of the War" Volume VII was published in five parts [follow this link to read site reviews of those titles] and is still in print. This new release, Union "Tales of the War" in the Trans-Mississippi - Part One: 1861, marks the beginning of Volume VIII, which follows the previous format but from the Union perspective. All installments of the Unwritten Chapters series are chiefly, and most often solely, edited by Michael Banasik.

Given where the center of the action was in 1861, it is not too surprising that Part One is predominantly a Missouri affair. The book's opening chapter collects a series of reminiscences of Missouri political and military episodes from the first six months of the year. Prominent events from the period that are recalled include the struggle over the St. Louis arsenal, the ascendancy of General Nathaniel Lyon, the "Camp Jackson Affair" (and its aftermath), Union recruiting in the state, and some early small-scale operations. The next chapter is comprised of six articles covering various aspects of the battles of Carthage and Wilson's Creek, and Banasik himself contributes an informative piece about the Union army's retreat to Rolla. The third and final chapter contains two articles, one revisits the use of hemp bales as mobile breastworks at Lexington (the most widely known incident of the siege) and the other the fight at Belmont.

The material is heavily annotated, with expansive explanatory footnotes nearly filling an entire page on occasion. Based on manuscript materials, newspaper articles, government records, books, and articles, the notes fulfill the traditional role of providing background and context for persons, places, and events mentioned in the main text. Capsule biographies of noteworthy individuals, both well-known and obscure, are also common footnote features. Banasik's notes frequently, and often at some length, weigh the merits of conflicting interpretations found in the secondary literature, and those discussions are additionally supplemented with his own research and conclusions. In terms of presentation, the only major complaint is with the rampant missing words and typographical errors found in both main text and footnotes, which are very uncharacteristic of both series and publisher.

With multiple pieces featured in the first two chapters, the most frequent contributor to the volume is Otto C. Lademann, a former Third Missouri captain. In this reviewer's opinion, his group of articles are the clear highlight of Part One. In addition to being highly observant firsthand accounts of the marching and battlefield experiences of German soldiers during the Missouri campaigns of 1861, Lademann's writings also frequently go against the grain without seeming agenda-driven. German troops are often stereotyped as ethnocentric "I fights mit Sigel" idolizers of that controversial general's presence and military ability, but Lademann's accounts of Carthage and Wilson's Creek are very evenhanded, and in places highly critical of Sigel's battlefield behavior and decision-making.

The wealth of additional editorial commentary and reference information found in the appendix section is a key feature of every "Tales of the War" title. This volume's Appendix A assembles a collection of relevant official communications in the form of letters, resolutions, proclamations, and political addresses. Expanded biographical treatments of a select group of military officers and political figures are included in the second appendix. The editor's "extended comments" on a variety of topics, mostly battle-related, comprise most of Appendix C. Meticulous order of battle, unit strength, and casualty reviews for both sides at Carthage, Wilson's Creek, and Belmont are compiled in the last appendix. Attached to the revised OB tables are extensive additional editorial commentary and secondary source engagement similar to those found in both main text and footnotes.

Those who appreciate (as anyone with an extensive interest in the Civil War west of the Mississippi should) the five-part Confederate "Tales of the War" writings of Volume VII will be very happy to know that they can expect more of the same in Part One's strong start to Union-focused Volume VIII.

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Booknotes: Garden of Ruins

New Arrival:

Garden of Ruins: Occupied Louisiana in the Civil War by J. Matthew Ward (LSU Press, 2024).

After New Orleans, a trade and industry center that was by far the most populous city in the Confederacy, fell to the Union Navy on April 25, 1862, accompanying army forces under Major General Benjamin Butler quickly fanned out and expanded the federal foothold in Louisiana. Occupying forces secured the Lake Pontchartrain area and spread northward to Baton Rouge and westward to the east bank of the Atchafalaya River. While Confederate forces threatened those forward outposts at various times during the war, even securing a considerable victory at Brashear City in June 1863, their presence in and around the occupation zone was always transitory and New Orleans itself was never close to being recaptured. The long-term nature of the ironclad federal stranglehold over New Orleans and much of southern Louisiana made the state a prime laboratory for experimenting with reconstruction policies back then and for studying Union occupation today.

In his introduction, J. Matthew Ward describes his book Garden of Ruins: Occupied Louisiana in the Civil War as a "social history of military occupation in Civil War Louisiana." In it, he "examines occupation as both an institution of government power and a daily social process that altered the lives of soldiers and citizens." It is a political history examined "through the policies and attitudes of occupation officials" and social history as examined "through the relationship that common southerners, Black and white, developed with military government and soldiers." The study is not a narrative history in the conventional sense but more of a collection of theme-based chapters (go through the title link above to check out sample pages that include the table of contents and introduction).

In both urban and rural settings, Ward applies to his project the "household war" conceptualization developed by others. Occupation's destruction and reorganization of household order is a major theme. In the introduction, the author also mentions that the book examines oath-taking in a variety of contexts and contrasts tactics, and attitudes, employed by different provost marshals.

From the description: After the shocking fall of New Orleans, "the Confederate state experienced the initial attempts of the U.S. Army to create a comprehensive occupation structure through military actions, social regulations, the destabilization of slavery, and the formation of a complex bureaucracy. Skirmishes between Union soldiers and white civilians supportive of the Confederate cause multiplied throughout this period, eventually turning occupation into a war on local households and culture. In unoccupied regions of the state, Confederate forces and their noncombatant allies likewise sought to patrol allegiance, leading to widespread conflict with those they deemed disloyal."

More: "Ward suggests that social stability during wartime, and ultimately victory itself, emerged from the capacity of military officials to secure their territory, governing powers, and nonmilitary populations." In the end, Garden of Ruins "reveals the Civil War, state-building efforts, and democracy itself as contingent processes through which Louisianans shaped the world around them. It also illustrates how military forces and civilians discovered unique ways to wield and hold power during and immediately after the conflict."

Monday, June 24, 2024

Coming Soon (July '24 Edition)

Scheduled for JULY 20241:

Union Soldiers of Southwestern Illinois by John Dunphy.
Vicksburg National Cemetery by Elizabeth Hoxie Joyner.
The Atlanta Campaign - Volume 1: Dalton to Cassville, May 1-19, 1864 by David Powell.
Decade of Disunion: How Massachusetts and South Carolina Led the Way to Civil War, 1849-1861 by Robert Merry.
Strong Vincent: A Call to Glory by John Hinman.
The Cavalry of the Army of the Ohio: A Civil War History by Dennis Belcher.
Holding Charleston by the Bridle: Castle Pinckney and the Civil War by Roberts & Locke.

Comments: Clearly, the month's heaviest hitter, both in terms of content and injury potential if it falls on your foot, is Powell's first of a series of Atlanta Campaign tomes. Greatly looking forward to reading it. The Castle Pinckney and Army of the Ohio cavalry arm studies are also of heightened interest to me.

1 - These monthly release lists are not meant to be exhaustive compilations of non-fiction releases. They do not include reprints that are not significantly revised/expanded, special editions not distributed to reviewers, children's 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.

Friday, June 21, 2024

Booknotes: When Paper Collar Bandbox Soldiers Fight

New Arrival:

When Paper Collar Bandbox Soldiers Fight: A History of the 4th West Virginia Volunteer Infantry 1861-1865 by Philip Hatfield & Terry Lowry (35th Star Pub, 2024).

In helping keep alive the Civil War history of the war in West(ern) Virginia, no single press is doing more than Steve Cunningham's 35th Star Publishing. Among its stable of authors are some of the most recognizable and most prolific chroniclers of the region's Civil War history, including Terry Lowry, Joe Geiger, Richard Armstrong, and Philip Hatfield. Coverage runs the entire gamut from battle and campaign histories to unit studies, edited journal and letter compilations, county histories, and memory studies. Lowry's earlier work in particular sparked my own interest in the Virginia fighting on the other side of the Alleghenies. Now he has teamed up with Philip Hatfield to produced another regimental history, When Paper Collar Bandbox Soldiers Fight: A History of the 4th West Virginia Volunteer Infantry 1861-1865.

From the description: "The 4th Regiment West Virginia Volunteer Infantry stepped into a cauldron of fire and blood during the Civil War. Comprised of men from Ohio and [West] Virginia, the regiment organized primarily at Point Pleasant during 1861-1862, under Colonel Joseph A.J. Lightburn. Initially engaged in scouting and small skirmishes among the rough, mountainous terrain of western Virginia, the regiment saw its first combat at the Battle of Charleston on September 13, 1862." You might recall that Lowry previously authored the new standard history of the Battle of Charleston and the rest of the 1862 Kanawha Valley Campaign [site review].

Like many other regiments from the Mountain State, the 4th fought both locally and afar. Though West Virginia soldiers are not those that first come to mind when we talk about "paper collar" soldiers, it was when the men of the 4th met up with Grant's western veterans that the full meaning of the book's title emerges. More from the description: "The 4th West Virginia transferred to Mississippi in January 1863, under General William T. Sherman, where they were initially mocked and jeered by the hard fought midwestern troops of the XV Corps who believed that troops in the eastern theatre were generally softer than they due to being much better supplied. They called them "Paper collar, bandbox soldiers," but during the Federal assaults on the massive Stockade Redan at Vicksburg on May 19 and 22, 1863, the regiment suffered 223 casualties with six men receiving the Medal of Honor, forever silencing their antagonists."

After Vicksburg fell, the West Virginians continued to fight in the West before finally returning closer to home. "The regiment also fought at the Battle of Missionary Ridge (Chattanooga) and in the 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign. This comprehensive history tells the compelling story of the regiment's four arduous and bloody years of service in both the eastern and western theatres of the Civil War." In addition to the unit history narrative, the book also includes a set of company rosters (Appendix A) taken from the WV Adjutant General's Report from December1864. A host of photographic images of men from the regiment are collected in another appendix.