The NYMAS Newsletter
A Publication of
The New York Military Affairs Symposium
© 1998 NYMAS & The Authors
The Battle of the Wilderness, May 5-6, 1864
The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House and the Road to Yellow Tavern, May 7-12, 1864
by Gordon C. Rhea
Gordon C. Rhea burst upon the community of Civil War historians in 1994 with his very detailed study of the Battle of the Wilderness. He has now followed that work with a treatment of Spotsylvania. Since both books are part of a series on Grants "Overland Campaign" of 1864, they are best reviewed together.
Together, the two books present a detailed, day-by-day account of the "Overland Campaign" from May 1, 1864, when the Army of the Potomac crossed the fords over the Rapidan River just west of the old Chancellorsville battlefield, to May 12, when, following the stalemate that developed after the "Mule Shoe" at Spotsylvania was overrun, Grant ordered the army on another wide swing around Lees right towards the North Anna River.
Rhea is very good at describing the physical appearance of the battlefield, and it is fairly obvious that he has spent much time walking the fields and researching descriptions of their appearance in 1864. His research on both battles was exhuastive, combing through a wide range of published and unpublished sources. Both books have a number of excellent photographs and maps.
Rheas accounts of both battles are very detailed, but he does not allow them to become exercises in trivialities. Interspersed with his descriptions of the action are sections of cogent, closely reasoned analysis. Most interesting, here, is his view of Grants generalship. Rhea is very critical of Grant, though he aviods relying on simplistic notions of "Grant the Butcher," that success was merely the triumph of numbers. Rather, Rhea conends that at critical moments in the campaign Grant hamstrung himself with a command structure that was clumsey at best and almost immovable at worst. Once the fighting began in earnest, both Grant and George Gordon Meade, who retained tactical command of the Army of the Potomac, too often distanced themselves from the fighting and thus were unable to intervene in a meaningful way at critical moments during both battles. This distance also caused them to reach erronesous conclusions on several occasions that resulted in highly unrealistic orders being issued to subordinates, who were then blamed for the failures that resulted.
Although Rhea gives somewhat higher marks to Robert E. Lee, the Confederate commander also comes in for some criticism, especially with regard to his failure to realize the critical importance of Spotsylvania Court House as a crucial road junction. Late in realizing the vulnerability of the Mule Shoe, his planned evacuation was poorly handled and marred by bad staff work, which resulted in the withdrawal of the artillery just before the Union attack that overran the outer fortifications and virtually destroyed Edward Johnsons division. Even more interesting, is Rheas account of Yellow Tavern, in which he contends that, though J.E.B. Stuarts death was a gerat personal loss for Lee, the Confederate cavalry profited in the long run by the appointment of Wade Hampton as Stuarts successor.
Rheas account includes detailed and even handed portraits of several of the most important subordinate commanders on both sides.
Taken together, these works constitute two of the best battle histories to come out of Civil War scholarship in some time. They are well worth the time of anyone with an interst in these campaigns,and this reviewer is looking forward to the next volume in the series, which will deal with operations along the North Anna River.
The Battle of the Wilderness, May 5-6, 1864, by Gordon C. Rhea. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1994. 512 pp. Illus, maps, notes, bibliog, index. $34.59. ISBN: 0-8071-1873-7.
The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House and the Road to Yellow Tavern, May 7-12, 1864, by Gordon C. Rhea. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1997. 483 pp. Illus, maps, notes, bibliog, index. $34.95. ISBN: 0-8071-2136-3.
"The Yankees arent Coming?"
In the Spring of 1898, fearful of offending unreconstructed residents of the erstwhile capital of the Confederacy, the Army, in its infinite wisdom, routed trains carrying the 71st New York Volunteers to Florida around Richmond. This, as it turned out, offended the residents even more, for they had been "Piling up mountains of sandwiches, frying chickens by the flock, squeezing lemons, stirring sugar -- all this following an afternoon of frenzied baking of hams, sweet potato pies and cakes, and ironing of frocks and frills for the reception committee."
The Generals General: The Life and Times of Arthur MacArthur by Kenneth Ray Young. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1994. xv, 400 pp. Illus, maps, notes, bibliog, index. $26.00 paper. ISBN: 0-8133-3062-9.
A valuable biography of one of the most interesting characters in American military history. Arthur MacArthurs career began spectacularly in the Civil War, from which he emerged at 19 as a regimental commander, went through two decades of company duty on the frontier, during which he invented what would become the post exchange, and then experienced rapid rise to prominence during the Spanish-American and Philppine Wars.
The most interesting and useful parts of the book are its description of life on the frontier (in 20 years of frontier duty MacArthur never once heard a shor fired in anger), and its extensive treatment of the Philippine Insurrection, during which MacArthur made a number of enemies (notably William Taft) who would later deny him the crowning honor of serving as chief-of-staff of the army before retiring.
Of value also for its deliberate look at the influences that shaped the character of the generals son, Douglas MacArthur, the book does contain some unfortunate errors of fact (e.g., there is no "Company J").
A Time for War: The United States and Vietnam, 1941-1975 by Robert D. Schulzinger . New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. 397 pp. Illus, notes, bibliog, index. No price given. ISBN 0-19-507189-1
This book, the first of a two volume work, covers all aspects of the relationship between the United States and Vietnam, beginning in World War II and ending with the defeat of the Republic of Vietnam by the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the evacuation of the last Americans from that country. A second volume, to be published shortly, will deal with the less frequently studied relationship between the two countries since 1975.
Covering a broad and complex period, Schulzinger does not go into great depth on any specific aspects of America's relationship with Vietnam. He does present a clear and well-balanced narrative that provides the reader with a basic understanding of this turbulent era. All aspects of the Vietnamese conflict are explored - American foreign and domestic policy, the actions of the other nations involved in Vietnam, especially the French, the workings of the South Vietnamese government, the conduct of battle, and the rise of the American anti-war movement.
A view held by many Americans is that the United States became involved in Vietnam because we decieved ourselves into believing that the mightiest nation on earth couldn't possibly lose to, in L.B.J.'s words, a "little pissant country". Schulzinger points out that our leader's self-deception was not about our ability to win the war. Rather, the self-deception went to the root of the issue -- the reasons for Americas involvement in Vietnam in the first place. Almost all of Americas political and military leaders doubted we could win in Vietnam, but nonetheless felt we that we needed to fight there to contain the spread of Communism.
This book, while not strictly military history, is a worthwhile introduction for anyone seeking to understand this troubled period in our nation's history.
Franco: A Biography by Paul Preston. New York: Basic Books/Harper Collins, 1994. xxi, 1002 pp. Illus, maps, notes, bibliog, inde. $37.50. ISBN: 0-465-02515-3.
Had this book been written in 1940, rather than half a century later, its blatant political slant, lack of objectivity, and frequent errors of fact would be understandable. Unfortunately, it was not written in 1940. Paul Preston, who has done a number of books related to the Spanish Civil War approaches his subject with great hostility and disdain. Never passing up a chance to repeat derogatory anecdotes about Franco, whether true or not (though he does omit the one about Franco being a closet homosexual, obviously not a politically correct tale for so leftist a work), he thereby completely fails to satisfactorially explain how Franco, who had been one of the least politically active Spanish generals, emerged as the undisputed master of Spain.
Preston has a well established reputation for ignorance about things military, and herein displays it to its fullest. He has no understanding of the history of the Spanish Army, repeats old leftist propaganda about the Battle of Guadalajara (the Republicans regained only half of the territory lost in the initial Italian attack, and took only about 350 prisoners, all of whom were murdered), and fails to see that Franco used the Battle of the Ebro to annihilate the best of the Republican Army.
Preston does, occasionally, have a useful insight, but usually lets it slip past without sufficient attention. Thus, for example, he observes that the replacement of Alcala Zamora as president of the Republic by Manual Azaña was a mistake, but overlooks the why of it (the procedure was almost certainly unconstitutional, and drove many moderate officers to joing the rebellion, but by putting Azaña in the ceremonial post the Left deprived the Republic of his considerable administrative abilities).
Anyone seriously intersted in the subject should consult J.W.D. Trythalls Franco (London: 1970), which though old, remains a superior biogrpahy.
Quotation from Chairman
Collective crimes incriminate no one.
The Civil War Bookshelf
While Cannons Roared: The Civil War Behind the Lines, by John M. Taylor. Washington: Brasseys, 1997. xiii, 177 pp. Illus, notes, index. $22.95. ISBN: 1-57488-150-7.
In nearly two dozen essayrs, the author deals with a wide variety of subjects from an accusation of peculation brought against 1LT U.S. Grant while on duty in the northwest and Lincolns provision of a substitute, to the imprisonment of Jefferson Davis and the return of some Confederate banners to the South inthe 1890s. Not all of the essays deal with amusing or trivial events, ones on the loss of the ironclad Monitor, Winfiled Scott Hancock, and the Battle of the Crater being of considerable value to serious students of the war.
Fire and Thunder: Exploits of the Confederate States Navy, by R. Thomas Campbell. Shippensburg, PA: Burd Street Press, 1997. xiii, 294 pp. Illus, maps, plans, append., notes, bibliog, index. $24.95. ISBN: 1-57249-067-5
Fire and Thunder deals with several aspects of Confederate naval history. Essentially episodic, it covers operations of the CSS Nashville, the first Confederate warship to visit Europe, blockade runners, operations off the Texas coast, and much more besides, in often considerable detail. A useful book, marred by excessive devotion to "the Cause."
Between Two Fires: American Indians in the Civil War by Laurence M. Hauptman. New York: The Free Press, 1995. xv, 304 pp. Illus, maps, notes, bibliog., index. No price given. ISBN: 0-02-914180-X.
The first comprehsive treatment of the role of Native Americans in the Civil War, Between Two Fires is somewhat episodic, if only because of the necessity of telling three stories, that of the "Confederate" Indians, that of the "Union" Indians, and that of the rest of the Indians. There is a good deal of valuable material here, despite an occasional understandable strident note. Recommended.
Gardiners Photographic Sketch Book of the Civil War, by Alexander Gardiner. New York: Dover, n.d. Two volumes in one. Illus, index. $9.95 paper. ISBN: 0-486-22731.
A facsimile edition of a work originally published in 1866, the combined volumes contain 100 images, many of them familiar, but some rare.
Civil War Etchings: Edwin Forbes, edited by William Forrest Dawson. New York: Dover, 1994. xii, 80 pp. Illus, table. $6.95 paper. ISBN: 0-486-28043-8
A quality reproduction of 40 etchings originally published in 1876. Many of these illustrations are familiar, but are herein much clearer for having been made from originals, rather than copies of copies.
Ammo Supply in 1898
Compared to most of the other major powers in 1898, the U.S. and Spanish armies had some of the lowest standard infantryman's issue of ammunition of the period, 100 rounds, a policy shared by only the Austro-Hungarian, British, Japanese, and Swedish armies. In contrast, France and Denmark provided their troops with 120 rounds, Argentina, Chile, Germany, Norway, Peru, Switzerland, and Turkey with 150, Mexico and Italy with 160, Belgium with 180, and Romania with 200. In addition, of course, all armies provided extra ammunition in regimental supply wagons. The U.S and Spain provided 100 extra rounds per man in regimental stocks, while the French allocated 134 and the Germans only 50. Interestingly, the American sea services provided 180 rounds per man as a basic load, but this was because Navy and Marine landing parties might be cut off from immediate resupply, and in any case the Lee rifles ammunition was much lighter than the norm.
Recent References of Note
Who Was Who in the American Revolution by L. Edward Purcell. New York: Facts-on-File, 1993. xi, 548 pp. Illus, biblio essay, index. No price given. ISBN: 0-8160-2107-4
A biographical guide to some 1,500 prominent or interesting people --including not only Americans, but also Britons, French, Spaniards, and Indians-- in the Revolutionary War. Though there are some surprising omissions (e.g., Samuel Nicholas, the senior Marine officer, or Francesco Vigo, noted frontier scout and guide for George Rogers Clarke in the West), a very useful work.
The Encyclopedia of Revolutions and Revolutionaries: From Anarchism to Zhou En-lai, edited by Martin van Creveld. New York: Facts-on-File, 1996. 495 pp. Illus, bibliog., indices. No price given. ISBN: 0-8160-3236-x.
A handy, but by no means exhaustive, reference to insurgents and insurgencies since ancient times, using a definition of "revolution" that includes the whole of the political spectrum. However, ommissions are numerous and surprising (e.g., Spanish anarchist Buenaventura Durruti or Puerto Rican Nationalist Albizu Campos), while the length of some entries does not always reflect the relative importance of the subject (e.g., Irish nationalist Michael Collins merits much less space than the British Fascist Oswald Mosely), and terminology is often curious (e.g., the entry for Gaius Julius Civils begins "In early Dutch history . . . .").
An Encyclopedia of Naval History by Anthony Bruce and William Cogar. New York: Facts-on-File, 1998. ix, 440 pp. Illus, tables, indices. No price given. ISBN: 0-8160-2697-1.
A useful, but by no means wholly reliable reference to naval warfare since the sixteenth century. Several entries are misleading, or flatly wrong (e.g., the Civil War ironclad New Ironsides is described as "one of the Monitors successors," when she was built at the same time as the more famous vessels, and that she shared many of the latters "design weaknesses," when, in fact, the two ships were not the least alike), and there are a surprising number of omissions (e.g., Carlo di Persano, the loser at Lissa in 1866, Patricio Montojo, the loser at Manila Bay in 1898, and the USS Washington, which did the most important work by any American battleship in World War II). And it lacks maps.
The Newsletter is always in need of materials.
Short reviews of current books, recent activities
of NYMAS members, notices of events likely to
be of interest to the membership, and even
short articles are always welcome.
Short Rounds: Brief Reviews of Some Recent Military Books
Mobilizing for Modern War: The Political Economy of American Warfare, 1865-1919, by Paul A.C. Koistinen. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1997. xiii, 391 pp. Notes, biliog. essay, index. $45.00. ISBN: 0-7006-0857-5.
In many ways not as satisfactory at the preceeding volume in the series, Beating Plowshares into Swords (1996), Mobilizing for Modern War glosses over the important experience of 1898, to concentrate on the creation of the administrative apparatus that was established to oversee the nations mobilization for World War I. The work delves perhaps too deeply into the creation of the "military-industrial complex," so that treatment of the experience, problems, and failure of American industrial mobilization for the Great War is neglected.
General William Maxwell and the New Jersey Continentals, by Harry M. Ward. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1997. xii, 241 pp. Illus, maps, notes, bibliog, index. $59.00. ISBN: 0-313-30432-7.
In contrast to the enormous popular and academic interest in the Civil War, the American Revolution has been very neglected. Thus, General William Maxwell and the New Jersey Continenals is a relatively rare work. It is also a rather valuable one. Not only does it provide a good biography of a competant commander, but its treatment of the life and activities of a Continental Army brigade is rather unique. In addition, the work includes treatment of what is perhaps the most forgotten major battle of the war, Springfield, fought on June 23, 1780, which more or less put the damper on the last British attempt to undertake an overland campaign in the central theater.
The Coast Guard at War: Vietnam, 1965-1975, by Alex Larzelere. Annapois: Naval Institute Press, 1997. xxv, 345 pp. Illus, maps, notes, bibliog, glossary, index. $32.95. ISBN: 1-55750-529-2.
A solid treatment of the Coast Guards role in the Vietnam War. The author does a good job of weaving together the very diverse missions which the Coast Guard perfomanced (e.g., coastal patrol and blockade, port security, search and rescues, and more), into a readable whole. Recommended for those inerested in Vietnam, the Coast Guard, or maritime history.
Ghost of War: The Sinking of the Awa Maru and Japanese American Relations, 1945-1995, by Roger Dingman. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1997. xvii, 373 pp. Illus, maps, notes, bibliog, index. $35.00. ISBN: 1-55750-159-9.
A detailed, readable work about the accidental sinking by an American submarine of Awa Maru, a Japanese ship operating under a safe conduct from the U.S. in order to repatriate diplomatic personnel and carry relief parcels to Americans held prisoner by the Japanese, which touched off a small, but lively diplomatic flap which has repercusions to the present. An interesting work.
Kekionga! The Worst Defeat in the History of the U.S. Army, by Wilbur Edal. Westprt, CT: Praeger, 1997. xii, 148 pp. Notes, bibliog, index. $55.00. ISBN: 0-275-95821-3.
Less than 20 pages of this work deal with the circumstances, events, and consequences of the 1791 Battle of Kekionga in the Ohio country, in which Little Turtle inflicted nearly 45% casualties on a column of 1,500 regulars, volunteers, and militiamen under Arthur St. Clair, literally the worst defeat in the history of the U.S. Army. The rest of the book is essentially a diatribe on Indian-white relations.
Against the Invaders: Taras Chuprynka-Roman Shukhevych, Commander-in-Chief of the UPA, by Petro Mirchuk, translated by Ihor Mirchuk and edited by Maria Kiciuk. New York: Society of the Veterans of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, 1997. 159 pp. Illus, notes, append, index. $10.00 No ISBN.
An interesting, but not wholly satisfactory biography of one of the principal leaders of Ukrainian resistance to successive foreign invaders since the collapse of Tsarist Russia, a subject about which a more systematic study is required.
The German High Command at War: Hindenburg and Ludendorff Conduct World War I, by Robert B. Asprey. New York: Morrow, 1991. 558 pp. Illus, notes, bibliog, index. $No price given. ISBN: 0-688-12842-4.
A fresh look at the wartime careers of the two men who came to dominate Germanys war effort during World War I. Though occasionally overdone, the book marshals considerable evidence to demonstrate that neither Hindenburg nor Ludendorff fully understood the war, nor Germanys precarious economic, strategic, and political situation, which led to the disastrous outcome of the war, and their postwar efforts shift the blame elsewhere, with even more disastrous consequences.
The NYMAS 1998 Military History Conference
Date: Saturday, 18 April 1998
Time: 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
Cost: Members, Students, Military, $10.00
T.R.s Offspring at War
All four of Theodore Roosevelts sons served in the Armed Forces, as did one of his daughters. Remarkably, three of his sons died while in uniform.
Two of Teddys grandsons also served in the Army, in World War II. Quentin landed on D-Day, while Kermit, who also served, gained some distinction serving with the CIA after World War II. No other president has matched Teddy Roosevelt in the number of offspring who have worn the uniform, only his distant cousin Franklin Roosevelt coming close, sending four sons into uniform during World War II.
NYMAS Membership Notes
Member Valerie Eads will take part in a roundtable discussion on "The Military History of Women: Amazonian Past or PC Propaganda," at the 1998 Society for Military History Conference, to be held April 23-26, in Wheaton IL. In July she will present a paper, "Between Conquest and Crusade: The Military History of the Investiture Controversy."at the 1998 symposium of the Institue for the Study of War and Society, De Montfort University, in Bedford, England.
Treasurer and Board Member, Prof. Kathleen Broome Williams will present a paper on "Women Ashore: The Contributions of WAVES to U.S. Naval Science and Technology in World War II" at the Northern Mariner/La Marin du Nord Conference in April.
Board member Dr. Albert A. Nofis paper, "The Spaniard: American Soldiers Views of the Spanish Soldier, 1898," will be presented at the Society for Military History Conference in April. In June he will present a paper on "The War in Puerto Rico" at the Spanish-Ameican War Conference at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial in Pittsburgh. His next book, Honor the Brave: An Informal Military History of the American People, will be published by Doubleday in the fall.
Board member Prof. Richard L. DiNardos latest book, Germanys Panzer Arm, has just been published by Greenwood Press.
Member James F. Dunnigans book, The Way of the Warrior: Business Tactics and Techniques from Historys Twelve Greatest Generals, done in cooperation with Daniel Masterson of Erudite Computing, has just been published by St. Martins. His next two books, done in cooperation with Dr. Nofi, are The Pacific War Encylopedia, a two volume reference work from Facts-on-File, and Dirty Little Secrets of the Vietnam War, from St. Martins, both due in the fall.
Prof. DiNardo and Dr. Nofi, have been invited to represent NYMAS at the ceremonies attendant upon the unveiling of the Longstreet Memorial at Gettysburg, on July 2-3, 1998.
Mailing Address Changes
The Newsletter editor, Albert A. Nofi,
has relocated to the Lone Star State. He will,
however, remain as the editor of The NYMAS
Newsletter. All editorial submissions should be
sent directly to him, by surface mail to:
A. A. Nofi
3506 Duval St.
Austin, TX, 78705-1716
or by email to:
The Lousiana State University
Civil War Center
The CWC, a major center for research and documentation of all aspects of the Civil War, maintains a lively website. With over 25,000 "visitors" a day, it is one of the liveliest military-related websites on the internet. The site includes links to over 2,000 other Civil War-related sites, a file of frequently asked questions about the war, and numerous documents and reports available for downloading, such as a guide to researching ones Civil War ancestors, the South Carolina "Instrument of Secession," and much more besides. In addition, the site provides a reference service that tries to help researchers, students, and the merely curious find answers to questions.
NYMAS Spring Lecture Schedule
All talks are held on Fridays at 7:00 p.m., athe CUNY
Graduate Center, 33 West 42nd Street. Consult the Security
Guards for the appropriate room.
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