17, Summer 2000
Civil War Issue
A Publication of
The New York Military Affairs Symposium
Creek: The Second Battle of the Civil War and the Men Who Fought It,
William Garrett Piston
Richard W. Hatcher III
This book is a fine combination of the best of the “old” military history and that of the “new” military history. It serves not only as a study of the campaign in southwestern Missouri that culminated in the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, but also as a good sociological study of the armies that fought it.
The authors begin with a good analysis of the complex political situation in Missouri. Like the other border states, Missouri was deeply torn over the issues that divided the nation. The pro-southern governor, Claiborne Jackson, wanted to take Missouri out of the Union, but could not act legally because the state legislature was solidly pro-Union. In the aftermath of the firing on Fort Sumter, a number of people in the state government counseled neutrality.
Into this situation strode the local U.S. Army commander, Capt. Nathaniel Lyon. A complex individual whose ardent anti-slavery stance often degenerated into sadistic fanaticism, Lyon acted to “save Missouri for the Union.” In doing so, the authors argue, he did save Missouri for the Union in a territorial sense, but at the same time he destroyed the legally elected government of the state, and in consequence drove many volunteers into the arms of the Confederacy.
The story of the campaign is a classic example of all
of the problems that beset both armies early on in the war.
How the commanders of both armies
were able to manage this has to rank as something of a military
miracle. Outnumbered, Lyon decided to attack the Confederates just
outside of Springfield,
Missouri, impelled in part by his deep desire to punish secessionists. The conduct of the battle on either side left much to
desired, but, given the state of the contending armies – ill-trained,
ill-disciplined, ill-organized, ill-equipped – and the inexperience of
the commanders, the generals probably did the best they could.
The authors do a very good job of dealing with the sociological elements of the armies and the campaign. They seek to provide us some idea as to what impelled the men on both sides to take up arms. For the men, who fought the battle, perhaps the most important element was what the authors describe as “corporate honor.” Some of this might have been ethnic in origin, as for example with the German units that “fought mit (Franz) Siegel.” For many others, corporate honor involved that of the town they came from. To run away or desert would not only disgrace their regiment, but the name of their town as well. Likewise, a regiment or company that did well in battle would enhance the honor and reputation of their town. Worthy performance in battle meant that “you could go home again.”
Many of the major players in the battle will be
familiar to those well-versed in the Civil War. The authors’ penchant
for constantly identifying units by their town name, the Moorehouse
Guards, Oread Guards, etc., does lead to some confusion, especially when
dealing with the battle itself. The
authors might have done well to italicize Confederate names and unit
This small problem aside, the book is a very welcome
addition to literature on the Civil War at several levels.
Both those who like the sound of cannon as well as those who like
the more sociological aspects of military institutions will find much in
this book that is commendable.
Creek: The Second Battle of the Civil War and the Men Who Fought It,
By William Garrett Piston and Richard W. Hatcher III.
Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2000. Pp. 408. Illus,
maps, notes, biblio., index. $34.95.
DiNardo, USMC C&SC
cannot have an army without music.”
Navy Rations during the Civil War
July 18, 1861, not long after the Civil War began, Congress enacted
legislation reforming the Navy’s basic ration allowance.
The daily ration issue for each man was supposed to consist of:
pound of salt pork with a half pint beans or peas, or
pound of salt beef with a half pound of flour and two ounces of dried
apples or other fruit, or
pound of preserved – canned – meat, with two ounces of butter and
two of desiccated potatoes
ounces of hardtack (five biscuits)
ounce of tea or one ounce of coffee or cocoa
ounces of sugar
gills of “grog “
In addition, for each man there was a supposed to be a weekly issue of:
pound of pickles
pint of molasses
pint of vinegar
The Navy had better rations than the army, and got the prescribed issue on a more regular basis. For example, the salt pork ration was four ounces bigger than that for soldiers, and sailors got a half ounce more coffee. Better still, Uncle Sam’s tars were still getting a grog ration, nearly 30 years after the army’s daily toddy of whiskey had been abolished. Unlike the Royal Navy’s 50-50 rum-and-water concoction, what the U.S. Navy called “grog” was a mixture of whiskey with water, the later predominating. Alas for Uncle Sam’s tars, this benefit did not last long; The issuance of grog was discontinued in September of 1861, in compensation for which the men were given a very modest increase in pay
Ships at sea on blockade duty off the Atlantic and Gulf coasts were supplied with fresh rations every two or three weeks, even including frozen beef. And most ship’s companies bought fresh produce and meat ashore, even from Confederate-controlled areas, to supplement the standard issues.
The Navy had another advantage over the Army in the ration department. Ships actually had cooking facilities, and unlike the Army, the Navy had rated cooks, who could do a better job of turning the available foodstuffs into reasonably palatable meals than the average soldier, not that there was a whole lot even a good cook could do with the basic ingredients.
Although the diet was rather heavy in salt, fat, and starch, some had been made to increasing advances in nutrition, thus the dried fruits, the peas, the pickles, and even the vinegar, all of which were of some help in fending off scurvy.
Battles and Campaigns
Grand Spectacle: The Battle of Chattanooga, by Steven Woodworth. Abilene,
Texas: McWhiney Foundation,
, 1999. Pp. 136.
Illus., maps, biblio., index.
$12.95 paper. ISBN: 1-893114-04.
A volume in the Civil War Campaigns and Commanders
series, the quality of which has ranged from the very good to the
positively awful, This Grand
Spectacle is rather in the middle of this spectrum.
It is a basic bare bones work on the battle of Chattanooga.
Woodworth begins by covering the campaign of maneuver between William Rosecrans and Braxton Bragg for Middle Tennessee for the ultimate prize of Chattanooga. He provides a brief description of the Battle of Chickamauga, and a slightly more detailed account of the aftermath of the battle than is normally to be found. Woodworth then goes into a somewhat more detailed narration of the opening of “Cracker Line,” Joe Hooker’s assault on Lookout Mountain, and the famous storming of Missionary Ridge by George H. Thomas’ men.
As is true of any book, this one does reflect certain
biases on the part of the
author. While he does take
some shots at James Longstreet’s poor performance in the aftermath of
Chickamauga, no mention is made of
Bragg’s decision to mount a cavalry raid into Middle Tennessee.
While a reasonable course of action in itself, Bragg’s decision
to entrust the operation to the incompetent Joseph Wheeler was about as
poor a choice as Bragg could have made. Woodworth’s claim that Bragg’s
poorly laid out defensive line at Missionary Ridge was the result of
inexperience also strikes me as somewhat lame, given that Bragg had been
in the positions for almost two months.
Like all of Woodworth’s books, This Grand Spectacle is a very pleasant and quick read.
Aside from the main text, a number of useful biographical side
bars are included. This
book will not stand as the best work of this prolific author, nor was it
intended to be. As a useful
primer for the novice, it certainly succeeds.
--R.L. DiNardo, USMC C&SC
Tide Rising: Robert E. Lee and the Making of Southern Strategy,
by Joseph L. Harsh. Kent,
Oh.: Kent State University Press, 1998.
Pp. xviii, 278. Illus,
maps, append., notes, biblio., index.
This prize-winning work was written, as Prof. Harsh recently noted, in preparation for his
the Shallows: A Confederate Companion for the Maryland Campaign of 1862,
by Joseph L. Harsh. Kent,
Oh.: Kent State University Press, 2000.
Pp. xvi, 280.
Tables, notes, biblio., index.
$18.00 paper. ISBN:
Shallows is the third volume in what will be Prof. Harsh’s
four volume treatment of Robert E. Lee’s 1862 Campaign in Maryland,
which began with Confederate Tide Rising: Robert E. Lee and the Making
of Southern Strategy (Kent, Oh.: Kent State
University Press, 1998), noted above, and was followed by his
award-winning, Taken at the Flood (Kent, Oh: Kent State University Press,
1999), which focused on the actual campaign and battle of Antietam and
was reviewed by Richard L. DiNardo in Autumn 1999 Newsletter.
is essentially an expanded appendix.
It includes an almanac, with detailed weather reports for the
area of the campaign, information on the composition of Lee’s army, a
gazetteer of places, and literally scores of “research appendices,”
actually long footnotes, on various aspects of the campaign, including
such matters as Lee’s Mode of Travel on September 19” and “The
Number of Copies of Special Orders No. 191.”
Shallows, which is to be followed in a year or so by a volume
of miscellania devoted to
the Union side, is an invaluable reference and resource for the serious
student of the Civil War.
--Albert A. Nofi
to the Breeze: The Kentucky Campaign, Corinth, and Stones River, by Earl J. Hess. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000.
Pp. 263. Illus.,
maps, index. $32.00. ISBN:
Part of the University of Nebraska Press Great
Campaigns of the Civil War Series, the scope of this work is rather
interesting. Hess picks up
the story in the aftermath of U. S. Grant’s victory at Shiloh and the
ensuing occupation of the key Confederate rail junction of Corinth,
Mississippi. He then
details the aggressive Confederate response, the abortive offensive into
Kentucky, the botched attempt to retake Corinth, and finally Braxton
Bragg’s failed attempt to destroy
William S. Rosecrans’ Army of the Cumberland at Stones
Hess takes a very conventional approach in
attributing the failure of the Confederate response to Union offensive
to their fractured command system.
The move into Kentucky was hamstrung by the different agendas
pursued by the “cooperating” commanders, Braxton Bragg and E. Kirby
Confederate attempts to wrest control of northern Mississippi from Union
forces foundered on the differences between the principal commanders,
Earl Van Dorn and Sterling Price. Again,
taking a conventional approach, Hess also outlines how, although hopes
were high for bringing Kentucky into the Confederacy, the response of
the population was, as in Maryland, less than overwhelming.
In this way Bragg’s campaign in Kentucky, like that of Robert
E. Lee in Maryland, ultimately helped define the Confederacy, which by
1863 included neither Maryland nor Kentucky.
Much less conventional is Hess’ take on the principal commanders in these campaigns. He paints a very favorable portrait of much maligned commanders such as Don Carlos Buell. Hess argues that Buell’s conduct of the campaign in Kentucky was reasonable, given the difficulties under which he was operating. In this regard, Hess is following the line on Buell recently taken by Stephen D. Engle, reviewed elsewhere in this issue of The Newsletter. Likewise, he is also very understanding of the problems faced by Bragg in both Kentucky and Tennessee. Somewhat less convincing is Hess’ contention that Stones River had a traumatic effect on Rosecrans, making him much more cautious and less optimistic a commander than he had been at Corinth. This is certainly not supported by subsequent events, especially by Rosecrans’ brilliant planning and conduct of the Tullahoma Campaign.
Given the broad scope of Banners to the Breeze
and its relatively short length, it should come as no surprise that Hess
relies largely on secondary sources, including some works that are
marked by haphazard research and implausible interpretations.
Hess, however, has an excellent grasp of the issues that
confronted both sides at this juncture of the war.
Consistent with Hess’ other work, the book is both
a quick and a pleasant read. It
also has a number of fine photographs, several of which have not been
previously published. One
minor irritation is the dust jacket.
It is one of those Currier and Ives pictures one normally sees on
the dust jacket of Battles and Leaders of the Civil War. In this case, however, the image is very blurry.
Any more indistinct and it would pass for a Rorschach ink blot.
A publisher as prestigious as Nebraska ought to be able to do
In conclusion, someone who is familiar with the works
of Thomas L. Connelly and some of the other historians of the western
campaigns will not find much here that is new.
For the reader who is new to the this part of the war, this book
is an invaluable starting point.
--R.L. DiNardo, USMC C&SC
the North Anna River: Grant and Lee, May 13-25, 1864, by Gordon C. Rhea. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State
University Press, 2000. Pp.
475. Illus, maps, notes,
bibliography, index. $34.95.
This is the third volume in Rhea’s study of the 1864 Overland campaign. The first two, covering the battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House, won critical acclaim, and this volume is no less deserving of praise. Rhea picks up the story of the campaign on May 13, the day after the stunning carnage of the fighting on the Mule Shoe and at the Bloody Angle. Rhea then follows Grant’s abortive attempts to break Lee’s position around Spotsylvania, followed by his unsuccessful attempt to beat Lee to the North Anna River, in order to get between the Army of Northern Virginia and Richmond. He concludes the volume with Grant’s brief but unavailing assaults against Lee’s brilliant “inverted V” position at the North Anna, and Grant’s decision to swing around Lee’s right, this time aiming towards Cold Harbor.
In his perceptive analysis of the campaign, Rhea makes a number of fair but critical judgments of the principal commanders. Rhea contends that the biggest mistake Grant made was in sending away nearly all of Philip Sheridan’s Cavalry Corps on a raid almost immediately after the Wilderness. Although the raid did produce some positive results, including the victory at Yellow Tavern and the mortal wounding of Jeb Stuart, it effective blinded Grant until Sheridan returned during the final week of May. In this Grant essentially repeated the mistake made by Hooker just before the onset of the Chancellorsville campaign.
As in his first two volumes, Rhea is critical of Grant’s habit of not involving himself more in the actual direction of the fighting. At critical times corps commanders such as Winfield Scott Hancock, Gouverneur K. Warren, and Horatio Wright received almost no guidance from Grant or George G. Meade, who by this time was at best only the nominal commander of the Army of the Potomac. Rhea does an excellent job in detailing the deteriorating relationship between Grant and Meade, and particularly Meade’s anomalous position as commander of the Army of the Potomac, with which Grant was always present. Meade also disagreed strongly with Grant on several decisions. The most important of these was Grant’s decision to push on the North Anna River, a race against Lee which Meade felt could not be won. After the fruitless assaults of May 24 against the “inverted V,” Meade viewed Grant’s decision to swing further south to the Pamunkey River, a course he had advocated after Spotsylvania, with smug satisfaction. This would not bode well for the future.
Rhea also takes a somewhat different view of Lee. Many traditional historians, led by Douglas Southall Freeman, have credited Lee with an almost divine omniscience in his ability to frustrate Grant’s attempts to get around his flank. Rhea shows conclusively, however, that Lee was often misled as to the true nature of Grant’s intentions. This led him to a potentially dangerous mistake in his march to the North Anna, which he was only able to rectify by a brilliantly conceived improvisation. Although slightly better served by his cavalry than Grant, by this time the performance of the Confederate cavalry was also in decline. Poor reconnaissance by Fitzhugh Lee contributed in part to A.P. Hill’s failure to successfully contest the crossing of the North Anna by Warren’s V Corps at Jericho Mills.
Rhea takes a somewhat more conventional view of Lee’s subordinate commanders. While leadership at the division level was still strong, with the likes of Jubal Early, Stephen Dodson Ramseur, and Charles Field, among others, corps command was another matter. Richard Ewell and A.P. Hill both mishandled tactical actions, first at the Harris Farm and then Jericho Mills. Without Longstreet to handle complicated tactical attacks, Lee, in steadily deteriorating health had to take on more than he alone could manage. Thus he was unable, according to Rhea, to take advantage of Grant’s mistakes at places such as the Harris Farm, or after he had successfully divided the Army of the Potomac into two isolated wings. However, I think Rhea misses an important point. Even if Lee was able to launch an attack on an isolated portion of the Army of the Potomac, unless the circumstances were perfect, such as for Jackson’s attack at Chancellorsville or Longstreet’s at the Wilderness, casualties in open field fights tended to be relatively even. In any case, in the long run, the Army of Northern Virginia could not sustain those kinds of casualties.
This book, like all of Rhea’s works, is marked by thorough, painstaking research and crisp, lucid writing. This is a major addition to the literature on the subject and is a must for any student of the 1864 campaign.
--R.L. DiNardo, USMC C&SC
Battle of Gettysburg,
by the Comte de Paris (Philadelphia: Porter & Coates, 1886/Reprint.,
North Scituate, Mass.: Digital Scanning, 1999).
PP. ix, 315. Maps,
append. $24.95 paper. ISBN: 1-58218-065-2.
The Comte de Paris’ multi-volume History
of the Civil War in America was one of the first treatments of the
war by a European military scholar, and is also notable because it is
one of the few European treatments by someone who had first-hand
experience of the conflict, Paris having spent a good chunk of 1862 at
the headquarters of the Army of the Potomac. This gives his work a unique perspective.
In 1886 the Gettysburg chapters from History
of the Civil War in America were translated and published in the
United States. The
Battle of Gettysburg provides a readable, generally clear
treatment of the campaign and battle of Gettysburg, one with
occasional flashes of considerable insight, such a defense of Longstreet
in the increasingly acrimonious post-war argument the over the battle
and the general’s activities on the second and third days of the
Modern readers may find the style of the work rather
cumbersome (“During this time, Vincent, hastening the pace of his
soldiers, has reached the base of this same hill”).
In keeping with nineteenth century optimism and romantic
militarism, everyone is uniformly brave and gallant, and there is a
definite lack of attention to technological matters.
Thus, the author never once mentions that the stubborn resistance
offered by Buford’s Union cavalrymen to Heth’s Confederate
infantrymen on the morning of the first day was largely due to their
ability to generate much greater firepower than their opponents as a
result of being armed with breech loading repeating carbines.
In fact, it’s worth noting that the word “rifle” does not
appear in this work. On the
positive side, and also very much in keeping with nineteenth century
military practice, the book presents an extremely clear word-picture of
the physical environment of the campaign, no mean feat.
The book, which is reproduced complete with the original maps, ought to have been accompanied by an introduction discussing its relationship to modern scholarship.
A searchable CD-Rom edition of The Battle of Gettysburg is also available, for $24.95. ISBN: 1-58218-067-9.
Shoeing the Troops:
Union Army Footwear
Army regulations provided that each soldier be issued two pair of shoes
a year. There were two
different types of footwear, which had suitably bureaucratic names, but
were most commonly known as “Jefferson Booties” and “Brogans.”.
“Jefferson Booties” or “Jefferson Davis Booties” were named after former Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, who had introduced them to the service, because they were cheaper than the standard issue shoe. The booties were made from leather with a papier maché heel. They very narrow could be worn on either foot, and were not sized. As a result, small-footed men had to stuff them with newspaper or rags lest they fall off, while big-footed men had to suffer from blisters, corns, and worse. Although Davis made quite a number of valuable innovations during his tenure at the War Department, the booties definitely were not one of them, and soon passed from the scene.
“Brogans” were heavier than booties, and cost more, about $2.00 the pair, perhaps $80-$100 in money of 2000. Made of leather, they usually had a square toe, with a wooden heel and some arch support. They came in lefts and rights, and were sized, which meant they were much more comfortable than the booties. They acquired the nickname “brogans” – Gaelic for shoe – because they reminded Irish soldiers of the common work shoes back on the Old Sod.
Irish veterans of the Civil War who made it
back to the Emerald Isle, often found themselves under arrest by the
British authorities, because their footwear marked them as American
veterans, which put them under suspicion of being members of the
Fenian Brotherhood, many of whom had enlisted in the Union Army in order
to acquire military skills that they could use for the liberation of
Biographies, Memoirs, and Personal Accounts
the many useful side-effects of the immense public – if not academic
– interest in the Civil War is the increasing tide of biographies and
other works which look at the lives of some of the lesser known
characters who served, along with new treatments of the some of
well-known figures in the war.
Chamberlain: The Soldier and the Man, by Edward G. Longacre. Conshohocken,
Pa.: Combined Publishing, 1999. Pp. 395. Maps,
notes, biblio., index. $29.95.
Joshua Chamberlain has received considerable
attention in recent years, most notably since the release of the film Gettysburg
brought him to the attention of a larger audience.
One result has been that several books have appeared focused on
Chamberlain, either in the form of biographies or as studies of his
famous defense of Little Round Top on July 2, 1863.
Most have been rather adulatory.
Ed Longacre’s is different.
Longacre, already noted for his work on the history
of the Union cavalry and his biography of Buford, takes a different look
at Chamberlain, putting the man’s military achievements within the
framework of his personal and civilian life.
It’s a remarkable picture, particularly in its quite intimate
look at Chamberlain’s relations with his wife, and some readers may
find the “Afterword: Joshua Chamberlain, A Psychological Portrait,”
by psychologist Gary K. Leak, interesting, if not amusing.
Militarily, Longacre is rather more critical of Chamberlain’s accomplishments as a soldier than many other recent historians, who have tended to be rather worshipful. The author observes that Chamberlain’s account of the struggle for Little Round Top changed over the years, with his role becoming increasingly important. Moreover, virtually from the moment the fighting ended there were contradictory versions of what transpired.
It’s important to understand that Longacre has not
set out to “debunk” Chamberlain’s reputation.
In fact the book demonstrates that Chamberlain did play a
critical role, not only on Little Round Top, but on several other
fields. But it does put his
achievements into better perspective within the greater framework of the
war. Worth reading.
S. Grant: Triumph Over Adversity, 1822-1865, by Brooks D. Simpson. Boston:
Houghton Mifflin, 2000. Pp.
xix, 533. Illus, maps,
notes, index. $35.00.
Biographies of Grant are by no means rare.
But Brooks D. Simpson has managed to make a solid contribution.
The book opens with rather more detail on his pre-war “career”
than is normally the case, and takes a good look at the reasoning behind
some of Grant’s wartime plans. There is, for example, an interesting aside on Grant’s
thought on a campaign in North Carolina.
The book is by no means hagiographic, and can be quite critical
as necessary. And if it
doesn’t drive a stake through the heart of the “Grant the drunkard”
myth, nothing else ever will
Admiral: The Life and Times of Franklin Buchanan, by Craig L. Symonds. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1999. Pp. xvi, 274. Illus,
notes, biblio., index. $32.95.
A true “life and times,” Confederate Admiral looks not only at Buchanan’s services to the
South during the Civil War, but at his whole life, including his
numerous contributions to the evolution of the U.S Navy, as well as his
short, but rather impressive career of the Confederate Navy. Valuable for anyone interested in the naval history of the
Foote: Civil War Admiral on Western Waters,
by Spencer C. Tucker. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2000.
Pp. xvi, 259.
Illus, maps, chron., notes, biblio., index.
Foote played an important role in riverine operations during the first
year or so of the war, taking Fort Henry, and supporting U.S. Grant’s
operations against Fort Donelson and at Shiloh, and John Pope’s
operations against Island No. 10 in the winter and spring of 1862.
But he died rather suddenly, and his impressive record was
eclipsed by that of other commanders.
Tucker’s biography, apparently the first ever about this
interesting officer, covers not only his services during the Civil War,
but devotes a great of attention to his early life and rise through the
ranks of the young U.S. Navy. A
Memoirs of Brigadier General William Passmore Carlin, U.S.V., edited by Robert I. Giradri and Nathaniel Cheairs
Hughes, Jr. Lincoln, Neb.:
University of Nebraska Press, 1999.
Pp. xii, 321. Illus,
notes, biblio., index. $50.00.
(USMA 1850) served for a time on the frontier, and at the outbreak of
the Civil War was in Missouri. From
1862 he served in the heartland, and commanded brigades or divisions in
most of the major operations in the West, from Corinth right on to
Bentonville, and then served on occupation duty for a time.
His memoirs are very well written, and often very frank, as when
he mentions that he wept openly after Chickamauga, where he was almost
“fragged” while trying to halt the flight of some panicked troops.
The editors have provided two biographical essays, and a host of
useful footnotes. A good
Valor: The Memoirs, Journals, and Civil War Letters of Orlando B.
by Robert Garth Scott. Kent,
Oh.: Kent State University Press, 1999.
Pp. xxxii, 720. Illus,
append, notes, biblio. Essay, index.
The Wilcox papers are the most important throve of
Civil War documents uncovered in 50 years, literally hundreds of pages
of diaries, letters, memoirs, and other documents. In Forgotten Valor,
editor Scott has woven together the general’s never-completed memoirs,
a number of his articles, extracts from his letters and diaries, as well
as bits and pieces of other documents, to paint a coherent picture of
military life as Wilcox saw it, from West Point, through the Mexican
War, and duty on the Great Plains, and on to some of the greatest
battles of the Civil War (Antietam, Fredericksburg, the Wilderness, Cold
Harbor), with a side trip into Kentucky, Indiana, and Tennessee, where
the general served for briefly as well, not to mention a protracted stay
as a “guest” of the Confederacy after Bull Run.
This “cut-and-paste” approach works surprisingly
well, for we see not only what the general wished to say about events,
but also get a little look into his personal feelings and morale.
Although there are no earth-shaking revelations in Forgotten
Valor, Wilcox’ observations of events and people are sometimes
unusual, and the book will be of value to anyone interested in the Civil
General John Alexander McLernand: Politician in Uniform,
by Richard L. Kiper. Kent,
Oh.: Kent State University Press, 1999.
Pp. xii, 386. Illus,
maps, tables, notes, biblio., index.
is really the first serious biography of one of the most controversial
political generals of the Civil War.
Major General John
Alexander McLernand provides a quite balanced look at the career of
the soldier-politician from Illinois who became one of the most popular
amateur soldiers of the war and an inveterate critic of West Point
during and after it. Unlike most earlier treatments of McLernand, Kiper gives
credit where credit is due, without going overboard as to the general’s
mapped, and with some useful order of battle information, to make
operations more readily understandable, this book is worth reading by
those with a particular interest in the war in the West.
Carlos Buell: Most Promising of All, by
Stephen D. Engle. Chapel
Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999.
Pp. xvii, 476 pp. Illus, maps, notes, biblio., index. $45.00. ISBN:
solid biography – surprisingly the first ever – of one of the lesser
lights of the Civil War. Engle
takes a good look at Buell’s early career, during which he seemed, as
the book’s sub-title indicates the “most promising of all” the
officers in the army, who, despite some bright moments, turned out to be
a poor commander.
the book has a lot of good word-portraits and some very clear analysis
of Buell’s essentially Jominian views on warfare and his inability to
understand the political dimensions of the conflict.
McKinley: William McKinley and the Civil War, by
William H. Armstrong. Kent,
Oh.: Kent State University Press, 2000.
Pp. xvi, 191. Illus.,
map, notes, biblio., index. $18.00
McKinley is more than just an
account of William McKinley’s Civil War, although it does a very good
job of telling that story. It
goes beyond the war years to talk about McKinley the veteran, and, most
importantly, McKinley the Commander-in-Chief.
McKinley’s war record was solid, it was hardly unusual.
But his wartime experiences, and his knowledge of the war in
general, served him in good stead during the Spanish-American War and
the Philippine Insurrection. A useful book for anyone interested in the Civil War, and a
valuable one for anyone interested in the conduct of the war with Spain
and that in the Philippines.
Memoirs, by William Tecumseh Sherman, edited with an introduction and notes by
Michael Fellman. New York:
Penguin, 2000. Pp. xxiv, 820. Illus,
maps, tables, editorial notes, index.
$16.95 paper. ISBN:
One of the classic works of American History (albeit,
as the general said, “These are my memoirs, if you remember it
differently, write your own.”), this edition of Sherman’s Memoirs
– here presented in a one volume version – is still worth reading,
with a useful introduction and notes added by the editor.
Secretary Prof. Kathleen Broome Williams’ "Scientists in
Uniform: the Harvard Computation Laboratory in WWII." Naval War
College Review, Summer 1999, has been awarded a prize for the best
historical article to appear in that journal during 1999.
Col. Arnold Albert, recently underwent emergency surgery.
He is currently recovering very nicely at his home.
Member, and resident aviation guru,, Dwight Cox, who has often
presented lectures to the Symposium, is relocating to Florida.
On Command and Commanders
Right Hand of Command: Use and Disuse of Personal Staffs in the Civil
by R. Steven Jones. Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 2000. Pp. xvi,
256. Illus., notes., biblio.,
index. $24.95. ISBN:
One area of the Civil War that has been long neglected is that of the staffs that assisted commanders in the execution of their duties. Recently, however, this topic has drawn some attention. Staff operations in the Army of Northern Virginia were covered by J. Boone Bartholomees' Buff Facings and Gilt Buttons, and now R. Steven Jones has weighed in with The Right Hand of Command, with mixed results.
The book is a study of the personal staffs of George
B. McClellan, Robert E. Lee, William T. Sherman, and U. S. Grant.
Most of the attention (three of the eight chapters) is focused on
Grant, for the author argues that over the course of the war Grant
developed a personal staff that in some ways resembled the developing
staff practices in Prussia. While
McClellan took some hesitant steps in that direction, both Lee and
Sherman did not make nearly as much use of their respective staffs as
they could have.
The limited scope of the book is both its strength
and weakness. Ideally, by
focusing on just the four individuals mentioned, Jones could take
something of an in-depth look at each of the staffs of these men.
He is able to go into some detail on a number of their staff
officers, many of whom have been somewhat faceless in
Civil War histories. Jones is also able to go into the relationship
between the some staffers and their bosses, although some of this is
territory that has been well covered by many biographers and historians.
The weakness of Jones' approach is apparent in a
number of ways. Jones’
limiting of his coverage to personal staffs skews the issue of how
staffs worked. In the chapter on Lee, for example, Jones asserts that
Lee at times used Armistead Long to place artillery batteries.
This should have been William Nelson Pendleton’s job, Lee’s
Chief of Artillery. Jones
says nothing, however, about the relationship between Pendleton and
Long. Yet even in dealing
with these four commanders, Jones goes into far more detail than
repeatedly read, for example, that such-and-such wrote this order that
specified the following. All
this detail really does not tell us very much, other than the fact these
people had lots of clerical duties to perform.
By limiting this detail, Jones could have saved space to deal
with other figures such as Braxton Bragg, a very influential figure in
the matter of how staff slots were filled in the Confederate armies.
Finally leaving out George Meade is a serious error.
By doing so, Jones missed an excellent opportunity to examine the
relationship between the two staffs, Meade’s and Grant’s, which
available documentation suggests was not a very healthy one.
Jones has made reasonably good use of the available
sources, but his research does show some odd gaps. While he makes good use of Cyrus Comstock's diary in the
Library of Congress, for Horace Porter he relies solely on the man’s
memoir Campaigning With Grant, even though Porter's own papers
are in also the Library of Congress.
The book does have the virtue of being well written.
In conclusion, this work was something of a missed
opportunity, owing largely to several omissions. It does, however, much like the Bartholomees book, take a
long needed step in the right direction.
DiNardo, USMC C&SC
Tactics and Leadership in the Confederate Army of Tennessee: Seeds of
London: Frank Cass, 2000. Pp.
261. Notes, biblio., append., index. $49.50. ISBN: 0-71446-5032-3.
This book examines some of the lesser studied aspects
of the Civil War, namely training, the tactics on which the training was
based, and leadership, especially at the lower levels of command.
Haughton ultimately concludes that training and the failure to
adapt essentially Napoleonic tactics to the tactical circumstances that
pertained in the west doomed the Army of Tennessee to failure.
Haughton logically begins by examining some of the
previous explanations for the Confederate defeat, as well as the notion
of Southern military prowess. In
a very close and penetrating analysis of the historical literature,
Haughton convincingly debunks the notion of Southerners being naturally
prone to the martial pursuits. He
also dismisses many of the standard explanations for the military demise
of the Confederacy. Having
done that, Haughton then begins his examination of what he argues is the
cause of the Confederate defeat, namely training and tactics.
Haughton argues that early on in the war Confederate
commanders remained wedded to linear tactics based solely on William J.
Hardee’s 1855 manual. As
time went on, commanders failed to rectify problems with training. While training, or drill, improved in both frequency and
quality at the company and regimental levels, drills at the brigade,
division, and corps levels remained almost unknown, at least until 1864. Haughton also points out the lack of target practice given
infantry, another deficiency not remedied until 1864.
In terms of command, Haughton tries to minimize
attention to the well-covered disagreements between Braxton Bragg and
his senior officers. Instead,
he concentrates on officers at the company and regimental level. Early
on officers were elected, a system that did not always produce the best
leaders. Bragg, while
stuck with this system, did try to mitigate its worst effects by
instituting a board of examinations to screen prospective officers for
their fitness for their respective posts.
Haughton’s analysis does fall short in some places.
He understates, for example, the importance of higher command. The
problem at Shiloh was not so much linear tactics as it was P.G.T.
Beauregard’s battle plan, which proved hopelessly complex for the
largely inexperienced Army of Tennessee to manage.
While Haughton argues that linear tactics proved incapable of
sustaining an offensive and that the army was unable to develop better
tactics, he is at a loss to explain the second day at Chickamauga.
There Longstreet, massing a force of eight brigades in a deep
column, was able to achieve a decisive result.
While Haughton does not overplay the effect the so-called “fatal
order” had in disrupting the Union line, he cannot explain how
Longstreet was able to accomplish this, even though the troops had
absolutely no training for it.
The lack of maps in the volume is a major deficiency.
The book is extremely well-researched and reasonably well written. Although Haughton’s arguments have their flaws, his approach is fresh. This is a very good addition to anyone’s Civil War library, although the price is pretty stiff.
--R.L. DiNardo, USMC C&SC
Days at Gettysburg: Essays on Confederate and Union Leadership, edited by Gary W. Gallagher.
Kent, Oh.: Kent State University Press, 1999.
Pp. xiii, 373. Illus,
maps, notes, bibliographic essay, index.
A collection of thirteen essays – including those
published in Prof. Gallagher’s two previous collections, The First Day at Gettysburg and The
Second Day at Gettysburg – which re-examines some of the critical
leadership issues during the critical battle.
Most of the essays are very good, and several are
outstanding, such as Carol Reardon’s “James Longstreet’s Virginia
Defenders,” A. Wilson Greene’s essay on Henry Slocum and the XII
Corps, and William Glenn Robertson’s on Dan Sickles and his Third
Corps, though Robert K. Krick cannot resist getting some digs in at
Longstreet, despite the overall favorable treatment of “Old Pete’s”
performance by both Reardon and Gallagher.
Valuable for anyone interested in the Civil War.
edited by Gary W. Gallagher. Lincoln,
Nb.: University of Nebraska Press, 1996.
Illus, maps, notes, biblio., index.
Pp. 19.95 paper. ISBN:
Lee the Soldier
consists of more than two dozen articles, excerpts from other works,
diaries, and letters, and biographical and bibliographical essays, by
former comrades, other soldiers, and scholars over the more than 135
years since the end of the Civil War, presenting a wide range of images
of Robert E. Lee, from the demigod to the more down-to-earth human being
of recent scholarship.
Though it would have been better had the editor
chosen to exclude excerpts from the mendacious Jubal Early, Lee
the Soldier is still a useful work for anyone interested in the
Civil War, and in Lee in particular.
and Commanders: Dispatches from the Army of the Potomac,
by Stephen W. Sears. Boston:
Houghton, Mifflin, 1999. xv,
300 pp. Illus, notes,
a series of essentially self-contained essays that are really sort-off
overly long discursive footnotes, Sears address some unusual or
half-forgotten subjects related to senior officers in the Army of the
Potomac. So we find “The
Ordeal of General Stone,” who was falsely – and maliciously –
accused of treason and treated disgracefully as a result, as well as “In
Defense of Fighting Joe,” which covers some interesting ground, and
“Last Words on the Lost Order,” dealing with the infamous “General
Order No. 191,” somehow lost and somehow found and somehow never quite
as important as it might have been (Sears hastens to add that these are his
“last words” on the subject.).
Worth reading for any student of the Civil War.
Davis’s Generals, edited by
Gabor S. Boritt. New York:
Oxford University Press, 1999. Pp.
xvii, 216. Illus, notes,
biblio. $13.95 paper. ISBN: 0-19-513921-6.
Essays by Craig Symonds, Emory M. Thomas, James
McPherson, Herman Hatthaway and others on various aspects of the
relationship between Jefferson Davis and his senior commanders, Joe
Johnston, Lee, Beauregard, Bragg, and Hood, as well as a couple of looks
at Davis as a grand strategist and war leader.
Some of the conclusions are interesting.
For example, Steve E. Woodworth argues that Bragg’s
subordinates were incompetent, which is true, but misses the point that
Bragg didn’t get along very well even with his abler subordinates,
while T. Michael Parish put the responsibility for the early 1850s feud
between then-Secretary of War Davis and General-in-Chief Winfield Scott
squarely on the latter’s shoulders, rather than distributing it
between the two. Not to be
missed is Lesley J. Gordon’s essay on the relationship of Davis, Lee,
and others with their wives.
Worth a read.
Pickett: The History of the Philadelphia Brigade, by Bradley M. Gottfired. Shippensburg, Pa.: White Mane, 1999. Pp. xi, 270. Illus,
maps, notes, biblio., index.
A detailed treatment of the “Philadelphia Brigade” the outfit which defended “The Angle” at Gettysburg, with a good look at the character of the men, their backgrounds, and their combat experience, along with the controversy surrounding the performance of some of them at Gettysburg/
Partisans: Guerrilla Warfare in the Southern Appalachians, 1861-1865,
by Sean Michael O’Brien. Westport,
Ct.: Praeger, 1999. Pp.
xxiv, 221. Illus,
references, biblio., index. $35.00.
A very good account of the irregular fighting in the Appalachian regions of Kentucky, Tennessee, the Carolinas, Georgia, and Alabama during the Civil War, which contained large pockets of Unionists, or just people who didn’t want to get involved. O’Brien places the events within the framework of the ante bellum economic and social order in the region, and devotes some attention to the effects of the bitter partisan fighting on the post-war development of Appalachia.
for the Round Tops: Law’s Alabama Brigade at the Battle of Gettysburg, by
Morris M. Penny and J. Gary Laine.
Shippensburg, Pa.: Burd Street Press, 1999. Pp. xvii, 254. Illus,
maps, append, notes, biblio., index.
A history of a particularly active unit. The book not only tells the story of the struggle for Little Round Top form the Confederate side, but also takes an interesting look at the role of Law’s Brigade in repulsing “Farnsworth’s Charge,” one of the most neglected incidents in the battle.
Sweat and Powder Smoke: The First Texas Cavalry in the Civil War,
by Stanley S. McGowen. College
Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1999. Pp. xvi, 229.
Illus, maps, notes, biblio., index.
The life of a Confederate cavalry regiment in the Trans-Mississippi, touching upon everything from recruitment and ammunition supply, to battles and leaders, as well as an interesting look at the rather neglected subject of the Confederate Army and the Indian Wars.
CSS H. L. Hunley: Confederate Submarine, by R. Thomas Campbell. Shippensburg,
Pa.: Burd Street Press, 1999. Pp. xi, 173. Illus,
maps, diagr., append., notes, biblio., index.
$14. 95. ISBN:
A timely volume, this is the fullest treatment yet
seen of the Confederate experimentation with submersibles.
The focus is, of course, on the ingenious and promising, yet
The book is marred by the author’s overt devotion to “The
in Mr. Lincoln’s Navy, by
Dennis J. Ringle. Annapolis:
Naval Institute Press, 1998. Pp.
xvi, 202. Illus, tables, notes, biblio., index. $32.95. ISBN:
An excellent look at the everyday life of the officers and men of the fleet during the Civil War. The volume covers everything from recruiting to shipbuilding, rations, administration, medical treatment, and so forth. Of considerable value to anyone interested in the Navy in the war.
The Guns that Won the West: Firearms on the American Frontier,
by John Walter. London/Mechanicsburg,
Pa.: Greenhill/Stackpole, 1999. 288
pp. Illus, diagr., tables,
chron., append., biblio., index. $34.95.
A comprehensive look at the evolution of firearms in America from the Mexican War to that with Spain. Although not specifically devoted to military firearms, a major portion of the weapons discussed were in fact used during the Civil War, which makes this volume a handy introduction to the weaponry of the period.
Confederate Retaliation: McCausland’s 1864 Raid, by Fritz Haselberger. Shippensburg, Pa.: Burd Street Press, 2000. Pp. xi, 257. Illus, maps, append., notes, biblio., index. $34.95. ISBN: 1-57249-113-2.
A fairly even-handed, detailed treatment of operations in the Shenandoah Valley in late 1864. This is the period of Jubal Early’s two attempts to “raid” Washington, and the subsequent Union campaigns to eject the Confederates from the Valley. Well put together, and well supplied with maps.
Tullahoma: The 1863 Campaign for the Control of Middle Tennessee,
by Michael R. Bradley. Shippensburg,
Pa.: Burd Street Press, 2000. Pp.
viii, 110. Illus,
maps, notes, biblio., index. $9.95
paper. ISBN: 1-57249-167-1
Although short, Tullahoma is a good
operational treatment of Union
Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans’ remarkable campaign of maneuver in
central Tennessee in the summer of 1863.
The author, who has relied heavily on the Official Records,
has manage to cram a remarkable amount of detail into the book, which
includes some simple, but very useful maps to help the reader understand
this complex operation.
War Book Review.
Published by the United States Civil War Center at Louisiana State University and BookPage, the quarterly Civil War Book Review includes scores of reviews of books the Civil War or Civil War-related topics, including cultural and social works as well as political, military, and biographical. Fiction as well as non-fiction is reviewed, and there is a substantial section devoted to children’s literature. The reviews range from several hundred words to one-liners, and include pieces by notable scholars and authors.
Civil War Book Review is priced at $4.00 an issue, with
subscriptions at $16.00 a year, from BookPage, 2143 Belcourt Avenue,
Nashville, Tn., 37212 or by email at
How to do
Civil War Research, by Richard
A. Sauers. Conshohocken,
Pa.: Combined Publishing, 2000. Pp.
160. Illus., biblio.,
append., index. $16.95
paper. ISBN: 1-58097-041-9.
Although designed for the novice Civil War
researcher, such as someone looking for an ancestor, How to Do Civil
War Research, is also quite useful for the more seasoned researcher
as well. Prof. Sauer, who
is on the Board of Directors of the Philadelphia Civil War Museum and
Library, covers a broad spectrum of topics, including basic references,
archives, museums, magazines and journals, the internet, newspapers,
historical societies, battlefields, and much else besides, and concludes
the books with a useful discussion of how to organize one’s material
and doing the business of writing.
The Complete Book of Confederate Trivia, by
J. Stephen Lang. Shippensburg,
Pa.: Burd Street Pres, 2000. Pp.
ix, 357. Biblio. $14.99 paper. ISBN:
Over 4,000 bits of
wonderfully amusing, curious, or totally useless information presented
thematically in a question and answer format
Although technically “trivia,” the material is often quite
interesting and not necessarily useless.
A good book for the Civil War buff.
by Fire: Science, Technology, and the Civil War, by Charles Ross.
Shippensburg, Pa.: White Mane, 2000.
Pp. xi, 215. Illus, maps, plans, notes, biblio., index.
A collective look as some of the more interesting
technological developments during the Civil War. Three chapters look at individual officers who achieved
notable success in developing innovative solutions to specific problems,
Henry Pleasants and the mine at Petersburg, Joseph Bailey and the Red
River Dams that rescued a Union squadron from probable capture, and
George Washington Rains, who became the powdermaster to the Confederacy. Another three chapters focus on specific innovative
technologies, submarines, balloons, and telegraphy.
The submarine chapter is particularly good because it deals not
only with the famous H.L. Hunley, but also with Union and other
Confederate efforts at developing undersea craft.
There are also some useful appendices dealing with various
aspects of the history of submarines and aircraft prior to the Civil
Civil War Fantastic, edited by Martin H. Greenberg. New York: DAW Books, 2000.
Pp. viii, 308 pp. $6.99 paper. ISBN:
An anthology of eighteen science fiction, fantasy, or
horror stories about the Civil War.
While none display a genuine mastery of the history, several are
quite amusing and one or two very good example of the genre, notably
James H. Cobb’s “Hex ‘em John,” an interesting horror story with
an amusing twist.
The Civil War Online
The Hardtack Pages
Actually, these are two distinct websites.
The first site doesn’t have a name.
It is devoted specifically to the about the relative merits of
several different brands of hardtack currently available for
re-enactors, historians, and the merely curious.
The second site is that of the winner of the hardtack
“taste-off” (One wonders what Julia Child would have said, if
invited) reported in the first site.
Bent’s Cookie Factory, in Maine.
Founded in 1801, Bent’s made hardtack during the Civil War, and
has recently resumed making it for the re-enactor trade, using their
original recipe, and even the original cracker molds.
Both sites are worth visiting for anyone with even a
cursory interest in the Civil War.
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