The NYMAS Newsletter.
A Publication of The New York Military Affairs Symposium
No. 24, Summer 2002
Special Civil War Issue
© 2002 NYMAS & The Authors
by George C. Rable.
For all of the ink that has been spilled over various Civil War campaign and battles, it is remarkable that there are still some that are relatively uncovered. In the eastern theater, one of the major events that remains ignored is the battle of Fredericksburg. George Rable has now ably filled that gap with his study of the campaign.
Rather than merely doing a battle study, Rable’s aim was for a much broader work. In this he succeeds brilliantly. He places the campaign in the overall context of the war. Rable appropriately begins with Abraham Lincoln’s second and final firing of George B. McClellan and the appointment of his replacement, the reluctant Ambrose Burnside. Under pressure from the administration to "do something," Burnside embarks on an advance towards Richmond via Fredericksburg, a plan ultimately frustrated by the well-known pontoon snafu, credit for which belongs largely to Henry Halleck. The delay allowed Robert E. Lee ample time to move first Longstreet’s and then Jackson’s Corps to the Fredericksburg area.
After looking for other crossing sites over the Rappahannock, Burnside decided to cross the river at the town itself and drive the Confederates from the positions they held along a series of hills and ridges west of town. Rable suggests that this was not necessarily a bad idea, for with Jackson’s Corps scattered along the river as far away as Skinker’s Neck and Port Royal, Lee’s defenses in the area of Prospect Hill and Hamilton’s Crossing might have been vulnerable, if a crossing and attack could be mounted quickly enough.
However, the crossing was delayed by some stout Confederate resistance and poor management on the Union side, especially at the upper pontoon site. Matters became worse for the Union when the officers let their troops engage in a rampage of looting and wanton destruction of the town itself, which many felt was not a good omen of things to come
The battle itself is well described, albeit rather briefly. Aside from some of the tactical descriptions, Rable wisely devotes much attention to the plight of the civilians both in Fredericksburg and the surrounding area. The treatment of these unfortunates clearly presaged a hardening of attitudes on both sides.
The most moving chapters deal with the plight of the wounded. Given the state of medicine at the time, one can only marvel at the ability of people back then to endure pain.
There are some flaws in the book. One is with the title. While Rable correctly notes the importance of the battle, especially on the Union psyche, citing the fact that after driving back Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg, Union troops chanted "Fredericksburg, Fredericks-burg," using this line as a title gives one the impression that Rable has written a Civil War musical, as opposed to a serious study. Also Rable overstates the possibility of Union success on the left, on the assumption that Meade’s attack through the six hundred yard gap left by the feuding A.P. Hill and Stonewall Jackson had been better supported. While Rable is certainly correct in this, maximum exploitation of the gap would have required tactical arrangements more akin to Long-street’s attack at Chickamauga or Emory Upton’s at Spotsylvania, a level of tactical thinking that did not exist in late 1862.
This book does not have some of kind of tactical detail that connoisseurs of battle books would perhaps prefer. Taken all together, however, this book, marked by impeccably exhaustive research, crisp writing and sharp analysis, is a splendid addition to the literature on the Civil War in the east. It will stand as the definitive study of the campaign for some time to come.
Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg! By George C. Rable. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2002. Pp. xiv, 671. Illus., maps, biblio., index. $45.00. ISBN: 0-8078-2673-1.
--R.L. DiNardo, USMC C&S College, Quantico
Some Notable Recent Books
The Business of Captivity: Elmira and Its Civil War Prison, by Michael P. Gray. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 2001. Pp. xv, 228. Illus., biblio., index. $35.00. ISBN: 0-87338-708-2.
One of grimmest chapters in the history of the Civil War was certainly with the treatment of prisoners by both sides. Most notorious was the camp at Andersonville, Georgia, whose commandant, Henry Wirz, was one of only three persons executed for war crimes after Appomattox. This book is the first scholarly treatment of the most deadly of the Union prisons, namely the one at Elmira, New York.
Of all the Union prisoner of war camps, Elmira was one with the shortest history, but also the highest fatalities. The prison opened in July 1864 and closed one year later. During that period some 12,147 Confederate prisoners were housed there. Of that total, almost 3,000 (24%) died, the highest mortality rate of all Union prisons. Gray seeks to find out why this was so, and what effect the presence of the prison exerted on Elmira.
One thing Gray clearly dismisses is the notion of any deliberate cruelty on the part of the Union authorities. In fact, the two camp commandants, Maj. Henry V. Colt and his successor, Lt. Col. Stephen P. Moore, were both well liked and respected by the Confederate prisoners. Rather, some of the reasons for the high mortality were similar to those at Andersonville; the camp was not well sited, especially for drainage. In addition, excessive frugality on the part of Commissary General William Hoffman often resulted in critical shortages of both materials and supplies. And matters were made worse by a sudden influx of prisoners in numbers far beyond what had been expected. Finally, the hard winter of 1864-1865 took a heavy toll of prisoners who were simply unaccustomed to so extreme a climate.
Gray also looks at what the prison did for Elmira. Like many other places in the North, Elmira became a boom town, with its economy buoyed by a number of fat government contracts. Most interesting is the lively business local merchants and townspeople did with Confederate prisoners in the trinkets that the prisoners made.
Gray has made extensive use of little used record on northern prisons in the National Archives, as well as private letters and diaries. He also made excellent use of local records and newspapers. The book is also well written, and has some interesting photographs.
In short, this book is a valuable contribution to the literature on the Civil War. Anyone with an interest in the war, and especially the treatment of prisoners in its course, would do well to get this book.
--R.L. DiNardo, USMC G&GSC, Quantico
Army of the Potomac: Birth of Command, November 1860-September 1861,by Russell H. Beattie. New York: DaCapo, 2002. Pp. xlii, 628. Illus., maps, append., notes, biblio., index. $37.50. ISBN: 0-306-81141-3.
In the first of what is intended to be a multi-volume history, the author does a masterful job examining the background to the creation of the Army of the Potomac. Beginning months before the Civil War actually broke out, Beattie, an attorney and former army officer, provides a quite detailed look at events during the "Secession Winter," focused on, although not exclusively confined to, the Washington area. There are often surprising details about behind-the-scenes events, such as how General-in-Chief Winfield Scott and Col. Charles P. Stone, secured Washington against a secessionist coup, which at some points is almost humorous.
There is a good summary of the state of the militia and the hasty mustering of troops in the aftermath of Ft. Sumter, the struggle to procure arms and equipment and to deny them to the Confederacy, and the political stresses caused by events in Charleston and Pensacola, are of which all covered in reasonable detail. There is a great deal of operational information, including short treatments of various proposed offensive movements, that help set the stage for the Bull Run Campaign, which is the subject of a rather well done summary overview. And, of course, there is the creation of the Army of the Potomac. Although treatment of the Confederate side is naturally less extensive, it is sufficient to provide an adequate background to the events unfolding in Washington.
There are quite a number of excellent word portraits of some of the more prominent officers involved, many conveniently grouped into a "dramatis personae," and the author marshals convincing evidence that some of those– such as Ben Butler, Robert Patterson, Irwin McDowell – traditionally portrayed rather negatively, performed far better than one might expect in the circumstances.
Although there are some odd constructions and usages that ought to have been caught by a proper proof reading, the book will prove rewarding reading for anyone with an interest in the Civil War.
--A. A. Nofi, CNO SSG, Newport
A Soldier’s General: The Civil War Letters of Major General Lafayette McLaws,edited by John C. Oeffinger. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002. Pp. xvii, 299. Illus., biblio., index. $34.95. ISBN: 0-8078-2690-1.
As a major general commanding a division, Lafayette McLaws was certainly a major figure in the Army of Northern Virginia. Now John C. Oeffinger has edited and collected in one volume McLaws’ wartime letters, certainly a welcome addition to the corpus of readily available primary material on the Army of Northern Virginia.
Oeffinger begins with a rather long (61-pages) introduction covering McLaws’ life, especially his Civil War career. He details McLaws’ relationships with the notable figures of the Confederacy, in particular Robert E. Lee and McLaws’ immediate superior, James Longstreet. Oeffinger states in his introduction that he spoke several well-known historians, including Robert K. Krick and Jeffry Wert. Judging by Oeffinger’s relentless criticism of Longstreet, it would be safe to assume that he spent far more time with Krick than with Wert.
The letters themselves offer an interesting mix of observations ranging from perceptive to inane. Perhaps the most inane is McLaws’ letter to his wife on July 7 1863, when he describes Longstreet as a "humbug," and a general of "little ability." Longstreet’s critics have often seized on this. What they overlook is that in nearly the next sentence, McLaws says that "we want Beauregard very much indeed," a sentiment that should give one pause about McLaws’ own ability as a judge of military talent. (As an aside, it is amazing to me how much mileage Beauregard was able to get out of First Manassas, given his rather undistinguished subsequent record.)
Unfortunately, no letters are included for some important periods, perhaps because none were written. Coverage of Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chan-cellorsville, all actions in which McLaws’ Division was heavily engaged, are not covered. The letters included, do cover more fully the controversy following Long-street’s relief of McLaws as division commander, and the situation in the Carolinas in early 1865.
Taken all together, McLaws’ letters will not have much interest for students of the Civil War west of the Alleghenies. Those interested in the Army of Northern Virginia, however, will find this volume an attractive addition to their libraries.
--R.L. DiNardo, USMC C&S College, Quantico
The Final Fury: Palmito Ranch, the Last Battle of the Civil War,by Phillips Thomas Tucker. Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 2001. Pp. x, 196. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $26.95. ISBN: 0-8117-0652-4.
The Final Fury is more than just an account of Palmito Ranch (May 12-13, 1865), the last notable engagement of the Civil War, and one in which the Confederates came away with the honors of the day. The book does a very fine job of placing the battle into the overall context of the history of Texas, the war in the Trans-Mississippi Theater, including relations with Mexico, and, of course, to events during the closing weeks of the war. It also provides excellent background on the personnel and units involved, particularly on the Confederate side, among whom were some notably interesting characters, such as Francisco Becerra, a who had arrived in Texas with Santa Ana’s Mexican Army in 1836, managed to survive both the storming of the Alamo and San Jacinto, to settle down and ultimate become a lieutenant in the Confederate Army.
The author of several other works on the war, Tucker provides a good, clear account of the battle, often going into considerable detail. Of particular value is his rescue of the role in the battle of the 62nd U.S. Colored Infantry from the anonymity to which prejudice and carelessness has hitherto relegated it, demonstrating that it provided the backbone of the Union effort in the battle.
Overall, Tucker’s mining of the sources is extremely impressive, and demonstrates what a determined researcher can do even when confronted by an obscure and very neglected topic.
--A. A. Nofi, CNO SSG, Newport
Lee and His Army in Confederate History, edited by Gary Gallagher. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001. Pp. xviii, 295. Illus, maps, notes, biblio., index. $29.95. ISBN: 0-8078-2631-6.
Having spent decades stirring up unreconstructed Southerners by helping to demythologize Robert E. Lee’s reputation as created by "Lost Cause" historians, in this series of his essays and articles Gary Gallagher proceeds to demonstrate that once shorn of this mythic overburden, Lee’s genuine greatness as a commander can truly be seen.
The essays are grouped somewhat disjointedly into three broad categories, "Lee’s Campaigns" (Maryland 1862, Fredericksburg, the impact of Gettysburg on the Confederacy, and the onset of the Campaign of 1864), "Lee as a General" (the "modernity" of Lee’s, Spotsylvania, and Chancellorsville), and "Lee and His Army in the Lost Cause"
In contrast to a number of other historians, who have argued that Lee’s generalship was dated, Gallagher marshals considerable evidence to suggest that Lee was in tune with the military developments of his day, and understood the changing nature of war. A good book.
--A. A. Nofi, CNO SSG, Newport
Civil War Navies
The Army’s Navy Series, edited by Charles Dana Gibson and E. Kay Gibson.
Winner of the "John Lyman" Book Award, The Army’s Navy Series is an impressive achievement, combining an operational history of the Army’s use of waterborne resources for transportation and logistics, as well as amphibious and riverine operations, with a particular focus on the Civil War, but it also provides a valuable reference guide to the ships involved. An important addition to the literature on the Civil War.
Civil War Navies, 1855-1883, by Paul H. Silverstone. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2001. Pp. xviii, 218. Illus., tables, append., index. $xyz. ISBN: 1-55750-894-1.
A handy reference guide to the ships and other military vessels of the U.S. Navy, Revenue Cutter Service, Coast Survey, and Army in the era of the Civil War, as well as the Confederate Navy, including state and local vessels, blockader runners, and privateers. Very handy for anyone interested in the maritime side of the Civil War.
War, Technology, and Experience Aboard the USSMonitor, by David A. Mindell. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 2000. Pp. x, 187. Illus., diagr., maps, notes, biblio., index. $14.95 paper. ISBN: 0-8018-6250-7.
A comprehensive look at the short-lived revolutionary Union ironclad that. The book is particularly interesting because it explores such often neglected topics as the actual construction of the ship, living conditions, and even its impact on poetry, some of it by a member of the crew and some by Herman Melville. An interesting work.
Under Two Flags: The American Navy in the Civil War,by William M. Fowler, Jr. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2001. Pp. 352. Illus., maps, notes, index. $18.95 paper. ISBN: 1-55750-289-7.
A survey of naval operations during the Civil War, which attempts, with some success, to treat both navies as demonstrations of the professionalism of the U.S. Navy. The work provides a number of useful insights into how pre-war developments in naval technology – such as ironclad warships – developed in both the Union and Confederate naval services. Although marred by occasional errors in usage (e.g., "fusillade" for "bombardment" and "mitigated" for "militated"), the book is worthwhile reading as an introduction to the naval aspects of the Civil War, and is by no means lacking in value for the specialist.
Roundtable and All-Day Conference
Friday, November 15th, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Roundtable: The Experience of Combat in American Film
Saturday, November 16th, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Conference: American Feature Films and the Experience of War
CUNY Graduate Center, at 365 Fifth Avenue, between 34th and 35th Streets
Gettysburg – The First Day,by Harry W. Pfanz. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001. Pp. xviii, 472. Illus., maps, append., notes, biblio., index. $34.95. ISBN: 0-8078-2624-3.
Having already dealt rather handsomely with the events of the second day at Gettysburg in his two previous works, Gettysburg—The Second Day and Gettysburg—Culp’s Hill and Cemetery Hill, former Chief Historian of the National Park Service Pfanz has turned his attention to the first day with equally impressive results. While Pfanz has produced a clear, effective narrative of the day, tying together events that sprawled across many miles and many hours, the work is much less satisfactory than his earlier ones, lacking in-depth analysis. Nevertheless, it is a useful work for anyone interested in the battle and in the Civil War in general.
Gettysburg – Day Three, by Jeffrey D. Wert. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001. Pp. 448. Illus., maps, append., notes, biblio., index. $27.50. ISBN: 0-684-859-9.
Jeffrey D. Wert, noted for several earlier works on the Civil War, has here produced a valuable treatment of the events of the third day, including not only "Pickett’s Charge" but also the fighting for Culp’s Hill and the often overlooked cavalry actions. Although the overall treatment is excellent, Wert does a particularly good job of dealing with the culminating moments of the Confederate attack on "The Angle," drawing upon an enormous mass of primary materials, including letters and reminiscences from many of the participants. A valuable addition to the literature of the battle.
Pickett’s Charge: The Last Attack at Gettysburg,by Earl J. Hess. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001. Pp. xviii, 497. Illus., maps, append., notes, biblio., index. $34.95. ISBN: 0-8078-26-0.
Only the second work to concentrate on Gettysburg’s climactic moment, the so-called "Pickett’s Charge," Hess’s volume takes advantage of over 40 years of scholarship since George R. Stewart’s similarly-titled 1959 work on the subject. Longer and more detailed than the earlier work, the Hess volume provides excellent background not only on the circumstances of the attack, but also on the units involved and their commanders, has a very detailed analysis of the geographic setting, includes a number of very detailed maps, and is more critical of decisions by many of the participants on both sides than either Stewart or a number of other historians of the incident. An important contribution to the literature on Gettysburg.
A Thoughtful Counterfactual
The Fourth Battle of Winchester: Toward a New Civil War Paradigm,by Richard M. McMurry. Kent, Ohio: The Kent State University Press, 2002. Pp. xvii, 150. Index. $9.95 paper. ISBN: 0-87338-721-x.
This slim volume is not really a scholarly study of any kind; rather, it is an extended thought piece by a veteran Civil War scholar. McMurry starts off by writing an alternative history of the course of the war in the east in 1864.
Assuming that the Confederates win the battle of Cedar Creek (aided by the timely death of Jubal Early), Robert E. Lee follows up his success by driving the Union forces under Ulysses Grant from the gates of Richmond in a series of battles known as the Second Seven Days, a campaign that in turn contributes to Abraham Lincoln’s defeat at the hands of George B. McClellan. McMurry then argues that even if this scenario (however implausible) occurred, given Sherman’s devastation of Georgia and George Thomas’ shattering victory over John B. Hood at Nashville, the result would have been the same. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia would still have been crushed, only this time by forces closing in from the west and south.
McMurry goes through this exercise to suggest that students of the Civil War look at the war in a somewhat different way. He argues that far too much attention has been paid by writers to the eastern theater. Instead, McMurry makes a case for what he calls the "western paradigm," namely that the war was fought and won (or lost, depending on one’s perspective) in the vast tract of land east of the Mississippi and west of the Blue Ridge. He then suggests a series of "turning points" (a term he dislikes), all of which occur in the west between the spring of 1862 and the fall of 1864.
This is not a book for the novice. McMurry assumes that the reader already has a great deal of knowledge of the war, especially geographical, since the book has no maps. The veteran student of the Civil War, however, will enjoy both the humorous writing style of the author (including several good natured shots at some authors) and his well argued points.
--R.L. DiNardo, USMC C&S College, Quantico
NYMAS Lecture Schedule
Tentative Fall Schedule *
Sep 6 "The Battle of Algiers, Revisited," Robert Miller, Engima Books
Sep 13 "Good Medicine at Buffalo Creek," Wayne Sarf, NYMAS
Sept 20 "Good Bombing: The Image of Precision Bombing in World War II in Three American Feature Films," Frank Wetta, Ocean County College
Sep 27 "Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers: The Untold Story of Nazi Racial Laws and Men of Jewish Descent in the German Military," Bryan Mark Rigg, American Military University
Oct 4 "Finland World War II: Separate War, Sep-arate Peace," Eugene Feit, NYMAS
Oct 11 "Intelligence in Support of Humanitarian Op-erations, David Rababay, Lt. Col., USMC
Oct 18 "Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa, 1959-1976," Piero Gleijeses, Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies
Oct 25 "Another Such Victory: President Truman and the Cold War, 1945-1953," Arnold A Offner, Lafayette College
Nov 1 "The Soviet-German War, 1941-1945: Myths and Realities," David Glantz, Col., USA (Ret.)
Nov 2 "Leningrad: Four Years of Struggle," David Glantz, Col., USA (Ret.)
Nov 8 "Focus on Iraq," Richard Jupa, James Dingman, and others.
Nov 15-16, Roundtable and Conference,, "Celluloid Wars: American Feature Films and the Experience of War" – seenotice elsewhere in this newsletter
Nov 22 "Pope v. Lee: The Second Manassas Campaign", Ethan Rafuse, USMA
Dec 6 "The Battle of Fredericksburg," George Rable, University of Alabama
Dec 13 "Confederate War Minerals: The Niter and Mining Bureau," Michael E. Lynch, Maj., USA
Dec 20 To be announced.
Unless otherwise noted, talks are held on Friday evenings at the new CUNY Graduate Center, at 365 Fifth Avenue, between 34th and 35th Streets, from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Friday lectures are usually held in Room 6-495, but confirmation of the location should be obtained from the security guard at the street-level entrance. For Saturday sessions consult with the security guard.
Talks are sponsored by NYMAS in conjunction with the CUNY Conference on History and Politics, Dr. George D. Schwab, Director. Support is also provided by the CUNY Military History and Defense Affairs Symposium and the CUNY Veterans’ Affairs Office. NYMAS is associated with the Society for Military History (Region 2).
*Consult the NYMAS.ORG Website for additions and changes
Just for Fun
Articles of War: Winners, Losers, and Some Who Were Both in the Civil War, by Albert Castel. Mechanics-burg, Pa.: Stackpole, 2001. Pp. xii, 238. Illus., maps, index. $24.95. ISBN: 0-8117-0005-4.
Although lacking scholarly apparatus, this is a valuable collection of essays on a number of mostly lesser-known Civil War figures. The articles originally appeared in various journals over the last 20 years, including American Heritage, Strategy & Tactics, and North & South. The individual articles, generally very thoughtful, are grouped into four themes, "Some Winners" (Grant, Logan, Alpheus Williams, Forrest), "Some Losers" (McClelland, Van Dorn, Stoneman, Theophilus Holmes), "Some Winners Who Became Losers" (Albert Sidney Johnston, Polk, Jim Lane, Quantrill), and "Two Losers who Became Winners (Sam Houston and Sherman).
Although the essays on the rather obscure folks (Williams, Stoneman, Holmes, Lane, and Quantrill) are particularly good, since many of these men have been very neglected in the literature, those on Johnston and Houston stand out as the best in the volume. Castel’s account of Albert Sidney Johnston, subtitled "The Greatest Might-Have-Been of the Civil War," goes on to demonstrate that the general’s timely death in battle was probably good for his reputation. The essay on Sam Houston, the only non-combatant in the volume, focuses on his prescience in trying to keep Texas out of the Confederacy, and the extent to which Texans had begun to come around to his way of thinking by the time of his death in mid-war.
An amusing, interesting read for anyone interested in the Civil War.
--A. A. Nofi, CNO SSG, Newport
Civil War Firsts: The Legacies of America’s Bloodiest Conflict,by Gerald S. Henig and Eric Niderost. Mech-anicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole, 2001. PP. xiv, 434. Notes, biblio., index. $29.95. ISBN: 0-8117-0354-1.
A wide-ranging look at many of the "firsts" that occurred during the Civil War era. Although the war is the principal focus of their efforts, Henig and Niderost interpret their theme broadly, and the work includes developments and events of a social, cultural, and political turn that had little or no connection to national epic. Thus, among the "firsts" we find "Rabbi Morris J. Raphall," the first of his faith to deliver the invocation in the House of Representatives and "The Trans-Continental Railroad," as well as "firsts" in everything from creating the armies to developments in the practice of war on both land and sea, women soldiers, Jewish and Catholic chaplains, balloonists, medical treatment, land mines, intelligence, journalism, photography, and so forth, right on to memorializing and honoring the dead and, of course, the first assassination. An good, often amusing read for anyone interested in the Civil War.
The Language of the Civil War, by John D. Wright. Westport, Ct.: Oryx/Greenwood, 2001. Pp. xxxviii, 377. Illus., biblio., index. $62.50. ISBN: 1-57356-135-5
An often delightful dictionary of Civil War usage, covering not only military terminology, but slang, now dated curses and colloquialisms, nicknames, brand names, organizations, and the like. So we learn what "laudable pus" means, as well as "running-bag" and "feeler" (respectively, plain old white pus, as opposed to the black variety that indicates major infection, a sack stuffed with goods in case someone has to run, and the Civil War term for "reconnaissance by artillery fire."). There are a few errors. Wright asserts that the U.S. Navy issued rum, when in fact the active ingredient in American "grog" was whiskey, and issue ended early in the war anyway. Nor was the New York State Militia organized in 1861 – it had been around a lot longer than that. Wright also fails to provide the background for some terms, noting, for example, that "guerrilla" had come into fashion earlier in the century, without mentioning its Spanish roots. And then there is the ugly term "sieging", which no Civil War soldier would have used.
The 1865 Customs of the Service for Non-Commissioned Officers and Men: A Handbook for the Rank and File of the Army,by August V. Kautz. Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole, 2001/Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1865. Pp. 303. Illus, diagr., tables, index. $xyz. ISBN: 0-8117-0399-1.
In reprinting Brig. Gen. Kautz’ immensely valuable soldier’s handbook, Stackpole has made available to the modern student of the Civil War a veritable gold mine of information. The book, which is pocket sized and uses tiny print, much like the original, includes everything from the Articles of War to the duties of soldiers in particular branches and grades (e.g., commissary sergeants, first sergeants, and so forth), from pay and terms of enlistment, to punishments and the treatment of prisoners of war, and much else beside.
From Rail-Splitter to Icon: Lincoln’s Image in Illustrated Periodicals, 1860-1865, by Gary L. Bunker. Kent, Oh.: Kent State University Press, 2001. Illus., notes, biblio., index. $xyz. ISBN: 0-87338-701-5.
An extensive collection of often amusing portrays of the 16th president, from both friendly and hostile publications, with an accompanying analysis of the changing character of the images.
Webmaster, Robert Rowen
The Longest Night: A Military History of the Civil War, by David J. Eicher. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001. Pp. 990. Maps, notes, index. $40.00. ISBN: 0-684-84944-5.
A thorough account of the military side of the war, The Longest Night, which has a Foreword by James M. McPherson, provides a particularly good account of the latter portion of the struggle, often truncated in many survey histories. The overall treatment of strategy and operations is good, and there are some excellent views of many of the notable – and not so notable – commanders on both sides. The principal flaw of the work is the author’s failure to adequately address some of the critical developments in military art and science that shaped the conduct of the war. While there are useful short treatments of musketry and artillery, these come late in the book, and there is no systematic discussion of the important of railroads, fortifications, and the telegraph.
Extraordinary Circumstances: The Seven Days Battles, by Brian K. Burton. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001. Pp. xi, 524. Maps, append., notes, biblio., index. $35.00. ISBN: 0-253-33963-4.
A detailed narrative of the 1862 campaign that marked the "Emergence of Lee." Burton is rather more critical of Lee’s performance than some earlier historians, such as the worshipful Fairfax Downey, but tends to be hard on everyone.
Struggle for the Heartland: The Campaign from Fort Henry to Corinth,by Stephen D. Engle. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $34.95. ISBN: 0-8032-1818-4
A very readable account of military events in the Western Theater during 1862. Struggle for the Heartland is particularly valuable for tying together operations that are often treated in isolation, the Henry-Donelson Campaign, the Shiloh Campaign, and the Corinth Campaign. By restoring the natural continuity to these operations, the overall picture of events in the theater during the first half of 1862 becomes more comprehensible. Worthwhile reading for anyone with an interest in the Civil War, and perhaps particularly suitable as an introduction to the war in the West.
Unusual and Valuable
The Free State of Jones: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War, by Victoria E. Bynum. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001. Illus., maps, tables, append., notes, biblio., index. $29.95. ISBN: 0-8078-2636-7.
Jones County, Mississippi, was one of several areas in the Confederacy that resisted secession. Prof Bynum has produced a very detailed examination of why that occurred and what it implied for the local populace, not only during the Civil War, but after it as well, as wartime – and even pre-war – tensions continued to work themselves out. In doing so, she reveals a complex web of interacting social, political, cultural, and racial issues. An important book on the still-neglected subject of internal dissent in the Confederacy.
Gangrene and Glory: Medical Care During the American Civil War, by Frank R. Freemon.. Urbana: Illinois University Press, 2001. Pp. 254. Illus, tables, maps, diagr., glossary, notes, index. $24.95 paper. ISBN: 0-252-07010-0.
A very readable survey treatment of medical service during the Civil War. The author sets his account within the framework of the state of the medical profession in America on the eve of the war, and then proceeds systematically to discuss the development and experiences of the respective military medical services, the introduction of women nurses, and much more. Well written, and profuously illustrated with period images.
Rebels from West Point: The 306 U.S. Military Academy Graduates Who Fought for the Confederacy,by Gerard A. Patterson. Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stack-pole, 2002. Pp. xx, 194. Illus., append., notes, biblio., index. $16.95 paper. ISBN: 0-8117-2063-2.
Originally published in 1987, Rebels from West Point is a look at the USMA graduates, and a few drop outs, who served the Confederacy. The approach is narrative, rather than biographical fashion, which reduces the value of the book as reference. However, since many of these men are well treated in standard biographical dictionaries, the narrative approach used is quite appropriate, particularly since it permits the inclusion of a fair amount of anecdotal material.
A Prussian Observes the American Civil War: The Military Studies of Justus Scheibert,translated and edited by Frederic Trautmann. Columbia, Mo.: University of Missouri Press, 2001. Pp. xv, 250. Append., notes, biblio., index. $35.95. ISBN: 0-8262-13-0.
A captain in the Royal Prussian Engineers, Scheibert spent seven months in the Confederacy during 1863, being present at Chancellorsville, Brandy Station, Gettysburg, and the Union assault on Charleston. He then supplemented his notes and observations with intensive research, and proceeded to write extensively on the American Civil War and other military topics. In this volume, the editor has gathered Scheibert’s principal writings on the Civil War, supplementing them as necessary with explanatory and reference notes. Unlike many foreign observes of the war, Scheibert was highly respectful of the American military experience, and attempts to provide many "lessons learned" for wider application.
A Stupendous Effort: The 87th Indiana in the War of the Rebellion,by Jack K. Overmyer. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997. Pp. xii, 274. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., append., index. No price given. ISBN: 0-253-33301-6.
Just as did each of the many regiments that served in the Civil War, the 87th Indiana had a certain unique character of own, and A Stupendous Effort helps bring that character out. Beginning with a look at the Indiana counties from which the regiment was recruited, the author follows its adventures through some of the toughest moments of the war, including Perryville, Chickamauga, the struggle for Atlanta, and the March to the Sea.
Inside the White House in War Times: Memoirs and Reports of Lincoln's Secretary,by William O. Stoddard, edited by Michael Burlingame. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000. Pp. xxi, 226.
Notes, index. $25.00 paper. ISBN 0-8032-9257-0.
William O. Stoddard was a clerk in the White House, rather than one of the president’s secretaries. But in 1890 he published a memoir, which comprises the bulk of this new volume, to which editor Burlingame has added 13 "sketches" that Stoddard wrote in 1866 to Charles G. Halpine, editor of the New York Citizen. Stoddard’s reminiscences are wide ranging, and include word portraits of some notable – and not so notable – characters, commentary on the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln’s religious views, and more. To these the editor has added an abundance of useful clarificatory notes. Altogether a useful work for anyone interested in Lincoln or the management of the war.
General John Pope: A Life for the Nation,by Peter Cozzens. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000. Pp. xiv, 412. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $39.95. ISBN: 0-252-02363-3
Although nowadays generally regarded an inept buffoon because of his disastrous performance during the Second Bull Run Campaign, Union Maj. Gen. John Pope’s career was by no means devoid of success, which is what Peter Cozzens’ new biography sets out to do. By fitting the events of the summer of 1862 within the framework of Pope’s overall career, Cozzens does an effective job of demonstrating that, although out of his depth at Second Bull Run, Pope had a great deal of solid success as a soldier. His operations on the Mississippi in Missouri in the Spring of 1862 were well conducted, leading to the unhinging of the Confederate defenses at Island Number Ten and New Madrid, and his operations on the Plains during and after the war were important to the winning of the West. A useful book about a neglected officer.
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