The NYMAS Newsletter.
A Publication of The New York Military Affairs Symposium
No. 27, Summer 2003
Special Civil War Issue
© 2003 NYMAS & The Authors
Civil War Achievement Award
NYMAS is pleased to announce that the winner of the award for lifetime achievement in Civil War scholar-ship is Gary W. Gallagher, the John L. Nau III Professor in the History of the American Civil War at the University of Virginia. For nearly two decades, Prof. Gallagher has produced a steady supply of publications on the Civil War in the eastern theater. Although his oeuvre includes only one monograph, a biography of Stephen Dodson Ramseur, the series he edits, Military Campaigns of the Civil War, now weighing in at over seven volumes, primarily on various campaign in the east, stands as a classic of the genre.
Prof. Gallagher has always been a steady contributor to this series, and, as also demonstrated by the collections of his own works, The Myth of the Lost Cause in Confederate History and Lee and His Army in Confederate History, his work has always been characterized by impeccable research, perceptive interpretation, and well honed arguments.
Storming Little Round Top: The 15th Alabama and Their Fight for the High Ground, July 2, 1863, by Phillip Thomas Tucker. Cambridge, Ma: Da Capo Press, 2002. Pp. 342. Map, notes, index. $30.00. ISBN: 0-306-81146-4.
The fight for Little Round Top is certainly one of the most written about tactical engagements in the Civil War is. The vast majority of the attention, however, has focused on the actions of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and the 20th Maine. Much of this, as Phillip Thomas Tucker writes, is really the result of the self-serving efforts of Chamberlain himself. Tucker takes a different tack in focusing on the 15th Alabama, the Confederate regiment that almost drove the 20th Maine from its position guarding the Union left flank at Gettysburg.
The book has a number of strengths. Giving a detailed description of the 15th Alabama’s activities on that fateful July 2, it is remarkable that the unit, having marched some 25 miles in hot July weather, could then deploy and still fight a major engagement. Also welcome is coverage of the initial stages of the 15th Alabama’s attack, which included a nasty fight against the 2nd United States Sharpshooters in order to gain control of Big Round Top. Tucker makes the point that this fight cost the 15th Alabama both time and casualties, including several key officers.
Tucker then goes into a very detailed description of the action on Little Round Top. Although he spends the vast majority of the time on the 15th Alabama and the 20th Maine, Tucker gives the other players their due. It is nice to see some attention given to the 83rd Pennsylvania, 44th New York, and the 2nd U.S. Sharp-shooters, as well as the 4th and 47th Alabama. The details on the 20th Maine and its actions are also well covered.
The book does have its flaws. Like any work that seeks to be revisionist, Tucker overstates some of his arguments. Too often he relies on the post-war statements of the 15th Alabama’s commander, William C. Oates, overlooking the fact that they were written from the perspective of bitter introspection. This leads Tucker into some serious overstatements. His argument, following Oates, that the Confederates could have won by getting artillery up on Big Round Top is simply not convincing. Likewise, Tucker overstates the possibilities for the Confederates, even if that part of Little Round Top had been taken. Attacking on a long and attenuated line and without his third division, it is difficult to see how even as hard a fighter as Longstreet could have exploited success. Certainly those elements of Evander Law’s Brigade that did fight at Little Round Top would have been completely exhausted even with a successful assault. Finally, a book that is as detailed a tactical study as this requires a good many maps. Unfortunately, there is only one map, and not a very good one at that.
These flaws notwithstanding, anyone with a detailed knowledge of or interest in Gettysburg will find much to think about in this book. It is a reasonably good addition to the already endless numbers of books written about the most famous battle in the Civil War.
--R.L. DiNardo, USMC C&SC, Quantico
Brigades of Gettysburg: The Union and Confederate Brigades at the Battle of Gettysburg,by Bradley M. Gottfried. New York: Da Capo: 2002. Pp. 697. Maps, notes, index. $50.00. ISBN: 0-306-81175-8.
For more than a century the regiment was the focus of Civil War studies about combat units. In recent years, however, there has been an increased realization of the importance of the brigade, which on both sides was the primary tactical unit, and, again on both sides, remained remarkably stable organizationally for most of the war. The result has been several valuable works on some of the more notable brigades in both armies, such as the Union’s "Iron Brigade" and the Confederacy’s "Stonewall Brigade." With Brigades of Gettysburg Dr. Bradley M. Gottfried, already the author of three earlier works on the Civil War and Gettysburg, presents us with a reference guide to all of the brigades that took part in the battle.
Drawing upon official documents, regimental histories, memoirs, and private correspondence, Dr. Gottfried recounts the history of each of the brigades briefly, but adequately, in a readable form, from their formation through the end of the Battle of Gettysburg, which constitutes, quite naturally, the bulk of the four to six double-columned pages devoted to the treatment of each brigade. The accounts include short statistical summaries of each brigade’s strength and losses in the battle, a brief profile of the brigade commander, and an account of its role in the battle through the medium of first hand observations by officers and soldiers. In addition, there is a shorter, generally one or two page, account of the history of each of the corps and divisions in each army, so that the organizational structure within which the brigades functioned can be better understood.
Brigades of Gettysburg is a very useful book not only for students of Gettysburg, but of the Civil War in the East. --A. A. Nofi, CNO SSG, Newport
Army Life in Virginia: The Civil War Letters of George G. Benedict,edited by Eric Ward. Mechanicsburg, Pa: Stackpole Books, 2002. Pp. x, 246. Illus., maps, biblio., index. $26.95. ISBN: 0-8117-0139-5.
This is an improved version of George Benedict’s 1895 book, which was based on edited versions of the letters Benedict wrote during his brief service in the Army of the Potomac. Benedict was the editor of the newspaper The Free Press, published in Burlington, Vermont. In August 1862 the 36 year old editor enlisted in a Vermont militia company, the Howard Guard. One month later the company, was called up as part of the 12th Vermont Infantry, for nine months’ service with the Union Army. After periods of training in both Vermont and then near Washington, D.C., the 12th Vermont, brigaded with the 13th, 14th and 16th Vermont Regiments, did rear area and some picket duty with the Army of the Potomac during May and June of 1863. The 2nd Vermont Brigade, as it was called (it was the only brigade with regiments from the same state), finished its nine months with a flourish. At the end of June 1863, while the 12th Vermont continued to guard the Army’s supply trains, the other three regiments were called to Gettysburg, where they played a prominent role in the defeat of "Pickett’s Charge." Benedict, who started as a private in the 12th Vermont, later became an officer serving on the staff of brigade commander George J. Stannard, was present at Gettysburg in that capacity. This work is based on the letters that Benedict wrote to and published in The Free Press during his time of service.
Being a newspaper editor, Benedict had the benefit of both a sharp eye for detail and some facility with the pen. His letters are generally easy reading, and are filled with great detail about the life of the common soldier. There are also lots of details about brigade movements, some minor skirmishes, and the places the brigade passed through. The letters concerning Gettysburg are interesting in a couple of ways. First, they reflect how even immediate recollections of events can be tricky. Benedict, for example, has the bombardment on 3 July beginning at 2 pm, about an hour later than most sources say it began. He also says the bombardment lasted for about 90 minutes, but has the infantry attack beginning while the artillery barrage is still going on. The battle scenes and the results are poignantly described. One striking vignette deal with a visit Benedict made to a field hospital on the night of 3 July, where he saw an exhausted surgeon, scalpel in hand fall asleep over one of his (hopefully unconscious) patients.
The book does have its weaknesses. Given the limited time Benedict was in the service, the scope of the book is also limited. Also, since Benedict was writing letters that he knew would be published, one has wonder whether or not he pulled his punches about some individuals. Finally, although Ward, the editor, does do a good job in providing supplementary information on a number of individuals Benedict mentions, his narration of general events does have some mistakes. Ambrose Burnside, for example, did not withdraw his men back across the Antietam Creek after A.P. Hill’s counterattack drove Burnside’s IX Corps away from Sharpsburg.
Taken all together, this is a reasonably good collection of letters. Given the limited scope of Benedict’s service, however, the book will be attractive mostly to Gettysburg buffs.
--R.L. DiNardo, USMC C&SC, Quantico
Black Soldiers in Blue: African American Troops in the Civil War Era,edited by John David Smith. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002. Pp. xxiii, 451. Illus., maps, notes, index. $39.95. ISBN: 0-8078-2741-X
This interesting collection of essays is designed to fill what editor John David Smith sees as some major gaps in the coverage of the role of Black soldiers in the Civil War. Given the attention paid to units such as the 54th Massachusetts in both print and especially film, the essays in this book give much more coverage to the activities of the United States Colored Troops (USCT). Smith begins with his own essay outlining Abraham Lincoln’s path, often marked by nuanced steps criticized by all sides, to the policy of arming both free Blacks and former slaves. Later in the book, the recruiting Black soldiers is covered in an excellent article by Michael Meier on Maj. Gen. Lorenzo Thomas, the Union officer who was most responsible for the recruitment of Black soldiers.
The articles covering USCT troops in combat deal with several lesser known episodes, namely Milliken’s Bend, Port Hudson, Olustee, Saltville, Fort Pillow, and Nashville. The articles on Fort Pillow and Saltville make an interesting comparison. While John Cimprich clearly states that a massacre occurred at Fort Pillow, his careful assessment of the evidence suggests that Nathan Bedford Forrest’s culpability in the massacre is not as clear cut as many would believe. The episode at Saltville in October 1864, covered by Thomas D. Mays, is much more sinister matter. There a number of Union soldiers, both Black and white, left to the clemency of the enemy in the course of the Union retreat, were shot in cold blood, either personally by infamous Confederate guerrilla leader Champ Ferguson or by soldiers acting on the orders of Texan Brig. Gen. Felix Robertson. After being informed of the murders by John C. Breckinridge, Robert E. Lee demanded that both Robertson and Ferguson be brought before a court-martial. While the chaotic conditions in the Confederacy prevented this from occurring, a degree of justice was achieved when Union authorities hanged Ferguson just after the war.
William Glenn Robertson’s essay on two different divisions composed of USCTs that served in the East, one successfully with Benjamin Butler’s Army of the James and the other with less success in the Army of the Potomac, illustrates how attitudes in the top leadership could effect the performance of Black units, both positively and negatively. Anne Bailey’s fine essay on James B. Steedman’s USCT division in Tennessee covers not only the actions of Black regiments at the battle of Nashville, but also how hard it was to simply get Black troops into the field. The main villain here was William T. Sherman, whose animus against Blacks could at times be every bit as virulent as the most militant southern fire eating secessionist.
There are other essays in this book aside from those mentioned here, more than can be covered in any detail. Taken all together, however, this collection is a fine addition to the literature on the subject.
--R.L. DiNardo, USMC C&SC, Quantico
Gray Cavalier: The Life and Wars of General W.H.F "Rooney" Lee,by Mary Bandy Daughtry. Cambridge, Ma: Da Capo Press, 2002. Pp. viii, 376. Illus., notes, biblio., index. $27.50. ISBN: 0-306-81173-1.
There are some interesting gaps in the numerous biographies of individuals who played various parts in the American Civil War. On the Confederate side, there are no real biographies of Robert E. Lee’s sons, two of whom, George Washington Custis Lee and William Henry Fitzhugh "Rooney" Lee, became Confederate generals. Mary Bandy Daughtry has now tried to address that with her biography of "Rooney" Lee.
Daughtry gives a rather standard account of the younger Lee’s life. The second son of Robert E. Lee, William Henry Fitzhugh Lee was born on May 21 1837. How he became known as "Rooney" remains something of a mystery. Failing to get into West Point, Rooney Lee instead attended Harvard for three years, leaving to become a lieutenant in the infantry in 1857. With the onset of war in 1861, Lee went back to Virginia to offer his services in the state. He organized and commanded the 9th Virginia Cavalry. After distinguished service as commander of this regiment, he was promoted to brigadier general on September 15, 1862. The following year he distinguished himself at Brandy Station, but was wounded and later captured. After spending nine months in captivity, he was exchanged. Promoted major general in April 1864, Rooney Lee was given a division in J.E.B. Stuart’s Cavalry Corps, serving again with distinction in that capacity until the end of the war.
Daughtry recounts Lee’s life and activities in great detail. Working in the Lee family papers collected in various institutions, Daughtry does a good job in revealing Rooney Lee’s relationship with his father, which at times was strained. She also provides a great deal of detail in discussing his military activities.
Unfortunately, the book has a number of flaws. Like most biographies, Daughtry becomes overly engrossed with her subject. While Lee was certainly an admirable character, one gets the feeling from this book that Lee was so universally loved and admired that if he ran for President he would have won in a landslide. Also, for all of the diligence in Daughtry’s research, we still know very little about Rooney Lee. Daughtry notes that the Harvard University Lee attended in the 1850s was a place roiling with heated arguments over the great issues of the day, including secession, slavery, and states’ rights. Yet we learn nothing from her about Lee’s opinions on these matters, or even if he had any. The book is also long on description, but somewhat short on analysis. Her most important argument concerns not Rooney Lee but J.E.B. Stuart. Daughtry holds that the most important consequence of Brandy Station was that, given the performance of the Union cavalry at the battle, Stuart felt he had to take a much larger force with him on his controversial ride around the Army of the Potomac during the Gettysburg Campaign. Although not directly supported by documentary evidence, it is an interesting idea. Finally, a major problem with the book is maps, or rather the lack thereof. Daughtry often goes into great detail in tactical engagements, especially Brandy Station. Without an accompanying map, however, such detailed descriptions don’t do much to illuminate.
Taken all together, this book will not stand up as the definitive biography of Rooney Lee. It is, however, a good first step in the process of making Robert E. Lee’s children individuals in their own right.
--R.L. DiNardo, USMC C&SC, Quantico
Biographies & Memoirs
Lincoln’s Spymaster: Thomas Haines Dudley and the Liverpool Network,by David Hepburn Milton. Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole, 2003. Pp. xxvi, 146. Illus., notes, biblio., index. $26.95. ISBN: 0-8117-0015-1.
A valuable addition to the literature of intelligence operations during the Civil War, focused on the work of Thomas Haines Dudley, the American Consul at Liverpool. Working virtually single-handedly, Dudley, who had not experience whatsoever in intelligence operations, nevertheless managed to put together an network of operatives that permitted him to monitor the activities of Confederate agents and their English sympathizers who strove to procure warships and military supplies for the South. Long overlooked, Dudley’s work helped the State Department in its ultimately successful efforts both to avert British intervention in the war and to limit the support the Confederacy was able to secure in Britain.
Brand of Infamy: A Biography of John Buchanan Floyd,by Charles Pinnegar. Westport, Ct.: Greenwood Press, 2002. Pp. xiv, 235. Illus., maps, tables, append., notes, biblio., index. $64.95. ISBN: 0-313-32133-7.
Surprisingly, this is the first biography of John B. Floyd -- politician, government official, and inept commander – to have seen print. While the author does a reasonable job of outlining Floyd’s career, and to some extent rescuing if from charges of corruption, he fails to address some of the most significant charges against the man, notably that, while Secretary of War in the Buchanan Administration, he made a number of decisions deliberately calculated to place some of the resources entrusted t his care in locations where they would be available to Southern states in the event of secession. Useful, but hardly definitive.
The Real Lincoln: A Portrait,by Jesse W. Weik, edited by Michael Burlingame. Lincoln, Neb.: University of Nebraska Press, 2002/Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1922. Pp. xxx, 453. Illus., append., notes, index. $39.95 paper. ISBN: 0-8032-9822-6.
A classic look at Lincoln the man rather than the politician and national leader, based on a large mass of original documents and private communications amassed over many years by Jesse W. Weik. For this edition, Prof. Burlingame has added explanatory notes and incorporated the full text of many of the documents used by Weik.
Jefferson Davis in Blue: The Life of Sherman’s Relentless Warrior,by Nathaniel Cheairs Hughes, Jr., and Gordon D. Whitney. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2002. Pp. xviii, 475. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $49.95. ISBN: 0-8071-2777-9.
The first thorough biography of the most uniquely named Union general, Jefferson C. Davis, a man noted primarily for two notorious incidents, his public murder of his superior, Maj. Gen. William "Bull" Nelson, a crime for which he was never charged, and his callous disregard for the lives and safety of thousands of "Contrabands" when he destroyed a bridge during the "March to the Sea." The authors examine these incidents, not particularly getting Davis off the hook for either. But the go on, in considerable detail, to demonstrate that Davis was also an excellent soldier, a good organizer and tactician, who served well, and often with distinction, for nearly 40 years, most notably in command of a corps under Sherman. A useful contribution to the literature.
General Wadsworth: The Life and Wars of Brevet General James S. Wadsworth,by Wayne Mahood. New York: Da Capo, 2003. Pp. x, 344+. Illus., maps, append., notes, biblio., index. $27.50. ISBN: 0-306-81238-X
A long-needed biography of one of the most capable amateur generals of the war. About half the book is devoted to the general’s family background and his pre-ante bellum private affairs, being one of the wealthiest men in the country and presiding in almost baronial splendor over enormous estates in New York. A confirmed abolitionist, upon the outbreak of the Civil War Wadsworth, already well into his 50s and volunteered for service, though he had never served a day in his life. Even before proving himself in the field, he demonstrated considerable leadership qualities, and by the time of Gettysburg had risen to command the 1st Division, 1st Corps, of the Army of the Potomac. He fought in all the principal battles in the East from Gettysburg unit his death in action in the Wilderness. A valuable contribution to the literature of the war.
No Disgrace to My Country: The Life of John C. Tidball,by Eugene C. Tidball Kent, Oh.: Kent State University Press, 2002. Pp. xviii, 564. Notes, biblio., index. $49.00. ISBN: 0-87338-722-8.
Like many mid-ranking officers, and particularly artilleryman, John C. Tidball (USMA, 1848) is one of the more obscure figures of the Civil War. In No Disgrace to His Country, we have an excellent – if long – biography. About a third of the book is devoted to Tidball’s life before the war, and provides an often detailed picture of life in America and its Army in the ante bellum period. Rather more than a third is devoted to the war, in which Tidball played an important role as a proponent of light – horse – artillery, serving in virtually all of the principal battles in the East. The balance o the book deals Tidball’s post-war rise to brigadier general and his later life.
Battles & Campaigns
Lee's Last Retreat: The Flight to Appomattox,by William Marvel.. Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 2002. Pp. xiii, 328. Maps, illus., append., biblio., and index. $29.95. ISBN 0-8078-2745-2.
A very effective attempt to fill one of the most glaring gaps in the history of the Civil War, the campaign between the Confederate evacuation of the Richmond-Petersburg lines on April 2, 1865, and Lee’s surrender at Appomattox six days later. In a fighting retreat that lasted six days, Lee’s army gave almost as well as it got, but could elude Grant. Drawing upon a wide variety of sources, including diaries, letters, and memoirs, Marvel’s treatment is weighted towards the Confederate side, but is hardly pro-Southern. Indeed, he directly rebuts a number of the "Lost Cause" myths that were built around the campaign, including the notion that Lee was overwhelmingly outnumbered, odds of 5-to-1 traditionally being cited, when in fact they were barely 2-to-1. A useful contribution to the literature of the war.
The Blue, the Gray, and the Red: Indians Campaigns of the Civil War,by Thom Hatch. Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole, 2003. Pp. xi, 274. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $29.95. ISBN: 0-8117-0016-X.
Though virtually all military history dealing with the 1860s deals primarily with the Civil War, in fact there was a great deal of military activity in the West. Nevertheless, the Indian Wars went on more or less unabated, and often further complicated by their enmeshment with the struggle between Blue and Gray. Essentially a survey, Hatch’s work deals with nine significant Indian campaigns between 1861 and 1665, including the Sioux uprising in Minnesota, the Apache and Navajo Wars, and the Sand Creek Massacre, while also touching upon Union and Confederate operations against each other.
A Fighter From Way Back: The Mexican War Diary of Lt. Daniel Harry Hill, 4th Artillery, USA,"edited by Nathaniel Cheairs Hughes, Jr., and Timothy D. Johnson. Kent, Oh.: Kent State University Press, 2002. Pp. xvi, 231. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $14.00. ISBN: 0-87338-739-2.
An eyewitness to military operations from Monterey through to the fall of Mexico City, Hill’s account provides an often detailed look at army life during the War with Mexico, including the tedium and the terror. There are many thumbnail sketches of men who would later become famous in the Civil War. The extensive notes added by the editors are a valuable addition an excellent personal account.
Shelby’s Expedition to Mexico: An Unwritten Leaf of the War,by John N. Edwards, edited and with an introduction by Conger Beasley, Jr. Kansas City: Kansas City Times, 1872/Fayetteville, Ark.: University of Arkansas Press, 2002. Pp. xvii, 231. Map, notes, biblio., index. $29.95. ISBN: 1-55728-732-5.
A reprint of one of the few first-hand accounts of the services of Confederate troops to Maximilian von Hapsburg’s soi disant "Empire of Mexico," in this case Brig. Gen. Joseph L. Shelby and his former "Iron Brigade." Although the work is by no means free of error, and betrays much of the racial and religious biases of the age, it provides much invaluable information. The value of the book is enhanced by the extensive notes provided by the editor, though he might have considered consulting Mexican sources as well as American ones.
Cold Harbor: Grant and Lee, May 26-June 3, 1864,by Gordon C. Rea. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 2002. Pp. xviii, 532. Illus., maps, append., notes, biblio., index. $34.95. ISBN: 0-8071-2803.
In a very detailed treatment of one of the bloodiest periods of the Civil War, Rhea provides a readable, clear account of the events. The author’s main purpose, however, is to review Grant’s reputation as a "Butcher," and that he does less well. The book’s great strength is in its setting of events and movements very firmly in their geographic surroundings, an effort made the more effective by the large number of clearly drawn maps. A useful work, but one falling short of the author’s purpose.
Texas in the Confederacy: An Experiment in Nation Building,by Clayton E. Jewett. Columbia, Mo.: University of Missouri Press, 2002. Pp. vii, 310. Maps, notes, append., biblio., index. $37.50. ISBN: 0-8262-1390-1
Essentially a study of Texas politics on the eve of and during the Civil War which focuses on the evolution of a unique "Texas" identity within the Confederacy. Thus, there are chapters devoted to the state’s efforts to cope with its Indian frontier, the attempt to develop a military industry, and internal improvements.
The New York "Draft Riots" in Fiction
The recent film The Gangs of New York, for all its very numerous historical inaccuracies, has revived interest in the so-called "Draft Riots" that wracked New York City for four days in July of 1863. Generally regarded as the worst civil disorders in American history, the riots left 110-120 dead – including about a dozen African Americans brutally lynched by the rioters – and nearly a thousand injured, as well as resulting in millions of dollars in damages.
The traditional view, which still largely prevails even in academia, views the riots largely as a racist anti-black outbreak by the city’s Irish Catholic underclass, mired in "superstition and vice." This view has a long history, having been perpetuated in works such as Joel Tyler Headly's The Great Riots of New York, 1712-1873 (New York: 1873) and Herbert Asbury’s The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the Underworld (New York: 1928), both of which are highly inventive, written by anti-Irish , anti-Catholic journalists with more than a little novelist in their blood -- Headly himself was a prominent "Know Nothing" during the 1850s. While racism certainly was a factor in the outbreak, this view is much too narrow, omitting as it does the very real grievances of the Irish, confronted by widespread discrimination and persecution at the hands of New York’s Anglo-Saxon Protestant elite, the very same oppressors that they had encountered in Ireland.
This older perspective began to change with Adrian Cook’s Armies of the Streets (New York: 1972), a process accelerated by the appearance of Ivory Bernstein's masterful The Draft Riots (New York: 1989), which looked at the riots within the context of the history of riot in New York City, and most recently with the publication of Tyler G. Anbinder’s Five Points: The 19th-Century New York City Neighborhood That Invented Tap Dance, Stole Elections, and Became The World's Most Notorious Slum (New York: 2002) which delved deeply into the alleged corruption, drunkenness, and vice in that infamous neighborhood to reveal a more complex, and far less depressing community.
Perhaps the best way to look at the riots is through the lens of fiction – proper fiction, not pseudo-historical treatments such as those produced by Headly and Asbury. The last few years has seen two excellent fictional treatments of life New York in the period which focus on the riots.
Banished Children of Eve: A Novel of Civil War New York, by Peter Quinn. New York: Viking Penguin, 1995. Pp. 624. $13.95 paper. ISBN: 0-14-023003-3
Paradise Alley, by Kevin Baker. New York: Harper Collins, 2002. Pp. 676. $26.95. ISBN: 0-06-019582-7
There is much to be said for both books. Both, of course, focus on the events of mid-July 1863, and both roam considerably through the years preceding those events. Each work follows a number of characters as they converge in New York during those deadly July days. Some begin in Ireland, during the horrors of the potato famine, others in the poverty-stricken quarters of the recent immigrant or the impoverished freedmen who form the principal characters in each work. A few begin in other circumstances. There are complex relationships that each explores with some skill. Both authors rather deftly weave their casts of characters together, to tell how race, class, and religion formed an explosive mixture in New York in the midst of the Civil War.
Both books make for very good reading. On balance, however, Banished Children of Eve is the better, both as a work of fiction and particularly as a work of historical fiction.
In Banished Children of Eve, Quinn delves deeply into the religious persecution of the Irish in America before and during the Civil War, including riots, church burnings, and the notorious "Children’s Aid Society," which was little more than an agency to forcibly separate from their families and convert to Protestantism Catholic – and to some extent Jewish – children in the guise of "rescuing" them from poverty, while not glossing over the prejudices of the Irish themselves. Quinn is also rather better at "getting" the milieu, the rhythms and peculiarities of New York life in the mid-nineteenth century.
This is not to say that Baker’s Paradise Alley has no merit. In fact, the book examines what is still a very overlooked aspect of Irish-Black relations in the period, love and marriage across the color line, involving as it did people bound together by persecution, poverty, and lack of opportunity.
On balance, two excellent treatments of life in New York City during what still remains the worst crisis in its history.
--A. A. Nofi, CNO SSG, Newport
On the Eve of the War
Manifest Destiny's Underworld: Filibustering in Antebellum America, by Robert E. May. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2002. Pp. xx, 436. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $45.00. ISBN: 0-8078-2703-7.
An account of private military adventures – coups, invasions, revolutions, and the like – engineered or undertaken by Americans in the decades preceding the Civil War, mostly in Latin America but elsewhere as well, primarily the result of efforts by slaveholding interests to expand the South's "peculiar institution." Prof. May fits these many adventures into the context of American political life, demonstrates how they often were organized with the support of local interests in Latin America, discusses the role of the federal government in trying to suppress the undertakings, and has a look not only on the impact of filibustering on domestic politics, but also on the nation's foreign relations. The book’s primary flaw is that it strongly suggests filibustering was a purely American phenomenon, when in fact it was a surprisingly common feature of nineteenth century international life, and spilled over into the twentieth as well; consider Ypsilanti’s expedition into the Danubian Provinces that sparked the Greek Revolution, Garibaldi’s "Thousand," or even Fidel Castro’s expedition to Cuba in 1956. Nevertheless, the book is interesting, if only for the remarkable cast of characters, including many who attained some prominence in the Civil War.
Long Gray Lines: The Southern Military School Tradition, 1839-1915,by Rob Andrew, Jr. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001. Pp. viii, 169. Illus., notes, biblio., index. $29.95. ISBN: 0-8078-2610-3.
A look at the origins, development, impact, and ultimate demise of the military colleges as commonplace of Southern higher education. The author observes that the development of the military college in the early- and mid-nineteenth century was not confined solely to the South, but it was far more common there than in the North. Discounting the suggestion that this penchant for military education arose out of long-term secessionist influences, Prof. Andrew, formerly of The Citadel and now at Clemson, argues that the military college reflected the Southern self-image as an society of patriotic, honorable, public-spirited gentlemen, virtues that could best be instilled by a military education, a notion into which many black institutions of higher learning in the South also subscribed. Andrew’s account covers performance of the several Southern corps of cadets in the Civil War, both in terms of the individual young men they sent into the Southern armies and also of their own performance on the battlefield in the dying days of the Confederacy, debunking some heroic myths while telling some stories hitherto overlook.
African-Americans in the War
Campfires of Freedom: The Camp Life of Black Soldiers during the Civil War,by Keith P. Wilson. Kent, Oh.: Kent State University Press, 2002. Pp. xviii, 336. Illus., diagr., tables, append., notes, biblio., index. $39.00. ISBN: 0-87338-709-0.
Based on very detailed research, Campfires of Freedom breaks new ground by focusing on several critical aspects of the service of African-Americans during the Civil War. The principal themes are race relations in the army, the interaction between free Northern men, and Southern former slaves, and social, cultural, and spiritual life of the men in the camps that helped prepare them not only for military life but also for the expect life in freedom after the war. The work, by a New Zealand scholar, touches upon such subjects a education, religion, family and gender relations, political awakening, and much more. The two appendices provide a look at war songs and spirituals that were important in developing the soldiers’ sense of purpose, while the extensively notes provide considerable explanatory details.
Army Life in a Black Regiment, by Thomas Wentworth Higginson. Mineola, N.Y.: Dover, 2002/Boston: Fields, Osgood, 1870. Pp. 203. Append., index. $7.95 paper. ISBN: 0-486-42482-0.
A reprint of a classic treatment by the commander of the 1st South Carolina. Despite its age, Army Life in a Black Regiment is still useful not only for its value as a first-hand account of the regiment’s many activities, but also for Col. Higginson’s staunch defense of the character and skill of his troops.
Diary of a Contraband: The Civil War Passage of a Black Sailor,edited by William B. Gould IV. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002. pp. xxiii, 373. Illus., append, notes, index. $24.95 paper. ISBN: 0-8047-4708-3.
Memoirs or diaries by black soldiers are rare, and those by black sailors – who comprised about a third of the Navy’s manpower during the Civil War – are rarer still. So the appearance of William B. Gould’s diary is of considerable value. In 1862 Gould escaped from slavery to join the Navy, in which he served until the end of the war. Most of his service was on the high seas and abroad, seeking out Confederate privateers and raiders. The entries range from very brief commonplace notices to often insightful essays on life in the service, conditions in foreign parts, and the war. The diary was edited by Gould’s great-grand-son, who wrote a lengthy introduction, added extensive notes, and prepared several valuable appendices.
Camp Nelson, Kentucky: A Civil War History,by Richard D. Sears. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2002. Pp. lxxxiv, 401. Notes, biblio., index. $45.00. ISBN: 0-8131-2246-5.
Originally established as a supply depot, Camp Nelson, near Louisville, soon became one of the principal recruit training stations for African-American troops, a place where former slaves were turned into soldiers for the Union, that at great cost, for official mismanagement led to great suffering and often death on the part of many of the soldiers’ dependents. Following a long (c. 60 pp.) "Historical Introduction," Camp Nelson is essentially a collection of documents, including official reports, letters, diary entries, and newspaper articles, and such, arranged in such a way that they fall into a series of "chapters" that cover the history of the camp. Although not for the casual reader, Camp Nelson is likely to be of value for anyone interested in the black experience during the war.
On the Technical Side
Civil War Ironclads: The U.S. Navy and Industrial Mobilization,by William H. Roberts. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002. Pp. xii, 285. Illus., fig., tables, append., notes, biblio. essay, index. $46.95. ISBN: 0-8018-6830-0.
The book touches upon the interplay of politics, personalities, technology, business practices, strategy, industrial base, and more, to create a detailed, readable look at the enormous effort required to create the Union’s ironclad fleet, the scale of which the author compares to some of the major R&D projects of World War II, such as the B-29 or atomic bomb. There’s a great deal of unusual material, including personality clashes, design controversies, wages, bureaucratic practices, and more, making it the most comprehensive treatment of the subject yet seen.
War of the Aeronauts: A History of Ballooning in the Civil War,by Charles M. Evans. Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole, 2002. Pp. x, 358. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $27.95. ISBN: 0-8117-1395-4.
A comprehensive study of military ballooning during the Civil War, the first in many years. War of the Aeronauts appropriately opens with a concise, but adequate survey of the early history of ballooning and the state of the art on the eve of the Civil War. He then provides a detailed look at military ballooning during the war, with a good look at the efforts of both sides. There is a great deal here, including technical information, operations, and, especially, personalities. The author puts military ballooning firmly into the context of the war, and provides a useful discussion as to why it was ultimate abandoned by both sides. A worthwhile book for anyone interested in the Civil War.
War & Society: Some Recent Collections
Legacy of Disunion: The Enduring Significance of the American Civil War,edited by Susan-Mary Grant and Peter J. Parish. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2003. Pp. viii, 267. Notes, biblio., index. $34.95 ISBN: 0-8071-2847-3.
A series of essays exploring some of the consequences of the Civil War. The essays, by a number of scholars, are grouped into three broad areas – the shaping of remembrance of the war, the transformation of American life and politics, and the impact of the war on America’s place in the world. Essays on the image of the war in popular culture, on Lincoln, and on its influence on the rest of the world in its immediate aftermath are of particularly value.
Civil War Arkansas: Beyond Battles and Leaders,edited by Anne J. Bailey and Daniel E. Sutherland. Fayetteville, University of Arkansas Press, 2000. Pp. xi, 304. Map, notes, index. $22.00 paper. ISBN: 1-55728-565-9.
Following an introduction that reviews the historiography and historians of Arkansas in the Civil War, there are eleven essays by various scholars dealing with such diverse topics as "Henry McCullouch’s Texans and the Defense of Arkansas in 1862," "Bullets for Johnny Reb: Confederate Nitre and Mining Bureau in Arkansas," "Disloyalty and Class Consciousness in Southwestern Arkansas, 1862-1865," "’We Cannot Treat Negroes . . . as Prisoners of War ’: Racial Atrocities and Reprisals in Civil War Arkansas," and more.
The War Was You and Me: Civilians in the American Civil War,edited by Joan E. Cashin. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002. Pp. viii + 397. Illus., notes, index. $65.00. ISBN 0-691-09173-0
Fifteen essays that address some unusual aspects of the war on the home front, with half a dozen each addressing the North and Southern scene and three taking in both regions. There is much new ground here, and some re-examination of old issues. Two of the more insightful essays are Amy Murrell’s "Union Father, Rebel Son: Families and the Question of Civil War Loyalty" and Margaret Creighton's "Living on the Fault Line: African American Civilians and the Gettysburg Campaign." Other essays focus on the ways in which the war was remembered, the development and maintenance of enthusiasm for the struggle, and so forth.
Of Special Interest
A Short History of the Civil War: Ordeal by Fire,by Fletcher Pratt. Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications, 1997. Pp. xxii, 426. Illus., maps, index. $9.95 paper. ISBN: 0-486-29702-0.
First published in 1935, Ordeal by Fire (to use its original title), remains quite possibly the best one volume popular history of the Civil War, and certainly the most well written. This edition is based on the revised 1948 version, with its marvelous maps by the talented Rafael Palacios. A new preface by Civil War novelist and former head of the U.S. Civil War Center, David Madden, not only serves to introduce Pratt and his book, but provides some critical commentary as well. Despite its lack of scholarly apparatus, Pratt’s work remains worthwhile reading for anyone interested in the Civil War.
A Taste for War: The Culinary History of the Blue and the Gray,by William C. Davis. Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 2003. Pp. xiv, 226. Notes, biblio., index. $26.96. ISBN: 0-8117-0018-6.
A Taste for War is more than just a rehash, as it were, of what the troops ate. Davis, certainly one of the best Civil War historians, addresses not only that, but also what the troops wrote and thought and felt about their food and drink (there’s a lot in here about booze). He takes a look at the food processing industry, such as it was, cooking and messing arrangements in both armies, the weakness of the logistical systems, and more. The book includes numerous detailed recipes, though one wonders if Davis has tried them all, considering that some of may not be to everyone’s "taste", such as "Planked Rat".
New Reference Works
Staff Officers in Gray: A Biographical Register of the Staff Officers in the Army of Northern Virginia,by Robert E. L. Krick. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003. Pp. xiv, 406. Illus., notes, append. $45.00. ISBN: 0-8078-2788-6.
A valuable reference for anyone doing serious research in the Civil War, with a particular focus on the Eastern Theater. Following a long introduction discussing the development of the staff system in the Army of Northern Virginia, Krick provides short –50-100 word – capsule biographies of literally hundreds of officers who served in various capacities, including many unofficial volunteer aides-de-camp. Through the use of an extensive, though relatively simple set of abbreviations, the entries are surprisingly detailed, even including occasional personal information on the officers. One appendix lists these men grouped by the generals whom they served and a second provides brief information on staff officers in other armies.
The Custer Companion: A Comprehensive Guide to the Life of George Armstrong Custer and the Plains Indian Wars,by Tom Hatch. Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole, 2002. Pp. xiv, 274. Illus, maps, references, index. $29.95 paper. ISBN: 0811704777.
Although naturally focused on events during the Plains Indian Wars, The Custer Companion has a good chapter on Custer’s role in the Civil War, and the numerous biographical and other side-bars with which the book is seasoned frequently deal with the events of 1861-1865, making it a useful read for anyone interested in the Civil War.
Brassy’s Almanac of the American Civil War,by Philip Katcher. London: Brassy’s, 2003. Pp. 240. Illus., maps, tables, biblio., index. $29.95. ISBN: 1-85753-396-8.
A very handy reference work, providing not only a chronology of events from early 1860 through late 1865, but also short biographical sketches of notable characters, background information on the respective armies and navies, with information on their organization, weapons, and, equipment, plus extensive tabular information on population, economics, battles, and more. There is also a very helpful listing of museums, publications, and re-enactments, as well as much more
Webmaster, Bob Rowen
Organizations & Units
History of the 33rd Iowa Volunteer Infantry Regiment, 1863-1866,by A. F. Sperry, edited by Gregory J. W. Urwin and Cathy Kunzinger Urwin. Fayetteville, Ark.: University of Arkansas Press, 1999. Pp. xxx, 360. Illus., map, append., notes, biblio., index. $22.00 paper. ISBN: 1-55728-5772
Unlike most regimental histories to come out of the Civil War, Sperry’s History of the 33rd Iowa was originally published in 1866, and is thus untainted by the dimming memories, veterans’ politics, and committee authorship that characterize most of the genre. The story of the regiment, which largely performed its duties in less glamorous theaters such as Arkansas, is well told, with the bad as well as the good, providing an unusually frank look into soldiering during the Civil War. A thoughtful introduction and extensive annotations by the editors enhances the value of the book.
Lee’s Cavalrymen: A History of the Mounted Forces of the Army of Northern Virginia,by Edward Longacre. Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 2002. Pp. xii, 468. Illus., maps, tables, notes, biblio., index. $36.95. USBN: 0-8117-0898-5.
Essentially a companion volume to Longacre’s earlier Lincoln’s Cavalrymen, in Lee’s Cavalrymen, the author takes a deep look at the Confederate cavalry and other mounted troops in the East. Throwing a wider net than is customary in works on Lee’s cavalry, which often focus largely on J.E.B. Stuart and his adventures, Longacre provides a good look into the background of many of the units and troopers , and their commanders. A useful book for anyone interested in the Civil War.
The Weary Boys: Colonel J. Warren Kiefer & the 110th Ohio Volunteer Infantry,by Thomas E. Pope. Kent, Oh.: Kent State University Press, 2002. Pp. xiii, 183. Illus., maps, append., notes, biblio., index. $16 - paper. ISBN: 0-87338-729-5.
In the Army of the Potomac, the 110th Ohio was what later American soldiers would call a "Sad Sack" outfit, ineffective and lazy. In The Weary Boys the author argues that the dismal reputation of the regiment reputation was undeserved. He makes a good case, and in the process tells a great deal about the daily life of a regiment during the war, providing many details of camp and combat.
NYMAS Fall 2003 Schedule
Date Topic & Speaker _
Sept 5 "Lincoln and McClellan in the Early Civil War," Russel H. Beatie, author
Sept 12 "Wilson's War," George Crile, author, 60 Minutes
Sept 19 "The Information Component of Power and US National Security in the 21st Century," Daniel Kuehl, National Defense University
Sept 26 "First: The Anti-War Movement and the Second World War," David Gordon, NYMAS/Bronx. Community College
Oct 3 "Austro-Hungarian War Planning," Dan David, NYMAS
Oct 10 "The Military and the Media," Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, PAO, 10th Mountain Division, US Army
Oct 17 "Beginning of War by Yet Another Means: Germany, 1919-1923," Frank Radford, NYMAS
Oct 24-25 Two Day Event: "The Bush Doctrine: War at Home and Abroad"
Friday Evening –
Scott Ritter, former UN Weapons Inspector
Gary Leech, Columbia Report
Jonathan Schell, Nation Institute
Norman Friedman, NYMAS, author
Conrad Crane, Army War College
David Isby, Author
Leon Segal, Director, Northeast Asia Cooperative Security Project
Stanley Aronowitz, CUNY
Oct 31 "Native Americans in French and British Strategy during the French and Indian War (1754-1763)," Maj. Joe Alessi, USMA
Nov 7 "Battles of Megiddo, Maj. Risa Cowher, USMA
Nov 11 (Tuesday) "Hitler's Second Book," Gerhard Weinberg, Professor Emeritus University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Co-sponsored by Enigma Books and The Historical Society
Nov 14 "Rearming of Germany after WWII," Chuck Steele, USMA
Nov 21 "Transform the Personnel System and You Transform the Army, Maj. Donald Vandergriff, Georgetown University
Dec 5 "War and Boundaries in Medieval and Early Modern France," Louis Cooper, American University
Dec 12 "ON Vietnam Veterans," Maj. Erik Overby, USMA
Dec 19 "The Lord Matilda," Valerie Eads, NYMAS
NYMAS talks are free and open to the public. They are normally held on Friday evenings at the City University of New York 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 on the 6th floor in Room 6-495, but confirmation of the room number should be obtained from the guard at the street-level entrance.
These talks are sponsored by the New York Military Affairs Symposium in conjunction with CUNY's Conference on History and Politics, Dr. George D. Schwab, Director. NYMAS is associated with the Society for Military History, Region 2.
Speakers and subjects may be subject to change without notice. A current schedule is available at the NYMAS website at http://nymas.org.
The New York Military Affairs Symposium
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NYMAS is a tax exempt, not-for-profit membership corporation chartered under the laws of the State of New York. Donations are deductible from both Federal and New York State taxes. Membership dues are $35.00 a year, payable in September. Checks should be made out to "NYMAS" and mailed to the Bronxville address. Items for The Newsletter should be sent to Albert A. Nofi, Editor, NYMAS Newsletter, 66 Girard Ave (#321), Newport, R.I., 02840, or via email email@example.com
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