Butkovich, Brad. The Battle of Allatoona Pass: Civil War Skirmish in Bartow County, Georgia. (The History Press: June 2014). 192 pages, illustrations, 11 maps, notes, bibliography, index. ISBN: 978-1-62619-461-8 $19.99 (Paperback).

BattleOfAllatoonaPassButkovich2014HistoryPress Civil War Book Review: <i>The Battle of Allatoona Pass: Skirmish in Bartow County, Georgia</i>Most Civil War buffs are familiar with the bookends of John Bell Hood’s tenure as Army of Tennessee commander at Atlanta and Franklin/Nashville.  Many, however, don’t realize Hood led a third campaign in October 1864 against Sherman’s supply line to Atlanta. Brad Butkovich steps in to ably fill the void with The Battle of Allatoona Pass: Civil War Skirmish in Bartow County, Georgia, a look at the key battle of Hood’s campaign against the Western and Atlantic Railroad.

Brad Butkovich is an experienced wargamer, wargame publisher, and historian.  He has a BA in History from Georgia Southern University. Butkovich is no stranger to the Western Theater of the Civil War, with a History Press title on Pickett’s Mill and a wargaming scenario book on Chickamauga to his credit. Brad’s web site, http://www.historicimagination.com, offers these products as well as a link to his Civil War Virtual Tours.

In late September 1864, John Bell Hood had limited options.  His small Army of Tennessee, greatly reduced in numbers due to the offensive operations around Atlanta in late July 1864, was simply unable to retake fortified Atlanta from Sherman’s army group. What then?  Hood decided to strike Sherman’s vulnerable supply line, the Western and Atlantic Railroad, leading back from Atlanta to Chattanooga, Tennessee.  No spot on that line was more vulnerable than at Allatoona Pass, where in antebellum times enough rock was blasted out of a mountainside to fit a single line track through the pass. If Hood could obstruct this pass and destroy the supplies being stored there, he could cause significant issues for Sherman, then planning his march to the sea.

Hood launched his campaign in the closing days of September 1864.  Though he moved with his entire three corps army, only French’s Division of Stewart’s Corps fought at Allatoona Pass.  Hood thought the garrison was small, and he was right, with only a portion of the First Brigade, Third Division, Fifteenth Corps, Army of the Tennessee posted there under Lt. Col. John E. Tourtellotte.  What he didn’t count on was a determined effort by a few resourceful Yankees to get trains to John D. Corse’s Division stationed in Rome, Georgia, north of Allatoona Pass.  There was only enough space on the trains to fit one brigade’s worth of men (one regiment of 2/4/XV/AotT and a portion of 3/4/XV/AotT) and Fourth Division commander Corse. These men reached Allatoona Pass on October 5, 1864, the day the battle took place, and they were just barely enough. This division sized fight between French and Corse raged until the afternoon, when French decided to retreat due to inaccurate reports of approaching Union infantry reinforcements.

The Confederates were a bit unlucky in this fight.  A lot of things had to go right for the Union to have a division sized force at Allatoona Pass by the time they attacked. But credit Gen. Raum for ordering the reinforcements from Corse to head immediately for Allatoona Pass, and credit the men charged with getting those reinforcements to the right place in time to make a difference. Butkovich also details the unfortunate decision of Hood to send French’s Division, and only French’s Division, to attack at Allatoona Pass.  In addition to being the smallest of Stewart’s three divisions, French’s was also the furthest away.  The other two divisions would have reached Allatoona Pass much more quickly, and may have been able to capture the place prior to Corse’s arrival.  Lastly, the author also questions how serious Sherman was about getting reinforcements to Allatoona Pass in time to save the day.  Butkovich concludes based on the extant sources that, the General’s protests to the contrary notwithstanding, Sherman’s top priority wasn’t to save the garrison there.  Read the book to find out more about these and other controversies.

The only other work I could find on Allatoona Pass was Joseph M. Brown’s The Battle of Allatoona, October 5, 1864, written by Joseph M. Brown in 1890, so the battle was due a modern treatment.  And Butkovich provides another strong work on the western Theater, just as he did for Pickett’s Mill.  Drawing from a variety of sources, including Union and Confederate first person accounts from the pages of the National Tribune and the Southern Historical Society Papers, the Official Records, and archival sources, Butkovich makes sure the men who were there help tell the tale.  The illustrations are numerous , and the author took many photos of present day Allatoona Pass to help the reader see what the battlefield looks like today. The maps go down to an incredible level of detail, often breaking down to the company level on the Union side.  This is a welcome addition to a book covering a small, division sized fight, and shows Butkovich’s attention to detail. The order of battle shows unit strengths to the regimental level where known, a detail sure to please wargamers.

The Battle of Allatoona Pass: Civil War Skirmish in Bartow County, Georgia is one of a large number of smaller battles History Press has shed some new light on.  Just in the past few years I’ve also read and reviewed Butkovich’s earlier effort on Pickett’s Mill, Jimmy Price’s look at New Market Heights, and Doug Crenshaw’s book on Fort Harrison.

The Battle of Allatoona Pass: Civil War Skirmish in Bartow County, Georgia is another excellent effort by Brad Butkovich, adding to his work on the Civil War’s Western Theater.  The book covers an often overlooked battle and campaign nestled between much larger and more famous efforts.  Students of the Western Theater, those interested in John Bell Hood’s Confederate career in the West, and those looking for books on lesser known fights rather than the thousandth book on Gettysburg will find this a good read.  One in a long line of The History Press Sesquicentennial Series of books on the Civil War, The Battle of Allatoona Pass: Civil War Skirmish in Bartow County, Georgia is among the better efforts in that series, with excellent maps tied to the descriptive text. Check it out.  You won’t be disappointed.

A copy of this book was provided gratis for the purposes of this review.

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Gillum, Jamie. Twenty-five Hours to Tragedy: The Battle of Spring Hill and Operations on November 29, 1864 Precursor to the Battle of Franklin. (Jamie Gillum, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform: 2014). 504 pages, illustrations, 42 maps, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. ISBN: 978-1-4701-0681-2 $34.16 (Paperback).

TwentyFiveHoursToTragedySpringHillGillum Civil War Book Review: <i>Twenty five Hours to Tragedy: The Battle of Spring Hill</i> by Jamie GillumTo understand the disastrous Confederate result at the Battle of Franklin, you need to understand the previous day’s action at Spring Hill, Tennessee, on November 29, 1864.  To understand the action at Spring Hill…good luck!  Or at least that’s the way it has seemed for almost 150 years.  In Twenty-five Hours to Tragedy: The Battle of Spring Hill and Operations on November 29, 1864 Precursor to the Battle of Franklin, author Jamie Gillum provides a plethora of first person accounts from key witnesses along with his own observations.  Gillum describes the action thoroughly, offers his expert opinion on what happened, and ties those first person accounts together into a cohesive whole.  As many readers know, this is difficult enough to do for battles which occurred in daylight.  The problem at Spring Hill was that many of the controversial actions of the day played out after the winter sun set.  So how well did the author do?  Read on to find out.

Author Jamie Gillum, who self-published this second edition of his Spring Hill book, has been collecting primary source material on Spring Hill and studying the Civil War for over 35 years.  That’s as long as I’ve been alive.  He also spent 14 years in the U. S. Marines.  Gillum utilizes more than 150 primary sources to bring the story of Spring Hill alive.  The author made a conscious effort to insert more of his own opinion into this second edition, a welcome and needed addition to the book. He also improved the maps.  My opinion of this operation was significantly altered as a result of reading Twenty-five Hours to Tragedy. I think many readers’ opinions will change in the same way mine did, both about some of the personalities involved and the battle as a whole.

John Bell Hood’s 1864 Tennessee Campaign is widely regarded as a terrible failure, wrecking an army and ending any chance of Confederate success in the West. What many don’t know is how incredibly well the campaign began and how close it came to wildly succeeding.  Hood moved into position opposite Columbia, Tennessee, on the Duck River, in late November 1864. The town was held by John Schofield’s Union army, which was trying to buy time while reinforcements were gathered into a cohesive whole at Nashville to the north.  He left one Corps under Stephen D. Lee at Columbia to pin Schofield’s forces there.  With his other two Corps and Forrest’s cavalry, he launched a bold flanking maneuver, crossing the Duck River to the east of town and marching quickly north cross-country for Spring Hill. Hood’s objective was to cut Schofield off from Franklin and Nashville, along with the Union reinforcements then gathering in latter city.  Though Hood faced significant obstacles (Schofield had the direct route and a good road on which to march) the Confederate general essentially won the race to Spring Hill.  Few Federal troops were there when Forrest’s Cavalry and Frank Cheatham’s Corps approached. If the Confederates could simply beat the Federals to Spring Hill or some point between there and Franklin, Schofield’s army would be in serious trouble, cut off from supplies and friendly forces.

Through a long series of errors by many Confederate generals that afternoon, the road leading from Columbia to Spring Hill…and more importantly, from Spring Hill to Franklin, was never blocked.  The Confederate forces were tantalizingly close to doing so on multiple occasions, but couldn’t close the trap.  It’s the story of Hood’s efforts to get the road to Franklin blocked and trap Schofield’s little army, his army’s failure to do so, and WHY they failed to do so, which comprises this book’s raison d’être. As Confederate commanders desperately tried to make sense of the situation in the darkness, Schofield’s Union army marched past them, succeeding only barely in escaping the trap Hood had so promisingly set earlier in the day. This was one of the most harrowing escapes of the war, an amazing story, and one which ended very poorly for the Confederates. Ultimately, the sun set early on this short winter day, the confusion only grew worse for the Confederates, and Schofield lived to fight another day.

That day was the very next one, at Franklin, where Hood’s army was repulsed in a bloody frontal assault. Gillum argues, successfully, in my opinion, that the failure of the Tennessee Campaign happened on November 29 at Spring Hill, not at Franklin or Nashville.  The failure to block the road led to the absolute necessity of a frontal assault at Franklin, and one which wasn’t predestined to fail.  In fact, several key Union commanders indicated they feared just such a frontal assault in post-war accounts. Indeed, if it weren’t for the insubordination of Colonel Emerson Opdycke, whose brigade was kept by him in a reserve position at exactly the right spot, the Franklin attack may have succeeded just as Hood had planned. Author Jamie Gillum wrote this book, he writes, to show readers why Franklin happened as it did.

Readers of this review are probably wondering who Gillum thinks is responsible for the Confederate failure at Spring Hill.  Was it Hood, as army commander, for failing to make sure his subordinates understood exactly why it was so important to block the road to Franklin?  Was it Hood for failing to personally lead men onto that all-important avenue of Federal escape?  Was it Frank Cheatham, whose Corps was the first Confederate infantry to arrive on the scene? Was it Cheatham’s division commanders, especially Cleburne and Bate, who were at times so near the road they could see and hear Federal troops using it?  Was it famous cavalry commander Nathan Bedford Forrest, whose cavalry attacked the road north of Spring Hill at Thompson’s Station, but who didn’t manage to stay astride it. Was it possibly Corps commander A. P. Stewart, who was supposed to extend Cheatham’s right to the northwest and gain the road north of Spring Hill?  Or was it some combination of the above?  More importantly, WHY did these failures occur?  We’re discussing the meat of Gillum’s book here, and I encourage you to buy the book to find the answers to these questions and more.

The maps are plentiful, though clustered in the center of the book.   This makes it necessary to have a second bookmark for the map section as you move through the text.  Despite this minor annoyance, the maps do a good job of accompanying the text. Gillum provides several public domain maps from participants and authors first before moving into his own.  The maps help follow the constantly evolving action, and the author did a good job of showing the positions of both sides down to regimental and even company level in places. A book of this type needed many maps to help the reader understand why Hood’s army failed to block the all-important road to Franklin, so it’s encouraging to see them included an done well.

The first person accounts which are so important to this book are laid out in a very easy to understand style.  First person accounts are bolded, allowing the reader to easily distinguish between these and Gillum’s accompanying text.  Gillum mined newspapers, organs of veterans such as Confederate Veteran and the Union National Tribune, and many other sources. The editor of Confederate Veteran, Sumner A. Cunningham, was present at Spring Hill in the Confederate ranks, and his magazine included a lot of content about this small but ultimately critical affair. The Official Records, memoirs, and regimental histories are also mined thoroughly. It is clear the author has mined every conceivable place, and his efforts should be commended.

Twenty-five Hours to Tragedy: The Battle of Spring Hill and Operations on November 29, 1864 Precursor to the Battle of Franklin is the best explanation of Spring Hill, and by extension Franklin and Nashville, I have ever read. Gillum sets out to discover who failed and why  at Spring Hill to the extent he can with the accounts available, and his conclusions seem sound based on the presented evidence. This is one of the best self-published books I’ve seen in terms of editing, maps, and the like.  Don’t let the fact that this book is self-published discourage you from buying it. Students of the Civil War in the west, of John Bell Hood, and of close calls will find this book fascinating.  Those with preconceived notions of Hood or what exactly happened at Spring Hill may find those notions changed after a careful reading of the text. Most importantly, Twenty-five Hours to Tragedy will help you better understand the Battle of Franklin, and why Hood had no chance to win the campaign unless he attacked frontally and immediately that day. I can’t recommend this book enough.  It belongs on your shelf alongside Eric Jacobson’s work on the campaign and Stephen Hood’s look at how John Bell Hood has been badly misrepresented over the last century by certain historians.

To understand the disastrous Confederate result at the Battle of Franklin, you need to understand the previous day’s action at Spring Hill, Tennessee, on November 29, 1864.  To understand the action at Spring Hill…buy Jamie Gillum’s book.

This book was provided gratis for the purposes of this review.

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The Sacking of “Baldy” Smith: July 19, 1864

by Brett Schulte July 19, 2014

Editor’s Note: This post was originally posted at The Siege of Petersburg Online and has been cross-posted here for the benefit of TOCWOC readers. *** July 19, 1864: William F. “Baldy” Smith is Relieved from Command of 18th Corps, AotJ Today marks the 150th anniversary of William F. “Baldy” Smith’s removal from command of the […]

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Civil War Book Review: The Petersburg Campaign Volume 2: The Western Front Battles September 1864-April 1865

by Brett Schulte July 18, 2014

Bearss, Ed. and Suderow, Bryce. The Petersburg Campaign Volume 2: The Western Front Battles, September 1864-April 1865. (Savas Beatie: March 2014). 600 pages, illustrations, 25 maps, notes, bibliography, index. ISBN: 978-0-7006-1959-7 $39.95 (Cloth). Picking up where Volume 1 left off, the award-winning The Petersburg Campaign Volume 2: The Western Front Battles, September 1864-April 1865 dusts […]

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Civil War Book Review: Guide to the Richmond-Petersburg Campaign

by Brett Schulte July 16, 2014

Bowery, Charles R. Jr. and Rafuse, Ethan S. Guide to the Richmond-Petersburg Campaign. (University Press of Kansas: May 2014). 420 pages, 36 illustrations, 47 maps, notes, bibliography, index. ISBN: 978-0-7006-1959-7 $39.95 (Cloth). Charles Bowery and Ethan Rafuse’s Guide to the Richmond-Petersburg Campaign is the next in a long line of U. S. Army War College […]

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D. S. Freeman’s 4 Vol. Robert E. Lee Biography FREE Online

by Brett Schulte July 15, 2014

The internet can be indescribably awesome sometimes.  This is one of those times.  A recent thread posted at the Civil War Talk message board informed readers that Douglas Southall Freeman’s classic four volume biography of Robert E. Lee is online in its entirety, free, indexed, and searchable.  All 4 volumes.  All 2421 pages.  Simply amazing. […]

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Bearss and Suderow Win 2014 D. S. Freeman Award for The Petersburg Campaign, Volume 2

by Brett Schulte July 14, 2014

Savas Beatie released the following press release recently to announce that the Ed Bearss/Bryce Suderow collaboration on the Petersburg Campaign, The Petersburg Campaign, Volume 2, has won the 2014 Douglas Southall Freeman History Award: El Dorado Hills, CA July 1, 2014 - The Petersburg Campaign, Volume II: The Western Front Battles, September 1864 – April 1865, by […]

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