America’s Civil War, May 2006

by Brett Schulte on April 16, 2006 · 8 comments

The May 2006 issue is the next issue of America’s Civil War that I’ll be reviewing for this blog. ACW is not quite as high in quality as North & South and Blue & Gray. It is virtually identical to Civil War Times Illustrated at this point, because both magazines are published by Primedia. There are no endnotes for the articles, although the maps are definitely improving over the quality of even a few years ago. I’m not particularly fond of the lack of footnotes. Despite this generally lower quality, good authors still find their way into ACW’s pages. Eric Wittenberg, who guest blogs for me from time to time, is just one example. Kevin Levin, who blogs at Civil War Memory, is another. This issue includes articles on myths at Shiloh, the Stonewall Brigade at Chancellorsville, and the Battle of the Crater. As mentioned, the article on the Crater was written by fellow Civil War blogger Kevin Levin, who runs the Civil War Memory blog.

Page 10
Personality: Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson
by Louis V. Netherland
The author covers Stonewall Jackson’s time at VMI, and how he came
to be the most respected man at the Institute, despite numerous peculiarities.
Page 14
Eyewitness to War: George Washington Healey by Edward
E. Deckert and Constance R. Cherba
George Washington Healey served in the Western Theater
with the 5th Iowa Volunteer Cavalry. He survived an ugly head wound suffered
on June 25, 1863. In August 1864, Healey was captured and spent time at
the infamous Andersonville POW camp. He was paroled and eventually served
with a detail designated to guard captured Confederate President Jefferson
Davis.

Page 18
Commands: 154th New York Infantry by Mark H. Dunkelman
Mark Dunkelman chronicles the career of the 154th New York, a regiment
who for a time commonly relied on fortune tellers to see if they would
survive the war. Unfortunately for many of them, they would fight in some
of the major battles of the Eastern Theater, including Chancellorsville
and Gettysburg, and later transferred to the West, participating in the
Atlanta Campaign and suffering losses of 50%.
Page 22
‘The Earth Seemed to Tremble’ by Kevin M. Levin
Fellow blogger Kevin Levin makes an appearance in America’s Civil War with an
article on how the Battle of the Crater was remembered by Confederate
soldiers. It was fascinating to read about the Confederate attitude after
their victory. Levin points out that, contrary to established views, the
Confederates were by no means resigned to losing the war at this point
(late July 1864). They believed the North immoral for their use of Black
soldiers, and believed the Crater result was a punishment sent down from
God for this Yankee “sin”. The article is the first chapter
of a Crater manuscript Kevin is working on. After reading the article,
I’ll definitely be buying the book when it comes out.
Page 30
Myths of Shiloh by Timothy B. Smith
Timothy Smith’s article on myths at Shiloh is adapted from a chapter
in his upcoming book The
Untold Story of Shiloh : The Battle and the Battlefield
. Some of the
stories Smith challenges include the surprise of the Union soldiers, the
amount of stragglers greeting Grant at Pittsburg Landing, Prentiss’ role
as the “hero” of Shiloh, the Bloody Pond, Johnston’s ability
to win the fight if he had lived, the “saving” of the Army of
the Tennessee by Buell’s Army of the Ohio, the last Confederate attacks
on April 6, and the Sunken Road, among others. I found this particular
article to be extremely interesting, and my own personal examination of
the “Sunken” Road last year especially seems to bear Smith’s
assertions out.
Page 38
Reflections on Chancellorsville by Peter S. Carmichael
Peter Carmichael’s article on Chancellorsville is definitely of the “new military history” variety, looking at how two Confederate soldiers in the Stonewall Brigade, Henry Kyd Douglas and Owen T. Hedges, handled their experiences on the battlefield at Chancellorsville. He relates Douglas’ fabrication of how Brigade commander Franklin E. “Bull” Paxton met his end, and then goes into the reasons why Douglas might have done so. Carmichael goes on to commend Hedges for his “honest self-assessment”. One of the main themes of the author’s article is that military history is “dry” without liberally sprinkling in social history. I agree that looking at how soldiers’ felt is an important and perfectly valid topic of study, and that some might find this topic interesting. As a military history buff, I don’t believe it is needed as much as some would claim in traditional campaign and battle studies. There is plenty of room for both types of book in the study of the Civil War. As a member of the Society of American Baseball Resarch, I liken this to Jackie Robinson and his role as the first African-American to play in the modern (post-1900) game. A history of a given season of the Brooklyn Dodgers, say 1951, would not focus on the fact that Robinson was Black. Instead, it would focus on his contributions on the playing field (i.e. the “tactics” of a baseball game). Other books concentrate on Robinson’s role in paving the way for non-White players, as they rightly should. To me it is simply a matter of what is interesting to the individual reader.
Page 46
Opening the Cracker Line by Gordon Berg
Gordon Berg weighs in with a more traditional battle study covering the opening of the “Cracker Line”, a water route on the Tennessee River that allowed the starving Union troops beseiged in Chattanooga, Tennessee to finally eat regular meals again. Baldy Smith, with the approval of his superiors Grant and Thomas, executed a plan that called for an amphibious night time assault across the Tennesee River at Brown’s Ferry. James Longstreet unintentionally helped the plan by removing several regiments from the Ferry, believing any Union attack would not occur in that area. Instead, Brown’s Ferry was exactly where the Union force, made up of rgiments from William Hazen’s Federal brigade, launched a surprisingly confusion-free attack. Casualties were light on both sides, but the result was of far more consequence to both sides. Smith, Thomas, and Grant had completed the first needed step to break the Siege of Chattanooga. At Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge, they finished the job.
Page 58
Men and Materiel: Lee and Traveller by Carolyn S. Kazmierczak
Carolyn Kazmierczak paints a picture in words of the bond Robert E. Lee and his famous mount Traveller shared. The author allows Lee’s own words and those of his son to tell part of the tale, and fills in the background of this famous horse and how he came into Lee’s possession.
Page 62
Reviews
Books reviewed in this issue:

1. Virginia
At War 1861
edited by William C. Davis and James I Robertson
Jr.

2. Retreat
from Gettysburg: Lee, Logistics, and the Pennsylvania Campaign

by Kent Masterson Brown
I’ve heard especially numerous favorable comments about this book. Although
I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet, I look forward to the time
when I do.

Reviews in Brief:

1. Boy
General: The Life And Careers Of Francis Channing Barlow
by Richard
F. Welch
2. Major
General Isaac Ridgeway Trimble: Biography Of A Baltimore Confederate

by Leslie R. Tucker
3. Thomas
Francis Meagher: The Making Of An Irish American
edited by John
M. Hearne & Rory T. Cornish
4. More
Damning Than Slaughter: Desertion In The Confederate Army
by
Mark A. Weitz
5. The
Peninsula Campaign Of 1862: A Military Analysis
by Kevin Dougherty
& J. Michael Moore
Fellow blogger Drew Wagenhoffer reviewed
this one at his blog
. Needless to say, Drew does not seem to be very
impressed! Author D. Scott Hartwig seems to have a more positive view
in his review for ACW.
6. The Mutinous Regiment: The Thirty-third New
Jersey In The Civil War
by John G. Zinn
7. Confederate
Naval Forces On Western Waters: The Defense Of The Mississippi River And
Its Tributaries
by R. Thomas Campbell
8. Manhunt
: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer
by James L. Swanson
9. Chickasaw,
A Mississippi Scout for the Union: The Civil War Memoir of Levi H. Naron

edited by Thomas D. Cockrell & Michael B. Ballard

Page 74
Preservation by Kim A. O’Connell
Kim realtes that the Shiloh Battelfield is well-preserved, especially
when compared with some of the Eastern battlefields that have faced increasing
pressure from developers. With that said, the State of Tennessee and the
National PArk Service contiune to buy land from landowners in possession
of historical ground when possible. Recently the Civil
War Preservation Trust
was able to purchase 200 acres at the Davis
Bridge battlefield, a fight that occurred after the Battle of Corinth.

Check out Beyond the Crater: The Petersburg Campaign Online for the latest on the Siege of Petersburg!


***

Check out the Siege of Petersburg Online for daily posts on battle accounts in newspaper articles, diary entries, letters and more!

What are your Top 10 Gettysburg Books? See what a panel of bloggers said recently.

Want to read some interesting Civil War content from amateurs and pros alike? Check out the Top 10 Civil War Blogs and Top 10 Civil War Blogs: 11-20.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Kevin April 16, 2006 at 7:49 pm

Hey Brett, — Thanks for the kind words re: my Crater article. Looks like I can tell the publisher that at least one person plans to buy the book. LOL

Reply

Brett S. April 16, 2006 at 8:07 pm

Kevin,

No problem. You’re welcome. I also read your PDF document as well. That sold me before the article ever did. Petersburg is so misunderstood. Your work and the work of others will only continue to remove the fog that currently seems to cover the entire campaign.

Brett

Reply

Drew Wagenhoffer April 17, 2006 at 7:22 pm

Yep, woe to the reader who takes Hartwig’s benign assessment and buys that expensive junk!

Reply

Peter S. Carmichael April 18, 2006 at 12:39 pm

Brett:

I appreciate the attention that you bring to popular Civil War magazines but I am afraid that you have misinterpreted the purpose of my article. I don’t believe that tactical history is dry. In fact, I can’t think of a genre that is inherently more exciting and filled with human drama. My issue is with the need to contextualize battles, even small unit actions, as a way to find deeper meaning in these events. If one is satisfied with a standard battle narrative, I say freedom of choice, but my article was intended to push people to think about how they conceptualize the methods of good history. My hope is that none of us (including myself) ever reach a point where we think we have the magical recipe in studying the past. There are new angles to pursue and I believe that my piece on the Stonewall brigade reveals how we can create a richer story by bringing social and military history together.
Best,
Pete

Reply

Brett S. April 18, 2006 at 1:17 pm

Pete,

Thanks for the comments. I agree completely with everything you said in your comment. I don’t think the standard tactical history is the best way to study history. But it is the way I enjoy reading about history. Nothing more, nothing less. My blog isn’t any kind of platform for which way to study history is “right”. It’s simply a place where like-minded individuals can see what myself and guest posters thought about given topics, with a focus on campaign studies, battle studies, and Civil War computer games. Johnny Whitewater semi-regularly blogs on topics relating to the historiography of the Civil War on this blog, and I appreciate his point of view.

Let me state for the record that the term “dry” was an admittedly poor choice of words, and I meant no harm. It is not my intent with these little reviews to dismiss anyone’s work or to claim I know anything about the best ways to study. I enjoyed your article and found it interesting. Basically, the first half of the paragraph was the summary of your article.

The second part is more of the way I feel rather than pertaining directly to you or the article. I should have made this much clearer from the outset while separating my little “rant” from the summary of your article. I apologize for not having done so.

I have had discussions with Kevin Levin in the past on this topic. The appearance of yet another entry on his blog reeking of thinly veiled condescension at nearly the same time as your comment leads me to believe that he pointed my blog entry out to you at some point over the last few days. Unfortunately, he has been reading far too much into what I say for some time now. I intend to address that issue in the comments section of his blog when I get home from work today. Sorry again for any misunderstandings.

Brett S.

Reply

Kevin April 18, 2006 at 1:55 pm

Hi Brett, — I think I beat you to the punch, but I look forward to your comments on my post. No, there is no conspiracy here as Pete stumbled onto your post w/o any reference. Many of my posts are reactions to what I read and I did not mean in any way to offend you. There is no “thinly veiled condescension” in my post just an attempt to engage as wide an audience as possible in the continued discussion of how best to go about thinking and writing about the Civil War.

Reply

Brett S. April 18, 2006 at 3:23 pm

Kevin,

Ironically enough, this is where we do disagree. I think your post is absolutely filled with condescension. In fact, it’s your MO whenever you think anyone disagrees with you. I’ll leave it to people reading your post to decide for themselves on that matter, however.

Brett S.

Reply

Peter Carmichael April 18, 2006 at 4:13 pm

Brett:

I took no harm from your comments and appreciated your interpretation of my piece as I think you are a careful reader. I also appreciate you honesty in terms of what you enjoy and why you value tactical history. Kevin and I have very similar outlooks as to what constitutes an engaging battle narrative and Kevin has been very fair and intelligent in addressing both sides. The main problem with posts such as this is the difficulty in determining tone. Knowing Kevin personally I can vouch for his sincere and respectful demeanor to his subject matter and to his colleagues. Not knowing a blogger like Dimitri makes it impossible for me to fully understand his personality, and thus I often (and maybe unfairly) see his writings as anti-intellectual and anti-social. You and Kevin have debated this issue in a civil fashion, and I believe that such open discussion will help all of us reconsider our customary ways of viewing the past.
Best,
Pete

Reply

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