Review: Battle of Monroe’s Crossroads and the Civil War’s Last Campaign

by James Durney on August 24, 2009 · 1 comment

Battle of Monroe’s Crossroads and the Civil War’s Last Campaign
by Eric J. Wittenberg

  • Hardcover: 366 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.18 x 9.06 x 6.36
  • Publisher: Savas Beatie; (April 15, 2006)
  • ISBN: 1932714170

TheBattleOfMonroe'sCrossroadsAndTheCivilWarsFinalCampaignEricJWittenbergEric Wittenberg solidifies his standing as our best Civil War Cavalry author continuing to produce high quality, well-researched, readable histories that are both informative and fun.  Using Savas Beatie as his publisher is a “Dream Team” for enthusiasts.  Maps, maps and more maps ensure that you will never be lost and will instantly understand what retaking the guns means.  The list of illustrations is one and a half pages; the list of maps is two and a half pages.  Clearly stating that both the author and publisher understand what is nice, illustrations and what is necessary, maps.  Since most of us will never get into Fort Bragg to walk the battle field, the maps substitute nicely keeping us orientated and in position.

The book is well researched, footnoted and complete within the time we are considering.  The confrontation between Hampton and Kilpatrick outside the Bennett home, capture the men, their feelings and the time.  It provides a logical beginning to the story, even if it occurs at the end.  While presenting the reader with clear concise portraits of the major figures, the supporting cast is not ignored.  The strengths and weakness of each Cavalry force is clearly described.  This introduction gives us the needed background to understand the depth of feeling and desperation that contributes to the battle.

Weather and terrain conspire to hinder both sides building a waterlogged hell for man and beast.  This produces a major impact on the campaign and the battle, becoming a story within the story.  J.E. Johnston’s army must cross over the Cape Fear River, Hampton’s cavalry is trying to screen this movement and delay Sherman’s army.  Judson Kilpatrick, commanding Sherman’s cavalry almost by default, is trying to get around Hampton while protecting Sherman’s foraging parties and supply trains.

Kilpatrick allows his cavalry to spread out, become badly separated and fails to protect the approaches to the camps.  Wade Hampton and Joe Wheeler size an opportunity to attack a portion of Kilpatrick’s command.  The resulting battle at close quarters, fought by veterans is a stand up fight with neither side taking a step back.  Eric Wittenberg details what the commanders do right; wrong and where they lose control.  This results in an understandable sew-saw battle narrative as first one side and than the other attacks.  Here the detailed maps are as valuable as the writing, working together the reader never gets lost.  The maps and text always support us and keep the flow of battle clear.

Camp Pope Publishing

This book places the battle within the campaign and the war, allowing us the answer the very complex question; “Who won?”   The last chapters cover the aftermath of the battle, what it did to and for Johnston & Sherman and give us a glimpse of the participant’s later life.  An Order of battle and detailed list of causalities complete the history of the battle.

Appendix C & D, answer questions that are not technically part of the battle but relate to it.  Both provide us with human-interest items and make the story personal and complete.  One deals with who was the woman in Kilpatrick’s HQ and the other with “Fighting” Joe Wheeler’s rank.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jeff August 24, 2009 at 9:47 am

All I can add is that I agree its a great book. One thing that I really like about Eric’s writing is the way that he works first hand accounts from the fighting. You can almost smell the powder while reading.

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