Tempest At Ox Hill: The Battle of Chantilly

by Brett Schulte on October 3, 2005 · 0 comments

Tempest at Ox Hill: The Battle of Chantilly
by David A. Welker

After a hectic weekend I was finally able to start in on David A. Welker’s Chantilly book. For those of you who have been regularly reading this blog (are there any of you?), you’ll know I plan to compare Welker’s book to the last book I read. That book by Paul Taylor is also on the Battle of Chantilly. I reviewed the book in this blog entry.

I first read David Welker’s Tempest at Ox Hill: The Battle of Chantilly about two years ago. From what I remember, it was a solid study of the Battle, and at least the equal of Taylor’s book on Ox Hill. We’ll see if this stands up after a re-reading. The maps are pretty good, going down to the regimental level on the Union side. Despite this, the maps do have some weak points. For instance, the maps do not have topographical lines. Also, north is pointed off at an angle. I always prefer the North-South and East-West axes to be parallel to the page edges. If they aren’t, it’s a lot tougher as a wargamer to use them as a source. And that brings me to the last point. The maps, like Taylor’s, are not to scale! This is disappointing from several standpoints. On the plus side, the book contains a lengthy afterward discussing exactly who “won” the battle. This is a good sign that Welker will go into much more detail on that topic than Taylor did. The book, at 279 pages, is exactly 100 pages longer than Taylor’s. We will see to what effect the extra room is used. The Order of Battle is similar to Taylor’s, with no regimental strengths or casualties, indeed, no strengths or casualties of any kind. Also, there are no names of regimental commanders. Lastly, the book was published by Da Capo press. I haven’t had too many problems with this publisher’s books in the past as far as quality goes.

1. In the Prelude, Welker describes the circumstances that led him to write a book on Ox Hill (Chantilly). The author’s adopted home town is Centreville, only a few miles from both the Second Manassas and Chantilly battlefields. He stumbled upon the fact that there was a battlefield there quite by accident, and went to view it in person. To Welker’s surprise and dismay, there wasn’t much of a battlefield left. Modern housing development had wiped it out. However, the author left with a new sense of interest in this battle that was fought in his figurative back yard. He began researching the battle, and found that there were no books on it at the time. It is interesting to note that three books on the fight have since been published since 2000. The author notes that there simply is not much primary material on the fight. The three key Union generals (Reno, Stevens, and Kearny) were all either killed at the Battle of Chantilly or in Reno’s case only two weeks later at South Mountain. In addition, several commanders on the Confederate side were killed not too long afterward in battle as well. One thing I love from authors is candid admissions of how they did things. Welker does this when he mentions that despite his best efforts, there were still some gaps in the timeline of events. He states quite candidly that in these instances, he has given a “best guess”, and he also says that he will make clear these areas when he writes about them. The Prelude ends with a background on the sad story of the loss of Chantilly to developers. Welker ends the Prelude on an upbeat note and talks about the Chantilly Battlefield Association and their efforts to preserve what little is left.

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