September 2008 Book Notes

Those that can’t write, Review!

September 2008

James Durney


Book News

I have just about given up on publication schedules.  I have had some many books slip that Book News has little or no value.  I am considering concentrating on books that are published and available.  Using the “publication date” has resulted in a large number of retractions.

MAJOR GENERAL ROBERT E RODES OF THE ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA: A Biography by Darrell L Collins has been in the stores for a couple of months.  This is an excellent book and well worth reading.

ONE CONTINUOUS FIGHT: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863 by Eric J. Wittenberg, J David Petruzzi & Michael F. Nugent.   This book is best paired with Retreat from Gettysburg: Lee, Logistics, and the Pennsylvania Campaign by Kent Masterson Brown.  One Continuous Fight covers the military aspect of the AoNV’ retreat while the Brown book covers the wagon train of wounded and supplies.  These are two different operations and each needs a book to cover them.

Lincoln’s Darkest Year: The War in 1862 by William Marvel is the second in a planed series of four books on the Civil war.  The first in the series is Mr. Lincoln Goes to War. This book challenges the Emancipation Tradition’s idea that war was inevitable due to slavery and forced on the North.

Noah Andre Trudeau’s Southern Storm: Sherman’s March to the Sea was released on schedule.  This book is a day-by-day account of the March to the Sea with excellent maps.  Any book by Trudeau is worth reading and this is no exception.

In the May column, we profiled Brian Holden Reid.  His current book America’s Civil War: The Operational Battlefield, 1861-1863, the successor volume to Origins of the American Civil War, is in the stores.

Available now is Robert E. Lee and the Fall of the Confederacy, 1863-1865 (The American Crisis Series Books on the Civil War Era) by Ethan Rafuse.  This is a reexamination of the last two years of Lee’s storied military career; Ethan S. Rafuse offers a clear, informative, and insightful account of Lee’s ultimately unsuccessful struggle to defend the Confederacy against a relentless and determined foe. This book provides a comprehensive, yet concise and entertaining narrative of the battles and campaigns that highlighted this phase of the war and analyzes the battles and Lee’s generalship in the context of the steady deterioration of the Confederacy’s prospects for victory.

Scheduled for late October is Andersonvilles of the North: the Myths and Realities of Northern Treatment of Civil War Confederate Prisoners by James M. Gillispie.

On the same schedule for publication is The Baltimore Plot: the First Conspiracy to Assassinate Abraham Lincoln by Michael J. Kline.

November promises Brady’s Civil War Journal: Day-by-Day Events 1861-1865 by Theodore P. Savas. The title is enough to warrant looking into this book.

Due in December from Ethan S. Rafuse is Antietam, South Mountain and Harpers Ferry. This is the next entry in This Hallowed Ground: Guides to Civil War Battlefields series. These are excellent guides at a reasonable price, written by experts on the battle.

Britannia’s Fist: from Civil War to World War: an Alternate History by Peter G. Tsouras, a “what if” that assumes that England and the United States end up at war has been rescheduled multiple times.  The latest schedule is late August.


Introducing Author Eric J. Wittenberg

Mr. Wittenberg is an attorney in Central Ohio. He works in the business development and litigation arenas.  In 1991, he tried writing about the Civil War, and started a career as a serious historian. In the intervening years, he has written more than a fifteen articles appearing in national Civil War magazines, as well as a number of books.

His first book, titled Gettysburg’s Forgotten Cavalry Actions, published in 1998, was the third winner of the Robert E. Lee Civil War Roundtable of Central New Jersey’s Bachelder-Coddington Literary Award.  This award is given to the best new work interpreting the Battle of Gettysburg. Since then, he has written 10 additional books all of which are currently available.

His focus is on the Union cavalry operations in the Eastern Theatre of the Civil War, with a special emphasis on the role played by horse soldiers in the Gettysburg Campaign.


Book Awards

William Marvel is the winner a Lincoln Prize, the Douglas Southall Freeman Award, and the Bell Award for his histories.

Edward G. Longacre’s books on the Civil War have won both the Fletcher Pratt Award and the Moncado prize.

Eric J. Wittenberg Cavalry Actions won the third annual Bachelder-Coddington Literary Award.

Phillip Lee Williams wins the Michael Shaara Award.

Richard B. Harwell Book Award, Jules and Frances Landry Award and the Jefferson Davis Award given for Civil War histories.  They appear on dust jackets and in reviews but what are these awards?

Douglas Southall Freeman Award is a cash grant of $1,000 given to the author writing the best book on a southern theme.  The Military Order Stars & Bars, a fraternal organization comprised of descendants of the Confederate Government, Officer Corps, and Civil Officials gives this award.

Starting in 1956, The Civil War Round Table of New York awarded the Fletcher Pratt Award to the author or editor of the best non-fiction book on the Civil War published during the course of the calendar year.  The first winner was Bruce Catton for This Hallowed Ground. Winners of this award include Stephen Sears, Gordon Rhea, Edwin B. Coddington and Shelby Foote.

The Lincoln Prize administered by the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College, is awarded annually since 1991 for the best non-fiction historical work of the year on the American Civil War.  The prize is $50,000 and a large bronze replica of Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ bust of Lincoln.

In 1997, Jeff Shaara, the critically acclaimed best-selling author established The Michael Shaara Award for Excellence in Civil War Fiction. This award named in honor of his father, the author of the novel The Killer Angels. In 2005, the Prize moved to the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College. A $5,000 prize is awarded annually at Gettysburg.

The Robert E. Lee Civil War Round Table of Central New Jersey for the best work on Gettysburg gives Bachelder-Coddington Literary Award.  This award is named after the two most important people in the development of the battle’s history.  John Badger Bachelder, who spent his life collecting eyewitness accounts of the battle.  Edwin B. Coddington, who wrote the most informative book on the battle.

The Robert E. Lee Civil War Roundtable’s Civil War Library and Research Center gives the James I. Robertson Jr. Literary Prize for Confederate History.  The Robertson Prize is bestowed annually to the author of the best original work of published scholarship in the field of Confederate history – military, political or social. The prize is named for Dr. James I. Robertson, Jr., Alumni Distinguished Professor in History at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Founded in November 1997 by the Robert E. Lee Civil War Round Table of Central New Jersey, the Civil War Library and Research Center is a one-of-a-kind facility. Funded by corporate, foundation and individual donations and staffed entirely by volunteers, the library is open to the public and features one of the largest single collections of Civil War material in existence, with over 2,000 bound volumes and hundreds of periodicals.

Every year the Civil War Round Table of Atlanta confers the prestigious Richard B Harwell Award for the best book on a Civil War subject published in the preceding year. However, some members may not know about the namesake of this coveted award is named for or how it came about. Having been familiar with the Civil War Round Table of Chicago, Richard Barksdale Harwell was responsible for conceiving the idea of a Civil War Round Table in Atlanta. In November 1949, Richard Harwell hosted a dinner at his home attended by Franklin Garrett, Beverly Dubose, Jr., Carl Forrester and Wilber Kurtz to discuss the formation of a Civil War Round Table. From this gathering, the first meeting of the Civil War Round Table of Atlanta was held at the Piedmont Driving Club on December 10, 1949. Richard Harwell, membership certificate No. 1, was elected its’ first President. In 1989, the award named in his honor was created, following his death on March 9, 1988.

The Jules and Frances Landry Award is presented annually to the LSU Press book published during the year that constitutes the most outstanding achievement in the field of southern studies.  All the recipients of the Landry Award have all made significant contributions to scholarship on the American South.

Jules and Frances Landry, both graduates of the LSU Law School, practiced law in Baton Rouge for more than fifty years. They shared a keen interest in the history and culture of the South, and the Landry Award is a continuing expression of that interest. The Landry’s established an endowment specifically for the prize that includes a monetary award of $1,500 for each winning author.

While not just a Civil War history prize, many Civil War titles have won this prize and it is included in our list because of that.

On June 3, 1970, The Museum of the Confederacy inaugurated a literary award program to recognize outstanding scholarship on the Confederacy and the Confederate period.  The Jefferson Davis Award was created and given for the first time in 1971 for outstanding narrative work.  “The primary purpose in creating this award,” explained the Museum’s director in 1973, “is to stimulate continued interest in scholarly research and serious writing about one of the most important periods in American history.”

The awards consist of a framed certificate bearing a red wax seal made from the original Great Seal of the Confederacy.  The winner is chosen by independent panels of leading scholars, many of whom are past recipients of the awards. The Great Seal and the peer review have made the Jefferson Davis Awards among the most prestigious and desirable awards for Civil War scholars.


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