Review: Guide to the Atlanta Campaign: Rocky Face Ridge to Kennesaw Mountain

by Brett Schulte on September 3, 2008 · 1 comment

Jay Luvaas and Harold W. Nelson (Editors). Guide to the Atlanta Campaign: Rocky Face Ridge to Kennesaw Mountain. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas (May 7, 2008). 383 pages., order of battle, notes, index. ISBN: 978-0700615704 $17.95 (Paperback).

The U.S. Army War College Guides to Civil War Battles series is well-established at this point, a “by-product of the historical staff-ride program” started in the early 1980s. Excerpts from the Official Records and other first-person accounts make up the vast majority of the text with no attempt at interpretation by editors Luvaas and Nelson. This is done on purpose. The editors stress as always that this is not a *history* of the campaign so much as it is a *guide*, just as the title suggests. Luvaas and Nelson believe the true study of a battle or campaign comes after you have viewed the ground where it occurred and read the words of participants, which is exactly what these books provide. The text is accompanied by modern maps showing readers exactly where events took place and how to get there. This Atlanta Campaign version then will be very similar to the other guides in the series, with several exceptions.

First, the maps featured in this volume are improved over previous books in the series, which is a welcome addition and one much needed in this reader’s opinion.

Second, this guide focuses more on the campaign as a whole rather than on a specific battle or battles as previous guides have. Special emphasis is given to Sherman’s masterful handling of logistics throughout. In fact, an appendix by Jay Luvaas covers that topic specifically.

If you are looking for a history of the campaign steer clear of this book. You will be disappointed in the contents. In fact, those looking to read Guide to the Atlanta Campaign without any prior knowledge of the campaign will more than likely not only disappointed but also confused. Instead, this book is meant for those with a working knowledge of Sherman’s operations against Joseph Johnston who are looking to actively walk the ground.

Readers paying attention to the subtitle will note this study ends after Kennesaw Mountain. This is due to the lack of any battle sites to tour around the city of Atlanta, all of which have fallen victim to urban sprawl.

All things considered, Guide to the Atlanta Campaign is an improved model in the U.S. Army War College Guides to Civil War Battles series. Experienced students of the Atlanta Campaign or those looking to travel to the actual campaign sites will benefit from this book. It is a nice change of pace from reading a straightforward campaign study and will serve battlefield stompers well in the rugged terrain of north Georgia.

Special thanks goes to Susan Schott of the University Press of Kansas.

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