October 2008 Book Notes

Those that can’t write, Review!

October 2008

James Durney


Book News

I have been able to find very few new books on the war. Most publishers seem to be on vacation after an active August/September. We may have to wait until Christmas for an active schedule again. There are a number of good new books on the market among them are:

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 and Retreat from Gettysburg: Lee, Logistics, and the Pennsylvania Campaign by Kent Masterson Brown make for excellent reads. One Continuous Fight covers the military aspect of the AoNV’ retreat while the Brown book covers the wagon train of wounded and supplies. This is two different operations and each needs a book to cover them. In 2005, Retreat from Gettysburg won the Bachelder-Coddington Prize as the best new work on the battle of Gettysburg.

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 questions the idea that war was inevitable due to slavery and forced on the North. Marvel is one of our better authors and has written another very readable thought provoking book,

Noah Andre Trudeau’s Southern Storm: Sherman’s March to the Sea provides an in depth look at Sherman’s March. This day-by-day account come complete with a daily map and details of marching conditions and military actions. Any book by Trudeau is worth reading and this book is no exception.

Brian Holden Reid America’s Civil War: The Operational Battlefield, 1861-1863 is available. This is the successor volume to Origins of the American Civil War. This is an import from England, with a slightly different perspective on the war. We profiled Reid in our May column.

Robert E. Lee and the Fall of the Confederacy, 1863-1865 (The American Crisis Series Books on the Civil War Era) by Ethan Rafuse is available. 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.

The Rifle Musket in Civil War Combat Reality and Myth By Earl J. Hess is in stores. The Civil War’s single-shot, muzzle-loading musket revolutionized warfare–or so we have been told. Noted historian Earl J. Hess forcefully challenges that claim, offering a new, clear-eyed, and convincing assessment of the rifle musket’s actual performance on the battlefield and its impact on the course of the Civil War. Impressed with the new weapon’s increased range of 500 yards, compared to the smoothbore musket’s range of 100 yards, many assumed that the rifle was a major factor in prolonging the Civil War. Historians have assumed that the weapon dramatically increased casualty rates, made decisive victories rare, and relegated cavalry and artillery to far lesser roles than they played in smoothbore battles. Hess presents a completely new assessment of the rifle musket, contending that its impact was much more limited and confined primarily to marginal operations such as skirmishing and sniping. Earl J. Hess is an accomplished author that can make technical subjects understandable, interesting and enjoyable.

Cavalryman of the Lost Cause: A Biography of J. E. B. Stuart by Jeffery D. Wert is in the stores. Wert is one of our most respected authors and does excellent biographies. Wert integrates comprehensive archival and printed sources to describe a man shaped by a zest for life, religious faith and devotion to duty, who from his youth sought achievement and recognition. Soldiering promised both. The initial dominance of Confederate cavalry in the east during the Civil War was a product of Stuart’s skills as leader and organizer, trainer and tactician. Above all, he was a master at reconnaissance and screening. His decision at Gettysburg to ride around the Union army instead of rejoining Robert E. Lee was a mistake. However, its serious consequences were in good part due to Lee’s dependence on his now-absent source of reconnaissance

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 after multiple publication dates is still not in the stores.

Men of Granite: New Hampshire’s Soldiers in the Civil War by Duane E. Shaffer was due the end of September. This book is a history of the seventeen infantry regiments, two cavalry regiments, three artillery batteries, and three companies of sharpshooters and members of miscellaneous naval and marine units from New Hampshire in the Civil War.

The Great Comeback: How Abraham Lincoln Beat the Odds to Win the 1860 Republican Nomination by Gary Eclebarger is in the stores. Gary Eclebarger has written two excellent books on Stonewall Jackson’s battles in the Shenandoah Valley

Scheduled for October 30th 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. 3

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.


Introducing Author Steven E. Woodworth

Steven Woodworth is a two-time winner of the prestigious Fletcher Pratt Award, for his books Davis and Lee at War and Jefferson Davis and His Generals.

Born in Ohio in 1961, raised in Illinois, he graduated from Southern Illinois University in 1982 with a B.A. in history. Thereafter he studied one year at the University of Hamburg, in Germany, before beginning studies at Rice University, where he received a Ph.D. in 1987. He started teaching in 1987 at Bartlesville Wesleyan College in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. In 1997, he joined the faculty at Texas Christian University, where he teaches courses in U.S. history as well as the Civil War and Reconstruction and the Old South.

Publications include Jefferson Davis and His Generals (University Press of Kansas, 1990), Davis and Lee at War (University Press of Kansas, 1995), Leadership and Command in the American Civil War (Savas Woodbury, 1996), The American Civil War: A Handbook of Literature and Research (Greenwood, 1996), A Deep Steady Thunder (McWhiney Foundation, 1996), Six Armies in Tennessee (1998), The Art of Command in the Civil War (University of Nebraska Press, 1998), Civil War Generals in Defeat (University Press of Kansas, 1999), Chickamauga: A Battlefield Guide (University of Nebraska Press, 1999), No Band of Brothers (University of Missouri Press, 1999), While God is Marching On: The Religious World of Civil War Soldiers (University Press of Kansas, 2001), Nothing but Victory: The Army of the Tennessee, 1861-1865 (Alfred A. Knopf, 2005), and Shiloh: A Battlefield Guide (University of Nebraska Press, 2006). He is currently working on an overview of the Civil War west of the Appalachians. His latest book, Grant’s Lieutenants: from Chattanooga to Appomattox was published in June 2008. This is the companion volume to Grant’s Lieutenants from Cairo to Vicksburg published in 2001.

Bachelder/Coddington Award

Thanks to Rich Bellamy for taking the time to provide this information on this award.

This annual award is presented to the most outstanding new work on the battle of Gettysburg. The award committee is composed of three individuals each with an equal vote. Considerations are does the book cover an issue of the battle not previously delineated, does the author have adequate footnotes, has the book uncovered new sources, is the book factually correct, is the author arguing a particular case and if so is he presenting both sides of the issue adequately, and lastly is the book a good ‘read’.

Each member considers the book individually without discussion and gives both a first choice and a second choice. In most cases, there is a clear-cut winner. If there is not a clear-cut winner, 4

we then add the second choice in to see if it puts one of the tied first choices over the top. This has been an effective manner of choosing the recipient. As a check on our choices, it should be noted that almost all of the books we have chosen have had more than one printing and are still available. An award is not given simply because Gettysburg books are published in that year. We will not choose a recipient unless the book meets our criteria. In the list below, you will note that there are two years that do not have a recipient.

Here is a list award recipients starting in 1996:

1996 Gettysburg Day One by David Martin

1997 Devil’s Den by Gary Adelman and Tim Smith

1998 Gettysburg’s Forgotten Cavalry Actions by Eric Wittenberg

1999 Gettysburg Day Two A Study in Maps by John Imhof

2000 Cavalry on the Road to Gettysburg by George Rummel III

2001 Grappling with Death The Union II Corps Hospital at Gettysburg by R. Maust

2002 Gettysburg’s Bloody Wheatfield by Jay Jorgensen

2003 When the Smoke Cleared at Gettysburg by George Sheldon

2004 No award given

2005 Retreat From Gettysburg by Kent Masterson Brown

2006 Isn’t This Glorious by Edwin R. Root and Jeffrey D. Stocker

2007 No award given


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