November 2008 Book Notes

by James Durney on November 6, 2008 · 0 comments

Those that can’t write, Review!

November 2008

James Durney


What do you want for Christmas?

This question is making the rounds in my family.  There is a good chance that the same question or some variation of it is making the rounds in yours.  For Civil War people, the answer is often books.  Here is a selection of books that you might want to consider as an answer to this question.


  • Cavalryman of the Lost Cause: A Biography of J. E. B. Stuart by Jeffery D. Wert is an in-depth look at this very complex person.  Wert has established his ability to write bios with his well received General James Longstreet: The Confederacy’s Most Controversial Soldier.
  • MAJOR GENERAL ROBERT E RODES OF TH ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA: A Biography by Darrell L. Collins is another excellent choice.  Many considered Robert E. Rodes to be the best division commander in Lee’s army.

Campaign studies:

  • Southern Storm: Sherman’s March to the Sea by Noah Andre Trudeau has mixed reviews.  Given the subject, not everyone will like this book and some feel the need to review it poorly.  The majority of the reviews are five stars for this excellent campaign study.
  • The Final Battles of the Petersburg Campaign: Breaking the Backbone of the Rebellion by A. Wilson Greene is another book with mixed reviews.  The majority give it five stars but those that did not like it, really did not like it.
  • Shenandoah 1862: Stonewall Jackson’s Valley Campaign by Peter Cozzens is an excellent account of Stonewall Jackson’s famous campaign.


  • Those Damned Blackhats! The Iron Brigade at Gettysburg by Lance J. Herdegen is available now.  On July 1, the Western troops stood line-to-line and often face-to-face with their Confederate adversaries, who later referred to them as “those damned Black Hats.”  This is a new book on the Iron Brigade at Gettysburg with an account of them at the 50th reunion and their place in history.
  • 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 and Michael F. Nugent.  Is an excellent book on the military aspects of this part of the campaign.
  • Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart’s Controversial Ride to Gettysburg by Eric J. Wittenberg & J. David Petruzzi is about the best study of JEB Stuart’s actions in July 1863.  This book published in 2006 but is an excellent companion to “One Continuous Fight”.
  • Retreat from Gettysburg: Lee, Logistics, and the Pennsylvania Campaign by Kent Masterson Brown.  This is one of the best books on how Lee’s wagon train got to safety.  This book won the Bachelder/Coddington Award as the best book on the battle.
  • Gettysburg by Stephen W. Sears, this is the most detailed and readable account of this battle.  It is an excellent read and very informative.


  • Chancellorsville by Stephen W. Sears is one of the best books on this battle.
  • The Fredericksburg Campaign: Winter War on the Rappahannock by Francis Augustin O’Reilly is the best account of this battle.

Films on DVD

  • Gettysburg / Gods and Generals is available on one DVD.  Ron Maxwell did an excellent job on these movies.  Ted Turner put some of his money to good use in bankrolling them and the reenact or community had a great time during the filming.
  • Glory a Hollywood “history” of the 54th Mass has some moments but is a second choice.
  • Gone With the Wind like the book, there is nothing to compare it with.  This movie was the number one grosser for over 30 years and is an American classic.  Read the book first!

PC Games

  • HPS Simulations makes a fine line of Civil War campaign games.  These are turn-based games scaled at 20 minutes per turn and 120 yards per hex.  Units are regiments and batteries.  Historic leaders at the brigade and higher level make maintain brigade and division important.  Ammunition is a problem and units will run low or exhaust their supply.  When playing a campaign, losses in one battle carry forward to the next.  Their line of games covers campaigns for Gettysburg, Antietam, Shiloh, The Peninsula, Chickamauga, Atlanta, Vicksburg, Franklin Corinth and the Ozarks.
  • If you want to fight the war, Ageod’s American Civil War 1861 -1865 is a good choice.  You assume the role of Lincoln or Davis and try to guide your side to victory.  The game uses historic generals that you must use to lead the force you raise into battle.

Civil War Fiction

  • And Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmyer, is one of the best books on the Union veterans and their lives after the war.  It takes place in Ohio and tells their stories thru the eyes of their wives and daughters.
  • Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell is both hated and loved by millions.  It is the best account of the Lost Cause Tradition ever written and should be required reading for any Civil War Buff.
  • The Civil War Trilogy: Gods and Generals / The Killer Angels / The Last Full Measure by Jeff & Michael Shaara.  We may as well do this right and get all of them in a boxed set.  The Killer Angles is another of the “must read” fiction books about the war.
  • Co-authors Newt Gingrich and William Forstchen alternate history of the battle of Gettysburg is well worth reading.  The more you know about the war, the more you will enjoy Gettysburg: A Novel of the Civil War, Grant Comes East and Never Call Retreat: Lee and Grant: The Final Victory.
  • Britannia’s Fist: from Civil War to World War: an Alternate History by Peter G. Tsouras, is now in the stores.  This is great fun and assumes Great Britain goes to war with the United States in 1863.   One of the Laird Brothers rams is the flashpoint starting an engagement in British waters that leads to war.  This is a very fast-paced fun read that is the first book in a series.

Music on CDs

There are a number of groups and soundtracks available with music and songs from the era.  Some attempt to be authentic and others are nothing more than collections or soundtracks.  Some of the better-known groups or CDs are:

  • The 2nd South Carolina String Band
  • The 52nd Regimental String Band
  • The Civil War – Traditional American Songs And Instrumental Music Featured In The Film By Ken Burns: Original Soundtrack Recording is very popular and well-received soundtrack by contemporary artists.


This is a very personal choice and may depend on how much you know about the war.  Either of these is a good choice.  My Round Table uses North & South for a raffle item and I subscribe to Blue & Gray.

  • Blue & Gray is an excellent magazine that devotes one or more issues to an in-depth study of a subject. Their maps are excellent and often they include a driving tour. From personal experience, they are easy to deal with and very nice people.
  • North & South is the official magazine of the Civil War Society. They have excellent articles by top shelf authors, great artwork and more articles with less in-depth coverage.


This is one area that can be very personal and recommendations are dangerous.  Having said that, there are some authors that populate what I grandly refer to as “my library”.  They always require a serious look at any book they write.  I would like to note that the sequence in the list is how books came off the shelf of my “library” and does not imply a preference.

  • Edwin C. Bearss
  • Steven E. Woodworth
  • Jeffery D. Wert
  • Eric J. Wittenberg
  • Noah Andre Trudeau
  • Stephen W. Sears
  • Gordon C. Rhea
  • Ethan S. Rafuse
  • Wiley Sword
  • Thomas A. Desjardin
  • Gary Ecelbarger
  • Bradley M. Gottfried


Book News

Those Damned Blackhats! The Iron Brigade at Gettysburg by Lance J. Herdegen is a book that slipped by me.  I’ve included it on the Christmas List with more information.  The author is the former director of the Institute of Civil War Studies at Carroll University and has written a number of well received books on the Iron Brigade.

Men of Granite: New Hampshire’s Soldiers in the Civil War by Duane E. Shaffer was published 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

Lincoln President-Elect: Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter 1860-1861 by Harold Holzer is in stores.  Harold Holzer is the author of several well-received books on Lincoln and this promises to be no exception.

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.

Another November publication is The Fog of Gettysburg: The Myth and Mysteries of a Battle by Kenneth L. Allers Jr.  The book is divided into five sections, each with approximately ten episodes, covering the period leading up to the battle, the three days of battle (July 1-3, 1864), and the period following the battle. The author is a member of the Association of Licensed Battlefield Guides to Gettysburg, living in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  This is his first 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.

Savas Beatie is scheduling a biography of Dan Sickles titled Sickles at Gettysburg by Jim Hessler for May 2009.  The press release promises a full biography of Sickles.  This will cover his pre war activities, his actions as a Union General and his post war activities including his role in the establishment of the park.


Introducing Author Bruce Catton

OBITUARY from the New York Times August 1978

The New York Times News Services and the Associated Press

Bruce Catton, a Yankee-born prolific writer on the Civil War whose anthology “A Stillness At Appomattox” won him a Pulitzer Prize, died Monday at 78, hospital officials said.

Bruce Huron, administrator of Paul Oliver Hospital, said Catton had been admitted a week ago for an undisclosed respiratory illness.

He lived in New York City, but maintained a summer home near here.  Catton was a reporter with the Cleveland News, the Boston American and later with the Cleveland Plain-Dealer and a correspondent with the Newspaper Enterprise Association in Washington before he took several government posts. Among them was director of information for the U.S. Department of Commerce in 1945-46, and special assistant to the Secretary of Commerce in 1948.

Catton won the Pulitzer Prize for historical writing and the National Book Award in 1954. Among his works on the Civil War was “Two Roads to Sumter,” co-authored in 1968 with his only son, William Bruce Catton. He received the Presidential Freedom Medal in 1955 and then-New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller named him chairman of the state Civil War Commission in 1960.  Among Catton’s other books were “The War Lords of Washington,” published in 1949; “Mr. Lincoln’s Army,” 1951; “Glory Road,” 1952; “U.S. Grant and the American Military Tradition,” 1954; “Banners at Shenandoah,” 1955; “This Hallowed Ground,” 1956; “The Coming Fury,” 1961; “Terrible Swift Sword,” 1962; “Gettysburg: The Final Fury,” and “Michigan: A Bicentennial History,” 1976.

Catton was editor of American Heritage Magazine from 1954 through 1959. He was named senior editor of the magazine in 1959 and held that position until his death.

Catton was born Oct. 9, 1899 in Petoskey, Mich., and married Hazel H. Cherry in 1925. She died of a heart attack in 1969 at the age of 69.


Blue & Gray Fall 2008

Take a close look at this issue, if you do not have a subscription.  It deals with Lincoln at Gettysburg and what is still standing today.  The second item is a good account of skirmishing during the battle.  We have little work on this important part of ACW combat.  It is worth the money to see how skirmishing worked and the reasons it was important.


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