January 2009 Book Notes

Those that can’t write, Review!

January 2009

James Durney


Book News

We have a number of promising books due in 2009.  The good news is that our choices for reading material are numerous and seem limited only by the depth of our pockets or the willingness of the local library is to buy Civil War books.  In the 1980s, with two growing children, the Suffolk County Library system was the major buyer of the books I read.  They had a policy that if request was reasonable they bought the book.  I was never to get obscure titles but most of the popular histories they were willing to buy.

The Baltimore Plot the First Conspiracy to Assassinate Abraham Lincoln by Michael J. Kline is in the stores.  The author admits that there is little evidence but proceeds to spin a good yarn out of hints, innuendo and outright fabrications.  It will be popular with conspiracy buffs but lacks appeal as a serious history.

Ethan S. Rafuse newest is a battlefield guide Antietam, South Mountain and Harpers Ferry. This book is part of the Hallowed Ground series from University of Nebraska Press has been published.

Scheduled for spring for Savas Beatie are a number of new books and some older books being issued as paperbacks.  J. David Petruzzi has written The Complete Gettysburg Guide to correct “serious oversights” in the standard tour guides.  The Unpopular Mr. Lincoln by Larry Tagg concentrates on what Lincoln’s contemporaries thought about him during his lifetime.  The press was even more partisan than our media.  SICKLES AT GETTYSBURG: the Controversial Civil War General Who Committed Murder, Abandoned Little Round Top, and Declared Himself the Hero of Gettysburg by Jim Hessler promises a full biography of Sickles.  That covers his pre war, his actions as a Union General and his post war activities including his role in the establishment of the Gettysburg Battle Park.  Bradley M. Gottfried has two books scheduled.  His The Maps of Gettysburg is being republished as a paperback.  His new book is The Maps of First Bull Run: An Atlas of the First Bull Run (Manassas) Campaign. This book will follow the Gettysburg format and include the Battle of Ball’s Bluff.  O. Edward Cunningham’s Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862 is being released as a paperback.  This is a great book, the editing by Gary Joiner & Timothy Smith is excellent and makes a more readable book throughout.

In April Winston Groom’s Vicksburg, 1863 is scheduled.  Winston Groom has written a number of excellent histories and is returning to the Civil War after a number of years.  Shrouds of Glory: from Atlanta to Nashville: the Last Great Campaign of the Civil War was his last book on the Civil War.  Another April release is Jayhawkers the Civil War Brigade of James Henry Lane By Bryce Benedict.  This book “Challenges long-held assumptions about the man known as the terror of Missouri” according to the press release.  This is Mr. Benedict’s first book.

In May, Jim Mills has another of his excellent history & guide books scheduled, this one is Into the Valley: A History and Tour Guide of Civil War in the Shenandoah Valley, 1861-1865.

In June Earl J. Hess’ third volume in his study of field fortifications In the Trenches at Petersburg: Field Fortifications and Confederate Defeat is scheduled. Previous books in this series on field fortifications are Field Armies and Fortifications in the Civil War: The Eastern Campaigns, 1861-1864 and Trench Warfare under Grant and Lee: Field Fortifications in the Overland Campaign.

Also in June is Eric Wittenberg’s Like a Meteor Burning Brightly: The Short but Controversial Life of Colonel Ulric Dahlgren. This is a long-term labor of love for Mr. Wittenberg.  Coupled with the publication of Rush’s Lancers in 2007, he has completed his two major pet projects.

In June is scheduled, A Savage Conflict: the Decisive Role of Guerrillas in the American Civil War by Daniel E. Sutherland argues that irregular warfare took a large toll on the Confederate war effort by weakening support for state and national governments and diminishing the trust citizens had in their officials to protect them.

Due in July is No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864 by Richard Slotkin promise “An intellectually dazzling military history that recounts and reassesses one of the most devastating and dramatic battles of the Civil War”.  This is a 432-page book by a respected historian and a two-time finalist for the National Book Award.  Also in July is the intriguing title: Irish Soldiers, American Wars: Irishmen in the Mexican and American Civil Wars. I have no information other than the title, publication date and that it is 320 pages.  The paperback is affordable at $30 but the hardback is listed at $75.

While off-topic, Saratoga by John F. Luzader is a beautiful book that covers one of the decisive campaigns of the American Revolution.  It is not often that I stray from Civil War histories but this book is worth the detour.  Multiple maps and excellent writing make for an enjoyable and informative read.


Introducing Author Jeffery D. Wert

One of the prizes in my library is a signed first edition of From Winchester to Cedar Creek: The Shenandoah Campaign of 1864. The dust jacket states, “This is Mr. Wert’s first book-length effort”.  The year was 1987 and after “scores of articles on the Civil War for numerous publications”, South Mountain Press “is proud to be his publisher.”  At the time, I had no idea that this would be the first of many Jeffery D. Wert books on my libraries shelves.  The latest one is Cavalryman of the Lost Cause: A Biography of J. E. B. Stuart. Along the way, he has written one of the best bios on James Longstreet; General James Longstreet: The Confederacy’s Most Controversial Soldier.  The Sword of Lincoln: The Army of the Potomac is an excellent one-volume history of that army, while his Gettysburg, Day Three is one of the few books to cover the Bliss Farm in addition to Culp’s Hill and Pickett’s Charge.  This book received nominations for a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award.  Mr. Wert retired in 2002 after teaching high school history in Springs Mills, PA for 33 years.  He and his wife of 40 years are keeping busy spoiling two grand children.  The Sword of Lincoln won The Laney Prize, as did Brotherhood of Valor, making him the only two-time winner of this prize.  His first book, From Winchester to Cedar Creek, won the Little Big Horn Associates Award.

His books are always easy to read in addition to containing very solid history.  I have been reading and enjoying his work for over 20 years and hope we have at least another 20 more years of good books for both of us.


I would like to extend my wishes for “A Happy New Year” to all of you.  Thank you taking the time to read my columns and reviews in 2008.  I have enjoyed your comments; please continue to do so in 2009.

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