March 2009 Civil War Book Notes

Those that can’t write, Review!

March 2009
James Durney

New Releases

Scheduled for April 7 is Winston Groom’s Vicksburg, 1863. Winston Groom is an excellent author with several histories. Shrouds of Glory: from Atlanta to Nashville: the Last Great Campaign of the Civil War was his last book on the Civil War.

On April 30, expect 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.

May is going to be a busy month for Civil War books with a number of titles scheduled, so hang on to your gift cards and save your pennies.
J. David Petruzzi is The Complete Gettysburg Guide to correct “serious oversights” in the standard tour guides. This is a 320 page guide with maps by Steven Stanley considered among the best people in historical cartography.

The Unpopular Mr. Lincoln by Larry Tagg concentrates on what Lincoln’s contemporaries thought about him during his lifetime. The press during Lincoln’s time was even more merciless than our media. This is a contemporary view of Lincoln and much different from how we see him now. Mr. Tagg is the author of The Generals of Gettysburg: The Leaders of America’s Greatest Battle.

Wars within a War: Controversy and Conflict over the American Civil War edited by Joan Waugh and Gary W. Gallagher. This is a collection of twelve essays exploring wartime disputes and cultural fissures during the war, the postwar years and beyond.

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 pre war, actions as a Union General and post war activities. Sickles had a major role in the establishment of the Gettysburg Battle Park and the book will cover his actions in congress and on the New York Monument Commission.

On May 26 look for Pursuit: The Chase, Capture, Persecution & Surprising Release of Jefferson Davis by Clint Johnson is being released in paperback. The hardback is a well-received book about a subject often overlooked.

Rescheduled from June is The Maps of First Bull Run: An Atlas of the First Bull Run (Manassas) Campaign by Bradley M. Gottfried. First Bull Run will include the Battle of Ball’s Bluff and follow the format of The Maps of Gettysburg. The Maps of Gettysburg was reissued as a paperback in January.

O. Edward Cunningham’s Shiloh and the Western Campaigns 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.

Scheduled for June 22, is Earl J. Hess’ third volume in his study of field fortifications In the Trenches at Petersburg: Field Fortifications and Confederate Defeat. 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. Few authors have the ability to make a dry subject readable and Mr. Hess is one of them. This is an excellent series and gives us a real background in the evolution of entrenchments during the war.

Due June 1 is Eric Wittenberg’s Like a Meteor Burning Brightly: The Short but Controversial Life of Colonel Ulric Dahlgren. The only biography on Ulric Dahlgren, a brilliant, ambitious young man who became the youngest full colonel in the United States Army at the age of 21 yet died before his 22nd birthday. 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.

June 5 is publication date for A Savage Conflict: the Decisive Role of Guerrillas in the American Civil War by Daniel E. Sutherland. The book 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. Daniel E. Sutherland is professor of history at the University of Arkansas and the author of a number of books on guerrilla activities.

Due July 21 is No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864 by Richard Slotkin. Press review promises “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 that merits a look-see.

On July 30 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.


Books that need a look-see (!?)

This month I want to introduce a second area for coverage in the column that always concentrated on new publications. While wishing to keep that concentration, I want to add books in print that I am considering. Most of these books have few or no Amazon reviews and are from experienced authors. The majority of these books fall into my “buy, no buy” internal debate. For those of you who never read chess games, ‘!?’ is the symbol for a questionable move, that might be brilliant or a blunder.

William C. Davis and James I Robertson are the editors of three books on Virginia during the war. The books are Virginia at War, 1861, Virginia at War, 1862 and Virginia at War, 1863. These are collections of essays by distinguished historians on different subjects having to do with that year.

Women on the Civil War Battlefront by Richard Hall details stories of woman serving in combat during the war. This is a 397-page book with a good table of contents on a subject that does not have a great deal of coverage.

Two books on guerrilla warfare are Inside War: The Guerrilla Conflict in Missouri During the American Civil War by Michael Fellman 352 pages and Civil War Kansas: Reaping the Whirlwind by Albert Castel 268 pages. Both have good reviews on Amazon. The Trans-Mississippi is under reported and guerrilla warfare even more so.


Introducing Author Earl J. Hess

Earl J. Hess is associate professor and chair in the Department of History at Lincoln Memorial University. A Google search tells he has been a student of Civil War history since he was a teenager, growing up in rural Missouri. Completed his B.A. and M.A. degrees in History at Southeast Missouri State University. Has a Ph.D. in American Studies, with a concentration in History, awarded by Purdue University in 1986. He has taught at a number of institutions, including the University of Georgia, Texas Tech University, and the University of Arkansas. Since 1989, he has been at Lincoln Memorial University, in Harrogate, Tennessee, where he is Associate Professor of History, director of the History Program, and holds the Stewart McClelland Chair. Dr. Hess has published several books on Civil War history, nineteen journal articles, and more than ninety book reviews for academic history journals, and conducted numerous manuscript evaluations for academic presses. His series on field fortifications is excellent. These books cover the development of military thought and practical application during the war. He has co-authored with William L. Shea a book on Pea Ridge and This Hallowed Ground: Guides to Civil War to Wilson’s Creek, Pea Ridge, and Prairie Grove. Not to be missed is his book; Pickett’s Charge–The Last Attack at Gettysburg. I have five or six of his books in my library and always give his books serious consideration.

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2 responses to “March 2009 Civil War Book Notes”

  1. Fred Ray Avatar
    Fred Ray

    Richard Slotkin is not so much a historian as what might be called a cultural therapist, IOW he’s a historian in the same sense as Gore Vidal. As far as I know this is his first straight history book, so it’ll be interesting to see how he does.

  2. Fred Ray Avatar
    Fred Ray

    Other trivia, found on Amazon about Larry Tagg: “A bass player/singer of world renown, Larry co-founded and enjoyed substantial commercial success with “Bourgeois Tagg” in the mid-1980s. He went on to play bass for Todd Rundgren, Heart, Hall and Oates, and other acts.”

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