April 2009 Civil War Book Notes

Those that can’t write, Review!

April 2009

James Durney


New Releases

This one slipped by me or I would have told all of you about it sooner.  FLAMES BEYOND GETTYSBURG: The Gordon Expedition, June 1863 (Paperback) by Scott L. Mingus Sr. is available.   This is the latest addition to the Discovering Civil War America series from Ironclad Publishing.   This is a in-depth look, 624-pages, at Confederate Brig. Gen. John B. Gordon’s attempt to capture the mile-long Colombia-Wrightsville Bridge over the Susquehanna River during the Gettysburg Campaign.  This detailed book is fully indexed, with endnotes and a driving tour.

Bison Books just published Patriotic Treason: John Brown and the Soul of America by Evan Carton in paperback.  In the Civil War’s Emancipation Tradition John Brown is one of the major players, the doomed idealist, martyred by the evil slave-holding empire. With his full beard and wild eyes, Brown is an Old Testament prophet passing judgment and calling down the plague of civil war on America. This view makes it almost impossible to find an objective book about the man. He seems either bathed in a white light blinded by his vision or a cloven hove monster with bloody claws.  The author avoids both of these traps.  This is an outstanding biography of John Brown and a history of race relations in the 1850s.

Still listed for April 7 is Winston Groom’s Vicksburg, 1863. See this month’s Introducing the Author for more about this author.

Jayhawkers the Civil War Brigade of James Henry Lane By Bryce Benedict, still listed as being released on April 30.  This is Mr. Benedict’s first book and rates a “look-see” based on the title and lack of coverage in this area.

Scheduled for May 7 is 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.  For those who enjoyed Causes Won, Lost and Forgotten: How Hollywood and Popular Art Shape What We Know about the Civil War this feels like a follow up volume.

The Unpopular Mr. Lincoln by Larry Tagg is scheduled to coincide with the author’s appearances in Illinois and Wisconsin in mid to late May.  The book details “the spectacular prejudice … often shocking for its cruelty, intensity, and unrelenting vigor. The plain truth is that Mr. Lincoln was deeply reviled by many who knew him personally and by hundreds of thousands who only knew of him”.

May 26 look for Pursuit: The Chase, Capture, Persecution & Surprising Release of Jefferson Davis by Clint Johnson in paperback.

J. David Petruzzi tells me that his The Complete Gettysburg Guide is on schedule for May.  I do not have a date, so keep your eyes open.  This is a 320-page guide with maps by Steven Stanley contains:

  • Detailed driving and walking tours of the entire battlefield (including obscure sites that even veteran visitors miss or never hear about)
  • A tour of every identified field hospital site for both armies
  • Tours of the National Cemetery and the town’s Evergreen Cemetery
  • A tour of the town of Gettysburg, including sites of historical interest before and after the battle Outlying battlefields including the June 26, 1863 skirmish site, East Cavalry Field, South Cavalry Field, Hunterstown, Hanover, and Fairfield
  • A special tour of the various rock carvings on the battlefield, many of which were created by returning veterans and pre-date most of the monuments

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.

Also in May 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.

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.

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 understanding of the evolution of entrenchments during the war.

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 432-page book by a respected historian, a two-time finalist for the National Book Award 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 lists for $75.

Dave Powell tells me Savas Beatie should publish his book of maps on the Battle of Chickamauga in September.  Anyone who has attending one of Dave’s Chickamauga walks has benefited from his excellent maps and knows this is a special event.  We should expect about a 300 page full color book containing 120 maps.  The working title is The Maps of Chickamauga.

Sam Davis Elliott, author of a fine bio of Alexander P. Stewart, Soldier of Tennessee and Doctor Quintard, Chaplain C.S.A. and Second Bishop of Tennessee: The Memoir and Civil War Diary of Charles Todd Quintard. Reports his newest book on Tennessee Governor Isham G. Harris has a fall publication date.


Books that need a look-see (!?)

If you have not seen them, take a close look at the Discovering Civil War America series from Ironclad Publishing. These are very good books at reasonable prices. While paperbacks, they have all the production values of we expect in a hardback book costing twice as much.
The current titles in the series are
The Battle between the Farm lanes: Hancock Saves the Union Center; Gettysburg, July 2, 1863 by David L. Shultz.
No Such Army since the Days of Julius Caesar” Sherman’s Carolinas Campaign: from
Fayetteville to Averasboro
by Mark Smith.
Protecting the Flank: The Battles for Brinkerhoff’s Ridge and East Cavalry Field, Battle of Gettysburg by Eric J. Wittenberg.
A Little Short of Boats: The Fights at Ball’s Bluff and Edwards Ferry by James Morgan.
Flames beyond Gettysburg: the Gordon Expedition, June 1863 by Scott L. Mingus Sr.

All of these books have a rating of four to five stars on Amazon.com.


Introducing Author Winston Groom

My introduction to Winston Groom was Better Times than These. It was a specifically requested birthday gift from my wife in 1978.  This was his first book and one of the three best novels about the Viet Nam War.  Since he is best known for Forrest Gump, there is a tendency to dismiss his histories.  However, he has written a number of excellent military histories:

Mr. Groom is an excellent author that is easy to read and can draw detailed pictures with words.  He has the ability to put the reader on the Western Front or charging at Franklin with ease.  These books are all four-stars or better on Amazon.  His newest history is Vicksburg, 1863 due this month.  In 1983, the author was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize.


HPS releases Campaign Chancellorsville

While this is a column on Civil War history, I would be remiss if this were not included.  HPS has a series of PC games on Civil War Campaigns that are very very good!  Units are regiment or battery.  Supply wagons are important and leaders are critical.  Each hex is 120 yards and a turn is about 20 minutes.  These are not RTS games and clicking fast is not a gaming requirement.  The newest game in the series covers the battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville.  These are not a single game but over 100 stand-alone and 89 campaign scenarios.  These include the battle of Salem Church and Bank’s Ford.  The game comes with an adequate AI and a number of scenarios designed for AI play.  Play by email, PBEM is fully supported with a large active group of players.  The games are $49.95 but until May 1, this one is $39.95 not including S&H.

I have them all.  I recommend them both as fun and a tool that builds understanding of the conditions commanders faced during battle.  Nothing is 100% but try moving through the wilds toward Sherman’s camp in April 1862.  You must keep your units in line and leaders in place, do not allow them to bunch up or get strung out.  Look out at the Army of Tennessee massing for the charge at Franklin.  Try to reform your line on Bloody Hill, after your green troops rout.  Work to cross the bridge the river, under fire, at Fredericksburg in the first opposed river crossing in US Army history.   Realize that your units are out of command radius when the Brigade commander is killed and cannot be rallied.  Decide if your leader leads his Brigade forward or tries to rally disrupted units.  Run out of ammo just as the main attack clears the tree line.

The full series of games are:

Campaign Ozark

Campaign Shiloh

Campaign Corinth

Campaign Vicksburg

Campaign Chickamauga

Campaign Atlanta

Campaign Franklin

Campaign Peninsula

Campaign Antietam

Campaign Chancellorsville

Campaign Gettysburg

I am playing a blind meeting where the VI Corps knows Jackson is somewhere.  I know my units are marching toward this field nut when or where they will arrive is questionable.  Some units are arriving way to close to possible Confederate unit arrival areas.  I am in the process of securing bridges, crossroads and clearings.  While trying to sort out a massive traffic jam and sort brigades into divisions.  It would be nice if a couple of division commanders could reach the field too.  Meanwhile, one brigade has stumbled upon a Confederate brigade and they are exchanging greetings.  My wife warned me if I didn’t stop playing “those damn games” she would leave me.  I think that was late last week.   😉


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