May 2009 Civil War Book Notes

Those that can’t write, Review!

May 2009

James Durney


New Releases

The Shiloh Campaign (Civil War Campaigns in the Heartland) edited by Steven E. Woodworth is listed by Amazon with one to three week shipping.  This is the first in a series on Western Campaigns from Southern Illinois University Press.  The second will be The Chickamauga Campaign.  In 2010 or 2011, we should see a third volume entitled The Chattanooga Campaign.

War Like the Thunderbolt: The Battle and Burning of Atlanta by Russell S. Bonds is listed for August 10th but still not available.  No idea when we can expect this title.

Winston Groom’s Vicksburg, 1863 is generating comments on Amazon and Yahoo Groups.  The author is a historian in the mode of Shelby Foote.  We should not expect a scholarly history with multiple footnotes or groundbreaking ideas from him.  We should expect an enjoyable telling and a solid historical account and the author delivers.

University of Nebraska Press, Passion & Principle by Sally Denton released as a paperback.  This is a double biography of John & Jessie Fremont, one of the early “power couples” in American history.  The last chapter is properly entitled “Retreat 1862-1902”.  John & Jessie Fremont played a major role in many events from 1850 to 1862.  Sally Denton’s books enjoy a very solid reception and good reviews.

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 release of The Unpopular Mr. Lincoln by Larry Tagg will coincide with the author’s appearances in Illinois and Wisconsin in mid to late May.  This is a book that we should read for the very clear picture of the contemporary Lincoln.  If you take the time to read the introduction, most of you will come home with the book.

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 sometime in May, so keep your eyes open.  This is a 320-page guide with maps by Steven Stanley containing:

  • 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. The book will include the Battle of Ball’s Bluff and follow the basic 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. 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 attending one of Dave’s Chickamauga walks or benefited from his excellent maps knows this will be 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 (!?)

Lately, my reading is political books or non-battle books a departure from my normal concentration and is thought provoking.  These books, taken together, provide a look at Northern racial attitudes, actions and influence of the Abolitionists, the idea of secession and the influence of the Radical republicans during the war.  All of them are well written and worth the investment in time and money.

  • Clash of Extremes: The Economic Origins of the Civil War by Marc Egnal is a look at the economic and political divisions in America. The book follows the change from a North South nation to an East West nation. This change isolated the South and reduced the North’s willingness to comprise.
  • Patriotic Treason: John Brown and the Soul of America by Evan Carton looks at John Brown, the Abolitionists and Northern attitudes toward blacks. This is a gritty and realistic look at a society unwelcoming to the slaves they wished to free.
  • Disunion!: The Coming of the American Civil War, 1789-1859 by Elizabeth R. Varon is a history of an idea. This book follows the concept and use of “disunion” in both the North and South. The South did not monopolize this idea or use of the threat.
  • THE UNPOPULAR MR. LINCOLN: The Story of America’s Most Reviled President by Larry Tagg provides a view of Lincoln we seldom see. This is not the Lincoln in the memorial idolized by historians. This tall, awkward, poorly dressed teller of risqué stories moves to fast/slow in the right/wrong direction while upsetting everyone. The influence of the Radical Republicans and their attacks on Lincoln were many times worse than the Democrats and Copperheads. I read an advanced reading copy of the book that should be in the stores shortly.


Introducing Author Alexander Mendoza

This feature is normally for established authors with many books to their credit.  This month I am introducing an outstanding young talent.  Confederate Struggle For Command: General James Longstreet and the First Corps in the West is one of the best first books our community has seen in years.  This balanced, insightful look at Longstreet in the West covers CSA politics and personalities in five-star Amazon rated book.  We can look forward to years of intelligent enjoyable reading from Professor Mendoza.

Addition publications include an essay analyzing the crucial, and perhaps decisive, struggle to defend the Union’s left in The Shiloh Campaign, released this April.  He is authoring an essay for the Chattanooga volume of Steven E. Woodworth’s Civil War Campaigns in the Heartland series.  Other projects include an anthology co-edited with Charles Grear (author of the Fate of Texas:  The Lone Star State and the Civil War) that examines Texans at War.  This book of essays will explore some neglected aspects of Texas military history such as the role of African Americans, women, manliness, memory, and even Tejanos in the Lone Star State’s various conflicts.  A Longstreet biography covering the Reconstruction years is under serious consideration.  No one has recently addressed the years after the war in detail.  This is when veterans refought the Battle of Gettysburg and Longstreet is attacked in the pages of the SHSP.

Jeffery Wert’s General James Longstreet: The Confederacy’s Most Controversial Soldier, possibly the best modern work on Longstreet, contains a single chapter on the 30+ years after the Civil War.

Dr. Mendoza belongs to a family from Ahualulco, Mexico that moved to Laredo, Texas by way of California.  A “Texas product all the way through”, he attended the University of Texas at Austin on a cross country/track scholarship.  In 2002, he graduated from Texas Tech University with a Ph.D.  He credits his initial attraction to the Civil War to classes given by George Forgie (Patricide in a House Divided) at the University of Texas.  In graduate school, talks with Dr. Peggy J. Hardman about the historiography of the Civil War lead to a dissertation on Longstreet in the West.  This dissertation after significant revisions became his first book.

He is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History, University of Texas at Tyler, living happily with his wife Punny, and five-year old son Justin Alejandro, in Texas.


Editor’s Note: Jim is a Top 500 reviewer.

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