June 2009 Civil War Book Notes

by James Durney on June 2, 2009 · 3 comments

Those that can’t write, Review!

June 2009

James Durney


New Releases

The Shiloh Campaign (Civil War Campaigns in the Heartland) edited by Steven E. Woodworth 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.  This is a collection of essays by well-respected historians on the people, the battle and the aftermath.  Each essay is thought provoking and worth reading.

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

Wars within a War: Controversy and Conflict over the American Civil War edited by Joan Waugh and Gary W. Gallagher is still not on the shelves.  Amazon “expects” shipping to start about the middle of this month.  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.

Pursuit: The Chase, Capture, Persecution & Surprising Release of Jefferson Davis by Clint Johnson in paperback is available.

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.

Eric Wittenberg’s Like a Meteor Burning Brightly: The Short but Controversial Life of Colonel Ulric Dahlgren is expected by the end of the month. This is the only biography of 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 book and the publication of Rush’s Lancers in 2007, means Eric 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 has a late fall/early winter publication schedule with the title: Isham G. Harris of Tennessee: Confederate Governor and United States Senator.

Eric Wittenberg reports The Battle of Brandy Station, June 9, 1863: North America’s Largest Cavalry Battle. Will be part of The History Press’s forthcoming sesquicentennial series on battles of the Civil War.  This is a 68,000-word manuscript with 50 maps and illustrations.  He feels that we have “a reasonable chance” of seeing this book in June 2010. The Civil War Preservation Trust and master cartographer Steve Stanley have given permission to use Steve’s excellent maps in the book.  Clark B. “Bud” Hall has the manuscript and Bud will work with Eric to put together a tour for the book.

Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln’s Legacy

By David O. Stewart is the newest entry into the almost notes history category.  The author, an attorney in Washington DC, has a book about the constitution on his resume.  This book has endnotes with page numbers but no designations on the pages.  The book intrigued me with the author’s defense of the Radicals, desire to see Johnson impeached and statement that Grant aided Thaddeus Stevens.  Given the lack of notes and the people endorsing the book, this looks to be a less than great book for those who are serious about history.


Publishing limbo, these books are somewhere

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.

Lincoln’s Labels: America’s Best Known Brands and the Civil War by James Schmidt cover the business end of the war. DuPont, Brooks’ Brothers, Procter & Gamble and Borden are names we know.  They all were suppliers for the Union Army.  The book details the companies, their products and how they reacted during the war.

Fire in the Cane Field: The Federal Invasion of Louisiana and Texas, January 1861-January 1863 by Donald S. Frazier is another good-looking book that seems lost.  Amazon lists this book as “out of print – limited availability”.  The word is that somewhere along the line, the publisher and Amazon developed kinks.


To note or not to note, that is the question!

Wikipedia say the following about footnotes and endnotes “A footnote is a note of text placed at the bottom of a page in a book or document. The note comments on and/or may cite a reference for part of the main body of text. A subscript number following that portion of the text to which the note is in reference normally flags a footnote.  Endnotes are similar to footnotes, but instead of appearing at the foot of the page they are collected together at the end of the chapter or at the end of the work.”

Non-fiction books are often judged by the notes the author uses, Coddington is famous for the depth of its’ footnotes.  Shelby Foote never used them and called himself a “story teller” eschewing the title historian.  Winston Groom does not use them and many refuse to read his books because of it.  Most authors use them to varying degrees; many would not get a passing grade in a High School English Comp class with their usage.

Endnotes, by chapter or at the end of the text are becoming the standard.  Many readers and publishers like them for the clean standard look each page has and for ease of correction.  It is no longer necessary to repaginate an entire book to make a correction to a footnote in the Introduction.

A couple of pages listing the author’s source material are not notes.  Nor is a list of

The major question is what should be footnoted?  This is a loaded question and one that authors answer at peril.  The more pages, the more expensive, the more chances for error and how many will read every footnote anyway?  To few footnotes and the book can be dismissed as history lite.

Another problem is what are your sources?  Social histories use sources published in the last 20 years, this is not participates documentation, often called “original sources”.  These historians claim that since nobody was interested in [insert group name here] at the time, this is the best or only documentation.  The nicest part of this argument is we can support each other’s statements with our “scholarly works’.

My feeling is that if an author use notes they must follow the rules!  Each note needs a unique number so I do not have to count or guess which source is being cited.  All direct quotes should have a note.  Major ideas need to be supported with notes, unless there is no question about the idea.  The dates for the battle of Gettysburg do not require a note.  Saying Grant poisoned Lincoln’s mind on Thomas or that Pickett lead a mounted charge at Gettysburg should have extensive notes citing original sources and all of them numbered.

Histories without good notes are not serious books.  They might be very readable, they might be excellent stories but they fail by not giving the serious student the information to check the information.  Authors should not assume that their book is the “final word” on any subject or that I would not want to check the facts.

Lastly, the justification that so n so, always the author of a very well received book used this style reminds me of Dad.  Whenever, I attempted to justify my conduct by say so n so “is doing this”, Dad would give me a hard look and ask, “If they jumped off a cliff, would you do it to?”


Books that need a look-see (!?)

145 years ago, The Overland Campaign filled the newspapers.  If you look at the Harpers Weekly for this time, you get a feel for the impact of this campaign.  The Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia are locked in a death match, as nation hold its’ breath.  U.S. Grant determined the war would end when Robert E. Lee is defeated.  To this end, he maneuvered south fighting a series of battles.  His actions force Lee into a fixed standup fight that the South cannot afford or hope to win.  Horrific is the best one-word description of May and June 1864.

Bloody Roads South: The Wilderness to Cold Harbor, May-June 1864 by Noah Andre Trudeau.  First published in 1989, this book has stood the test of time and remains in print as a paperback.  Winner of the 1989 Fletcher Pratt Award, this is the best one-volume treatment of the campaign.

Nothing comes close to Gordon C. Rhea’s multi-volume history of the Overland Campaign.  With each book at about 500 pages, this is a detailed look at campaign.  This series is not for the faint of heart, concentrating on fronts, flanks and faints covering each engagement in detail.  The style is as the action unfolds, allowing the reader to “see” things as they occurred not as we know they turned out.  In 2000, To the North Anna River: Grant and Lee, May 13-25, 1864 won the Fletcher Pratt Award.  The books are:

The Battle of the Wilderness May 5-6, 1864

The Battles for Spotsylvania Court House and the Road to Yellow Tavern May 7-12, 1864
To the North Anna River: Grant and Lee, May 13-25, 1864
2000 Fletcher Pratt Award
Cold Harbor: Grant and Lee, May 26-June 3, 1864

Gary W. Gallagher is the editor of two books from the Military Campaigns of the Civil War series on the Overland Campaign.  The format of the books is “essays by noted Civil War scholars that examine the many aspects” of the campaign.

The Wilderness Campaign

The Spotsylvania Campaign


Lincoln Prize

Craig Symonds for Lincoln and His Admirals: Abraham Lincoln, the U.S. Navy, and the Civil War and James McPherson for Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief, are co-winners of the 2009 Lincoln Prize. Each author will receive $25,000 and a bronze replica of Augustus Saint-Gaudens life-size bust, “Lincoln the Man.”

Fletcher-Pratt Award

On May 13, 2009, Joseph T. Glatthaar book “General Lee’s Army from Victory to Collapse” was presented with “America’s Greatest Civil War Prize”.  Dr. Glatthaar is a Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His writing career centers on Military History with three previous books published about our passion, one of which “Sherman’s March to the Sea and Beyond” won the 1985 Fletcher-Pratt Award.

Thoughts on these awards

Craig Symonds’ book is an excellent choice for the Lincoln Award.  This is a groundbreaking look at Civil War history.  Very little has been done about the naval war and even less about Lincoln’s role.  Frankly, the other books should not have been honored.  Tried by War, profited by having a visiting Princeton professor on the selection committee, McPherson is at Princeton.  If his name had not been on the title page, this book would never have gotten into print.  Amazon carries it at four-stars, much of that because of McPherson fans.

General Lee’s Army is a social history that supports the author’s Emancipation Tradition agenda.  While well received as a social history, military history people say the book has serious problems.

Symonds’ book has earned a place in my library and I will read it again.  McPherson’s book, I donated to my Round Table.  The Glatthaar book is still on the shelf and used as a reference from time to time.  However, I will never invest the time in reading it again.


HPS Simulations

While this is not about books, I play the games and write about this American Civil War series often.  In May, HPS issued updates to Campaign Antietam, Campaign Chickamauga and Campaign ShilohCampaign Chancellorsville and Campaign Atlanta had updates in April.  Chancellorsville has two updates in April, so check that you have the latest one installed.


Personal Note

After years of abuse, my right foot needs a complete overhaul.  Everything is scheduled and there is no more danger than any surgery causes.  However, for much of June, I will be unable to do my normal “Idle work”.  Because of the operation and some other things, it is very possible that we will not have a July 2009 issue.  I expect to be back on track for the August issue.


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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Russell Bonds June 2, 2009 at 9:29 am


Thanks much for the mention of “Thunderbolt”– my forthcoming book on Atlanta. We are still on track for the August 10 release date (I am presently working on the maps and illustrations) and the manuscript should be in bound galleys/ARCs in the next couple of weeks. With best regards, R. Bonds


Jim Schmidt June 2, 2009 at 9:07 pm

James – Wow! Great post. Like Russell, I want to thank you for mentioning my “Lincoln’s Labels.” The hardcover is very much in print…we’re just having a hard time getting it from the distributor and into amazon’s warehouse. That said, interested readers can easily obtain it directly from the publisher (http://www.edinborough.com) or directly from me, signed. A softcover is planned for late this year.

As for your other book news, I too am looking forward to Eric’s “Meteor” and of course Russell’s “Thunderbolt.” I can also tell you that Clint Johnson (“Pursuit”) has another book in the works (I’ve had the privilege of reading an advance manuscript) due to be published next spring.

Thanks also for your thoughts on endnotes.

Get Well Soon,

Jim Schmidt


Clint Johnson June 2, 2009 at 10:15 pm

Thanks for the mention of Pursuit: The Chase, Capture, Persecution and Surprising Release of Confederate President Jefferson Davis being in paperback. Watch in March 2010 for A VAST AND FIENDISH PLOT – THE CONFEDERATE ATTACK ON NEW YORK CITY.


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