Editor’s Note: For those who do not know, my wife had our second son, Brody, on December 30, 2011. I’ve been away from the blog in an active role for far longer than I would have liked. In my absence, Jim and Fred have done a fine job. However, my batteries are recharged and I’d like to jump back in with a multi-part look at some of the books I’ve bought and received for review over the last few months.
Civil War Book Acquisitions: September 2011
Title: The Fifty-Eighth North Carolina Troops: Tar Heels in the Army of Tennessee
Author:Hardy, Michael C.
Publisher: McFarland and Company, Inc.
Price: $38.00 (Paperback), $14.99 (Kindle)
TOCWOC’s Take: Fellow blogger and North Carolina in the Civil War historian Michael C. Hardy is no neophyte when it comes to regimental histories or North Carolina. He authored an earlier book on the 37th North Carolina State Troops and has written 15 books on the Civil War era and North Carolina. This regimental history of the 58th North Carolina tells the tale of a regiment which saw more fighting against boredom than the enemy in its early history around Cumberland Gap. Issues of motivation caused serious problems with desertion during this time. Eventually though, the 58th NC found itself at the center of a maelstrom at Chickamauga on Horseshoe Ridge on September 20, 1863. The regiment would go on to fight with the Army of Tennessee for the remainder of the war. I am two thirds of the way through this book and it will be reviewed here at TOCWOC – A Civil War Blog shortly. Glancing ahead, Hardy covers the contributions of the 58th North Carolina to the Confederate cause in comparison to other Tarheel regiments, gives readers a guide to tramping the 58th’s battlefields today, and concludes with a full roster of the regiment, with birth and death dates as well as burial place when known. Take note of the VERY reasonably priced Kindle version above at only $14.99. Your average Civil War book buyer is going to look at your typical McFarland paperback and be very surprised at the cost, so this is a nice, low-cost way to add some McFarland books to your library if they cover topics you are interested in.
About the Book
North Carolina contributed more than 70 regiments to Confederate service during the Civil War, but only four of those regiments were permanently assigned to service in the Army of Tennessee. The Fifty-Eighth North Carolina Troops, hailing primarily from western North Carolina, fought in battles such as Chickamauga, Resaca and Bentonville. This account follows the soldiers from antebellum life, to conscription, to battlefield, to post-war life.
About the Author
Michael C. Hardy has written numerous books, articles and essays focusing on the Civil War. He has won the Willie Parker Peace History Book Award six times. He has also been presented the Jefferson Davis Historical Gold Medal by the United Daughters of the Confederacy for his work on preserving Confederate history. His articles have appeared in nationally syndicated magazines, and he frequently presents lectures and interpretive programs on Appalachia’s role in the Civil War. He lives in western North Carolina.
Title: Lincoln and the Border States: Preserving the Union
Author: Harris, William C.
Publisher: University Press of Kansas
Price: $34.95 (Hardcover)
TOCWOC’s Take: This new book from the University Press of Kansas argues that the Border States, Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri, were never fully secured to the Union for most of the Civil War. Author William C. Harris, Professor Emeritus of History at North Carolina State University, looks at the ways Abraham Lincoln coerced, negotiated, and finessed the always tricky relationship between these slave-holding states and Lincoln’s antislavery views and acceptance of Blacks as soldiers in the Union army. Harris does not give Lincoln a free pass, instead looking at the ways in which he failed as well as succeeded in dealing with this, the most pressing problem of many during his service as President.
Harris argues that Lincoln’s patient and judicious management of border-state affairs, despite occasional missteps, proved crucial in keeping the border states in the Union, gaining their support for the war effort, and ultimately securing the end of slavery. Describing presidential relations with governors, congressmen, and regional military commanders and his handling of factionalism among Unionists, Harris shows how Lincoln’s careful attention to the border states paved the way for emancipation, an aspect generally overlooked by historians.
Title: Record of the Organizations Engaged in the Campaign, Siege, and Defense of Vicksburg
Author: Kountz, John S. & Smith, Timothy B. (ed)
Publisher: The University Press of Tennessee
Price: $40.00 (Hardcover); As of January 20, 2012, on sale for $32 at the publisher
TOCWOC’s Take: This is the second time Park Ranger Tim Smith has taken an obscure but invaluable reference work from many decades ago and breathed new life into it for the University of Tennessee Press. I reviewed the earlier title, The Battle of Shiloh and the Organizations Engaged by D.W. Reed. This book, Record of the Organizations Engaged in the Campaign, Siege, and Defense of Vicksburg, was published in 1901 by the Government Printing Office in a limited edition but never went into widespread circulation. Kountz was also working on a narrative of the campaign, but it was never finished and never published. The death of Kountz in 1909 meant his work would be mainly forgotten by all but a few. For decades, interested students of the Vicksburg Campaign had to go to the National Battlefield to look at the material in Kountz’s manuscript. Timothy Smith has rescued Kountz’s work, both the organizational history and the narrative of the campaign, from obscurity.
The previously unpublished campaign narrative runs from page 7 to page 95. Unfortunately no maps accompany the narrative.
A downloadable map is supposed to be available from The University of Tennessee Press web site, but I was unable to find it after a cursory examination. If you know where it is, please leave me a comment below. UPDATE: The map URL is available in the front of the book and is considered a bonus for those who purchase the book. Thank you to Tom Post of the University of Tennessee Press for clearing that up for me. The previously published organizational history makes up the rest of the book. Like Reed’s book on Shiloh, Kountz produces an order of battle with casualty figures as well as itineraries of each division during the campaign and siege. In my skimming I also found an abstract return for the Confederates which listed unit strengths. There may be more of these tables in the book as well. Tim Smith is to be commended for rescuing another of these turn of the century (the previous one, not last one) manuscripts from oblivion. I highly recommend this to anyone who is interested in Vicksburg. It’s a valuable reference work, even without the map.
Large numbers of Civil War veterans remembered and reminisced about their war experiences, but only a relative few dedicated the rest of their lives to the task of commemorating their long-ago deeds. John S. Kountz was one of this latter group. Kountz joined the Thirty-seventh Ohio Infantry in September 1861 as a fifteen-year-old drummer boy and later, under General William T. Sherman, endured the long siege at Vicksburg before helping to win control of the city in July 1863. In 1899 the War Department appointed Kountz as the official historian at the newly designated Vicksburg National Military Park. As part of his duties, he produced two major works, an organizational chronicle of the armies that fought at Vicksburg and an unpublished narrative of the campaign and siege. This welcome volume presents both of these extremely rare documents together for the first time, providing a valuable resource for a new generation of scholars and enthusiasts.
Record of the Organizations Engaged in the Campaign, Siege, and Defense of Vicksburg was published in a limited edition by the Government Printing Office in 1901 and offered visitors and historians a detailed examination of the various commands that fought at Vicksburg. The record has long been an essential but hard-to-find source for historians. Kountz’s impressive 116-page campaign overview is rarer still. Because of turnover at the park and Kountz’s death in 1909, the manuscript never saw publication and has, until now, lain buried in the archives at Vicksburg. Offering an unbiased account of both sides of the battle, it delves into the minds of the commanders, examines their decision-making processes, and articulates several opinions that have sparked debate ever since.
With a new introduction by noted historian Timothy B. Smith, this significant work makes widely available an important history by a participant in the action and opens a fascinating window into the history of Civil War scholarship.
Title: Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart’s Controversial Ride to Gettysburg
Author: Wittenberg, Eric J. & Petruzzi, J. David
Publisher: Savas Beatie LLC
Price: $22.95 (new in paperback), $9.99 (Kindle); $32.95 (1st Edition Hardcover)
TOCWOC’s Take: Eric Wittenberg and J.D. Petruzzi are two of the very best non-academic historians in the country, with a fierce dedication to studying as many sources as possible and getting things right. Plenty of Blame to Go Around, their co-authored look at Jeb Stuart’s famous ride around the Union army on the road to Gettysburg, has been released in a paperback edition. For some more details on this one, read my summary of a December 1, 2006 Civil War Talk Radio episode with J.D. Petruzzi and listen to the episode at World Talk Radio. The book was also a selection of the History and Military Book Clubs. The book also came in at #8 on the Civil War Bloggers list of Top 10 Gettysburg books from several years ago.
Did the plumed cavalier disobey Lee’s orders by stripping the army of its “eyes and ears?” Was Stuart to blame for the unexpected combat the broke out at Gettysburg on July 1? Authors Wittenberg and Petruzzi, widely recognized for their study and expertise of Civil War cavalry operations, have drawn upon a massive array of primary sources, many heretofore untapped, to fully explore Stuart’s ride, its consequences, and the intense debate among participants shortly after the battle, through early post-war commentators, and among modern scholars.
The result is a richly detailed study jammed with incisive tactical commentary, new perspectives on the strategic role of the Southern cavalry, and fresh insights on every horse engagement, large and small, fought during the campaign.
Title: The 11th Missouri Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War: A History and Roster
Author: Belcher, Dennis W.
Publisher: McFarland & Company
Price: $39.95 (paperback)
TOCWOC’s Take: I admittedly know very little about this book or about its author Dennis Belcher, who maintains a nicely done web site on the 10th Kentucky Infantry, the subject of another regimental history he wrote. This is a larger regimental history, weighing in at almost 350 pages. A quick glance through reveals a lot of excellent maps down to regimental level by veteran Civil War mapmaker George Skoch. The book is absolutely loaded with photos and other illustrations pertinent to the 11th Missouri and its campaigns. Belcher finishes the book with a detailed, well laid out roster containing quite a bit of information on each member of the regiment. At first glance, this looks to be a very, very good regimental history. At almost $40, however, only those readers interested specifically in the 11th Missouri or very interested in the Western Theater will find the price to be right. Unfortunately, this book does not currently appear to have a more affordable Kindle version available as a buying option.
About the Book
The 11th Missouri Infantry distinguished itself as just the type of regiment the Union needed in the Civil War. Hard as nails and loyal to a fault, the men of the “Eagle Brigade” would follow their commanders “into hell if they ordered.” They battled two Confederate regiments at Iuka, turned the tide at Battery Robinett at Corinth, assaulted the impossible Stockade Redan at Vicksburg as whole ranks of soldiers were cut down, and broke Hood’s line at Nashville. Although the 11th Missouri ranks among the 300 top regiments of the Civil War, little of its history has been formally recorded. This study provides a detailed account of the regiment’s four-and-a-half years of outstanding service and a roster.
About the Author
Dennis W. Belcher has a Ph. D. from Mississippi State University and is a descendent of the 10th Kentucky Infantry. He operates the Web site www.tenthkentuckyinfantry.com.
Other Book(s) by Dennis W. Belcher Available from McFarland:
Title: Worthy of the Cause for Which They Fight: The Civil War Diary of Brigadier General Daniel Harris Reynolds, 1861-1865
Author: Bender, Robert Patrick (ed) & Reynolds, Daniel Harris
Publisher: University of Arkansas Press
Price: $34.95 (paperback)
TOCWOC’s Take: This Civil War diary of Confederate General Daniel H. Reynolds was an unexpected but not unwelcome surprise in my mailbox. I haven’t reviewed a book by the University of Arkansas Press in quite awhile. The book contains one chapter per year from 1861-1865, and editor Robert Bender sets the stage with a short entry prior to the beginning of each. This looks like a valuable reference for readers interested in the early war battles in the Trans-Mississippi as well as the late war battles of the hard luck Army of Tennessee.
Worthy of the Cause for Which They Fight chronicles the experiences of a well-educated and articulate Confederate officer from Arkansas who witnessed the full evolution of the Civil War in the Trans-Mississippi Department and western theater. Daniel Harris Reynolds, a community leader with a thriving law practice in Chicot County, entered service in 1861 as a captain in command of Company A of the First Arkansas Mounted Rifles. Reynolds saw action at Wilson’s Creek and Pea Ridge before the regiment was dismounted and transferred to the Army of Tennessee, the primary Confederate force in the western theater.
As Reynolds fought through the battles of Chickamauga, Atlanta, Nashville, and Bentonville, he consistently kept a diary in which he described the harsh realities of battle, the shifting fortunes of war, and the personal and political conflicts that characterized and sometimes divided the soldiers. The result is a significant testimonial offering valuable insights into the nature of command from the company to brigade levels, expressed by a committed Southerner coming to grips with the realities of defeat and the ultimate demoralization of surrender.
Robert Patrick Bender is a history instructor at Eastern New Mexico University–Roswell. He is the author of Like Grass before the Scythe: The Life and Death of Sgt. William Remmel, 121st New York Infantry.