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: November 2011
Title: Gettysburg’s Forgotten Cavalry Actions: Farnsworth’s Charge, South Cavalry Field, and the Battle of Fairfield, July 3, 1863
Author: Wittenberg, Eric J.
Publisher: Savas Beatie LLC
Price: $17.95 (paperback); $9.87 (Kindle)
TOCWOC’s Take: I reviewed the original version of Gettysburg’s Forgotten Cavalry Actions back in 2006, a Bachelder-Coddington Literary Award winner for best new work on the Battle of Gettysburg. This revised and expanded version of what had become quite the rare book will be a welcome discovery for a whole new legion of cavalry fans. I especially look forward to Eric’s new take on exactly where Farnsworth’s charge occurred, I’m sure in part to refute a certain other person’s flawed take on the battle. Other interesting additions include walking and driving tours with GPS locations. Eric’s dedication to finding new original sources continues here with almost 15,000 new words as a result of his research in the years since 1998. Jim Durney reviewed the new edition this past Monday at TOCWOC.
This new expanded sesquicentennial edition boasts several worthy additions, including nearly 15,000 words of new material based upon recently uncovered archival sources, a new appendix (coauthored with J. David Petruzzi) that resolves the dispute about where Farnsworth’s Charge and Merritt’s fight occurred, a walking and driving tour complete with GPS coordinates, and updated photographs of participants to the fighting and other images that show the modern appearance of the Gettysburg battlefield, which now more closely reflects its 1863 appearance.
Wittenberg’s Gettysburg’s Forgotten Cavalry Actions is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the “forgotten” combat waged by the mounted arm, and thus enjoy a richer and deeper appreciation for the complete story of Gettysburg.
Title: Lincoln and the Triumph of the Nation: Constitutional Conflict in the American Civil War
Author: Neely, Mark E., Jr.
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Price: $35.00 (Hardcover); $19.25 (Kindle)
TOCWOC’s Take: Pulitzer Prize winner Mark Neely here looks at the United States Constitution, and its counterpart in the Confederacy, during the Civil War. To this day arguments arise over the legality of some moves President Lincoln made during the conflict.
The Civil War placed the U.S. Constitution under unprecedented–and, to this day, still unmatched–strain. In Lincoln and the Triumph of the Nation, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Mark Neely examines for the first time in one book the U.S. Constitution and its often overlooked cousin, the Confederate Constitution, and the ways the documents shaped the struggle for national survival.
Lincoln and the Triumph of the Nation illuminates how the U.S. Constitution not only survived its greatest test but emerged stronger after the war. That this happened at a time when the nation’s very existence was threatened, Neely argues, speaks ultimately to the wisdom of the Union leadership, notably President Lincoln and his vision of the American nation.
Title: Victors in Blue: How Union Generals Fought the Confederates, Battled Each Other, and Won the Civil War
Author: Castel, Albert & Simpson, Brooks D.
Publisher: University Press of Kansas
Price: $34.95 (Hardcover)
TOCWOC’s Take: My first copy of Albert Castel’s Decision in the West: The Atlanta Campaign became so dog eared that I was forced to buy another copy several years ago. I’ll read anything the man decides to write. Prolific Civil War blogger Brooks Simpson has done well on his own and in collaboration with others. Add the two together and you have an instant recipe for success. When thinking of acrimonious Civil War relationships, one’s mind is immediately drawn to Braxton Bragg vs., well, EVERYONE on his side. What many people do not realize is that this same situation played out on the Union side as well. From Grant and Rosecrans at Iuka and Corinth to Sheridan and Warren at Five Forks, Union generals had their share of Bragg-like grudges and blow-ups. Despite the personal issues, the Union’s top military men were able to band together to win the war. I suspect this book is going to not only be informative but wildly entertaining as well.
Make no mistake, the Confederacy had the will and valor to fight. But the Union had the manpower, the money, the matériel, and, most important, the generals. Although the South had arguably the best commander in the Civil War in Robert E. Lee, the North’s full house beat their one-of-a-kind. Flawed individually, the Union’s top officers nevertheless proved collectively superior across a diverse array of battlefields and ultimately produced a victory for the Union.
Now acclaimed author Albert Castel brings his inimitable style, insight, and wit to a new reconsideration of these generals. With the assistance of Brooks Simpson, another leading light in this field, Castel has produced a remarkable capstone volume to a distinguished career. In it, he reassesses how battles and campaigns forged a decisive Northern victory, reevaluates the generalship of the victors, and lays bare the sometimes vicious rivalries among the Union generals and their effect on the war.
Title: Battle of the Crater: A Novel
Author: Gingrich, Newt & Forstchen, William R.
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Price: $27.99 (Hardcover); $15.99 (Paperback); $14.99 (Kindle)
TOCWOC’s Take: The first thing most people are going to notice is the name Newt Gingrich. I’m going to do my best to ignore it and judge the book on its own merits. I am no fan of either major party today, and this blog’s focus is decidedly NOT modern day politics. As a result, this book will get a fair review here. However, I’m puzzled why the authors thought another book on the Crater was needed, given that we’ve already had four come out in the last few years. It will be interesting to see what sets this apart aside from the fact that this is historical fiction, of course. Since it is a Siege of Petersburg book I’m sure I’ll also have some comments over at The Siege of Petersburg Online on this one.
The Battle of the Crater is Gingrich and Forstchen’s most compelling fact-based work yet, presenting little known truths, long forgotten in the files of correspondence, and the actual court of inquiry held after the attack. The novel draws a new and controversial conclusion while providing a sharp, rousing and harshly realistic view of politics and combat during the darkest year of the Civil War. This must-read work rewrites our understanding of one of the great battles of the war, and the all but forgotten role played by one of the largest formations of African American troops in our nation’s history.
Title: Hungarian Emigres in the American Civil War: A History and Biographical Dictionary
Author: Vida, Istvan Kornel
Publisher: McFarland & Company
Price: $35.00 (Paperback)
TOCWOC’s Take: This is one of the those McFarland books tailor made for reference libraries. I don’t know the exact numbers and I freely admit to not looking this up, but I can’t believe Hungarians made up a large portion of the Union Army in the Civil War. Nor did they play a decisive role. With that said, this work DOES fill a niche that hadn’t been done before. At $35 for a paperback on such a specific topic, I can’t in good conscience recommend this book to TOCWOC readers. If you have Hungarian-American ancestors or are interested in immigrants in the Civil War, maybe it’s a different story.
About the Book
After the suppression of the Hungarian Revolution in 1848 and 1849, thousands of Hungarians fled to the United States, an influx dubbed the Kossuth Emigration after failed revolutionary leader Lajos Kossuth. During the American Civil War, many of these Kossuth emigres joined the ranks of the Union or Confederate armies. The book explores their motivations and the military role they played, often challenging the hero-making mechanisms of traditional ethnic history-writing that has gone before.
The lengthy biographical dictionary of all Hungarian-born Civil War participants fills a longstanding gap in Civil War genealogy. With a deft blend of modern Civil War studies, military history, migration and ethnic studies, and historical memory, this study makes a significant contribution to the history of Hungarian-Americans and the often overlooked subject of non-nationals in the Civil War.
About the Author
Istvan Kornel Vida is an assistant professor of U.S. history at the University of Debrecen in Hungary and an Alexander von Humboldt postdoctoral fellow at the John F. Kennedy Institute in Berlin, Germany.
Title: CSS Alabama vs USS Kearsarge: Cherbourg 1864
Author: Lardas, Mark
Publisher: Osprey Publishing
Price: $17.95 (Paperback); $9.99 (Kindle)
TOCWOC’s Take: As I alluded to in a book acquisitions post earlier this week,this book is from the Duel series of Osprey books, a second series I haven’t yet read. Many Civil War buffs know about the famous fight of the Kearsarge and Alabama off the coast of France in 1864, but many more have never heard of some of the other fights between US Navy vessels and Confederate commerce raiders. I was pleasantly surprised to see those engagements included in this one. More on the book after I’ve read it. I can’t riff on naval topics nearly as well as the land battles, so we will see how this one looks.
Duel 40Author:Mark LardasIllustrator:Peter DennisAbout this book
The most successful commerce raider of the Civil War, the CSS Alabama almost single-handedly drove United States merchant shipping from the seas. Her illustrious career saw the capture of 60 merchant ships and two duels with ships of the US Navy. This book gives the complete story of the development of the Confederacy’s commerce raiding force and the ships the Union set against them. Compiled from numerous first-hand accounts as well as archeological evidence, it covers the three famous battles of the commerce raiders, CSS Florida vs. USS Wachusett, CSS Alabama vs. USS Hatteras, and CSS Alabama vs. USS Kearsarge, analyzing the strengths and weakness of each of the combatants. While the American Civil War is usually considered a land war, there was plenty of blood in the water.
This book was provided gratis for the purposes of this review.
The links to the product reviewed in this article are affiliate links. If you buy this product after clicking one of my links, I’ll make a small amount of money. The possibility of earning something from the affiliate link has not influenced the objectivity of the article and my opinions are honestly offered.