Civil War Book Review: Combat 2: Union Infantrymen Versus Confederate Infantrymen: Eastern Theater 1861-65

Combat 2: Union Infanryman vs Confederate Infantryman: Eastern Theater 1861-65 by Ron Field.  Published by Osprey.Field, Ron. Combat 2: Union Infantrymen Versus Confederate Infantrymen: Eastern Theater 1861-65. (Osprey Publishing, September 20, 2013). 80 pages, illus., maps, orders of battle, select bibliography. ISBN: 978-1-78096-927-5 $18.95 (Paperback).

Osprey’s Combat series takes a look at two opposing forces in a given war by looking at three combat situations in micro-tactical detail.  In this volume covering the Civil War in the Eastern Theater, the three battles chosen were First Bull Run/Manassas (July 21, 1861), Gettysburg (July 3, 1863), and New Market Heights (September 29, 1864).  In each battle, the stage is set at a higher level before quickly zooming in to concentrate on the action between two regiments on opposing sides.

The Combat series seems to be focused at people who may otherwise be unfamiliar with a given war or theater of a war.  With that in mind, the beginning of the book looks at Union and Confederate recruitment and preparations for war.

The scene quickly shifts to the heart of what the combat series is about, detailed vignettes on a micro-tactical level with plenty of good illustrations and maps.  At First Manassas, the charge of Jackson’s Brigade and specifically the 33rd Virginia against the 11th New York Fire Zouaves is covered.  The action at the Bloody Angle during Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg gets the “combat” treatment next, with the 56th Virginia going against the 71st Pennsylvania.

I was delighted to find that the Civil War version of “Combat” has as its third vignette a close look at the opening stages of the Battle of New Market Heights.  The battle, fought on September 29, 1864, was part of Grant’s Fifth Offensive against Petersburg.  This opening move by Butler’s Army of the James was led by Paine’s Division, consisting entirely of United States Colored Troops regiments.  They were to clear New Market Heights of Confederates, clearing the Army of the James’ right flank for a further assault on Fort Harrison.  The USCTs assaulted the heights, defended by Gregg’s Texas Brigade and supporting artillery and cavalry.  The vignette focuses on this assault, and specifically on the combat between the 4th United States Colored Troops and the 4th Texas.

Each vignette features a detailed map and map key which covers the main features of the action.  Also of interest is the illustrations of each battle from the perspective of one or both sides.  On the following page is a lengthy description of what the illustration depicts.  As in all Osprey volumes, insets and illustrations covering every aspect of the Civil War are plentiful.    An “analysis and conclusion” section at the end of the book discusses the results of each fight and ties them together in the greater context of the war in the East.  Orders of battle for each vignette, a nice touch, are included.

Combat 2: Union Infantrymen Versus Confederate Infantrymen: Eastern Theater 1861-65 is a detailed micro-tactical look at two famous fights and one not so famous fight during the Civil War in the East. Those interested in First Bull Run, Gettysburg, and the Siege of Petersburg will find some use here. Those interested in United States Colored Troops will also want to pick this one up, as the New Market Heights vignette spends some time on the dangers Black soldiers faced in excess of White men. This is a solid entry in a brand new series from Osprey. Other volumes focus on the British-Zulu War, French Guard versus Russian Jaegers from 1812-1814, and British Infantrymen vs German Infantrymen at the Somme in 1916.

Note: This book was provided gratis for the purposes of this review.


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