Preview: Noah Andre Trudeau, “The Last Citadel: Petersburg June 1864 – April 1865″

23 11 2014


Savas-Beatie
has released a new, revised, and expanded edition of Noah Andre Trudeau’s 1991 study of the Siege of Petersburg, The Last Citadel: Petersburg, June 1864 – April 1865. For years, Trudeau’s works on 1864 action in Virginia have rested on the shelves of many students of the war, including those of Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey’s character in the series House of Cards). So, what’s new here? I’ll let the author speak for himself, from the Preface:

511VHRArmjL._SL500_AA300_[The] revisions lie in several areas. On a visual level I have reworked all the maps with what I hope is a touch more skill than I possessed when I crafted the originals in 1991 (my first effort in that direction!), and even added a couple. Text-wise, and in my eternal search for perfection, I corrected all errors of fact (thankfully, not many) that were pointed out to me in reviews and conversations about the book and even a couple I found on my own.  I would like to especially thank Dr. Richard J. Sommers, who took time off from his busy schedule to read me through the notes in his annotated copy, which directed me to details I am pleased to have now attended to. Thanks also to historians Chris Calkins and James H. Blankenship, Jr., who passed along corrections. I also too advantage of the fact that Savas Beatie was not merely reprinting the original to add several pages of new material. I’ll ‘fess up to having learned a few things in the years since the book first appeared, and in some places changed the text to better reflect what I now know, or think I do.

As what remains the most significant single-volume work on the Petersburg Campaign, this revised edition is a must if you don’t have the original, and is an improvement if you do.





A Review (Not Mine) of “The Early Morning of War”: “The new standard bearer of Bull Run studies.”

18 11 2014

Check out Drew’s review of Ed Longacre’s new book on First Bull Run here.





Longacre, “The Early Morning of War”

24 10 2014





Mini-Review: Hennessy on Porter, in “Corps Commanders in Blue”

22 10 2014

517bM0P30PL._SL500_AA300_As some of you know, Bull Runnings has this Facebook Page on which I post a lot of stuff that I’ve decided not to put up here. Last night I posted a review – of sorts – of John Hennessy’s essay on Fitz John Porter, Conservatism’s Dying Ember, in Corps Commanders in Blue, a collection of essays edited by Ethan Rafuse. I’ve decided to post it here. I may, or may not, post mini-reviews of other essays in the book if it strikes me to do so. And I may, or may not, post them here, on the Facebook page, or both. So, if you want to be sure to see them, I suggest both subscribing to the blog and following the Facebook page.

I just finished John J. Hennessy’s essay on Fitz John Porter. I recommend it to all. As Tom Clemens said, it is fair and balanced. I want to comment on a few passages of note:

1 – Regarding Lincoln’s decision to hold back from the AotP McDowell’s corps: “It was, perhaps, the most cautious strategic decision of the war, establishing Lincoln as a military thinker whose strategic conservatism far exceeded McClellan’s.” Yes! Hennessy also included Lincoln’s later admission of his mistake. I’ll add that Irvin McDowell (who was not much of a tactician, but a pretty shrewd big picture guy) also knew at the time that AL was playing into the rebels’ hands.

2 – Regarding Porter’s (via McClellan’s) policies in Virginia and whether or not they dovetailed with those of the administration: “To some eyes, he [McClellan] had not been aggressive enough with respect to slavery and too kind to Southern civilians, but he had in fact hewed closely to standing policy.” Again, YES!!! I wish this had been further explored, because there was a lot of “Don’t do what I say, do what I mean” coming from the admin in those days. However, that perhaps would have required a bit more exposition than the essay format allows.

3 – “In Porter’s eyes an immobile McDowell symbolized the perfidy of the nation’s leaders.” While Hennessy doesn’t limit the evidence that Porter interpreted as indicative of perfidy, he left out the issue of the closing of northern recruiting offices. But again, it’s a limited essay, and I can’t think of anything that should have been jettisoned in favor of this tidbit.

4 – “The message [sent by Porter’s relief and dismissal] was clear: the careers of men who mixed their political views and official duties too freely would not thrive.” I think this perhaps should have been worded differently – the message was clear that those who mixed CONTRARY political views and official duties too freely would not thrive. I don’t think there was an abolitionist in the army who felt constricted by Porter’s fate.

These are all minor in the grand scheme of things. Mr. Hennessy did a great job with this essay. I’d really like to see him expand on it, and hope he intends to do so.





Preview: Shiels, “The Irish in the American Civil War”

20 10 2014

8768 Civil CVR.inddThere are numerous studies on the Irish in our Civil War, some fairly objective and many laden with sentimentality and myth-building which employ such flowery terms as “Celtic Warriors in Blue/Gray.” Even as second generation on my mom’s side I find the latter tedious. What sets The Irish in the American Civil War apart is that its author Damian Shiels (host of a blog with the same title and a professional conflict archaeologist) is not an Irish-American but an Irishman from Limerick. In addition to his proximity to the homes of many of his subjects, his work on the blog and with local Irish sources give him a unique perspective (Damian works wonders with pension records – if you haven’t visited his site please do, you’ll be glad you did.)

This is not a strict narrative account of the history of Irish-American soldiers. Rather the book’s 229 pages of text is divided into sections: Beginnings; Realities; The Wider War; and Aftermath. Each section includes “six true stories of gallantry, sacrifice and bravery,” including good personal accounts of First Bull Run.

Sources include a lot of well-known secondary sources, but the use of newspapers and pension files is Shiels’s real strength. If you’re interested in a different perspective on a well-worn topic, I think it’s worth your while to give The Irish in the American Civil War a tumble.





Preview: S. C. Gwynne, “Rebel Yell”

7 10 2014

downloadOK, so here we have a new release from mainstream publisher Scribner. This will be brief. The author, S. C. Gwynne previously authored Empire of the Summer Moon, a biography of Quanah Parker which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. So from a literary standpoint, he’s no hack. Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson is 575 pages of well-strung-together words. Sources look pretty good, manuscripts, etc. I’ve read selected (by me) passages, and there’s nothing particularly irritating so far. But nothing particularly insightful or surprising, either. For example, go to the section on 2nd Bull Run and look for an explanation of Jackson’s declination to join in/support/or even recognize Longstreet’s assault. You’ll find a paragraph basically putting the onus on Lee. Nothing particularly wrong with that, and most folks who read this, again, well-written biography won’t have a problem with it. But I suspect most folks who read this and similar sites will be looking for more, and probably have read enough on Jackson already (perhaps Robertson’s epic love letter)  that a popular biography is not really something in which they’re interested. If you’re just testing the waters, at the beginning of your studies, or interested in a broad range of biographies (not just Civil War related), this is probably right up your alley. Jaded old folks like me, probably not. This assessment ain’t bad, it ain’t good, it just is.





Preview: Mackowski & White, “That Furious Struggle”

4 10 2014

TFurious_Struggle_photo_lgProlific authors and Emerging Civil War series editors Chris Mackowski and Kristopher D. White have released through Savas-Beatie the next in their series of compact narratives, That Furious Struggle: Chancellorsville and the High Tide of the Confederacy, May 1-4, 1863.  Chris and Kris have both worked at the battlefield, and offer an insider’s look.. The 155 pages of text are peppered with over 150 illustrations and maps. Also included: an order of battle; appendices on rivers and fords, Stoneman’s raid, Jackson’s Flank Attack, the Chancellor family, and prominent area resident Matthew Fontaine Maury; and a suggested reading list. GPS coordinates and tour stops are keyed to an overall tour map.








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