Preview: Hardy, “General Lee’s Immortals”

6 03 2018


New from Savas Beatie is a unit history by author and blogger Michael Hardy, General Lee’s Immortals: The Battles and Campaigns of the Branch-Lane Brigade in the Army of Northern Virginia, 1861-1865. Here’s a brief summary and a description of the contents.

Successively commanded by Lawrence O’Bryan Branch (until his death at the Battle of Antietam) and James H. Lane, the brigade and its North Carolina regiments served with the Army of Northern Virginia for the length of its existence.

The history is laid out in chronological order, starting with a biography of Branch and the formation of the brigade, then from the Battle of Hanover’s Court House through Appomattox, with stops along the way for chapters on Medical Care, Daily Camp Life, the Plight of the Prisoner, and Crime and Punishment. A closing chapter and epilogue look at the brigade in memory and its Place in History.

You get:

  • 373 pages of text in 18 chapters and the epilogue.
  • A 14 page bibliography with substantial manuscript and newspaper sources.
  • A somewhat brief 7 page index.
  • 10 Hal Jesperson maps
  • Dozens of images, both portraiture and modern, as well as engravings.
  • Savas Beatie staple bottom of page footnotes.

Preview: Tagg, “The Generals of Shiloh”

7 02 2018

GeneralsShiloh_LRGAuthor Larry Tagg’s 1998 The Generals of Gettysburg: The Leaders of America’s Greatest Battle, is by now a pretty standard book in the libraries of countless Gettysburg geeks. Brief sketches of general officers and their involvement, arranged in order of battle format, with a photo and suggested readings after each bio. (I’ve long been working on a something similar, however, with so few actual “generals” involved at First Bull Run, I have it down to regimental and battery command level.) It’s a handy and useful guide.

Now from Savas Beatie we have a new, similar work from Mr. Tagg (whom I interviewed here about his The Unpopular Mr. Lincoln), The Generals of Shiloh: Character in Leadership, April 6-7, 1862. Same order of battle format. In a preview, I can’t really get into the thoroughness of these sketches but they are, keep in mind, sketches. So let’s focus on what you get.

  • 236 pages of narrative
  • A “Critical Bibliography,” that is, a bibliography of sorts, in narrative form.
  • No notes, end or foot. Also, no suggested readings at the end of each entry, as in the Gettysburg book.
  • No Index

Now, this last bit, the index, is perplexing. (Yes, I know the notes are perplexing too, however at least some explanation can be given by way of the bibliographic essay.) Despite arguments that “you can find whoever you want by the order of battle” you can’t find whatever you want without an index. This was a huge gripe about Generals of Gettysburg. In one discussion group, years ago, it was discussed so often that I finally contacted Mr. Tagg for an index, which he graciously sent, and which I forwarded to the discussion group for inclusion on their website. When Generals of Gettysburg was reprinted by a different publisher later, I believe an index was included. So, I’m not quite sure why the exclusion here. But, let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water.

As a guide to the commanders of both armies at the Battle of Shiloh, The Generals of Shiloh is a nice addition to your Shiloh library. Albeit, maybe a little frustrating to use.

Preview: Ayers, “The Thin Light of Freedom”

1 12 2017


The Thin Light of Freedom: The Civil War and Emancipation in the Heart of America is Edward Ayers’s follow-up or companion to 2003’s In the Presence of Mine Enemies. Both works benefit from and are in part a product of Ayers’s groundbreaking Valley of the Shadow project (watch a video presentation of it here).

The Thin Light of Freedom follows the story of the people of The Great Valley, basically that area of Virginia and Pennsylvania comprising the Shenandoah and Cumberland valleys, through the latter stages of the Civil War and Reconstruction to Virginia’s return to statehood in 1870.

The focus here is not just on military voices but on those of the people of the area, who lived through the war and its privations and the social upheaval attendant to emancipation. Diarists and letter writers north and south are featured, with a heavy reliance on manuscript sources. Follow all the links I’ve given you above and you’ll get an idea of the extent.

You get:

  • 501 pages of text in 11 chapters plus prologue and epilogue, starting with “The Great Invasion” of 1863 and ending up in 1902 (though we go from 1868 to 1902 in one chapter)
  • 25 maps and illustrations
  • No bibliography but rather “A Note on the Documentation”
  • 45 pages of end notes
  • A full index

It’s a big honkin’ book.

Edward L. Ayers is Tucker-Boatwright Professor of the Humanities and president emeritus at the University of Richmond






Preview: Scales, “The Battles and Campaigns of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, 1861-1865”

30 11 2017

Layout 1The Battles and Campaigns of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, 1861-1865 is John R. Scales’s study not of the man, the myth, or the legend, but rather of his wartime activities. (Is it possible to examine these events without discussing the morals and politics of the man? Ummm, yeah, it is — don’t be fatuous.)

Essentially, this book serves as a staff ride of Forrest’s career. Each chapter discusses a particular raid or battle or campaign, for the most part. Each starts with a discussion of the operational environment. Then decisions made are examined. Each includes a driving tour, and each concludes with a review and evaluation of Forrest as commander.

You get:

  • 435 pages of text in 12 chapters, with plenty of charts and graphs, and 109 (one hundred and nine!!!) Hal Jesperson maps.
  • An epilogue with Scales’s assessment of Forrest.
  • A bibliography (primarily published works)
  • A full index
  • Bottom of page footnotes

John R. Scales is a retired brigadier general who served in Viet Nam and Afghanistan. He is the author of Sherman Invades Georgia and A Reluctant Hero’s Footsteps.

Preview: Savas Beatie Reprints Coco

29 11 2017

New from Savas Beatie are paperback reprints of two Gregory A. Coco titles, 1988’s A Vast Sea of Misery: A History and Guide to the Union and Confederate Field Hospitals at Gettysburg, and 1995’s A Strange and Blighted Land: Gettysburg The Aftermath of Battle. Each reprint includes a new preface by author and Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide James A. Hessler. These are must-haves for every Gettysburg student, and A Strange and Blighted Land appears regularly on general Civil War “Best Of” lists.

Layout 1A Vast Sea of Misery is a guide to 162 field hospitals that treated more than 26,000 wounded soldiers during and after the Battle of Gettysburg (an additional 14 identified after the 1st printing are listed as well). Nine maps show relative locations to help the tourist. The field hospital sites are broken down in three parts: Borough of Gettysburg area; Union Army areas; and Confederate Army areas. Additional sites are described in three additional parts:  other important sites; hospital sites in nearby towns; and Camp Letterman. Four appendices cover surgeons and physicians, how field hospital sites were selected, how wounded were moved to field hospitals, and general medical observations. There are seven pages of end notes and a full index.

Layout 1A Strange and Blighted Land is a detailed, heart-wrenching study of what came after the battle – the wounding, gathering, treating, assisting, obstructing, suffering, dying, interring, and remembering. I listed this as one of my ten favorite Gettysburg books. Relying mostly on eyewitness accounts, the reader learns of the scale of the suffering, the treatment of the wounded, the disposition of the dead, the establishment of the National Cemetery, the handling of prisoners and stragglers, and the preservation and establishment of the battlefield and its guides. This promotional passage sums this book up nicely, so I see no reason to rephrase:

Coco’s prose is gripping, personal, and brutally honest. There is no mistaking where he comes down on the issue: There was nothing pretty or glorious or romantic about the battle — especially once the fighting ended.

You get 377 pages of text, 27 pages of end-notes, a 14 page bibliography including three pages of manuscript sources, and a full index.

Gregory A. Coco was an army veteran who served in Vietnam, a degreed historian, a Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide, and a National Park Service Interpretive Ranger at GNMP. He  authored or edited of numerous books and articles on Gettysburg and the Civil War (I have had occasion to use his papers located in the Park’s archives). He died in 2009 at the age of 62.

Preview: Pula, “Under the Crescent Moon, Vol. 1”

21 11 2017

Layout 1Under the Crescent Moon with the XI Corps in the Civil War: Volume 1: From the Defenses of Washington to Chancellorsville, 1862-1863 is James Pula’s first in a planned two-part study of what was at the time known as the Eleventh Corps of the U. S. Army in the Civil War (the Roman numeral is a post-war affectation not used here at Bull Runnings). In this volume, the promotional material states, the actions of the Corps at the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863 “are fully examined here for the first time, and at a depth no other study has attempted.” Considering the thoroughness of John Bigelow’s background on the Corps in The Campaign of Chancellorsville, and the depth of analysis in Augustus C. Hamlin’s The Attack of Stonewall at Chancellorsville, the proof of this claim will be in the pudding. Mr. Pula has previously written about 11th Corps related topics, including a biography of Wlodzimierz Krzyzanowski and a history of the 26th Wisconsin Infantry.

What you get:

  • 281 pages of text in nine chapters taking the history of the Corps up to June, 1863;
  • An appendix listing the casualties of the Corps during the Battle of Chancellorsville;
  • An appendix listing the German troops in the Corps;
  • A ten page bibliography, including two full pages of archival sources;
  • Same-page footnotes;
  • Numerous, mostly portrait photos.
  • (There appears to be only one detailed disposition/movement map in total, which is curious in a work that seeks to look at the Corps’ performance at Chancellorsville in depth. In contrast, the Hamlin book noted above has nine.)

Volume 2 of this history, release date not known, is expected to be 432 pages.

Preview: Waters and Brown, “Gabriel Rains and the Confederate Torpedo Bureau”

20 11 2017

51Vt7833uaLA recent publication of Savas Beatie is Gabriel Rains and the Confederate Torpedo Bureau, by W. Davis Waters and the late Joseph I. Brown. Rains is considered the father of landmine warfare (a dubious “honor,” at best), although in addition to the “subterra shell” he also designed two seagoing explosive devices. I admit to knowing very little about this subject, and will proceed to the physical description of this paperback.

You get:

  • 100 pages of narrative on Rains’s life and career. Chapter endnotes.
  • An analysis by Mr. Brown of a manuscript written by Rains, “National Defense Perfected by Land and Sea.”
  • Appendix – List of Men in Charleston’s Torpedo Service
  • Appendix – Rains Letter to Jefferson Davis About Sinking of the Tecumseh
  • Appendix – Report of John Maxwell on City Point Explosion and Endorsements by McDaniel and Rains
  • Appendix – Letter to W. T. Walthal for Use by Jefferson Davis for “Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government”
  • Appendix – Torpedoes
  • Appendix – List of Vessels Sunk by Torpedoes
  • Appendix – Rains Family Evacuates Richmond
  • Bibliography, including family papers of Jefferson Davis, T. H. Holmes, and Gabriel Rains
  • Index