Preview: Gottfried, “The Maps of the Wilderness”

6 05 2016

MapsWilderness_LRGAt your bookstores now is the latest in Brad Gottfried’s Savas Beatie campaign atlas series, The Maps of the Wilderness: An Atlas of the Wilderness Campaign, Including all Cavalry Operations, May 2-6, 1864. (Usual caveat: maps, even though a pretty cut and dry visualization of the story, are a version of the story constructed from documentary evidence chosen by the mapmaker, or director. As such, they are a version of the story. They are not necessarily the story, but a story. With The Wilderness, the challenge is to represent something so notoriously disorganized in a rigid, organized, understandable format.

That being said, here’s what you get: 24 map sets (action-sections) containing a total of 124 full page color maps with facing narrative pages; orders of battle; endnotes; bibliography, and index. Gottfried has tackled a big job with The Wilderness. I’m sure there will be something for students of the battle to pick apart (there always is, with any project like this), but even in the picking apart there is understanding to be gained. We’ll all be better off checking this one out.

Preview: Gottfried, “The Maps of the Bristoe Station and Mine Run Campaigns”

10 11 2013

91Bka6INr4L._SL1500_I have a soft spot for the subject of this latest entry in Savas Beatie’s Atlas series. Long before I decided to focus my energies on First Bull Run I attempted to tackle the period in the history of the Army of the Potomac between the end of the Gettysburg Campaign and the arrival of U. S. Grant in the spring of 1864. I wrote a bit about that aborted project here. The whole series of events has received short shrift from most historians, and usually gets covered in a few pages (or even paragraphs) when it gets covered at all. Brad Gottfried helps shed some more light on this time with The Maps of the Bristoe Station and Mine Run Campaigns. The subtitle gives a little more detail on the details: An Atlas of the Battles and Movements in the Eastern Theater after Gettysburg, Including Rappahannock Station, Kelly’s Ford, and Morton’s Ford, July 1863-February 1864. You’re familiar with the format by now: individual time-coded maps (87 of ’em) with their own facing narrative page. This really is a must-have, not just to keep your set intact, but to give some much needed perspective to this black hole in the history of the campaigns of the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia.

Civil War Trust “Hallowed Ground” Spring 2011

14 03 2011

The Spring 2011 issue of Hallowed Ground, the Civil War Trust’s members publication, is out. Happily it focuses on First Bull Run.

There’s plenty of good stuff inside on the battle and the battlefield – see here for the table of contents. NPS historians Greg Wolf and John Reid have pieces on some battlefield detective work and the Centennial reenactment; museum specialist Jim Burgess writes on civilian spectators at the battle, and superintendent Ray Brown has an interesting article on the owner of the Van Pelt house. The folks who work and have worked at the park are the real experts on the battles that were fought here. These articles should not be missed – and yes, they’re all available online for free. While I don’t see it listed, there is supposed to be an interview with yours truly in this issue as well. Perhaps I wound up on the cutting room floor? I’ll let you know once I see the magazine itself.

One article in particular caught my attention: An End to Innocence, The First Battle of Manassas by Bradley Gottfried. Here’s the passage that stuck out:

While Lincoln and his Cabinet members listened, McDowell laid out a plan to attack the 24,000-man Confederate Army under Gen. Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, deployed near the winding Bull Run creek about 25 miles southwest of Washington. The general intended to use about 30,000 troops in the effort, marching in three columns, while another 10,000 men were held in reserve. With such numerical superiority, it appeared McDowell would overwhelm his Southern counterpart.

OK, I’ve talked about this in the past and you’re probably sick of hearing it by now. I have met Mr. Gottfried – he’s a good guy. I worked closely with him in proofing his book, The Maps of First Bull Run. But what he has written here conflicts with my understanding of McDowell’s plan. Here’s the text of the portion of McDowell’s plan regarding the force he expected to meet at Manassas (emphasis and brackets mine; you can read the whole thing here):

The secession forces at Manassas Junction and its dependencies are supposed to amount at this time [June 24-25, 1861] to–

Infantry          23,000

Cavalry          1,500

Artillery           500

Total               25,000

We cannot count on keeping secret our intention to overthrow this force. Even if the many parties intrusted with the knowledge of the plan should not disclose or discover it, the necessary preliminary measures for such an expedition would betray it; and they are alive and well informed as to every movement, however slight, we make. They have, moreover, been expecting us to attack their position, and have been preparing for it. When it becomes known positively we are about to march, and they learn in what strength, they will be obliged to call in their disposable forces from all quarters, for they will not be able, if closely pressed, to get away by railroad before we can reach them. If General J. E. Johnston’s force is kept engaged by Major-General Patterson, and Major-General Butler occupies the force now in his vicinity, I think they will not be able to bring up more than ten thousand men. So we must calculate on having to do with about thirty-five thousand men.

And here’s where he described the size of the army with which he proposed to take the field:

Leaving small garrisons in the defensive works, I propose to move against Manassas with a force of thirty thousand of all arms, organized into three columns, with a reserve of ten thousand.

I’ve not yet found any evidence that McDowell expected he would have numerical superiority in his strike against Beauregard. I’ll have more to say on this in an upcoming article in America’s Civil War.

UPDATE 3/15/2011: Let me make this clear for everyone, if for some reason you got a different impression from this post: my problem is with the notion that McDowell’s plan assumed a numerical superiority for his army over that which he expected to face around Manassas. To quote Wilfred Brimley in Absence of Malice: “That’s a lot of horse-puckey. The First Amendment (in this case McDowell’s plan) doesn’t say that.”

McDowell’s plans regarding this are clear, as stated above.

Interview with Brad Gottfried

19 02 2009

Author Brad Gottfried of the upcoming The Maps of First Bull Run was kind enough to take the time to respond to a few questions regarding the book and the Savas Beatie project in general.

What is the Savas Beatie Battlefield Atlas project, and how did you get involved?

The “Battlefield Atlas” project actually started with my Maps of Gettysburg book.  I had written a book entitled, “The Brigades of Gettysburg” that highlighted the activities of every infantry brigade that participated in the battle.  As a result of that book, I realized that the battle would be much more understandable if they had a series of good, accurate maps, accompanied by a descriptive text.  After some thought, I came up with the idea of a map book, where the map is on the right page and the description is on the left.  That book included over 140 maps and it has been well received.  Since that time, Ted Savas has decided to broaden the concept and has signed up authors to do maps of other campaigns.

Why did you choose Bull Run as your second project?

I basically decided to prepare a book on every campaign in the Eastern Theatre of the Civil War, so it was natural that I go in order.  I had been to the battlefield several times, but like so many others, really had trouble getting my arms around the swirl of events.

How does this book differ from your Gettysburg Atlas?

The book is similar to the Gettysburg Atlas with two exceptions.  First, and perhaps most important, the maps are in color.  This was one of the biggest criticisms of the Gettysburg volume.  The second difference is the length of the book.  The Gettysburg book ran 363 pages and contained about 140 maps; the new one on First Bull Run/Manassas, is 144 pages long and contains 51 maps.  It also includes a section on Ball’s Bluff.

What were the particular challenges of doing a Bull Run Atlas?

I think that Gettysburg spoiled me.  There are so many first-person accounts and so many analyses of what occurred there that I was able to get a much richer picture of what really happened.  Less is written about First Bull Run/Manassas and there is much more ambiguity.  Harry Smeltzer and Jim Burgess really helped me to sort out the fact from the fiction regarding the First Bull Run/Manassas campaign.  Jim Morgan did the same for the Ball’s Bluff section.

Were there any surprises while writing this book?

Not really.  I learned so much about the campaign.   If I had to name some, it was how close General McDowell came to winning this battle and how lucky the Confederates were in moving units into position at just the right time.  Most of us know about Stonewall Jackson’s gallant stand on Henry Hill, but I was surprised by how so many of his units were defeated at one time or another.

What’s up next for you in the series?

I will stop going in order now and concentrate on the most “popular” campaigns.  Next up is the Maryland campaign.  After that I may go back and work on the Second Manassas Campaign.  That book will probably be double the size of the First Bull Run/Manassas book.

Ted Savas was good enough to provide me with one map and corresponding facing text.  You can find the pdf file here.   The pages will face, text on the left, map on the right.  The map is lower res than what will be in the book.  If you can’t open pdf files (you can get a pdf reader for free, just enter “free pdf reader” into a search engine), below are clickable thumbs of each page.


Again, you can register to be notified when this book becomes available here.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,454 other followers