Preview: Powell, “The Chickamauga Campaign: Barren Victory”

24 09 2016

Layout 1The third and final volume of David A. Powell’s history of The Chickamauga Campaign – Barren Victory: The Retreat into Chattanooga, the Confederate Pursuit, and the Aftermath of Battle, September 21 to October 20, 1863, has been released by publisher Savas Beatie. (You can find my notes on the first two volumes here and here.)

This completes the most thorough history of the campaign to date. Volume III is a mixed bag, wrapping up the first two volumes and providing meat and potatoes statistics and research tidbits that all footnote readers will enjoy. The narrative portion of the book picks up on the morning of September 21, with both armies dealing with the immediate effects of defeat and victory. Three chapters follow both armies to the environs of Chattanooga. Two chapters discuss the costs and consequences of the campaign, and appendices deal with rear guard cavalry action in The Last Clash at Chickamauga and the relationship between William Rosecrans, James Garfield, and Charles Dana.

Then the fun begins. In a manner reminiscent of Joseph L. Harsh’s wonderful Sounding the Shallows, Powell offers the reader insight into both the numbers of the thing and the researching and writing process itself. Five appendices include: Union Order of Battle; Union Losses; Confederate Strength with Sources and Methodology (arranged in Order of Battle format); Confederate Losses (Powell provides the most detailed and complete look at Confederate numbers and losses to be found); and a Return for Polk’s Corps for October 22, 1863.

These are followed by a magnificent 85 page (!) bibliography. Powell’s extensive use of newspaper accounts from all points of the compass is impressively displayed. The different contemporary newspapers from which he drew number approximately 150!

The whole book is complimented with bottom of the page, detailed footnotes (with the exception of the Union OOB through Confederate Losses appendices which employ end-notes for purposes of style).

This is a great capstone to Powell’s take on the Chickamauga campaign (and let’s not forget his Campaign Atlas and his iconoclastic look at Confederate cavalry during this time, Failure in the Saddle). Don’t miss it.

Preview: Rasbach, “Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and the Petersburg Campaign”

22 09 2016

joshualchamberlainandpetersburgcampaignrasbach2016savasbeatieThis just in from Savas Beatie (there is no hyphen in that title, you know): Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and the Petersburg Campaign: His Supposed Charge from Fort Hell, his Near-Mortal Wound, and a Civil War Myth Reconsidered, by Dennis A. Rasbach.

It’s hard to read the full title and not get the impression that the book possesses iconoclastic, sacred-cow slaughtering characteristics. In fact the dust jacket notes are peppered with words like presumed, perpetuation, interpretation, mantle of authority, meticulous case, primary evidence, and body of evidence. By themselves not indicative of anything, but consider them and the book’s title together and, well, you start to see where we’re headed. And that’s not a bad thing by any means. This book considers, among other things, the accuracy of the identification of the actual site of the action in which Chamberlain was wounded, generally accepted for many, many years as along the Jerusalem Plank Road between the future site of Fort Hell (Sedgwick) and Rives’s Salient of the Dimmock Line (future site of Fort Mahone). Rasbach contends that the focus of Chamberlain’s attack was more than a mile away from there.

Other, similar theories on other battlefields have been shouted down with references to monument placement and lack of veteran divergence from accepted narratives, but in this case Mr. Rasbach is laying everything out there for consideration. Adherents to the classic interpretation will have to deal with his presentation on its merits.

You get: 176 pages of narrative, including a retrospective tour; plenty of illustrations, primarily maps, though the tour includes many modern day photos; Orders of Battle for June 18, 1864; an appendix on Chamberlain’s wound and treatment; another on the role of maps in evaluating Chamberlain’s account; bibliography, mostly published works but also ten manuscript sources and seven newspaper accounts; and full index. Footnotes are bottom-of-the-page.

Preview: Four New Emerging Civil War Titles

20 08 2016

If you’ve been reading Bull Runnings for a while, you know that I’ve previewed all of the titles in Savas Beatie’s Emerging Civil War series. And you also know how these books work. Concise histories, lots of maps and illustrations, tough paperbacks, suitable for the field. The really interesting parts, to me anyway, are the appendices. So, for each of these four most recent publications, I’m going to give you the bare minimum, and flesh out those appendices for you. Narrative page counts are for the main chapters only, not counting appendices. All run around 200 pages total.

OutFlewTheSabers_LRGOut Flew the Sabres: The Battle of Brandy Station, June 9, 1863, by Eric J. Wittenberg and Daniel T. Davis.

  • Narrative: 109 pages with tours
  • Appendix A: The Four Battles of Brandy Station (Wittenberg).
  • Appendix B: The Winter Encampment (Mike Block).
  • Appendix C: The Battle of Kelly’s Ford (Davis).
  • Afterword on preservation efforts (O. James Lighthizer).
  • Order of Battle

Layout 1The Last Road North: A Guide to the Gettysburg Campaign, 1863, by Robert Orrison and Dan Welch.

  • Narrative: 167 pages, with tours, from the start of the Confederate advance through the retreat.
  • No Appendices

Layout 1Don’t Give an Inch: The Second Day at Gettysburg, July 2, 1863 – From Little Round Top to Cemetery Ridge, by Chris Mackowski, Kristopher D. White, and Daniel T. Davis.

  • Narrative: 131 pages with tours
  • Appendix A: The Wheatfield: A Walking Tour (White).
  • Appendix B: The Heroes of Little Round Top? Controversy surrounding Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and the 20th Maine (Ryan Quint).
  • Appendix C: Home of the Rebel Sharpshooter. Photography at the site (James Brookes).
  • Appendix D: Not a Leg to Stand On: Sickles vs. Meade in the Wake of Gettysburg (Mackowski).
  • Order of Battle

A_Long_BloodyA Long and Bloody Task: The Atlanta Campaign from Dalton through Kennesaw Mountain to the Chatahoochie River, May 5 – July 18, 1864, by Stephen Davis.

  • Narrative: 105 pages
  • Driving Tour of the Atlanta Campaign: 14 pages
  • Appendix A: The Battle of Pickett’s Mill: Evolving Presence (Stephen Briggs).
  • Appendix B: My Time with “Company Aytch:” Personal Memory and the Kennesaw Line (Robert W. Novak).
  • Appendix C: The Chattahoochee River Line Today (Michael k. Shaffer).
  • Appendix D: Federal Logistics During the Atlanta Campaign (Britt McCarley)
  • Appendix E: Why Do People Believe Joe Johnston Could Have Saved Atlanta? (Davis).
  • Appendix F: What We’ve Learned About John Bell Hood Since the Centennial (Davis)
  • Order of Battle


Preview: Barr, “A Civil War Captain and His Lady”

14 08 2016

Layout 1A Civil War Captain and His Lady: Love, Courtship, and Combat from Fort Donelson through the Vicksburg Campaign, by Gene Barr, is one of those rare collections of Civil War correspondence that includes both sides of the conversation. Typically letters from the home front to soldiers in the field are lost if due only to the hardships of keeping them intact while on campaign. However this new publication from Savas Beatie includes the letters of both Captain Josiah Moore of the 17th Illinois Infantry and those of his sweetheart Jennie Lindsay of Peoria.

The correspondence is interesting in and of itself as it reflects on the mechanics of courtship via post during a hectic and trying time. It also serves as a framework for providing a history of the 17th Illinois and the action in the Western Theater, including Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Vicksburg, and the Meridian Campaign.

Gene Barr is a board member and former chair of the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, PA.

Preview: Miller, “Decision at Tom’s Brook”

6 08 2016

TomsBrookYet another Savas Beatie new release is William J. Miller’s Decision at Tom’s Brook: George Custer, Thomas Rosser, and the Joy of the Fight. This is a chronicle of the October 1864 clash of cavalry in the Shenandoah Valley, described by one Confederate soldier as “the greatest disaster that ever befell our cavalry during the whole war.”

Mr. Miller builds the story of Tom’s Brook on the framework of the relationship between Custer and his rebel counterpart Rosser. Both attended the USMA at the same time, and both were noted for their sometimes rash behavior and poor judgement on the battlefield. Like the Highlander says, “There can be only one,”and at Tom’s Brook one would lose his head to the other (if only figuratively). Note that the Lieutenant Rosser commanded the 1st Company of the Washington Artillery of New Orleans at Bull Run. Custer was there, too.

Here’s what you get: 212 pages of text, with page-bottom notes, plenty of illustrations, and Hal Jesperson maps; three appendices (orders of battle, strengths and losses, and notes on maps and topography – Mr. Miller is, after all, the author of Mapping for Stonewall: The Civil War Service of Jed Hotchkiss); a bibliography listing over three pages of archival sources and over three pages more of newspaper sources; and a full index.

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: Conner & Mackowski, “Seizing Destiny”

18 04 2016

Layout 1One of my favorite Civil War studies, and after over 100 years still the finest on this campaign, is John Bigelow Jr.’s Chancellorsville. The problems associated with finding a copy with maps aside (I have a cheap Konecky reprint and found a faded set of maps on Ebay), one of the book’s great strengths is the detailing of the reorganization and morale building of the Army of the Potomac by Major General Joseph Hooker in the wake of the disastrous Fredericksburg Campaign. This aspect of the Winter of 1863 is the focus of a new book from Savas Beatie by Albert Conner, Jr. and Chris Mackowski, Seizing Destiny: The Army of the Potomac’s “Valley Forge” and the Civil War Winter that Saved the Union. Consulting “hundreds of primary sources”, the authors “let the soldiers speak” to tell “the full story of how the citizen soldiers of the Army of the Potomac overcame adversity, seized their destiny, and saved the nation through leadership, perseverance, patriotism, and faith.”

What you get: 316 pages of text; three appendixes including an order of battle; full bibliography and index; bottom of page footnotes; eight Hal Jesperson maps; and numerous illustrations scattered throughout.