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.





Preview – Schultz and Mingus, “The Second Day at Gettysburg”

10 12 2015

51k02MDWMtL._SX338_BO1,204,203,200_New from Savas-Beatie is The Second Day at Gettysburg: The Attack and Defense of Cemetery Ridge, July 2, 1863, by David L. Schultz and Scott L. Mingus, Sr. Word has it that this is more than a simple re-working of Schultz’s (with co-author David Weick) 2006 The Battle Between the Farm Lanes, and in fact is an entirely new book covering the same time frame. It’s hard for me to say because believe it or not I don’t have the older book here, but that one weighed in at 300 pages, while Second Day is 531, with 494 pp of narrative and 17 pp bibliography, including five pages of newspaper and manuscript sources. All of this, along with plenty of illustrations throughout, bottom-of-page footnotes, and fine Phil Laino maps tells the story of Anderson’s Confederate division as it slammed into Winfield Scott Hancock’s Union command along Cemetery ridge. While this aspect of the battle often takes a back seat to what was going on farther south, the authors do not look at it in a vacuum, but consider how the two not-separate phases affected one another, and focus on terrain and its effects on intent and execution.





Preview – Smith & Sokolosky, “To Prepare for Sherman’s Coming”

21 11 2015

Layout 1A decade or so ago I was lucky enough to tour North Carolina sites with a small group that included then U. S. Army officers Wade Sokolosky and Mark A. Smith, who were then putting the finishing touches on their book “No Such Army Since the Days of Julius Caesar”: Sherman’s Carolinas Campaign from Fayetteville to Averasboro. Now the duo have published through Savas Beatie the slightly less wordily titled “To Prepare for Sherman’s Coming”: The Battle of Wise’s Forks, March 1865.

The book has all you’ve come to expect from Savas-Beatie. Illustrations throughout, George Skoch maps, appendices with orders of battle and numbers and losses, bottom of page notes, bibliography (plenty of newspapers and manuscript collections, usually a good sign), and index. Of course the meat is in the 223 page narrative that takes the reader along with the opposing forces of Jacob Cox and Braxton Bragg, culminating in the four-day confrontation at Wise’s Forks, which ultimately provided Confederate commander Joe Johnston with the time needed to concentrate about Bentonville. The final chapter is devoted to a Final Analysis, which should prove interesting given the career army background of the authors.





Preview: Two New Emerging Civil War Titles

5 11 2015

Two new titles in Savas Beatie’s Emerging Civil War Series have been published recently. By now your familiar with the formats, so I won’t go into that too much.

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A Want of Vigilance is a study and guide to The Bristoe Station Campaign, October 9-19, 1863. Authors Rob Orrison and Bill Backus are working public historians in the area. The narrative is 113 pages, plus you get six appendices, focusing on R. E. Lee and A. P. Hill, the reconnaissance of the 1st ME Cavalry, Rappahannock Station and Kelly’s Ford, an earlier clash at Bristoe Station, and a chronology of events. A full order of battle, Hal Jesperson maps, suggested readings, and period & modern photos round things out.

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The Aftermath of Battle, by Meg Groeling, “picks up the story as the battle ends,” and looks at how the dead were treated through vignettes. One of interest to readers of this blog is the famous case of Major Sullivan Ballou, but you’ll also find Elmer Ellsworth and sixteen others of varying degrees of specificity and generality. Another five appendices by authors including Chris Kolakowski, Edward Alexander, and Matt Atkinson. This is not simply a look at disposal and treatment of bodies – it also includes chapters on how the horrors of the battlefield were brought to the public by Matthew Brady, Andersonville prison camp, and the layout of Chattanooga cemetery as directed by George Thomas.





Preview: Powell, “The Chickamauga Campaign: Glory or the Grave”

5 10 2015

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ve at least heard about David A. Powell’s multi-volume study of the Chickamauga Campaign being published by Savas Beatie. In summary, this is what you want to do:

51mj2AQheYL._SX337_BO1,204,203,200_A) Get Volume I (The Chickamauga Campaign – A Mad Irregular Battle: From the Crossing of the Tennessee River Through the Second Day, August 22 – September 19, 1863, which has been out since last year.

B) Get The Maps of Chickamauga: An Atlas of the Chickamauga Campaign, Including the Tullahoma Operations, June 22 – September 23, 1863which has been out for, like, six years so you have no excuse.

C) Read them together, stopping in the map book when Volume I ends. I read the Atlas map section first, then the corresponding detailed narrative.

D) Then get the newly released The Chickamauga Campaign – Glory or the Grave: The Breakthrough, the Union Collapse, and the Defense of Horseshoe Ridge, September 20, 1863.

E) Repeat C) above through to the end of Volume II.

F) Sit and wait for Volume III.

What is covered in Vol. II is apparent from the title. You get 708 (!) pages of narrative. Yes, just in Vol. II – Vol. I weighs in at 641 pp. Footnotes are at the bottom of each page. Plenty of maps (but you’ll still want to keep the Atlas nearby) and illustrations throughout. The OOB is in Vol. I. The bibliography will be in Vol. III. So, you see, you’ll need to buy all four books.

Are there problems? Some little, nitpicky ones that aren’t really worth mentioning and probably only bothersome to people like me who are more directionally challenged in their reading, and perhaps rely on maps a bit too much. And the weird misplaced word or punctuation that is omnipresent in publishing these days. Nothing to worry about – I think we just have to get used to that stuff.

This is the Chickamauga Campaign study. You need to read this. I’m finishing up Vol. I now (I had to take a break for some fiction – Andy Weir’s The Martian was fun, by the way – as my brain gets fried after 450 pages of anything.) I’ll be cracking Vol. II next, and I’m really looking forward to it.





Previews: Three from Savas Beatie

13 09 2015

Over the past few weeks I’ve received three new titles from Savas Beatie. Here are the vitals:

51waXUoJnjL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Resisting Sherman: A Confederate Surgeon’s Journal and the Civil War in the Carolinas, 1865is the journal of Dr. Francis Marion Robertson, a surgeon who fled with the Confederate garrison in Charleston, SC, ahead of William T. Sherman’s army as it moved north. The journal has been edited and annotated by the author’s great-great-grandson Thomas Heard Robertson, Jr., who traveled extensively to research the places mentioned in the journal. The book offers a unique look into the final few months of the war.  141 pp and 3 appendices.

51tcoY0UUaL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Grant’s Last Battle: The Story Behind the Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, is a part of the Emerging Civil War series. (Interestingly, this slim [163 pp] volume is resting atop a gargantuan volume also examining the story behind Grant’s memoirs – I’ll be interviewing its author Joseph A. Rose soon.) Chris Mackowski provides a narrative on the production and publication of the memoirs in 127 pages, which is followed by five appendices by authors including Pat Tintle, Kathleen L. Thompson, Edward Alexander, Richard Frederick, and Jim McWilliams.

robertsonThe First Battle for Petersburg: The Attack and Defense of the Cockade City, June 9, 1864, is a new, revised, and expanded edition of William Glenn Robertson’s 1989 H. E. Howard Virginia Civil War Battles effort The Petersburg Campaign: The Battle of Old Men and Young Boys, June 9, 1864. The title is self-explanatory. This revised and expanded edition includes new, crisp Hal Jesperson maps, and new casualties analysis made possible by electronic versions of data sources not available a quarter-century ago. 147 pp and 4 appendices.








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