A Few Words on Two New Releases

12 06 2018

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I have a backlog of previews to write. Sorry, man, but this is my hobby, not my full time job! Two of these, from Savas Beatie, are The War Outside My Window, Janet Croon, editor, and a set of regimental rosters for the Georgia regiments (7th, 8th, 9th, & 11th) of Anderson’s Brigade, compiled by Richard M. (Rick) Allen. Both are, in my opinion, important books, for different reasons.

I have arranged for interviews with both authors. Plenty can be found on these books regarding their content, so anything I provide in way of preview, beyond these interviews, will be a little extraneous. Follow the links above to learn a little more about them, and keep an eye out for my interviews coming soon (I hope).





Another Galley

6 06 2018

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Just in from Savas Beatie is an unedited advance galley of James Pula’s Under the Crescent Moon with the XI Corps in the Civil War: Volume 2: From Gettysburg to Victory, 1863-1865. This is the second of the two-volume study, the first of which was previewed here. So, you can get the picture if you refer to that post. My main criticism of the first volume was a lack of detailed maps, a staple of Savas Beatie publications. While a skimming of this galley shows some improvement, it’s still not quite up to standards in that regard. The proof will be in the final product, as always.





Lots of Galleys from Savas Beatie

1 06 2018

I’ve received four advance galleys from Savas Beatie, two each set to release in August and September, but I’m noticing they tend to drop much more quickly than that. More will follow when I get finished products, but here’s the (very) skinny on each:

The Million Dollar Man Who Helped Kill a President: George Washington Gayle and the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln, by Christopher Lyle McIlwain, Sr.

Forget what you thought you knew about why Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. No, it was not mere sectional hatred, Booth’s desire to become famous, Lincoln’s advocacy of black suffrage, or a plot masterminded by Jefferson Davis to win the war by crippling the Federal government. Christopher Lyle McIlwain, Sr.’s The Million-Dollar Man Who Helped Kill a President: George Washington Gayle and the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln exposes the fallacies regarding each of those theories and reveals both the mastermind behind the plot, and its true motivation.

September Mourn: The Dunker Church of Antietam Battlefield, by Alann Schmidt and Terry Barkley.

The Dunker Church is one of the most iconic structures of the American Civil War. Surprisingly, few people know much if anything about its fascinating story or the role it played within the community of Sharpsburg and its importance during and after the Battle of Antietam. September Mourn: The Dunker Church of Antietam by Alann D. Schmidt and Terry W. Barkley rectifies this oversight in the first book-length study of its kind.

I Am Perhaps Dying: The Medical Backstory of Spinal Tuberculosis Hidden in the Civil War Diary of LeRoy Wiley Gresham, by Dennis Rasbach.

Invalid teenager Leroy Wiley Gresham left a seven-volume diary spanning the years of secession and the Civil War (1860-1865). He was just 12 when he began and he died at 17, just weeks after the war ended. His remarkable account, recently published as The War Outside My Window: The Civil War Diary of LeRoy Wiley Gresham, 1860-1865, edited by Janet E. Croon (2018), spans the gamut of life events that were of interest to a precocious and well-educated Southern teenager—including military, political, religious, social, and literary matters of the day. This alone ranks it as an important contribution to our understanding of life and times in the Old South. But it is much more than that. Chronic disease and suffering stalk the young writer, who is never told he is dying until just before his death.

Dr. Rasbach, a graduate of Johns Hopkins medical school and a practicing general surgeon with more than three decades of experience, was tasked with solving the mystery of LeRoy’s disease. Like a detective, Dr. Rasbach peels back the layers of mystery by carefully examining the medical-related entries. What were LeRoy’s symptoms? What medicines did doctors prescribe for him? What course did the disease take, month after month, year after year? The author ably explores these and other issues in I Am Perhaps Dying to conclude that the agent responsible for LeRoy’s suffering and demise turns out to be Mycobacterium tuberculosis, a tiny but lethal adversary of humanity since the beginning of recorded time.

Union Soldiers in the American Civil War: Facts and Photos for Readers of All Ages, by Lance J. Herdegen.

Union Soldiers offers a complete guide for Civil War enthusiasts of all ages. Herdegen employs nearly 100 photographs coupled with clear and concise prose broken down into short, easy to understand chapters to better understand these men. Coverage includes such varied topics as the organization of the Union Army, learning to be soldiers, winter campaigning, photography, sick call, nurses, religion, discipline, prisoner of war camps, weaponry, uniforms, as well as numbers and losses and the strengths of the various Union armies. It also examines the participation of U.S. Color Troops and the role played by African Americans during the Civil War. This handy reference book includes a list of Civil War points of interest, some bookshelf suggestions, and a glossary of Civil War terms.

 

 





Preview – Croon (Ed), “The War Outside My Window”

17 04 2018

9781611213881This is a little different for Bull Runnings. The good folks at Savas Beatie sent me a digital, advance unedited galley of a unique diary, The War Outside My Window: The Civil War Diary of LeRoy Wiley Gresham, edited by Janet Elizabeth Croon. The story of this diary, which I’ll describe below, has been bouncing around for quite some time – here’s a WaPo article from 2012.

I’ve read snippets of LeRoy’s diary, and enough of other online sources which you can find yourself to get a good idea of his back story (note this is a preview, not a review.) Here’s the gist – he was a very bright, well-read, and articulate young man, living in Macon, GA. He suffered from a disease resulting from a severe injury to his leg – when the diary opens, he’s already an invalid and would need to be pulled about in a wagon of sorts. Unlike the reader LeRoy was of course unaware that his condition was mortal, and he would barely outlive the war that understandably occupied so much of his thoughts. Our knowledge of his impending doom makes his daily writings, spanning the whole conflict and very much of and in the moment, all the more poignant in their innocence, ignorance, and wit. You’ll feel for the kid.

Here’s young Gresham’s entry for July 22, 1861, with the early news of the fighting at Manassas:

Macon July 22 1861: Another great battle at Manassas! Sherman’s Battery taken! Terrible Slaughter on both sides! The enemy retired from the field. The Fight commenced 4 oclock this morning and continued until about seven. The battle raged with terrible force and a heavy loss on both sides. There has evidently been a signal Victory at Bulls Run. President Davis’ message is out. It is not only well written, but beautiful in contrast to the boorish effort of Doctor Lincoln, Chief magistrate of United States. Raining very slightly before breakfast this morning. Sad news Gen. F. S. Bartow is killed. Macon Gaurds in the fight. President Davis commanded in person; Beauregarde + Johnson’s army both engaged 40 000 to 70 000 on a side. Beauregarde’s horse shot from under him. It will be sometime before we can get the truth of it. Dressed my back this morning and its healing though very slowly. General Wise has also gained a signal Victory in western Virginia, killing 150 federals and losing few of his men. Julia Ann is up and about again. Very heavy shower this afternoon. Uncle John, Deo Volente [God willing], leaves for Athens tomorrow. Father comes home but there are no more reliable dispatches. The battles undoubtedly sends a thrill of Anguish to many an anxious heart in the newborn Confederacy. Ave Maria Jose [goodbye].

Undoubtedly, some will latch on to the undeniable fact that LeRoy was a youth of privilege and wealth, a member of a slaveholding family with personal servants, and may argue that these are the most important, or even the only, aspects of his life with which we should concern ourselves, to the exclusion of all others. To the contrary, young Gresham’s story and personal observations give great insight into the mind of someone raised in the reality of the times, and should provide a tool for historians to interpret those times in context as opposed to retrospect. I mean, that’s their job, after all. It’s not everyone’s job. But it is that of the historian.

It’s hard to tell you what you’ll get with the final product. Of course you get the diary and detailed annotations in bottom of page footnotes; illustrations including a few of actual diary pages with what we refer to today as “metadata” (doodling, sweat stains, etc.); Hal Jesperson maps; extensive dramatis personae; and appendices related to LeRoy’s medical condition. A lot of detective work went into this.

I am perhaps dying ebook[7587][Dennis Rasbach, MD, has written an e-book (not yet available), I Am Perhaps Dying: The Diary of LeRoy Wiley Gresham and the Medical Backstory of his Private Battle with Tuberculosis During the Civil War. Keep on the lookout for that.]

The War Outside My Window is scheduled to drop in June, with national coverage and a feature in the Sunday Parade magazine. Advance orders or signed copies are being taken at the Savas Beatie site linked above. I think this will be an important work, and well worth your time.





Preview – Loperfido (Ed.), “Death, Disease, and Life at War”

27 03 2018

Layout 1I previewed Christopher Loperfido’s A Surgeon’s Tale here back in 2011. So I’ll let that serve as part of this preview of a new Savas Beatie edition of the book, retitled (with a much appreciated Oxford comma) Death Disease, and Life at War: The Civil War Letters of Surgeon James D. Benton, 111th and 98th New York Infantry Regiments, 1862-1865. There have been changes made to this edition, and Christopher laid them out for me. I thought about rewriting this myself, but hey, seems clear enough:

  • The military organization has been cleaned up a bit to give readers a better understanding of military lingo that James might reference if they were not already aware.
  • The introduction includes all new photos and is more detailed regarding the status of the union army medical department at the beginning of the war, what an assistant surgeon would have done during the war, more background information about James and his family, and sets the stage at Harper’s Ferry for the beginning of James’s letters after the 111th was captured and paroled.
  • Footnotes have been tweaked, more information and some have been added and others subtracted.
  • A postscript section has been added about a bible James picked up during the war and returned in 1885.
  • 5 appendices were added to give an introduction to Jonathan Letterman, Sanitary Commission, Ambulance Corps, Amputations, and Civil War dressings.
  • More context about what was going on during the war in each year has been added and cleaned up as well.




Preview: Hardy, “General Lee’s Immortals”

6 03 2018

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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.