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Book Reviews

The following are some of the book reviews published in the Canister, the newsletter of the Cincinnati CWRT, between 1995 and 2001. From September, 2001:

Book Review (By Dave Smith):

The Union That Shaped the Confederacy: Robert Toombs and Alexander H. Stephens by William C. Davis , University Press of Kansas, 2001, 304 pages, $29.95, hardcover

What a delightful little book! And frankly, I don't often use the term "delightful" in a book review. The Union That Shaped the Confederacy is a swiftly-paced, lightly written work that details the friendship of a pair of Georgians - Robert Toombs and "Little Alec," Alexander Stephens.

It is very important to know exactly what you are not getting with this book. You will not get a standard biographical treatment of Stephens and Toombs, and author Davis makes this abundantly clear from the outset. You will not receive great insights into the minds and thinking of these two men, but will come to appreciate the antebellum, war-time, and post-bellum periods of American history as these two men saw it.

William C. Davis does not attempt to make his subjects either heroes or villains on the Confederacy's stage. They were what they were - friends who for the most part held similar political beliefs, worked for the same ends, and became, as the war progressed, more and more bitterly opposed to the administration of Jefferson F. Davis.

Because of the nature of the work, the reader receives a slice of Civil War-era history from a perspective he or she would not likely get. Along the way, one receives insights into the functioning (and dysfunction) of the Confederacy's Executive Branch, as well as the building of the "loyal opposition" to Davis's administration. We see the strengths and weaknesses of these two prominent Georgians, as they struggled to establish a new nation out of the old.

Davis's writing style is loose and fast, and almost reads as if a good friend is telling a story of another pair of friends. To some, this may be distracting, but I found it to be just part of the story. The Union That Shaped the Confederacy can be read quickly, with a great sense of satisfaction. This book comes highly recommended.

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From May, 2001:

Book Review (By Tom Breiner):

Wilson's Creek: The Second Battle of the Civil War and the Men Who Fought It by William Garrett Piston and Richard W. Hatcher III , The University of North Carolina Press Chapel Hill, NC, 2000 408 Pages.

The recently published work by authors William Garrett Piston and Richard Hatcher III concerns one of the most overlooked areas of Civil War study, the Trans-Mississippi. Their book, Wilson's Creek The Second Battle of the Civil War and the Men Who Fought It, deals with the early struggle to secure Missouri for the Union and the internal struggle of the men of Missouri to choose the allegiance. The manuscript provides a much needed look at the Missouri conflict, as well as a study of the men how most Missourians determined where to pledge their support and just how important community was in determining why men went to war.

The book also covers the often-overlooked battle at Wilson's Creek. While this battle was the second major battle of the war and fought just weeks after the First Battle of Manassas or Bull Run, the battle has received little coverage by historians. Our authors have made great strides to uncover the real significance of this battle and the campaign that led up to the fight. They also provide insight into the significance of the fight. This work is extremely well written and the maps of the various stages of the battle are highly beneficial.

Brigadier General Lyon was a self-appointed instrument of God sent to punish the Missouri traitors. The book shows that his early actions were well thought out and displayed exceptional military skills. However, his self-confidence suffered as the campaign was extended and he became frustrated with the lack of support from his superior, John C. Fremont. Lyon went from a decisive independent leader, ready to give commands, to a facilitator who managed by committee. His started calling councils-of-war to make his decisions, then he allowed himself to be swayed by whomever was the last to offer an opinion, usually the inept Colonel Franz Sigel. The Battle of Wilson's Creek was a mistake. Lyon should have retreated to Rolla were he could have re-supplied his army and been closer to reinforcements. His army was not strong enough to attack the Confederates under Brigadier General Ben McCulloch and Major General Sterling Price. Even with this disadvantage, Lyon by steer will power nearly succeeded in his effort to defeat the rebels. His untimely death, at the crisis of the battle, left his subordinates to manage a retreat instead of driving the Union forces to victory.

Piston and Hatcher also review the relationship between McCulloch and Price, trying to understand how these two strong-willed individuals were able to cooperate, as well as define when their difference began. In order to get McCulloch's cooperation, Price waved his rank and agreed to subordinate his Missouri State Guard to McCulloch. They were trying to create an army made up of men not only from Missouri, but also Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, and Texas. McCulloch was not impressed with the military talents of Price but realized that he needed this Missourian if he was to maintain the support of the Missouri State Guard. After the battle, Price wanted to move quickly into the Missouri River Valley and claim the State for the Confederacy. McCulloch believed that the time was not right and that the army needed to refit and train prior to any new campaign.

Wilson's Creek The Second Battle of the Civil War and the Men Who Fought It is the story of the campaign for Missouri. It is one of the many little researched battles in the backwater of the Civil War that was the Trans-Mississippi. The authors, William Garrett Piston and Richard W. Hatcher III have provide the Civil War enthusiast with a much needed look at the campaign for Missouri and an in depth look at the men who filled the ranks of the Union, the Confederate and the Missouri State Guard. This work is highly recommended to everyone interest in furthering their knowledge of the war and the citizen soldiers who fought it.

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From February, 2001:

Book Review (By James F. Epperson):

Breaking the Backbone of the Rebellion by A. Wilson Greene, Savas Publishing, Mason City, Iowa, 2000, Maps, index, 576 pages, $35.95 Hardcover

The siege of Petersburg occupies a kind of historical purgatory in the field of Civil War studies. Although it lasted for over nine months, it has not had nearly as much attention as that lavished on the three days of Gettysburg or even the one day at Antietam. About the only modern work treating the entire siege to any great extent is Noah Andre Trudeau's The Last Citadel. Small books exist on some of the individual operations of the siege, most notably the Crater or the Five Forks campaign, and we have the mammoth Richmond Redeemed by Richard Sommers, covering the Fort Harrison/Peebles Farm operation from September and October 1864. But even among the knowledgeable, the Siege of Petersburg is often summarized along the lines of :

1. Smith blows his chance to take the city on June 15;
2. Burnside bungles the attack at the Crater;
3. Sheridan breaks through at Five Forks;
4. Lee retreats and the city falls.

Such an abbreviated narrative not only does a disservice to the many soldiers on both sides who fought and died in the mud and trenches, but it also obscures the siege as a campaign of importance in the military history of the Civil War.

Fortunately some light is beginning to shine on the siege of Petersburg. A book is in the works on the operations known to history as First and Second Deep Bottom (north of the James, July and August, 1864; see recent issues of North & South for articles by the same author), and now we have the book under review, which is the first in-depth study of the actual breakthrough that sundered Lee's l ines.

Will Greene is the Executive Director of Pamplin Historical Park (, located just outside Petersburg. As such he is well placed to give an authoritative account of the final days of the decisive campaign in Virginia, and the reader will not be disappointed by the result of Greene's efforts.

The book's main focus is the breakthrough by the VI Corps which occurred in the early morning hours of April 2nd, and which led to the death of A.P. Hill and the evacuation of the Richmond-Petersburg lines by Lee's vaunted Army of Northern Virginia. But because Greene desires to place this action in context, the book surveys the entire final two months of the siege, including the actions at Hatcher's Run (Feb. 5-7), Fort Stedman (March 26), and the several fights from the Five Forks Campaign, as well as Sutherland Station, the defense of Fort Gregg, and the assault by IX Corps at Fort Mahone. The result is, if the reader will excuse my enthusiasm, perhaps the most significant battle study to come out in recent years. Greene has mined the primary and secondary literature very well, and has produced a judicious analysis of the campaign in the form of a well-written narrative. At the end of the book, the attentive reader understands what happened.

The book has excellent and plentiful maps and outstanding footnotes, (placed at the end of each chapter; a nice touch) which include information on the status of various battlefield features as of the year 2000.

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From May, 2000:

Book Review (By Ed Frank):

Compelled To Appear In Print: The Vicksburg Manuscript of General John C. Pembertonedited by David M. Smith, Ironclad Publishing, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1999, Maps, index, xiii, 210 pages, $27.95 Hardcover

In Civil War historiography, the Vicksburg Campaign of 1863 occupies an increasingly prominent place. As the western counterpart to the Confederate fiasco of Gettysburg, as a prime example of Grant's (often derided) abilities, and as a study in command relationships, Vicksburg rewards study.

The bulk of this book consists of an edited version of a manuscript in the hand of John C. Pemberton, which turned up in an Ohio flea market in the mid-1990s. The manuscript had been in the possession of ex-Confederate general Marcus J. Wright, who had been employed by the US War Department after the war to collect Confederate documents for use in the Official Records. Save for a much shorter version used by John C. Pemberton III, in his 1941 biography of his grandfather, it had been lost to history for more than a century.

Prompted by the appearance of Joseph Johnston's Narrative of Military Operations, published in 1874, Pemberton struggled to formulate a reply to the account of the campaign put forth by Johnston, an account which Johnston skillfully spun in order to create an impression that Johnston had done well, and that the Confederate defeat should be attributed largely to his subordinate's fecklessness, hesitancy, and failure to follow Johnston's clear orders. It is some measure of the difficulty faced by Pemberton in coming to grips with Johnston's account-a difficulty that has parallels to his inability to check Grant in 1863-that the manuscript is incomplete and bears the mark of many revisions and false starts. (It is easy to sense behind Pemberton's words a seething anger at the misrepresentations and lacunae in Johnston's account; to paraphrase Shelby Foote on Lincoln, Joe Johnston carried out his paper war without the disadvantage of being a gentleman. This gives Pemberton's account a sort of 'Groundhog Day' aura, as he struggles to find the proper way to begin.)

Editor David Smith, a Cincinnati-area Civil War student and (non-academic) scholar, organizes the work well. "Part One" recounts the saga of the manuscript, and outlines the military and personal disagreements between Jefferson Davis and Joe Johnston that set the stage for the disaster in Mississippi. Smith argues convincingly that Johnston "never mentally accepted" his assignment to command over Bragg and Pemberton, made in late 1862. (The pettifogging arguments over command responsibility that erupted after the fall of Vicksburg-largely prompted by what can only be called Johnston's willful misinterpretation of his orders-have to be read to be believed; though it pains this namesake of one of Forrest's troopers to say it, a country or cause that has leadership this myopic deserves to lose, whatever may be the rights and wrongs of secession and slavery.) Brief but well-informed biographies of Pemberton and Johnston round out Part One.

"Part Two" describes the Federal attempts at Vicksburg from the late summer of 1862 to the fall of the city. ("Appendix C: Opposing Forces," a chronology of troop strengths from Grant's crossing to early July, is a valuable small work in its own right.)

"Part Three" is a skillful weaving of some of Pemberton's arguments with dispatches and communications from the O.R. and other primary sources, that show how soon after the events the two men's accounts began to diverge, and how in character their accounts were: Pemberton, diffident and more-or-less truthful, and Johnston assertive, argumentative, and tendentious.

"Part Four" consists of the transcribed Pemberton manuscript virtually in its entirety.

In "Part Five: Conclusions," editor Smith tries to apportion responsibility for the fiasco, and argues that, while Davis and Pemberton clearly bear some responsibility for the outcome, Johnston is at least equally at fault. Briefly put, he failed to provide clear guidance to Pemberton. In one matter in particular, Johnston's postwar assertion that he plainly ordered Pemberton to abandon the city, there is no contemporary documentation to that effect: all his communiqués to that commander were suggestive, not definite, and allowed room for interpretation by the recipient (when they were not simply unclear, misleading as to Johnston's own location and plans, or out-of-date).

The book is competently written, though it has a substantial number of typos, and some sentences show the effect of prolonged exposure to "corporatese." Of more sub-stance are the problematic maps; if ever a clear picture of troop locations and movements was needed to understand a military controversy, the Vicksburg campaign fits the bill, but the maps included (while sometimes helpful, and always attractive) often lack ground scales and legends that would help the reader relate one to another (compare those found on pages 38 and 41, for instance, and try to determine their relationship to each other). I would have liked consistent identification of all messages to be found in the O.R., too.

These criticisms aside, Compelled to Appear in Print, is a valuable contribution to our understanding of the personalities and controversies that helped put U.S. Grant in command of all Federal forces after his capture of Vicksburg.

Ed Frank
Curator of Special Collections,
University of Memphis Libraries
President, West Tennessee Historical Society, Inc.

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From February, 2000:

Book Review (By Tom Breiner):

Henry Halleck's War: A Fresh Look at Lincoln's Controversial General-in-Chief by Curt Anders, Guild Press of Indiana Inc., 1999, 738 pages, $35.95 Hardcover

Curt Anders, the author of the new book Henry Halleck's War: A Fresh Look at Lincoln's Controversial General-in-Chief is mainly a reprinting of Halleck's correspondence during the war. The author's continuous use of reprinted correspondence makes for a ponderous work that really has nothing new to add to story. This work wants the reader to take a close look at Halleck by closely examining his thoughts. Yes, he did produce some excellently word documents. Of course, that was the lawyer in him. But for the author that is where the problem begins.

Curt Anders tries to sell the reader on the idea that Halleck was brought east in 1862 to be Lincoln's attorney in the case of USA vs. CSA. That is in and of it self beyond belief. President Lincoln was looking for a knowledgeable military man to lead the Federal armies. Henry Halleck was given command of the armies and Lincoln expected him to provide leadership. Major General Henry Halleck failed miserably in this regard. He constantly tried to get the local field commanders to make all the decisions and assume all the responsibility for their commands. Halleck forgot that as the Commanding General, it was his position to provide strategic direction to all the armies. If any field commander failed to do his job properly, it was Halleck's responsibility to take the appropriate action. He spent his entire tenure trying to avoid responsibility and decision making. Yes, Henry Halleck proved to be an excellent Chief-of-Staff, and he performed this duty admirably under U. S. Grant, but that was not the reason Lincoln originally made him the Commanding General. Lincoln needed a strong personality to give direction to the Federal armies and a strong military presence in Washington DC. With Halleck, Lincoln got neither.

The author also develops the annoying habit of referring to the various generals by nicknames. I don't think that Curt Anders knows any of these people well enough to be that informal. He continually refers to General Sherman as "Cump", Halleck as "Old Brains", Jackson as "Old Jack", etc. While it is fine to use these names occasionally, the author manages to over do it to the point of being insulting.

After finishing this book, I felt that I had just finished reading the OR's. This does not make for the easiest read. There is little personal insight provided by the author and nothing to support his ideas. This is the major failing of this work. The author tries to sell his simple idea that if you read Halleck's correspondence closely you can make a more judicious decision concerning his appropriate place among the heroes of the Civil War. I think the author fails to convince anyone. This work is not for the beginner and maybe not for the rest of the Civil War community. It brings forth an idea that probably deserves some consideration but this book does not sell that idea with any strong conviction.

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From January, 2000:

Book Review (By Jim Epperson):

Struggle for the Round Tops : Law's Alabama Brigade at the Battle of Gettysburg, July 2-3, 1863By Gary Laine and Morris Penny, Burd Street Press, Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, 1999, hardcover

Gettysburg is perhaps the most written-about battle of the Civil War, and the July 2nd attack on the Federal left flank--Little Round Top, Devil's Den, the Wheatfield and the Peach Orchard--is perhaps the most written-about part of the Battle of Gettysburg. One of the most important--and controversial--roles in this attack was played by the brigade of five Alabama regiments (4th, 15th, 44th, 47th, and 48th) commanded by Brig. Gen. Evander Law. Drawing upon their expertise as the authors of a previously published brigade history for Law's brigade, Laine and Penny have put together a very interesting, informative, and valuable addition to the large body of literature already available on this part of the battle.

Using letters and diaries from high privates as well as officers, in addition to the after-action reports (from both sides) found in the Official Records, the authors tell the story of Law's brigade from its camps in Virginia all the way to into Pennsylvania and through the crucible of battle at Gettysburg and back to Virginia. The narrative covers more than just the dramatic events of July 2nd. The reader is treated to stories of foraging in the rich Pennsylvania countryside, the long and arduous 25 mile march from New Guilford to the battlefield, and the often-neglected events of July 3rd, when the Alabamians, supported by elements of a Georgia brigade and scattered other troops, held the better part of two Federal cavalry brigades at bay and thereby secured the Confederate right flank.

Having read a lot of battle narratives, and quite a few of them about this particular aspect of this particular battle, I was surprised at the freshness and clarity of the description in this one. The authors did a first-rate job of making clear how the various units in the attack moved, how their maneuvers related to one another, the sequence of events on different parts of the battlefield, etc. This is one of the absolute best renderings of battlefield action at the regimental level that I have ever read. The maps are a key part of this success, and in fact the use of maps is nearly the best I have ever seen in a Civil War book. They are well-done, well-placed, well-annotated, and plentiful.

The book is not without flaws. It would help if the references to individual soldiers were sometimes fleshed out by identifying which regiment the man was in. The authors are of course very familiar with the men in their story, but they sometimes forget that the rest of us are not as familiar as they are, and I occasionally found myself confronted with a reference by last name only, and I needed some help figuring out who this person was. There are even a couple of occasions when names suddenly appear for the first time without any introduction or explanation. There should have been one more round of editing, for there are a number of spelling and grammatical flaws that remain in the text. (Such errors are almost impossible to entirely remove, but the book has more than it should have.)

But I don't want to end on a down note, as this is a good book, sure to be of interest to local readers as well as Civil War historians everywhere. The authors are to be commended for their efforts.

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From October, 1999:

Book Review (By Dave Smith):

Arguing About Slavery: John Quincy Adams and the Great Battle in the United States Congress by William Lee Miller, Vintage Books, New York, New York, 1998 reprint of 1995 edition, 577 pages, $17.00 Softcover

Try discussing the relative role of slavery in the American Civil War, and the discussion will likely turn on its ear quickly, with little generated other than heated words. So often, it seems, we cannot discuss this subject except with anesthetic prose, or highly spirited points of view. Not so with William Lee Miller's Arguing About Slavery. The author, Thomas C. Sorensen Professor Political and Social Thought at the University of Virginia, has crafted a wonderfully expressed story of the battle over slavery in the 1830s and 1840s on the floor of Congress.

To those of us in the late twentieth century, the idea of petitioning to consider a prayer for action, the Constitutional sanctity of the act, and the relative abuse of the privilege by Congressmen both North and South seems the actions of an almost foreign government. The nearly maniacal desire of Congress to avoid any discussion of slavery in toto also seems incredible in light of government today. Using Congressional records to retell the story in the words of the participants, Miller weaves a fascinating tale as forces in the North try to ensure the rights of their petitioners, as well as deal with continued efforts to stop them dead in their tracks.

There are three major areas to the book: the opening of the slavery issues in Congress, with the presentation and fights by Southern radicals to keep any admittance of them from even appearing in Congress, the development and passage of the "gag rule," in which any attempt to place a petition in front of Congress regarding slavery was "gagged," and finally, the story of former President John Quincy Adams in these fights, and his efforts to support the rights of American constituents in these battles.

The story of Adams is the centerpiece of the book. In laying out the man who would not back down to both Southern and Northern Democratic interests, Miller brings back to life an American figure who is likely lost to many of our generation. Adams, already in his sixties as the slavery battles began, was an unlikely hero. Having served in nearly every capacity he could prior to agreeing to run for Congress after his presidential term, he brought a dogged determination to duty that is hardly recognizable in today's terms. Adams was not an abolitionist, but he was determined that the voices of his constituents, should they be of an abolition ideal, should be heard in the halls of Congress. To that end, he battled for a decade to make those voices heard.

Making use of Adams's massive personal diary, historical context, as well as the Congressional Globe coverage of the proceedings of Congress, Miller delivers the story of these battles in the words of those who were there. Thus, we can see the fanatical words of South Carolinian planter James Henry Hammond: "And I warn the abolitionists, ignorant, infatuated, barbarians that they are, that if chance shall throw any of them into our hands he may expect a felon's death," and Waddy Thompson, Jr.: "In my opinion nothing will satisfy the excited, the almost frenzied South, but an indignant rejection of these petitions [calling for the end of slavery in the District of Columbia]; such a rejection as will at the same time that it respects the right of petitioning, express the predetermination, the foregone conclusion of the House on the subject -- a rejection, sir, that will satisfy the South, and serve as an indignant rebuke to the fanatics of the North." And finally, we see and hear in our minds eye the torture of Adams as he struggles to balance his personal devotion to his country (he was a strong Unionist) with his obligations and duties to his office. Looking at war as a possibility between the two sides of the Union, he concludes in his diary: "It seems to me that its result [that of war] might be the extirpation of slavery from this whole continent; and, calamitous and desolating as this course of events in its progress must be, so glorious would be its final issue, that, as God shall judge me, I dare not say that it is not to be desired."

Much more than just a chronological narration of events, Miller weaves in background of the events and personalities in order to make his subject come alive. Arguing About Slavery is a book outside the mainstream of standard Civil War book fare, but a must if you have any desire to understand the people, events, and stories that led to the great conflict beginning in 1861.

Arguing About Slavery is available at local bookstores, or on the web at locations such as In any event, the results of find this gem is well worth the efforts.

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From September, 1999:

Book Review (By Tom Breiner):

The Longest Raid of the Civil War by Lester Horwitz, Farmcourt Publishing, Cincinnati, OH 1999, 456 pages, $34.95 Hardcover

In 1979, our author, Lester Horwitz and his wife Florence, purchased an old farmhouse near Loveland, Ohio. They learned that their home was one of many visited by Confederate cavalry during an 1863 raid. Our author became interested in the history of this raid leaded by the Alabama born and Kentucky raised hero - Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan. The result of Mr. Horwitz's dedicated and passionate research is the first full-length book on the longest raid of the civil war. We, the Civil War community, have gained a valuable asset as a direct result of this endeavor. With two decades of research from numerous primary sources, the author has produced an extremely exciting work that is sure to catch the interest of many readers.

In June 1863, Brigadier General John H. Morgan was attached to the Army of the Tennessee under the command of General Braxton Bragg. Morgan determined that by conducting a raid deep behind enemy lines, he could relieve the press on Vicksburg, support General Robert E. Lee's movement into Pennsylvania, and help Bragg conduct his retreat from Tullahoma to Chattanooga. His raid would tie-up the troops of Union Major General Ambrose Burnside and delays his advance into east Tennessee. The result of Morgan's planning was a raid by 2,500 Confederate cavalry that began in McMinnville, Tennessee traveled through Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio. Ending two miles west of West Point, Ohio, within nine miles of the Pennsylvania border. This raid would mark the South's northernmost penetration (excepting the St. Albans raid that originated in Canada).

Lester Horwitz follows the raid in its entirety. Through his research, he has traced Morgan's march by the claims his victims filed with the various state governments. He provides a thrilling account of the raid with numerous antidotes left by the families that were visited by the raiders. Morgan is seen as a southern hero and a gentleman. His troopers are well disciplined and for the most part non-destructive. Unlike similar Union intrusions in the south, Morgan's men burned few buildings and fore the most part only took the food they needed and fresh horses. On many occasions the horses the raiders left behind were of a finer quality than those they acquired. They replaced draft animals with Kentucky thoroughbreds. In all Morgan's men raided 6,576 homes and shops (4,375 in Ohio and 2,201 in Indiana). According to Colonel J. E. McGowan of Brigadier General Judah's staff, "He (Morgan) destroyed no supplies; hardly touched, let alone injured, our lines of communication; save some forage, food, a miscellaneous collection of merchandise, and a comical wagon train." When his wagons were captured at Bluffington Island, Morgan's wagon train included a hearse. Mr. Horwitz points out that four future presidents would be involved in the chase of Morgan: Rutherford B. Hayes, William McKinley, Jr., Benjamin Harrison, and James A. Garfield.

The author includes in his tale of the raid, the story of Morgan's imprisonment in the Ohio Penitentiary and his daring escape. He reviews the three versions of Morgan's betrayal and death in Greeneville, Tennessee. Finally he reviews the history of Morgan's men through the end of the war. The Longest Raid of the Civil War is an outstanding work that desires your attention. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in the history of Ohio, in the history of John Hunt Morgan, or the history of the Civil War. This is a must read.

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From February, 1999:

Book Review (By Tom Breiner):

Six Armies in Tennessee: The Chickamauga and Chattanooga Campaigns by Steven E. Woodworth, The University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE 1998, 257 pages, $29.95 Hardcover

Steven E. Woodworth's latest edition to the Civil War genre is entitled Six Armies in Tennessee: The Chickamauga and Chattanooga Campaigns is heralded as a fresh, perceptive overview of military operations in Middle and Eastern Tennessee during the summer and fall of 1863. However, this effort by our author, is hardly fresh and certainly not perceptive. Steven Woodworth 's book is a poorly researched rehash of old ideas and misconceptions. The author mainly uses secondary source material and loves to use himself as an authority. Just because he repeats himself, a statement does not become true. If he can show that his research justifies a comment, then he should quote the original source and when controversial, preferably more than one source. His footnoting is extremely weak. He likes to footnote paragraphs; thereby giving the reader the impression that other authors support his unsubstantiated comments.

This work does cover the period of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga campaigns. He also includes coverage of the Tullahoma campaign. His chronology of the major events of the operations is good and well organized. By far the most significant part of this manuscript is in the characterizations of the participants that Mr. Woodworth develops. Major General U. S. Grant can do no wrong. He is the all knowledgeable strategist who can discern the needs of the ever-fluid military operations. He credits Grant with the ability to shift tactics in the confusion of batle, thereby producing the desire result. Major General William T. Sherman is equally as impressive as Grant's only trusted subordinate. Major General Thomas does not fit the author's mold for a truly worthy officer. Thomas is unwilling or unable to approach war according to Grant's formula. While he maybe competent, he just does not measure up to the standards the author has imposed. On the Confederate side, Bragg receives Woodworth's sympathy for the poor quality of subordinates that he is forced to endure. Bragg's planning is sound but never supported by Hardee, Polk, Hindman, D. H. Hill or Longstreet. According to the author, had Polk and Hardee understood and followed orders during the Tullahoma campaign, Rosecrans would have been stopped and maybe even routed. From the author's perspective, the only really competent officer in the Confederate high command seems to be Patrick Cleburne. And he performed poorly on the second day at Chickamauga.

It was probably not his intention, but one of the primary focuses of this work by Mr. Woodworth appears to be to bash Lieutenant General James Longstreet. In Woodworth's eyes, here is the individual that was the true culprit. According the author Longstreet's only goal was to come west and replace Bragg. When this did not happen he became a thorn in Bragg's side starting with his usual slowness and disobedience of orders. Steven Woodworth states that Longstreet was slow in attacking at Chickamauga and lacked generalship especially after the wounding of John B. Hood. The litany of Longstreet blunders continues throughout the remainder of the extremely biased work.

When I first read that Steven Woodworth was writing this book, I eagerly awaited its arrival. Here was going to be a concise and authoritative analysis of these often times confusing and definitely misunderstood campaigns. After reading it I am sadly disappointed that he wasted his time. He accepts blindly the old myths and legends concerning the officers involved on both side of the conflict. He adds nothing new to the cause of understanding the war. He only gives credence to the old hackneyed work of the past. This is not a recommended book for any serious student of the Civil War and certainly should not be read by a novice.

[ed. Note: Never let it be said that only glowing reviews are written in this newsletter!]

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From January, 1999:

Book Review (By Tom Breiner):

Richard S. Ewell: A Soldier's Life by Donald C. Pfanz, The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC 1998, 655 pages, $39.95 Hardcover

Donald Pfanz has rewarded the Civil War community with a long over due biography of Lieutenant General Richard Stoddert Ewell. This is a superbly researched and well-written work. The author's efforts are probably the best bio of Ewell that will ever be written.

General Ewell is an often a misunderstood individual, suffering from the image of him left by noted historian Douglas S. Freeman in his epic work Lee's Lieutenants. Freeman pictures Ewell as an eccentric personality, who was promoted beyond his capabilities. Our author debunks the myth that Ewell was not a skilled corps commander. He shows that Ewell was not only an inspirational leader, but also a very talented tactician. Ewell handled his troops with both confidence and skill. Unfortunately, Ewell's dynamic efforts were not always observed in that light because his performance became clouded by the influence of his subordinates. Donald Pfanz correctly stresses the significant influence that General Early had with Ewell. On several occasions, Early's advice led Ewell to perform in a less than superlative manner. Gettysburg and the Wilderness are two prime examples.

The work covers Ewell's entire life from his boyhood in Virginia until his death at Spring Hill, Tennessee in 1872. Richard Ewell established his reputation in the military as an Indian fighter in the American southwest, leading a company of dragoons. He then proved to be a talented subordinate for "Stonewall" Jackson during the Valley Campaign of 1862. He performed exceptionally well at Winchester, Cross Keys and Port Republic. The loss of a leg during the battle of Groveton took Ewell away from the war for nearly a year. His return to action, as Second Corps commander, was signaled by his brilliant capture of Winchester during the opening phase of the Gettysburg Campaign. He initially looked to be a more than adequate replacement for the great "Stonewall'.

Dick Ewell's career starts to falter at Gettysburg with his decision not to attack either Cemetery or Culps Hills. Next concerns over his health began to appear among some members of his staff and especially with General Lee. During his recuperation, Ewell married his cousin, Lizinka Brown. He changed his drinking and swearing habits. Many of his associates believed that he was not the same aggressive leader that had been wounded at Groveton. Ewell always liked a good fight and even more liked to be up front during the action. He is criticized for his handling of the Confederate left during the late afternoon of July 1, 1863, when his corps failed to capture either Cemetery Hill or Culps Hill under the discretionary orders issued by General Lee. During the following winter, many of his subordinates believed that Ewell's health was on the decline and even worse that his new bride was actually running the Corps. Lee would eventually remove Ewell from command, during the Overland Campaign of 1864, citing declining health as the reason. While General Ewell fought this decision, he was unable to convince Lee that he could still capable of commanding his Corps.

The author continues his fine coverage of Ewell's life during his imprisonment at Fort Warren, near Boston, following his capture at Sailor' Creek. At Fort Warren, Ewell became somewhat of the local celebrity. With his release from prison on July 19, 1865, Ewell moved to Spring Hill, Tennessee where he became a successful trader in livestock. He also managed to develop skills as a cotton grower along the Mississippi.

This is truly an outstanding biography of a much-misunderstood leader of the Confederate Second Corps. With his efforts, Donald Pfanz has brought Ewell the recognition that he justly deserves. This book is definitely a must read for anyone with a more than passing interest in the Civil War

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From February, 1998:

Book Review (By Tom Breiner):

Ulysses S. Grant: Soldier & President by Geoffrey Perret, Random House, 1997, hardcover, $35.00

My initial impression on reading Geoffrey Perret's new biography of US. Grant, Ulysses S. Grant Soldier & President was that here is an interesting coverage of Grant's life. However, that initial impression quickly vanished when I reached the Civil War years. At that point, I realized that the author is extremely pro-Grant. He has nearly canonized this man. I guess that the initial "S" in Grant's name, given by mistake, is synonymous with Saint. Now, being a strong proponent of Grant, I will accept many positive twists to his life, but Geoffrey Perret has found a way to make even Grant's biggest mistakes took like huge successes. The author's coverage of his Presidency paints a picture that is just as rosy. Grant was never at fault, just misunderstood.

I also found numerous errors in the author's research concerning the war that could and should have easily be corrected. For example, the date for the start of the battle of Chickamauga is given as September 22 instead of September 19 and the date of Lee's evacuation of Petersburg and Richmond was April 2 not April 5. One or two mistakes I could write-off, but the list is quite long. With such poor research on these easily found issues, how can your trust his research concerning anything. Once the errors started mounting the author lost any credibility he had.

I find fault with the author's willingness to accept some preconceived notions concerning certain events surrounding Grant's career. He quickly accepts the belief that a Union musket ball killed Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnson. His reference is the remark made by William Preston Johnston in his biography, The Life of Albert Sidney Johnston. Since this was written, there has been a considerable amount of evidence that General Johnston might have been the victim of "friendly fire." However, I will grant, that a discussion of just which side was responsible for Albert Sidney Johnson's death is not important to subject of this work.

From Mr. Perret writings, you get the impression that the only significant issue in Grant's military career is the question; did he drink too much? The author appears to be confused on just when and if Grant's drinking was a problem. In his discussion of the 1852 transit across Panama, Perret concludes that Grant probably remained healthy by drinking wine instead of the local water. At Fort Vancouver in Oregon, he states that Grant's drinking interfered with his work, referencing an 1868 biography by Albert D. Richardson to document the remark. Perret then quickly glosses over the most controversial drinking event of the war during the siege at Vicksburg. His only reference to the incident is to say; "Missing his wife and frustrated by the wearisome business of besieging, Grant fell off the wagon.? His source is the Rawlins letter to Grant dated June 6, 1863. Perret includes no other details or references. Here the writer's displays his disdain for John Rawlins when he says; "Grant drunk was a bigger man than Rawlins sober." The author then spends more time on whether drinking and riding caused Grant's injury at New Orleans when his horse fell on him than the more controversial Vicksburg incident. Yes, Grant drank and at times to the extreme. The author even quotes, "The entire staff as well as most of Grant's division and corps commanders was well aware of his drinking problem. The main reason it was tolerated was that when Grant got drunk, it was invariably during quiet periods. His drinking was not allowed to jeopardize operations."

The author appears to be unnecessarily concerned with events that did not affect Grant and his relationships. In 1862, Henry Halleck, upon his transfer to Washington as General-in-Chief, supposedly attempted to promote of his Staff Quartermaster, Colonel Robert Allen, to Major General, with the intent of assigning him to the command of the Western Department. Since Grant never learned of the attempt, if it is even true, it had no influence on Grant and his relationship to Halleck in the future. The entire incident is so unbelievable because, had Colonel Allen received the promotion, he would still be subordinate to Grant, Buell, Pope, Thomas, Sherman, et al. They would never have allowed him to have the command. Even Halleck knew he could ill afford to lose every Major Generals in the West at once and the author agrees. My question is whether this book is a biography of U. S. Grant or a study into the legends and myths surrounding Grant?

At times, Perret's writing leaves a lot to be desired. For example, in his discussion of the Henry Halleck - George McClellan attempt to remove Grant from command after the capture of Fort Donelson, Mr. Perret quotes a message ftom Maj. Gen. McClellan to Maj. Gen. Halleck, "Do not hesitate to arrest him (Grant) at once if the good of the service requires it and place C. F. Smith in command. You are at liberty to regard this as a positive order." The author's comment concerning this piece of correspondence is; "As nutty ideas go, this one was a pecan pie." His choice of simile really struck me as rather odd. Then again, during the Army of the Cumberland's assault on Missionary Ridge, the author uses the following to describe the event: "As Grant, Meigs and the others watched in appalled fascination, they saw three red silk regimental flags bobbing up Missionary Ridge like wine-strained corks carried along on a blue tide." Of course, based on the author's obsession with drinking, this is probably an appropriate simile. For anyone who is already familiar with Grant's life, I say this work is a read at your risk, but for a novice, this work definitely should be avoided. I will say, for anyone interested, that I really enjoyed reading this book. The author's writing style is very interesting and some of his ideas did provoke quite a bit of thought.

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From February, 1998:

Book Review (By Brian Hampton):

Pickett's Charge in History and Memory by Carol Reardon, University of North Carolina, 1998, 306 pages, hardcover, $39.95

The central theme in Carol Reardon's book Pickett's Charge in History and Memory is that a vast difference often exists between the history of an event - the truthful portrayal of what happened in the past -- and the popular and singular memories of that event. From the first reports in Northern newspapers of the Army of the Potomac's victory at Gettysburg to the recent portrayal of the assault in Ted Turner's cinematic representation of that battle, Ms. Reardon meticulously traces how the final assault at Gettysburg on July 3rd, 1863 has been recorded and remembered. In doing so she explores the many ways in which popular images disguised as history can be used and abused; she discusses how evasive pure history is; and she shows us how our entire society has been shaped by both the memory and the history of what is commonly referred to as Pickett's Charge.

Before reading the first page of the book, one must understand what it is intended to do and, perhaps more importantly, what it is not intended to do. Ms. Reardon has not written a history of the battle. In the first chapter she asserts, "The historical event called "Pickett's Charge" rests on a foundation of a few "knowns" and a few more credible assumptions." Her recitation of these "knowns" and "assumptions" consumes a mere five pages of the 213 page study and includes such benign statements as "Gen. Robert E. Lee's Confederate Army of Northern Virginia attacked Maj. Gen. George G. Meade's Army of the Potomac on July 3, 1863." A reader seeking reconciliation of the various controversies surrounding the charge will be disappointed.

Ms. Reardon's study is, however, a history. It is the history of how the imagery of Pickett's Charge was created and used. Drawing on literally hundreds of sources, Ms. Reardon reveals how the image of Pickett's Charge was destined almost from the beginning to be remembered as something not quite like what it actually was. In the chapter "Disconnected Threads" she argues that even accounts of the charge written by participants soon after the battle were often flawed or incomplete. She writes, "Each soldier's perceptions of what he saw or did in combat - or what it thought he saw or did in combat - became individual sets of memories ... No soldier recalls every action he takes or every observation he makes in battle." This would leave a severe challenge for future historians who would be forced to try and recount a whole battle from the "disconnected threads" of information left by a few participants.

As future chapters reveal, this problem was exacerbated by the way in which the accounts of the charge were initially reported in Northern and Richmond newspapers and by the way Pickett's Virginians, drawing on these reports and their own narrow, individual memories, would capture the charge as their own, ignoring or falsely representing the contributions of others in the commands of Pettigrew and Trimble. In the post-war years, another kind of battle would develop, a war of words waged amongst the various participants in the charge themselves and between others who sought to advance their own agenda in the search for scapegoats. Almost from the moment the last bullet was fired throughout the rest of the 19th century, Southerners and Northerners would fight amongst themselves and with each other in order to ensure that their particular interpretation of what happened would be the one recorded as history. The truth was rarely a part of the equation, whether by accident or design.

As an example, a particularly interesting and illuminating part of this fight was the one that developed between the hierarchy of the Southern Historical Society (SHS) and the Virginians of Pickett's division. As Jubal Early and others who were never even a part of the charge sought to remove even the slightest possibility of blame being placed at the feet of Robert E. Lee, they found as their scapegoat James Longstreet, the overall tactical commander of the charge. Because Pickett's men, with only singular exceptions, never failed to support their old First Corps commander and refused to join the anti-Longstreet cabal, these men and the SHS found themselves at odds. Not a single article appears in the Southern Historical Society Papers (SHSP) during the period when it was under the direct influence of Rev. Jones and Jubal Early that supports Pickett's men's version of events, a break in the SHSP's tradition of putting Virginia's role in the war first, regardless of historical accuracy. The SHSP erred on the side of historical accuracy in this single instance - although the versions of the charge they did present were, themselves, fill with self-promotion at the expense of others equally deserving of notoriety -- but their reasons for doing so were apparently less than noble.

From this point on Ms. Reardon develops the story of Pickett's Charge through the end of the 19th century, tells of its part in bringing together the first reunion between Northerners and Southerners at Gettysburg in 1887, and then moves on to the 20th century as the symbol of Pickett's Charge becwne a tool for removing sectional hatred while still remaining a divisive influence in the South. The battles between Virginians and, especially, North Carolinians would never cease, and all sides in the battle for imagery spent significant amounts of energy less in the search for historical truth than in the quest to bring their state's contributions to prominence in the popular memory of what was known as the pivotal moment of the war. By this time, truth did not matter. The importance of Pickett's Charge was in the memory, the imagery of thousands of men nobly trying to achieve victory, whether they were attackers or defenders.

As the 20th century draws to a close, the battle still continues. Ms. Reardon states in her concluding chapter: "Everyone, from the most earnest student of the battle to the casual tourist, can pick and choose their version of 'history' from the tangled web of truths, both intentional and unintentional half-truths, exaggerations, and out-and-out lies the war generation left. So long as glossy generalizations, unresolved controversies, and unanswered questions remain - and they will - the historically minded among us will study, research, and rethink yet again the events that transpired between those two ridges. For most Americans, however, details about the unit commanders and tactical maneuvers never held much attraction. Something else inspires awe. Just what that 'something else' is remains essentially an individual matter."

If Ms. Reardon's book has any significant flaws they lie essentially in the difficulty of plowing through subject matter while maintaining a separation between history and memory. It is a difficult thing to discuss the manner in which myths and legends are created without leaving some readers to perceive falsely that the myths are in fact the realities. Especially in the first half of the book, Ms. Reardon often takes on the voice of those who told their stories without attempting to explain whether or not those voices spoke the truth. Indeed, this would be a difficult thing for her to do and remain faithful to her thesis. The truth is evasive. Drawing on the words of a disgruntled veteran of the conflict, Ms. Reardon reveals, "Pickett's charge has been so grossly exaggerated and misrepresented as to give some color to the oft- repeated axiom that 'history is only an agreed-upon lie."'

Pickett's Charge in History and Memory is an essential addition to the study of the Civil War, but it cannot effectively exist in a vacuum, neither is it intended to be. A reader who has no prior knowledge of the battle will be left confused as to the very nature of history. After reading this book -- if the lessons Ms. Reardon attempts to teach are learned -- students of the war will find it difficult to accept any specific interpretation of history as the truth. Perhaps this is a good thing. Ms. Reardon's book should serve as a guide to the study of not only this particular battle but of all of history.

Brian D. Hampton, a resident of Ada, Oklahoma, is the webmaster for one the best Civil War Internet sites, The James Longstreet Chronicles.

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From November, 1997:

Book Review (By Brian Hampton):

How Few Remain by Harry Turtledove, Ballantine Books, New York, New York, Hardcover, $25.00

Harry Turtledove, author of Guns of the South, is well known among those who imagine an independent Confederacy - either with longing or loathing -- for his engaging novel about time travelers from the future assisting the Confederacy in defeating the Union. In the course of this fantastic story, Turtledove manages to dissect some of the serious issues of the War Between the States and the societies that clashed during those desperate years. James McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom, proclaimed the novel to be "must reading for every Civil War student." In his latest novel, How Few Remain, Turtledove again wets the appetite of those who enjoy alternative-history fiction by telling the story of the Second War Between the States, fought in 1881, nineteen years after the Confederacy gained her independence from the Union, this time via more realistic means. In his customary style, Turtledove again attempts to tell us what it would really be like.

The novel begins on September 10, 1862, outside Frederick, Maryland, where two Confederate soldiers discover a piece of paper wrapped around three cigars. Calling to a courier who was just then riding past, the soldiers inform him of his loss. Realizing what has almost happened and relieved that the soldiers saved him and his cause from such a fate, the courier thanks the soldiers with gifts of cigars and continues on his journey to deliver the paper, General Lee's Special Orders 191, to Daniel Harvey Hill.

What happens next is a series of events that might have been had only a Confederate corporal and Private picked up that package rather than a Federal Corporal and First Sergeant. We next meet up with the Confederate army in Pennsylvania, near a location that would one day be known as the site of the battle of Camp Hill, the last major battle of the war. Having moved with his customary slowness and conceit, General McClellan has chosen to give battle far from his base and with his line of retreat intersected by the Susquehanna River. The Federal army is smashed; England and France force recognition of the Confederacy; the Union is split in two; and that's just the prologue.

Beginning in 1881, Turtledove attempts to tell the story of life after Confederate independence through the eyes and minds of eight extraordinary individuals: Colonel George Armstrong Custer, who patrols the plains of Kansas against Kiowa Indian raids launched from Confederate Indian Territory; Abraham Lincoln, who disgraced both himself and his party and has taken up the cause of the working man; Sam Clemens, whose wit and wisdom is offered to the people of San Francisco where he edits the Morning Call newspaper; General Thomas J. Jackson, general-in-chief of the Confederate armies; Theodore Roosevelt, a 22-year-old farmer near Helena, Montana who strives to make himself great; JEB Stuart, a Major-General in the Confederate army in charge of the department of the Trans-Mississippi; Colonel Alfred von Schlieffen, Kaiser Wilhem I's military attache' to the United States; and Frederick Douglas, freelance newspaper columnist who concerns himself primarily with issues related to free blacks in the United States and the slaves in the Confederacy. A host of secondary characters adds to this incredible cast: James Longstreet is president of the Confederacy; William Rosecrans commands the Union armies; John Pope proves his bombastic nature; Geronimo allies with JEB Stuart; William T. Sherman commands the Presidio.

This lengthy list of characters - those named being only a fraction -- is the novel's greatest weakness. Their number and their fame begs detail, and Turtledove attempts to give it. But, in doing so for such a large cast, the details of some of the most important characters are not satisfying, and the story itself suffers. George Custer, for example, seems one-dimensional, his personality being portrayed as little more than a grown-up version of the exuberant and vain youth that so often defines his stereotype. JEB Stuart appears as an automaton, little more than the dutiful servant, minus the dash and pomp, that we knew him to be under Robert E. Lee. These are major characters and should have more depth.

The background story - that is, the story of the war itself --, while engaging, is not particularly complex or, to my mind, realistic, something that may have been curable without the need for so much attention to personalities. The war that erupts between the United States and the Confederacy is brought about by the Confederate purchase of the territories of Chihuahua and Sonora from Mexico and U.S. President James G. Blaine's militant response to the potential expansion of Confederate territory to the Pacific Ocean. From this point on, the war seems almost a trifling affair where the Confederates can do no wrong and the Federals can do no good. New weapons, new tactics, and old stereotypes do not compliment one another well.

One example bears telling because it provides a central vista to the story. Having had their initial attempts to invade the Confederacy rebuffed by Jackson at Winchester, VA, Rosecrans and the United States government determines the best strategy is to launch an all-out assault against Confederate Kentucky at Louisville. (The strategy itself seems ludicrous, which is part of the point, but not a very satisfying one.) Predictably, "Stonewall," prodded by President Longstreet who is somehow completely aware of the Yankee plans, is sent to Kentucky to face the onslaught of the Army of the Ohio, commanded by Brigadier-General Orlando Willcox. The battle that develops is nothing like that which we know of from what the characters in the novel call the War of Secession, largely due to the improved weapons and tactics. The battle is more akin to the trench warfare the world would come to know and despise in World War I, yet its scale still remains small and focused, not the meandering line that crossed Western Europe. There is room for maneuver, but the characters in the story tell us there is not. Yet again, when the battle is decided, maneuver, which appears to have come fairly easily, is the method used. Somehow this simply doesn't ring true, and more thorough attention to the potential tactics and the strategy of this battle would have gone a long way in furthering the story, or, at least, not distracting from it.

That is what these problems are, distractions, not a complete destruction of the novel's value. The story is not about this battle nor about the small affairs in the Southwest nor the British invasion from the north nor the naval blockade of US ports. The story is about the people and the society that was created when the nation that was the Union was torn into two sections. Here too we have another type of problem, one caused by too few characters, or at least not enough "Everyman" characters to represent the Confederacy. Through the eyes of Lincoln and Douglass and Roosevelt and Clemens and even Custer we see how the society of the United States responds to the difficulties of the drama that unfolds, but we have no such characters for the Confederacy. Jackson and Stuart, while important, are military, upper-class men and as such give the perspective of the military and upper-class, although through Stuart we are able to view some of the strife that occurs between Indians, Mexicans, and the white man. We can only guess at the feelings of Confederate citizens and the slaves they still hold in bondage.

Where the novel does succeed -- and admirably so -- is in the telling of the story of the people of the United States during the year of time the novel allows. Two of the most intriguing characters, Samuel Clemens and Frederick Douglass, are people with whom even a modern reader can identify personally. We get to know them as they are our friends. We hear their fears and their dreams, and we feel their terror and their heartache.

Turtledove has captured the character of Clemens as though he knew the man as a constant companion. The wit that flew from the real Clemens' pen is in strong evidence in those sections of the book that take us into his home, his work, and his exile in his brother-in-law's home. Clemens speaks for the people, those that feel scorn for its government's policies. Turtledove tells us his lines are complete fabrications, but one is led to wonder if he was haunted by old Mark Twain's ghost when he was writing.

Douglass too strikes the reader as someone with whom you'd want to take bread - and, indeed, Jackson's character does. His inclusion gives the story a perspective that is essential to the novel's theme. What does the existence of an independent Confederacy do to the future all Americans and, indeed, the world? To answer that question, one cannot forget the plight of the men, women, and children held in bondage in the Confederate States nor the alienation and loneliness felt by the sparse numbers of free Blacks in the United States.

The theme is also generously served by the character of Colonel Alfred von Schlieffen. While telling too much of his part of the story would give away one of the more interesting sub-plots, it is safe to say that his addition provides a central pillar to the novel's foundation and could provide an entry point for a sequel if Turtledove chose to pursue it. Abraham Lincoln's character is the most controversial and will likely draw the wrath of those who feel they know the man. His character is necessary, however, both for the sub-plot connected with von Schlieffen and to allow the reader to get inside the minds of the ordinary US citizens and feel their genuine rage and discontent.

While I may be accused of bias for saying it, similar things can be said for the secondary character of James Longstreet. Those familiar with the real Longstreet's post-war life will be somewhat amused and possibly delighted to find that he has earned admiration in the Confederacy as a shrewd politician, something he craved in reality, but could never achieve. More than this side note, he is important because the brief glimpse we are given of how Confederate society is affected by the war and the prospects for the future are given through him, his policies, and the support or resistance to them. As the novel ends, though, we see a potential for a decline that could reach lower than depths of reality. He and Wade Hampton will likely be enemies in this alternative timeline as well.

Turtledove, as will be no surprise to those familiar with his books, definitely did his research for this novel. His story is plausible, although, as mentioned earlier, a bit underdeveloped in certain areas. Some may even find that research somewhat too in evidence as with the episode in the prologue where Joseph Hooker, at the battle of Camp Hill, is stunned by a shell into inaction. This, however, is a tool of the alternative-history trade, a little prick at the fibers of reality to remind us that the alternative is really not all that far away. The novel has flaws, to be sure, although the same could be said of the great novels of history. As a work of literature attempting to explore what a world with a Confederate States of America and a United States of America in existence on the same continent might be like, the novel is successful and a worthy read.

Turtledove reminds us throughout: there but for the grace of God go we, and there we may yet tread.

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From October, 1997:

Book Review (By Dave Smith):

Bring the Jubilee by Ward Moore, The Ballantine Publishing Group, New York, NY 1953, 221 pages, $11.00 Soft cover

There is something magical, at least for this reviewer, with writers from the 1950s (and especially those who wrote science fiction). Perhaps it is the innocence of the times, and the fact that those of us born in the period can only remember dimly through the eyes of a child. Perhaps it is the technology or lack thereof a world in which there are no touch tone (or cellular, for that matter) phones, microwaves, or imported cars. For we who live in the late 1990s, that time almost seems to be an alternate history.

This hopefully segues into our book review, Ward Moore's Bring the Jubilee, an alternative history presentation with roots in the Civil War. Published in 1953, it still carries itself as, in this reviewer's contention, the best of a growing crop of alternate histories that use the Civil War as the base for its premises.

In the alternate world of protagonist Hodge Backmaker, the United States is a shell of what it became as a result of the Civil War. Starting with James Longstreet's occupation of the Round Tops at Gettysburg on the morning of July 2, leading through the smashing Confederate victory on July 3, and culminating with the occupation of Pennsylvania and final capitulation of Federal forces, it was the Southern Confederacy, not the Northern Union, which became the dominant government through the 1800s and into the 1900s.

For Hodge, the pursuit of knowledge and the study of history become his escape. He becomes the leading Northern historian in an enclave of knowledge located in Pennsylvania. When that enclave develops time travel, Hodge cannot resist going back to late June of 1863 to confront for himself the realities of his time.

For this reviewer, it was not the history that was particularly fascinating, for in fact the premises Mr. Moore used to found his alternate history do not hold up to historical scrutiny. But the world he created, the United States of the 1940s in this alternate world, is a wonderful example of counter-factual speculation. Richly developed, one can literally sense the linkages and divergences between the world we know of today, and the grim and terrifying world of Hodge Backmaker.

Ray Bradbury said that Ward Moore is "one of the best American writers." The Ballantine Publishing Group's reprinting of this classic will bring back to American readers one of the best of alternate history publications.

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From September, 1997:

Book Review (By Tom Breiner):

The Darkest Days of the War: The Battles of Iuka & Corinth , by Peter Cozzens, The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC 1997, 390 pages, $39.95 Hard cover

The battles of Iuka and Corinth were part of the Confederate thrust during the summer and fall of 1862 attempting to reverse a series of earlier setbacks. With The Darkest Days of the War, the author, Peter Cozzens, has provided us with the first full length study of these previously overlooked , but highly crucial and bloody battles in the west. Iuka was fought on September 19, just two days after Antietam the bloodiest single day of the war. Therefore, considering the small numbers involved it paled in comparison to the engagement by the eastern armies and was easily overlooked. Corinth follows quickly afterward on October 3 and 4 as Major Generals Earl Van Dorn and Sterling Price united their forces to attack the Federals in hopes of retrieving the vital rail center and preventing U. S. Grant from sending reinforcements to Kentucky to oppose General Braxton Bragg. Again this action is overshadowed by Bragg's fight at Perryville on October 8.

In The Darkest Day of the War, our author has contributed significantly to our understanding of the Confederate efforts to reverse the tide of battle in the west. Iuka was Grant's strategic effort to remove one of the Confederate armies from the war. It proved to be a tactical nightmare for the Federals. Grant's plan was to crush Price's rebels between the two forces of Major Generals Edward O. C. Ord and William Starke Rosecrans. It turned into a brutal slugging match between a column of 3,200 Confederates and 3,000 Northerners. Both sides lost nearly a third of the forces engaged. Of the Union casualties many were the result of what would be referred today as "friendly fire", due to the confusion and panic within the ranks of the numerous inexperienced Federal units. Grant's strategy failed because Ord never heard the sound of Rosecrans' fight and did not attack as planned. Price slipped away in the confusion.

Corinth was an obvious target for the Confederates. It was a major rail center in Northern Mississippi. Maj. Gen. Halleck recognized this and counted the capture of Corinth as more important than the destruction of a Confederate western army. Maj. Gen. Sterling Price goaded Maj. Gen. Van Dorn into making the attempt. After a grueling march to the field, the battle at Corinth was fought in 100 degree heat. Maj. Gen. Mansfield Lovell's lack of aggressiveness on the first day prevented Van Dorn from capturing the town on October 3. Only one lone Union brigade stood between Lovell's division and the Union rear. The plan for the second was undermined by the sudden illness of Maj. Gen. Louis Herbert. Even had Van Dorn succeeded in capturing of Corinth, he could never had held it. Fifty thousand fresh Union troops were readily available the retake the town from the fourteen thousand fatigued rebels that would have been left to man the defenses. The book ends with a detailed description of the bungled Federal effort to stop Van Dorn's retreat at Davis Bridge on the Hatchie River. In two hours, 500 Yankees were gunned down on a half-acre wide patch of river bank while the Rebels rebuilt a bridge in order to escape the Union trap.

The author provides a brief summary of the outcomes of the battles. Although the Union was successful in stopping the Confederate plans, the relationship between Grant and Rosecrans was permanently poisoned. This would eventually contribute to Rosecrans' dismissal from the army. Major General Van Dorn's career was wrecked, as he lost his command even though he was cleared of charges at a court martial. The way to Vicksburg was now open. When news of the defeat at Corinth reached Braxton Bragg, it influenced his decision to retreat from Kentucky. Peter Cozzens has written a truly remarkable book the has been needed by the Civil War community. This work is well researched, well written and very interesting. With this effort he has added to the string of successful works that he has provided on the western theater of the Civil War.

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From May, 1997:

Book Review (By Tom Breiner):

Stonewall Jackson: The Man, The Soldier, The Legend , by James I. Robertson, Jr., MacMillan Publishing USA, New York, NY 1997, 950 pages, $40.00 Hard cover

Stonewall Jackson The Man, The Soldier, The Legend by Dr. James I. Robertson, Jr. (Bud to those who know him well) is the epitome of Jackson biographies. This masterpiece shows the extreme dedication and sincere devotion that our esteemed author has for his subject. The work is truly the result of many tedious years of loving and painstaking research and we, as the readers, are the benefactors.

I found that after completing this magnificent manuscript that I now have not only a better understanding of Jackson, the soldier, but also Jackson as the young orphan. Tom Jackson lost is father at age two and his mother at age 7. As a point of interest, Thomas Jackson did not start using a middle initial until February, 1841 at the age of 17, if it was for his father Jonathan is not known. His formative years were spent in the home of his Uncle Cummins Jackson. The author has defined this relationship in order to make its influence on the young Tom Jackson much clearer. It was also a much deeper relationship than I had previously believed. Probably, the only person more important to Jackson was his sister Laura. Bud has really brought out the significance of Jackson family ties.

I congratulate Dr. Robertson on his restraint in over eulogizing or idolizing Jackson as is prevalent among many of the Jackson biographers. Bud spends only a small portion of the work justifying Jackson's actions. He is gracious enough to let Jackson's words and deeds speak for him without the usual author's interjections. Only once did I feel that Dr. Robertson condescended to over defense of what many believe to be Jackson's poorest moment at White Oak Swamp during the Seven Days campaign.

The ratio of time allocated to Jackson's pre-Civil War years is reasonable based on the amount of research material available. The first 216 pages cover the pre-war period of his life. In this space, Dr. Robertson does a truly outstanding development of Jackson's character. The reader can easily understand how Jackson's less that ideal childhood influenced his outlook on life and the need for structure that the military and religion offered. Being an educator, the author is critical of Jackson's performance as an instructor at VMI and rightly so. Thomas J. Jackson was not a quality professor. His military rigidity was not conducive to developing the best teacher His legacy as a teacher is not inspirational. However, to Jackson's credit he approached teaching with the same determination and unswerving devotion to duty that was his trademark. For Stonewall, hard work was the answer for all of life's endeavors.

The richest portion of the text in terms of new material is during the pre-war years, especially his family ties and his impressions of Mexico. I do not feel that his Civil War career has been significantly enhanced, not that there is any need, however, the presentation his life is outstanding and the prose unsurpassed for clarity. Stonewall Jackson The Man, The Soldier, The Legend is must reading for anyone interested in great Americans. Bud is to be commended for the hard work and dedication that he displayed in the production of this once in a lifetime and highly inspirational biography. The term definitive is over worked and used toooften to describe Civil War manuscripts; however, in this case, it fits.

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From March, 1997:

Book Review (By Tom Breiner):

Admiral David Dixon Porter: The Civil War Years, by Chester G. Hearn, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD 376 pages, $35.00 Hard cover

David Dixon Porter was an extremely ambitious, audacious, and adventuresome individual. Ambitious to the point of obsession, he rose from the rank of Lieutenant to Rear Admiral in less than two years. David Porter spent his adult life trying to vindicate his father, whose career was tainted by an 1825 court-martial as a result of a feud with the then Secretary of the Navy Southard. The senior Porter's stubbornness over the findings and sentence of the court-martial, ended the career of a naval hero of the War of 1812. Chester G. Hearn's new work, Admiral David Dixon Porter The Civil War Years, is a well written and researched booked that covers just what is advertised. Of the 24 chapters in this book, only three cover his life prior to the war. Just one short chapter includes the 26 years of his post-war life.

David Dixon Porter, taught primarily by his father, learned his trade well. Just like his father, he was an ferocious warrior, but a poor politician. Early in the war, Porter was caught in the political games in Washington. He was in the middle of Secretary of State Seward's and Secretary of the Navy Welles', in fighting over which fort to support Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor or Fort Pickens at Pensacola. Seward gave Porter command of the Powhatan, a position to which Welles believed that a lieutenant was not entitled. Porter then sailed the ship to Pensacola and away from the expedition to relieve Fort Sumter. The Naval Secretary was of the opinion that with the Powhatan, his relief of Fort Sumter would have succeeded. Gideon Welles also suspected Porter's loyalty. Porter was a close friend with Virginian Capt. Samuel Barron, who resigned to join the South, and had a warm friendship with President Jefferson Davis. Porter commanded the ship that was sent to Africa by then Secretary of War Davis to transport a herd of camels to the U. S. Davis even offered Porter a command in the Confederate Navy.

During the war, Porter would cross words with the politically powerful Major General Benjamin Butler over whether the Army or the Navy would receive the credit for capturing the two forts below New Orleans. This bad blood would surface again during the first campaign to capture Fort Fisher in December, 1864. To Porter's credit, he was quick to develop a close friendship and strong working relationship with both William T. Sherman and U. S. Grant. This definitely enhanced his career. Porter was one of the most distinguished of Union admirals and probably the most controversial. He fought in more battles and won more acclaim than any other senior officer, even more than his foster brother, David G. Farragut.

Porter was a hero at New Orleans, Vicksburg, and Fort Fisher. His career and fleet were almost destroyed by Major General Nathaniel P. Banks during the Red River campaign. He survived the controversy of the first failed Fort Fisher expedition to redeem himself during the later capture. Porter had a way of rising to the occasion and coming out on top. His life and career was filled with hardship and struggles, but David Dixon Porter was able to meet the challenge.

The author, Chester G. Hearn, after his excellent work, The Capture of New Orleans, 1862, has produced another masterpiece. For anyone interested in the naval side of the war and definitely a very interesting individual. This book is for you.

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From February, 1997:

Book Review (By Tom Breiner):

The Cause Lost Myths and Realities of the Confederacy, by William C. Davis, University Press of Kansas Lawrence, KS 224 pages, $24.95 Hard cover

The Cause Lost Myths and Realities of the Confederacy is a collection of essays by William C. Davis, a writer many consider to be one of the best and prolific historians on the American Civil War. The topics of these essays, written over the past twenty years, center around the myths that have grown up around various personalities or events in the history of the Confederacy. Davis begins his work with the standard look at Jefferson Davis. Next he expounds on President Davis and his less than harmonious relationship with Generals Joseph Johnston and P. G. T. Beauregard. Of course, no discussion of Jefferson Davis would be complete without addressing the Davis - Lee team. For the most part, these articles are the nearly standard discussion of the interaction of these individuals. The next area for Davis' probing concerns what he calls the "Forgotten War". This includes the siege of Charleston, and the war in the Trans-Mississippi region. The third area of discussion investigates the lost cause, perceived turning points and the defeat. This section highlights the election of 1864 and John C. Breckinridge's tour as the Confederate Secretary of War. The final portion looks at the Confederacy in myths and posterity. Here you will find the almost mandatory essay on General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, other myths surrounding the Confederacy, and a look at the war in the cinema.

William C. Davis has produced some very thought provoking material. While this essay on John C. Breckinridge was written twenty years ago, it is a topic that for the most part is overlooked by many historians. Davis provides a very convincing argument that Breckinridge was the most efficient and productive of all the Confederate Secretaries of War. He was the only one who took control of the office and actually performed the assigned duties of the office. Breckinridge was not the typical Jefferson Davis "yes man". However, the author is quick to point out that Breckinridge succeeded in 1865 at the end of the war. He would, in all probability, not even been considered as a candidate for the office earlier in the war. John C. Breckinridge, as Vice President of the United States, displayed the required administrative skills. Early in the war, he needed to convince everyone that he possessed the necessary military knowledge. For me, this article was by far the most interesting one in this work.

The author, in his essay "Stonewall Jackson in Myth and Memory," praises the upcoming biography by Dr. James Robertson, even though the essay revolves around the issue that there are too many Jackson biographies already. William Davis are notes the lack of quality or objectivity in most of these biographies. From my viewpoint this essay fails to provide any meaningful discussion of Jackson. Most of the material has been hashed and rehashed many times.

I found that most of the articles are well written, thought provoking, and pointed. William C. Davis provides a different look at Jefferson Davis' personality quirks. His approach to the war in the Trans-Mississippi is excellent and insightful. The essay on "The Civil War and the Confederacy in Cinema" is rather flighty, but also a bit entertaining. As a film critic, Davis will never replace Siskel or Ebert. However, his ideas, on why the film industry has failed miserably when trying to depict the true Civil War on the big or small screen, are well founded.

I usually do not give much credence to collections of essays, because I find that reading the opinions of others, even noted historians and authors, provides little meaningful information. Everyone has an opinion and I generally prefer to develop my own, based upon reading factual data that is well footnoted and hopefully substantiated by more than one source. In the case of William C. Davis' new work, I made an exception. While I certainly do not agree with everything that he has presented, I do feel that my time was worth finding a few fresh ideas. He did challenge some of my previous opinions, and he did provide a very entertaining, well-written book, that includes some hard as well as subtle facts.

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From November, 1996:

Book Review (By Dave Smith):

America's Civil War, by Brooks D. Simpson, Harlan Davidson, Wheeling, Illinois, 1996, 219 pages, softcover, $11.95

Those of us who study the American Civil War with passion have doubtless been faced with that perplexing question from Civil War novices who know little to nothing of the recent conflict: what is a good, short history of the War with the ability to provide an overview of our favorite period of American history? It's not easy. Do you recommend Shelby Foote's wonderful, yet massive three volume work? James McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom? It's a great work, but probably too deep for the novice. But the answer is here.

Brooks D. Simpson, Associate Professor of History at Arizona State University and author of Let Us Have Peace: Ulysses S. Grant and the Politics of War and Reconstruction, 1861-1868, has brought us a single volume work eminently suitable for novice and experienced Civil War veteran alike. Written as part of the American History Series and published by Harlan Davidson, Inc., this work finally condenses the story of the War to a manageable size for the beginner and student alike.

Mr. Simpson manages to avoid the problems inherent in many works written about the Civil War: that of perceived prejudices and biases towards one side or the other. The causes of the War are examined from both sides, with a strong attempt to understand the motivations of both the North and South. The military conflict is presented in a straight-forward manner, and the limited size of the work limits discussions of major campaigns to highlights, rather than in-depth analysis. In many ways, this is a blessing for this type of work, because many of the controversies so familiar to the student are avoided for the moment.

The author does not conclude the inevitability of a Union victory, suggesting that the chances for Southern independence were available in 1862 and 1863 -- but were also even more apparent in 1864 as the war-weary North had to choose its next President. That Abraham Lincoln, U.S. Grant and William T. Sherman found the military means to generate significant victories and keep the war efforts of the North alive were key elements in eventual Northern victory. That the triumvirate of Lincoln, Sherman and Grant managed to split the Confederacy's ability to manage resources and the willingness to wage war went far towards eventually resolving the conflict. Southern inability to balance and manage these two issues finally led to capitulation in 1865.

Written in a clear, concise manner, this book belongs on the book shelves of any collector of writings on the Civil War. It's availability is somewhat limited (to tell the truth, your reviewer cannot remember where he first saw its mention). But you can reach Harlan Davidson for ordering by calling (708) 541-9720.

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From October, 1996:

Book Review (By Tom Breiner):

Chancellorsville by Stephen W. Sears, Houghton Mifflin Company, NY, NY 1996 593 pages

When I first heard about Stephen Sears' latest book Chancellorsville, I was skeptical. I thought why do we need another work on the battle at Chancellorsville. With the 1992 edition Chancellorsville 1863 The Souls of the Brave by Ernest Furgurson and all the previous volumes, was now the appropriate time to rehash this battle? In reading the new Sears' book the gauge to answer this question would be does the author have sometime new to add or some interpretation that is significantly different than those of the previous efforts.

Our author first attracted my attention with his superb work The Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam. Here in my estimation was an excellent book. Unfortunately I was less than thrilled with his effort on the peninsula campaign of 1862 in The Gates to Richmond. For this reason I was concerned that Chancellorsville would be just another of the many mediocre works produced and in this case poorly timed. I can gladly report that my expectations were surpassed. The work is exceptional. The research is impressive and the writing style is magnificent. Sears has produced another winner. The book includes what I consider to be many interesting twists to the interpretation of events both before and during the battle. He rewards the reader with some very thought provoking discussions of Major General Joe Hooker's decision making. He also provides the same insights to the actions of General Lee and the Confederate command.

Sears develops many of his ideas based on the quality of the military intelligence available to Joe Hooker and even more important than what he knew, but when. The newly recreated Bureau of Military Intelligence, under the command of Colonel Sharpe, proved to be a highly effective and efficient organization. Nothing like the Pinkerton team that supported McClellan. This new organization worked and work well. Hooker knew the size and location of every regiment in the Army of Northern Virginia. He was also informed of when they moved and where. Unfortunately, Hooker was not also so well informed of the movements and location of his own units and for Fighting Joe, that is where his troubles began. A lack of proper communications within the Army of the Potomac lead to his misunderstanding of how his orders were being executed. An enticing point is made by the author in his defense of Hooker's decision to pull his troops back to the Chancellorsville perimeter on the afternoon of May 1. Of course to find out his reasons, you'll have to read the book.

Another example though is his discussion of the famed "Stonewall" Jackson flanking march on May 2. Both from the prospective of how the maneuver was developed and possibly how it would have been unraveled had the I Corps been in their assigned position. But the poor quality of the telegraph system used by Hooker's army result in a delayed march by Reynold's I Corps. He was to completed the Union line from Howard's right to Ely Ford on the Rapidan River.

In summary, Stephen Sears has proven that he can provide a new and highly relevant work on the battle of Chancellorsville that is well worth your time.

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From May, 1996:

Book Review (By Tom Breiner):

Conquering The Valley by Robert K. Krick, William Morrow and Company, Inc., New York, NY 1996 594 pages, Hardback $30.00.

Robert K. Krick is most likely the most dedicated researcher in the Civil War genre. His latest endeavor Conquering The Valley epitomizes this art. This is, by far, the best researched work I have probably ever read. The manuscript is not the story of the 1862 Valley Campaign that the 594 pages would have you initially believe. It is a highly detailed account of the battles of Cross Keys and Port Republic. As an example, approximately 100 pages of text is devoted to the two-minute flight of General Stonewall Jackson from his headquarters to his escape across the North River Bridge. The scene is described by every possible witness and from every possible angle. The only eye witness account we missed is from Jackson's horse "Little Sorrel". Krick disputes whether Jackson receive news of the Yankee approach just prior to or after he had mounted his horse. That is what I call an in depth analysis. However, with all this detail and explanation, Krick cannot find any new, hidden, or even unusual facts or interpretations to the accounts. Jackson still escapes across the river. He is not captured or killed to resurface later in the war. At Cross Keys, the poor 8th New York is decimated so many times it like observing the 1862 version of instant replay with all the reverse angles explored. No matter which angle is viewed the 8th New York is still decimated. All levity aside, the work is an excellently written book but exceptionally detailed. There were several times when I would have gladly told Bob Krick to get on with the story, but the work overall is quite good.

This account of the battles of Cross Keys and Port Republic have long been over due. The tale of Jackson's exploits here are usually the finale to the standard rehash of the entire Valley Campaign with little notice being made of any particular portion of the Campaign. With Krick's rendition we see how little Jackson was involved with the fighting at Cross Keys. This was Richard Ewell's fight. Ewell was in top form this day in stalling the advance of the larger force of General John Fremont. Ewell again performed well at Port Republic with his timely attacks on the Coaling to support Richard Taylor's Louisiana troops and on the Plain to relieve General Winder and the Stonewall Brigade.

Krick, in his usual biased way, is not very generous with accolades for the Yankees, but this is to be expected from an author that is so enamored with Jackson. Only General Tyler is given any credit and that for his selection of the position at Port Republic and the occupation of the Coaling by his artillery. General John Fremont receives more that enough criticism especially for the use of his artillery on the hospitals, relief parties and burial details on the plain after the battle.

The battles found on June 8 and 9 of 1862 at Cross Keys and Port Republic were a dramatic ending to the highly successful campaign in the Shenandoah Valley. These two battles solidified the confidence in his troops that would carry them through his death after Chancellorsville and establish the Union mind-set that Jackson was a force to be feared due to his unpredictability. Robert Krick should be commended for the excellence of his work but encouraged ion the future to give some consideration to the value of the excessive details he uses for relatively minor events. When the research supports the conclusion you don't have to keep pounding the facts into the readers mind.

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From March, 1996:

Book Review (By Tom Breiner):

Davis and Lee at War by Steven E. Woodworth, University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 1995 409 pages, Hardback $29.95.

From the author of Jefferson Davis and His Generals which analyzed the relationship of Davis with the generals in the west, now comes a new selection dedicated to Davis' relationship with the generals of the east. The work investigates Davis' interactions with Joseph Johnston, Pierre Beauregard, Gustavas Smith and the primary figure, Robert E. Lee. Steven E. Woodworth's latest offering entitled Davis and Lee at War is a well written and highly enjoyable manuscript defining the working relationship maintained between Davis and Lee as each endeavored to dictated the proper military conduct of the war. Not everyone will agree with Woodworth's comments and evaluations; however, he does provide several ideas for thought. For our newsletter editor, Woodworth is especially unflattering in his assessment of James Longstreet capabilities and ambitions. The author believes that Longstreet intentionally misunderstood or modified his orders for the battle of Seven Pines. His interpretation of the orders provided him with a more significant roll in the action, hoping to increase his recognition as a combat commander.

The basic book is a chronological history of the Civil War from the prospective of Confederate military strategy. Its focus is the struggle between of Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee to develop the cooperative spirit needed to succeed. Davis firmly believes that the South can only win the war by not losing it. That may sound strange, but Davis professes that the correct strategy was one of total defense. The South will outlast the political and civilian support of the war. Lee and the other eastern generals, Pierre G. T. Beauregard, Gustavas Smith, and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, stress the idea that only by decisive offensive action can the Confederacy hope to win. The Confederates must win the war quickly before the Union can bring all its human and material muscle into the fight. Joseph Johnston comes closes to being the general sympathetic to Davis' defensive theories, but petty personal arguments hampered their relationship.

Our author, Steven Woodworth, uses the conflict generated by these two opposing strategies as he narrates an executive overview of the war. With both Davis and Lee attempting to control the military pursuit of the war, Woodworth concludes that the strategies neither receive the full support required nor given the opportunity to succeed. The middle ground in this situation is not the proper approach and therefore, doomed to fail. My general impression of this work is favorable; however, while the book proves a very interesting history of the conflict, nothing new is added to general body of knowledge about Davis, Lee or the Confederate war effort. Woodworth's ideas and comments are not new, controversial, or a better interpretation of previous information. He just rehashes the same old material.

From October, 1995:

Book Review (By Tom Breiner):

Nowhere To Run: The Wilderness, May 4th & 5th, 1864 by John Michael Priest, White Mane Publishing Company, Inc., Shippensburg, PA 1995 316 pages, Hardback $29.95.

Anyone who has ever read at least one of his previous works either Antietam: The Soldiers' Battle or Before Antietam: The Battle of South Mountain, discovered that author, John Michael Priest, has introduced a format that is very distinctive and exciting. His perspective is through the eyes of the front line soldier and a few selected lower grade officers. His books contain no discussion of grand strategies, tactics, or generals. With his newest work, Nowhere To Run, he has attempted to continue the use of this approach. In my opinion, he has succeeded, even though in his introductory remarks he states that by 1864 soldiers had become so accustom to so many scenes of battle that his letters, diaries and journals covering that period of the war lost the lucid prose that his earlier writings possessed. The soldiers were now veterans and wrote more of maneuvers than of feelings. They were numb to the bloodshed. Our author is just being modest. He has again produced a stirring manuscript concentrating on the actions of the soldiers who fought the Battle of the Wilderness.

John Michael Priest has completed a work that shows his highly developed research skills and his unerring choice of first hand accounts from knowledgeable sources close to the action. However, for those of you who are familiar with the Battle of the Wilderness, you know the battle was fought on the 5th and 6th of May, 1864. Our author or his publisher has chosen, for some unexplained reason, to terminate this volume on the evening of the 5th. A second volume, publication date unknown at this time, will continue the struggle through the 7th of May. I feel that one volume would have been sufficient, this is the only criticism I have of this otherwise magnificent work. Maps for this volume are well researched and allow for an easy understanding of the various small unit movements. The quantity, 45 specially drawn maps, is definitely sufficient. I found few instances were another map should have been included.

The Battle of the Wilderness was fought by the individual soldier. Due to the rolling terrain features and thick growth of scrub trees and bushes in the region, the coordinated maneuvering of large troop formations was an impossibility. Command and control of units was haphazard at best. An officer's span of control was only as far has he could see, which in most instances, wasn't far at all. A perfect setting was established for the authors use of the front line soldier as his point of reference, for at this level the outcome of the battle was determined. John Priest's presentation of the battle is intriguing and stimulating. I rate this as another success for the author and, hopefully his continuation, in volume two, will be as equally inspiring and rewarding for the reader. I, for one, am eagerly awaiting its publication.

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