Book Reviews
by members of BGES

- Debris of Battle: The Wounded of Gettysburg
- Listening to Old Pete: A Historic Alternative
- A Regiment of Slaves: the 4th United States Colored Infantry, 1863-1866
Faith in the Fight: Civil War Chaplains
- Abraham Lincoln and a Nation Worth Fighting For
- Struggle for the Heartland: The Campaigns from Fort Henry to Corinth
- My Brother’s Keeper: Union and Confederate Soldiers’ Acts of Mercy 
  During the Civil War
- Pemberton:  The General Who Lost Vicksburg
- Civil War Mississippi: A Guide
- The Day Dixie Died: Southern Occupation, 1865-1866
- The Final Fury: Palmito Ranch:  The Last Battle of the Civil War
- A Soldier’s General: The Civil War: Letters of Major General Lafayette McLaws
- Banners to the Breeze:  The Kentucky Campaign, Corinth, and Stones River

Debris of Battle: The Wounded of Gettysburg

By Gerard A. Patterson (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books)
244 pages, Contents, Acknowledgements, Introduction, One Map, Photographs, Notes, Bibliography and Index.  $37.50 in paperback with a notable period photograph on the front cover

Gerard A. Patterson is a retired journalist (“New York World-Telegram & Sun,” “Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,” and president of the Pennsylvania Society of Newspaper Editors). He has been a frequent contributor to “Civil War Times,” “American History,” and other history publications. He appeared in a segment of A&E’s “Civil War Journal” television series about the role of West Point in the Civil War.  His previous publications include Rebels From West Point (a 1987 work about the 306 West Point graduates who fought for the Confederacy, re-issued in paperback for the bicentennial of the United States Military Academy in 2002), Justice or Atrocity (concerning Gen. George E. Pickett and the Kinston, N.C., hangings), and most recently, From Blue to Gray (a biography of CSA General Cadmus M. Wilcox).  Mr. Patterson was made a life member of the Society of Civil War Surgeons after a presentation on Debris of Battle for the Society’s 1999 convention in Philadelphia.  He now lives in Lebanon, PA with his wife, Diane.

The crossroads college town of Gettysburg, PA, with a population of 2400, was the setting for three days of gruesome, 19th Century combat that deposited 23,000 wounded Federal and Confederate soldiers over a 25 square mile area.  When the battle was over, the military machine that produced the devastation moved quickly out of the area.  Major General George G. Meade, commander of the Army of the Potomac, sent a telegram to General William A. Hammond, the Surgeon General in Washington DC:

“I cannot delay to pick up the debris of the battlefield…
my wounded with those of the enemy in our hands,
will be left at Gettysburg.”

Bureaucratic fumbling and miscommunication from Washington, DC left the entire relief effort in the hands of the local populace (themselves in need of considerable assistance).  They were aided only by a handful of Federal and Confederate medical people.  Within a day, the Daughter’s of Charity, followed shortly by elements of the Sanitary Commission, began arriving, along with dozens of newspaper reporters, photographers, families desperate to find relatives who might have fallen, morticians who set up thriving businesses on street corners, and, of course, the curious sight-seers.  The railroad tracks into Gettysburg had been destroyed during the battle. The nearest railhead was 5 miles distant, and the departing armies had taken all but a very few ambulance wagons and most of the horses and mules.  Thus, for almost a week, the thousands of wounded soldiers could not be moved toward the major hospitals in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington DC.  Every standing structure in Gettysburg – be it wood shed, barn, home, church, school, or place of business- was used to shelter the wounded or store the supplies that began to arrive as word of the catastrophe was announced in cities and towns along the East Coast.   

Mr. Patterson shows us not only the triumph of the human spirit, but also the dark-side.  Tales are told of despicable local people and distant interlopers who arrived on the scene to bake bread and to offer linens, clothing, and medicine to the wounded at the highest price the market would bear.  Union sympathizers were angry that the Confederate wounded were being shown care and compassion equal to the Federals.  The reverse occurred as well because of the concentration of anti-war sentiment in the Southern Pennsylvania area.  But these phenomena were rare.  The tales of sacrifice, human kindness, long hours of hard labor, and compassionately shed tears –both Federal and Confederate- are the meat of this story.

Debris of Battle presents a catastrophe of Biblical proportions.  There is a keen sense of the damage to the military and its combat capability, but also to the soldiers and their families, to the relief workers, to the medical professionals attempting to cope with an impossible situation, and to the devastated civilians in the community. 

There are certainly other studies of Civil War medicine available.  An internet search will produce a huge list of references, many of scholarly quality.  H.H. Cunningham’s Doctors In Gray: The Confederate Medical Service (LSU Press, 1958) and Dr. C. Keith Wilbur’s Civil War Medicine (Chelsea House Publishers, 1997) provide useful studies of the technology and practice of medicine in the mid 19th Century.  William G. Williams’s Days of Darkness: the Gettysburg Civilians (White Mane edition, 1986 and Berkley edition in paperback, 1990) records the experiences of the people of in and near Gettysburg before, during and after the battle. 

In Debris of Battle: The Wounded of Gettysburg, Gerard A. Patterson finds the immediate cause of the post-battle catastrophe was a lack of clear communication among Union Generals Meade, Letterman, and Hammond, as the Army of the Potomac moved off in pursuit of General Lee.  Because few medical personnel, supplies, and ambulances were left behind, the civilians were required to mobilize relief resources along the East Coast from Maine to Virginia. This is a record of both military and social history.

Debris of Battle is written as a vibrant narrative. The author, however, has a tendency to find fault with the military, and it is done with an anachronistic style, which will be off-putting to the professional historian.  An example is found in the first paragraph of the introduction to the book: 

“When it was over the army, as if trying to conceal
some vile repugnant act in which it had been engaged,
barred all approaches to Gettysburg .…”

Mr. Patterson is a well-credentialed author who ultimately provides a narrative with virtues that far out-weigh this essential flaw that would have been disastrous if it had continued throughout the book.  My advice to the reader is simply to skip that first paragraph and then sit back to enjoy a book that is highly informative and a pleasure to read.

Special Thanks to William B. Rogers, MD
Tyler, TX
July 27, 2003

Top of Page


Listening to Old Pete: A Historic Alternative

Robert W. Taylor (New York: Vantage Press, 2000)
221 pages, Prologue, Maps, Illustrations, Notes, $12.95

Robert W. Taylor teaches American history and government for New Jersey high schools. Listening to Old Pete: A Historic Alternative is the author’s first Civil War book.

The premise of Mr. Taylor’s book is a variation on the popular Gettysburg/Civil War “What if?” genre. Unlike most entries in this field, Mr. Taylor’s “historic alternative” approach is based on having the Confederate high command reconsider existing facts in making different battlefield decisions rather than linking such decisions to fortuitous changes in the underlying events. Mr. Taylor looks to suggestions made by Lieutenant General James Longstreet during the 1863 Gettysburg and Chattanooga campaigns for his historic alternatives -  hence the title of the book, Listening to Old Pete. After describing how Generals Lee and Bragg came to adopt Longstreet’s strategic suggestions, he tells the rest of the story of these campaigns through the eyes of two individual soldiers. I found this perspective a refreshing change from the more traditional omniscient narrator approach.

Mr. Taylor’s Gettysburg account has General Lee cancel Pickett’s Charge in favor of Longstreet’s proposed southern flanking move after Lee receives a detailed report on the banged-up condition of Major General Henry Heth’s division, which was to participate in the assault. Realizing that his planned July 3 attack is too weak, Lee agrees to Longstreet’s proposed flanking maneuver. Lee moves his army down the Emmitsburg Pike, taking a defensive position along Pipe Creek in Maryland, where he repulses Major General Meade’s attack several days later. Coincidentally, the recent Newt Gingrich-William Forstchen Gettysburg: A Novel of the Civil War, also finds Lee defeating Meade at Pipe Creek after adopting Longstreet’s flanking suggestion. Comparing Listening to Old Pete to the Gingrich-Forstchen’s Gettysburg novel illustrates the difference between traditional historical rewrites and Mr. Taylor’s historic alternative approach. Due to the importance of cavalry in making a flanking movement through enemy territory, Mr. Taylor must wait until the arrival of Major General J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry late on July 2 before he can attempt such a flank move. Not working under such event-driven restrictions, Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Forstchen have Stuart show up at Gettysburg on July 1, allowing Lee to make his flank move that evening with the additional help of a non-historical thunderstorm.

Mr. Taylor’s second historical alternative has General Bragg detaching Longstreet’s corps to strike at the Union supply depot at Bridgeport, Alabama, in October 1863, instead of maintaining a passive siege of Major General Rosecrans’ defeated army holed-up in Chattanooga, Tennessee after the Confederate victory of Chickamauga. In fact, reacting to a Longstreet suggestion, President Jefferson Davis ordered Bragg to undertake such an operation with his entire army in mid-October. Although Bragg initially agreed, he later cited heavy rains as the reason for failing to implement this order. In Mr. Taylor’s historical alternative, Longstreet captures and destroys the Bridgeport depot and bridge in a surprise attack before Major General Hooker’s Union reinforcements arrive, causing additional supply difficulties for Rosecrans’ army in Chattanooga.

Despite this being a Vantage Press publication, I was pleasantly surprised by Listening to Old Pete.  Mr. Taylor employs a smooth writing style that makes for enjoyable reading. His obvious command of Civil War tactics lends credibility to his fictional alternatives. Mr. Taylor’s proposed attack on Bridgeport, Alabama is especially intriguing. This abortive assault only merits a passing reference by many modern scholars of the Chattanooga campaign, who focus instead on the political meltdown that occurred in Bragg’s army after President Davis’ departure in mid-October 1863 (for example, see Thomas Connelly’s Autumn of Glory: the Army of Tennessee, 1862-1865 and Wiley Sword’s Mountains Touched with Fire: : Chattanooga Besieged, 1863). Yet as Major General Don Carlos Buell discovered in his failed attempt to take Chattanooga in 1862, Bridgeport and its railroad bridge is the key to holding Chattanooga. Why not send Longstreet to Bridgeport in October 1863 rather than to Knoxville in November?

Listening to Old Pete
is not without flaws. Mr. Taylor tends to overuse words and phrases in quotation marks for added emphasis. His maps and illustrations are somewhat amateurish. He also relies on relatively few sources for his work, most of which are pre-1964.

More substantively, Mr. Taylor’s work ignores Union cavalry dispositions. He has Lee’s army pull out of its positions at Gettysburg on July 3, hitting the Emmitsburg Pike between 2 and 4 pm, unseen by Union signal stations on the Round Tops (which he has under a severe artillery bombardment) or Union cavalry. In Mr. Taylor’s historic alternative, Meade does not learn where Lee has gone until July 6. Yet Meade’s actual cavalry dispositions as of 1 pm on July 3rd had one brigade between Big Round Top and the Emmitsburg Pike, while another brigade was just setting off from Emmitsburg to Gettysburg along this very same pike. Three other Union brigades were stationed in the vicinity of Emmitsburg on July 3. Given these dispositions, Meade would have immediately discovered any Confederate flanking move down the Emmitsburg Pike with a golden opportunity to hit Lee’s army on the march.

Similarly, I find it hard to believe Union cavalry would not have alerted the Union detachment guarding Bridgeport of Longstreet’s approaching force.

Nonetheless, Mr. Taylor has written an enjoyable book, which raises significant and realistic strategic alternatives for the reader to consider to those actually adopted by Lee and Bragg in July and October 1863.

Special thanks to Jim Heenehan
Ardmore, Pennsylvania

Top of Page


A Regiment of Slaves: the 4th United States Colored Infantry, 1863-1866

Edward G. Longacre (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2003)
 227 pages, Acknowledgments, Preface, Maps, Photographs, Lithographs, Bibliography, Notes

 Edward G. Longacre is a noted Civil War historian who has written extensively about the cavalry arm, including the Fletcher Pratt Prize-winning The Cavalry at Gettysburg. With A Regiment of Slaves: the 4th United States Colored Infantry, 1863-1866, Mr. Longacre has branched out into a long-neglected area of the Civil War that of the African-American soldier.

During the course of the conflict, 180,000 African-Americans fought for the Union and for the freedom of their race. It is this dual purpose that makes the African-American soldier unique in the Civil War. Fortunately, scholars have recently focused on the plight of the African-American soldier, most notably Noah Andre Trudeau’s Like Men of War: Black Troops in the Civil War, 1862-1865. A Regiment of Slaves is another entry in this field.

Mr. Longacre has two reasons for choosing the 4th
United States Colored Infantry (“USCI”) for his book. First, the 4th USCI had a fine combat record with Maj. Gen. Ben Butler’s Army of the James, having participated in Maj. Gen. William “Baldy” Smith’s June 1864 attack on Petersburg’s Dimmock line, Butler’s September 1864 capture of New Market Heights near Richmond, and Brig. Gen. Alfred Terry’s January 1865 capture of Fort Fisher outside Wilmington, NC. Second, the regiment comes from Maryland, a border state. As a result, the regiment was composed of part freemen and part liberated slaves. The handful of prior works on African-American units, notes Mr. Longacre, have focused on regiments raised in the North, “...the overwhelming majority of whose members were freemen, many of whom enjoyed social, economic, and educational advantages denied to the majority of their race.” As its title implies, A Regiment of Slaves promises to give us the Civil War experiences of men who went from slaves to soldiers almost overnight, a potentially fascinating social history in addition to its military value. Sadly, the social questions raised in the title of this book go largely unanswered.

Although Mr. Longacre has done a fine job of writing about the tactics and living conditions of the men in the 4th USCI, I learned little about the thoughts and feelings of free blacks and former slaves who were now soldiers in the United States Army. Apart from a few anecdotes, this could just as easily have been a story about one of the white units in the Army of the James. For example, at some point, the men of the 4th USCI see President Lincoln and Lt. Gen. Grant ride by. Yet we learn nothing of the men’s thoughts upon seeing the Great Emancipator and his top general. Despite Mr. Longacre’s observation in his Acknowledgments that prior black unit histories tended to focus too much on the white officers who wrote them and not enough on the enlisted men, that remains the case with A Regiment of Slaves. This emphasis is reflected in the book’s illustrations: only 6 of the 24 photos and lithographs are of African-Americans the rest are of the white officers.

In part, Mr. Longacre is limited to his sources. Since former slaves were largely illiterate, their personal history is not preserved. Even the one African-American prominently featured in the book, Sgt. Christian A. Fleetwood, is a college-educated freeman from Baltimore. While his letters and writings provide us with detailed information about Sgt. Fleetwood (he reads voraciously, including Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables), he is hardly representative of the experiences of the liberated slave suggested by the title. Of these men, we learn very little.

Nonetheless, there are moments. On Thanksgiving Day, 1863, the regimental commander, Col. Samuel Duncan, follows a “3 cheers” for General Grant after news of Grant’s victory at Chattanooga, TN, with, “And 3 more for the complete emancipation of the African race!” The regiment is so touched by their colonel’s sentiment that they turn out as a group that afternoon to thank him.

Later, after Sgt. Fleetwood is awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for saving the national colors at New Market Heights, his commanding officer petitions the War Department to promote Fleetwood for one of the regiment’s seven lieutenant vacancies. However, the War Department has a white officer only policy and the request is denied. This causes the normally reserved Fleetwood to complain about the Army’s racial prejudice in a moving letter to a friend. Fleetwood tempers his frustration with the knowledge that the petition for his advancement was signed by every officer in the regiment. It is incidents such as these that get into the soul of the 4th
USCI’s enlisted men. I just wish there were more of them.

Mr. Longacre does better with the military history of this regimental study. The 4th USCI played a key role in Baldy Smith’s June 15, 1864 capture of 10 forts of Petersburg’s Dimmock line while Gen. Lee hovered north of the James River. Seven of the 10 forts were captured by African-American troops. Yet Baldy Smith’s commonly held view that black troops were too excitable for extended combat duty contributed to his failure to take advantage of the hole these troops had opened in the Petersburg defenses. While Baldy Smith’s black troops were sent to the rear as he waited for arriving veterans of the Army of the Potomac veterans, Petersburg’s Confederate defenders fought heroically until Lee finally realized that the true threat was at Petersburg, not Richmond.

Mr. Longacre’s descriptions of the attacks at New Market Heights and Fort Fisher are also quite interesting. One sidelight of the latter is the importance of joint army-navy cooperation in any amphibious assault. Maj. Gen. Butler and Rear Adm. David Porter did not get along, and Butler’s December 1864 attack fizzled. However, Brig. Gen. Terry and Porter cooperated quite well such that their attack against Fort Fisher the following month was a brilliant success.

No review of the 4th
USCI would be complete without a brief mention of its Army of the James commander, Maj. Gen. Ben Butler. While Butler is a man of many faults, he did his best to help his African-American soldiers, striving to make up the pay inequalities with white troops, getting them the same equipment and clothing, and providing support for their families back home by establishing a Department of Negro Affairs. Unlike other generals, he was not hesitant to use his African-American troops in the front lines often with excellent results. In short, he treated these soldiers as men. Mr. Longacre deserves credit for revealing this often overlooked side of the “Beast.”

To conclude, A Regiment of Slaves is a well-written book that offers many insights into the battles undertaken by the 4th USCI. Unfortunately, it fails to offer sufficient insights into the men of the 4th USCI.

Special thanks to Jim Heenehan
Ardmore, Pennsylvania

Top of Page


Faith in the Fight: Civil War Chaplains

John W. Brinsfield, William C. Davis, Benedict Maryniak, and James I. Robertson, Jr.
Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 2003. Pp. xii, 256. Notes. Illustrations. 

This book consists of three parts: “Essays,” “In Their Own Words,” and “Rosters.” Each part, in turn, comprises two subdivisions—one dealing with Federal chaplains; the other with their Confederate counterparts. The work grew out of the authors’ common interest in the religious life of Civil War soldiers. For years, they pursued separate studies, each ignorant of the others’ work. Once they learned of their overlapping efforts, they decided to combine the fruits of their studies and publish the result. Maryniak, Brinsfield, and Robertson, we should note, are all clergymen—Brinsfield an army chaplain.

“Essays” features a short piece on Union chaplains by Maryniak and one on Confederate chaplains by Brinsfield. Neither is a complete study, but such was not the authors’ purpose. Rather, each stands as a general overview of its subject (legal status of chaplains, types of work they did, uniforms, statistics, and so on). As introductions to the topic, they serve very well.

“In Their Own Words” presents brief excerpts from the writings of seven chaplains (six of them Confederates). Some of these accounts are contemporary; the others were written after the war. As an introduction to the chaplains and a sample of their record, this section also serves its purpose.

Two things, I think, would have enhanced these two sections: an index and a bibliography listing manuscript collections of chaplains’ papers and published accounts of their experience. The former would be of great value to those seeking information on individuals, specialized topics, and particular units, and it might thereby have encouraged other writers to include accounts of religion in unit histories. The latter would be most helpful to students as a starting place for more research. (Some information concerning such sources is to be found in the notes to each essay.)

The major part of the book, however, is the roster listing by name 3,694 “duly commissioned” chaplains. The following sample illustrates the information in the roster.

Hopkins, William C.               1834-1910      Episcopalian     7th

Railsback, Lycurgus               1834-1897     Presbyterian      44th U.S. Colored Troops

McBryde, Alexander             1816-1862      Methodist         5th Mississippi

Morton, John Houston            1833-1892      Baptist             3d Tennessee Cavalry

For some chaplains, of course, the data are incomplete. The birth and/or death dates of many, for example, are not known. More research, doubtless, will unearth some of this information and add other names to the roster.

This is really a welcome reference book.  We can all thank the authors for their hard work and hope that others will now be inspired to further studies of religion in Civil War armies.

Special thanks to Richard M. McMurry
Roanoke, Virginia

Top of Page


Abraham Lincoln 
and a Nation Worth Fighting For

By James A. Rawley, with a new introduction by the author.
Publication date: April 23, 2003; U.K. Publication Date: June 2003
Paper ISBN: 0-8032-8994-4; Price: $29.95; U.K. Price £22.95
Features: 256 pages, 6 x 9 inches, Illustration, chronology, 2 maps, index

Abraham Lincoln and a Nation Worth Fighting For was originally published in 1996 copyrighted by Harlan Davidson. Its reissue in 2003 is in paperback with reassigned copyright and introduction by James Rawley.

The book is a biographical essay covering Lincoln’s life from birth to his assassination in 230 textual pages. It concentrates on the period of his presidency and serves as an excellent introduction to Lincoln and the Civil War.

There is enough sketchy information of Lincoln’s life, the Civil War’s battles, and Lincoln’s interaction with the northern generals to whet the newcomer’s appetite for further study.  In that sense it would serve well as a reading in an introductory course to Lincoln or the Civil War.

If one is looking for new information on Lincoln or the Civil War, it will not be found here. Although there are a few conclusions by the author and disagreements with normally accepted stories, the author does not explain the conclusions nor cite references. The work is replete with quotations from other works. To this end it assumes legitimacy and the author’s obvious consultation of Lincoln and Civil War literature. His synthesis of such an enormous stock of literature is commendable. An extensive list of recommended works is included.

The author does a productive and concise summary. He claims that the primary thrust of the work is to show that the wartime president was consistent in his strong feeling of nationalism (particularly compared to Buchanan and Pierce), his discovery of his power as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, and the conferred power on the only governmental officer elected by all the people of the nation. He concludes that the powers were used for one purpose.  “From first to last in his administration Lincoln tenaciously held a single aim: - to save the Union.” 

Special thanks to Mark Witt
Parrish, Florida

Top of Page


Struggle for the Heartland: The Campaigns from Fort Henry to Corinth

Stephen D. Engle (University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln Nebraska, 2001), 251 pages, Series Editors’ Introduction, Acknowledgements, Introduction, Illustrations, Maps, Photographs, Notes, Bibliographical Essay, Index, $34.95.            

Stephen D. Engle, the author of Struggle for the Heartland, is a professor of history at Florida Atlantic University. This book is his first contribution to the Great Campaigns of the Civil War series. His previous books include The Life of Franz Sigel and Don Carlos Buell: Most Promising of All.  

  Struggle for the Heartland chronicles the first major campaign in the Western Theater, spanning the actions from the approaches to Fort Henry in early 1862 to the capture of Corinth in late May of 1862. The initial scene is set with a discussion of the geography, including the topography of the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers and the Cumberland and Appalachian Mountains. The dependence of commerce in the region on the few major rivers and railroads is analyzed as well as the ties between the major cities and the cultural linkages among the residents. The book then continues with an analysis of the military and political issues surrounding the major commands and armies engaged in the area.

The battles at Fort Henry and Fort Donelson are described, followed by details of the steps and missteps taken by the Union Armies and the Confederate Forces in the aftermath of the fall of Fort Donelson.  The focus of both of the antagonists shifted to Corinth, resulting in the battle at Shiloh and the capture of the major railroad crossing of the Mobile & Ohio and the Memphis & Charleston railroads at the conclusion of the siege of Corinth. The book concludes with an analysis of the impact of this campaign on the citizens of the area, the leaders involved, and the ultimate conduct of the war. 

Engle’s primary thesis is that the impact of this western campaign was not limited to the achievement of military objectives but that it significantly influenced the entire conduct of the war through the political and military necessities of occupying and administering a hostile populace. If the initial thrust had been into Eastern Tennessee, as proposed by Lincoln, the Federal troops would have been able to develop their aims and procedures with a friendly population, a limited slaveholding population, and a civil administration sympathetic to the Union. However, the first experiences dealt with a hostile, slave owning population forcing a change in perspective.  As stated by Engle in the Introduction (page xvii):

“Though the Union was successful in seizing territory and cities, it was the location and nature of its occupation forces’ experience that prompted a change in Northern attitudes, not only among commanders and soldiers stationed south but also among politicians in Washington and the various states, toward what they hoped to achieve. Just as the occupation of pro-Confederate and proslavery regions of Tennessee would alter Union aims, so too did it affect the sentiments toward reunion among the residents the Federals hoped to bring back.” 

Struggle for the Heartland addresses the entire western theater of operation during the early days of the war in the west. This is in contrast to the numerous books detailing the individual actions of Fort Henry, Fort Donelson, Shiloh, and the siege of Corinth. As a result, this book opens new considerations regarding the possible conduct of the remainder of the war if the initial Union experiences were developed from the liberation of friendly territory instead of the occupation of a hostile countryside. 

Engle’s book, Struggle for the Heartland, represents a comprehensive view of the opening development of the western theater of operations. Numerous original sources are cited. The combination of notes and a bibliographical essay provides the reader with guidance for further review and research.

The premise of this book (that the Civil War itself was shaped by the politics and practices of occupation, as developed in the Confederate Heartland) represents a useful look and interpretation of the milieu of war and not just the tactics of battle. However, it is unfortunate that Struggle for the Heartland is flawed by a convoluted writing style that makes it very difficult to read and follow. It is in desperate need of a thorough review for clarity of expression. As it is, the style and quality of writing is such that this reviewer cannot recommend it for any but the most dedicated and determined reader.

Typical examples of the lack of clarity include references being made to personal characteristics, which confuse the reader who may not be intimately familiar with each character’s heritage. For example, on page 116, it is stated that “Wallace’s division (...). The Hoosier commander (...).”  It is not directly apparent that “Wallace” and “The Hoosier commander” are one and the same. Further, ideas are intermixed, indiscriminate of time and place. On page 153, it is stated during the discussion of the battle of Shiloh: “Beauregard had no idea he had given the Federals  advantage by halting the attack, and he would spend the rest of his life dodging criticism for it. In giving up the Hornet’s Nest, the Federals were actually afforded a formidable position.” The superposition of post war recriminations, Confederates stopping an attack, and the Federals giving up a position is highly confusing.

This reviewer had to read, re-read, and dissect too many such paragraphs to enjoy the exercise. 

Special thanks to Doug McGovern
Hutchinson, Kansas

Top of Page


My Brother’s Keeper: Union and Confederate Soldiers’ Acts of Mercy During the Civil War

Daniel N. Rolph, Stackpole Books (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, February 1, 2002), 160 pages, $24.95,

ISBN # 0811709973.

 Daniel N. Rolph has delved into a virtually unexplored area of Civil War history. An active member of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Rolph has also served as professor at both Gwynedd-Mercy and Montgomery County Community Colleges.  He currently serves as an assistant professor of Liberal Arts and Applied Sciences at Allegheny University in Philadelphia.  Dr. Rolph is very active in both academic and research circles.  His first book, To Shoot, Burn and Hang: Folk History from a Kentucky Mountain Family and Community, published in 1994, indicates his forte is in researching obscure yet pertinent areas of American History.  This work simply reinforces that fact.   He holds a Masters of Arts in History from the University of Kentucky and a Ph.D. in folklore/folk life from the University of Pennsylvania.

The intricate webs of comradeship and compassion show that a little known brotherhood crossing enemy lines really did exist.  This brotherhood was discernable in interactions between civilians, soldiers, prisoners, enemies, relatives and freemasons.  Rolph effectively uses an extensive array of primary source materials to provide many examples of this heretofore obscure aspect of Civil War history.

Rolph’s thesis of revealing a little known aspect of Civil War history in a manner that instructs both scholars and lay people alike is effectively defended throughout this book.   This thesis can be found quite clearly stated in the preface on page vii.   His smooth transitions enable the reader to efficiently track where he is going with the various topics he relates.

This book, the first full-length treatment of the merciful and compassionate acts accorded to soldiers and civilians during the Civil War, is unique in both its context and its prose.  Unlike the plethora of Civil War books focusing on tactics, battles and leaders of the war, this one examines diaries and first-hand accounts of stories as told by the actual recipients of the compassionate acts or their comrades or family members.

Rolph’s incorporation of these diary accounts into a very fluid style of prose, accented by strong transitions, makes this book very easy to read.  Each of the eight chapters deals with a single type of interaction between soldiers and civilians and piques the reader’s interest into what new adventures lie ahead.  Each chapter can stand on its own merit.  However, Rolph uses his strong transitions to bind the independent subjects into an additional cohesive story.  This leaves the reader with an appetite whetted for more on this interesting subject.  His captivating prose lets the reader thirst for more knowledge and motivates the reader to do more research on what acts of mercy and compassion might have been performed or received by some of his ancestors.

His choice of subjects provides a profound impact on the reader, because of their simplicity.  So often, the only side of the Civil War that gets told is the hatred, killing and cold reality of warfare.  Yet, in this work, Rolph takes simple subjects dealing with everyday life issues for soldiers and civilians, that can be easily related to, even in today’s context.  This book is chock full of examples of hungry and homeless individuals being afforded the opportunity to care for the children or sick relatives of a family.  It depicts the type of human respect that is actually afforded from time to time between enemies, but is not well publicized, less the local populace might think the military is growing soft and tender hearted.

His use of endnotes rather than footnotes made it a little more difficult to evaluate the validity of his source.  Yet it is evident that each endnote is backed with data gleaned from rigorous research.  His bibliography is outstanding.  It is extremely well organized and clearly shows a wide breadth of research.  He effectively incorporated manuscripts, monographs, newspaper and professional journal articles into an easy to read eleven-page bibliographic reference.

All in all, Dr. Rolph has done a masterful job gathering information on a relatively obscure topic and synthesized the data into an entertaining and readable form by scholars and lay people alike.  Avid Civil War enthusiasts should consider this a must own resource for their own personal library.  


Special thanks to Richard J. Blumberg

Top of Page


Pemberton:  The General Who Lost Vicksburg

Michael B. Ballard, Ph.D, (Jackson, MS: University of Mississippi Press, 1991), 250 pages, Preface, Maps, Photographs, Notes, Bibliography, Index, $18.00, Paperback.

  Dr. Michael B. Ballard is Mississippi born and educated. Currently serving as university archivist at Mississippi State University in Starkville, MS, Dr. Ballard has written extensively on the Civil War in Mississippi. Ballard explains his motivation for writing as being “my strong desire to understand the past and how it affects the present.” For this biography on John C. Pemberton, Ballard was awarded the Non-Fiction Award, Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters, in 1991.

 Pemberton:  The General Who Lost Vicksburg is a somewhat sympathetic, but hard hitting biography of General John C. Pemberton, C.S.A. Dr Ballard has written a book on one of the most controversial and, in some viewpoints, despised men who fought with the South in the Civil War. John Pemberton was born in Pennsylvania, married a girl from the South, and cast his military fortune with the South when war erupted in 1861. Never fully accepted by Southerners, he also found rejection after the war from the hands of his Northern friends and relatives.

 Dr. Ballard sympathizes with Pemberton’s plight in this book, but he is also quick to point out that Pemberton brought most of his problems upon himself. John Pemberton spent a lifetime having difficulty relating to those around him. This caused him tremendous problems as an officer in both the pre-war U. S. army, and even more problems with his adopted homeland during the Civil War. Many Southerners never did trust Pemberton; his surrender of the fortified city of Vicksburg, MS led to his being one of the most hated and vilified men in the Confederacy. General Pemberton proved his loyalty to the South after Vicksburg by accepting a severe reduction in rank and serving the rest of the war in the backwash of the primary fields of battle in various locations in the Confederacy. Very few other officers in either army demonstrated that degree of loyalty or love for their country.

 Mike Ballard uses this book to explore just what led to the loss of the military fortress of Vicksburg, MS in July 1863. Most of the reasons for this pivotal loss are seen in the military experiences of General John C. Pemberton before he was assigned to lead the Confederate army which was defending the Vicksburg environs. Pemberton had never led troops in battle before the Civil War and was never successful at leading troops in battle during the war. Part of the problem, according to Dr. Ballard, lay also in Pemberton’s acerbic personality. He had great difficulty relating to civilian leaders in his various assignments in the South, and was widely attacked by these leaders in the press and in their communication with Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee. The title of the book sums up extremely well what most people in the North and the South remember about John C. Pemberton.

 This book is one of only two biographies of John C. Pemberton.  The first biography was written by Pemberton’s grandson in 1942, and Ballard found it useful because of its oral history data from Pemberton’s family members. Ballard’s book offers a more objective viewpoint of General Pemberton and goes a long way to explain the reasons for the military failures of this much maligned and misunderstood soldier.

John C. Pemberton: The Man Who Lost Vicksburg offers a full account of the life of General John C. Pemberton. Thoroughly researched, Ballard demonstrates that Pemberton’s military experiences prior to the Civil War, and his experiences defending Charleston, SC and its adjacent coastline doomed Vicksburg from the day he was appointed by Jefferson Davis to command the army responsible for defeating Union forces invading Mississippi in 1862. Pemberton could never force himself to see that it was better tactics to lose the city he was defending rather than lose both the city and his army.

The book reads well and, although not a book with a lot of vivid battle descriptions, leaves the reader with a good understanding of the Vicksburg Campaign of 1862-63. The book has adequate maps and photographs to tie the campaign movements together with the leaders who were key players in the different battles of the campaign.

 Dr. Ballard made extensive use of primary sources available on the life and military career of John Pemberton. Extensive use was made of family letters and other related documents. Ballard is a meticulous researcher and this is evident throughout the book.

 The book is not only valuable for the light it sheds on the life and times of John Pemberton; it also offers an excellent overview of the Vicksburg Campaign. It is a book I highly recommend for both the novice and experienced Civil War enthusiast.

Special thanks to Bill Barkley
Grand Bay, Alabama

Top of Page


Civil War Mississippi: A Guide

Michael B. Ballard (Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2000), 135 pages, Preface, Maps, Photographs, Suggestions for Further Reading, Index, $14.95.

Michael B. Ballard, an archivist at Mississippi State University, has several publications relating to the Civil War in Mississippi. He has written the textual commentary in Landscapes of Battle: The Civil War and two book-length studies: A Long Shadow: Jefferson Davis and the Final Days of the Confederacy and Pemberton: A Biography. He is also the author of monographs on the Vicksburg campaign and on the Battle of Tupelo, as well as the editor of A Mississippi Rebel in the Army of Northern Virginia: The Civil War Memoirs of Private David Holt. Ballard also participates in Civil War seminars related to the western theater of operations. Most of his written studies set the war in the context of the national political objectives and pressures that military leaders had to take into consideration, and his most recent book follows this pattern.

 In the preface to this book, Ballard indicates that he is writing for the novice who will, after reading his accounts, be more familiar with the major battles in Mississippi and how they fit into the “context of the war in the west and the conflict as a whole” (Preface, page nine). Ballard offers a straightforward account of the strategy involved in each campaign and a succinct account of the major battles in the state, usually from the perspective of the commanding generals. In this sense, the title of his book would have been less misleading if it had been Major Civil War Campaigns in Mississippi, because I was expecting to read a book that was a battlefield tour guide.

 Ballard’s book is a handy, portable size, compact enough to fit into your coat pocket while touring a battlefield. However, the book is not a battlefield guide, although there are several pages giving general instructions for touring the battlefields near the end of the book. This disappointment aside, Ballard’s book is an excellent overview of the strategy and tactics of two campaigns in Civil War Mississippi, Vicksburg and Meridian, and of three major battles: Iuka/Corinth; Brice’s Cross Roads; and Tupelo. With the exception of related articles in Blue and Gray Magazine, Ballard’s treatment of the ebb and flow of the battles that he recounts is one of the best compact references yet to appear in print. Of course, there are books and various articles on these campaigns and battles, but it is convenient to be able to have the useful summary that Ballard provides in Civil War Mississippi: A Guide. The list of seventy-seven battles, skirmishes, and engagements in Mississippi with dates, and the list of Civil War cemeteries, is very useful for those who would like to plan a thorough tour of Mississippi Civil War sites.

 Of course, the reader does not have to be new to the Civil War to be able to appreciate the virtues of clear, vigorous prose. Seasoned readers of Civil War books and articles can attest to the multitude of ponderously written volumes that are as difficult to read as the swamps on the battlefield of Chickasaw Bayou were to slog through. Ballard excels at succinct, clear descriptions of how the opposing armies happened to meet at certain places, and he keeps the action moving briskly along by relating the highlights of the battlefield action. He does a fine job of sketching the personalities of the commanding generals, while briefly relating the individual’s way of seeing things to how he reacted in battle. Every reader will appreciate Ballard’s description of Grant and Sherman probing through Mississippi and beginning to master the peculiarities of Civil War strategy and tactics. The reader is also introduced to famous (and infamous) leaders, such as Nathan Bedford Forrest, Sterling Price, and Earl Van Dorn. By consulting Ballard’s “Suggestions for Further Reading,” the reader will be led to solidly written accounts of these soldiers and their careers.

Even though Ballard’s book has several strengths, there are some weaknesses that could be improved in future editions. A list of maps after the table of contents would be helpful. Also, effective maps are essential to convey visual information quickly. The maps in Ballard’s book are too elementary to be of much use to a reader, even the novice audience that he is targeting. The maps by George Skoch in Ballard’s booklet on the Vicksburg campaign are markedly superior to those in this book.  “Touring the War,” the six-page section toward the end of the book, is too general to be very helpful. Several publications could have been referred to here so the reader could find more complete, clear information: various issues of Blue and Gray Magazine, and the Terence Winschel pamphlets that guide the tourist around the major battlefields of the Vicksburg campaign. An essential reference for Ballard to include in any revision is Warren Grabau’s new book, Ninety-Eight Days: A Geographer’s View of the Vicksburg Campaign, which provides an exhaustive treatment of all the battles in this major campaign; the numerous maps are excellent. In the meantime, I would suggest that someone write a guidebook to Civil War sites in Mississippi that will be as useful for battlefield touring as Jim Miles’ book, Civil War Sites in Georgia.

 In this book, Ballard is best at giving succinct accounts of the major military action in Civil War Mississippi. Since he does not have an ideological axe to grind, he focuses the reader’s attention on the significance of what happened on the battlefield. His book provides a satisfying, basic overview of those separate conflicts that, when seen together with the other operations in the western theater, provided the success and the impetus that lead the Federal forces to eventually achieve a bloody triumph over the seemingly invincible soldiers of the Confederate Army.

Special thanks to Jim Hutchinson
Blue and Gray Education Society

Top of Page


The Day Dixie Died: Southern Occupation, 1865-1866

Thomas and Debra Goodrich (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2001), 320 pages, Photographs, Notes, Bibliography, Index, 
$26.95 (hardcover)

A scene from light comedy opens this portrayal of a desolate Dixie.  At first blush it seems an odd beginning.  The juxtaposition of the frivolous bantering of Asa and Mary in the third act of Our American Cousin with the murder about to occur in the gaily-festooned presidential box above the stage appear to be a peculiar way to introduce the turmoil the southern people would confront in the first year and a half after Appomattox.  Yet, as Thomas and Debra Goodrich show, the day Dixie died began with the night Lincoln was shot.  It was then, as Jefferson Davis said, that the South lost “our best friend in the court of the enemy” (p. 36).  Consequently, instead of a reunion marked by magnanimity, the South would know a Yankee occupation rooted in revenge and retribution. 

Such, at least, is the thesis put forth by the Goodriches in this examination of the early months of what they term the North’s “second invasion” of Dixie, and “invasion of words, thoughts, and ideas” all too often translated into actions of repression, deception, and even thievery (p.215).  In recapturing those initial days of Reconstruction, the authors employ the same drama and perception that Thomas Goodrich exhibited in his previous works,  War to the Knife: Bleeding Kansas, 1854-1861 and Bloody Bill Anderson: The Short, Savage Life of a Civil War Guerrilla.  The present collaboration with his wife, Debra, produces a moving account of the impact of Yankee occupation on southerners white and black, elite and mudsill, told largely in their own words.

The narrative is crisp and colorful, and it reveals the depths of emotions southerners displayed as they witnessed the Confederacy’s collapse and humiliation.  At the heart of their devastation lay numerous poignant scenes.  Foremost among them, in the authors’ eyes, is the capture of Jefferson, which they label the “death knell of the Confederacy” (p. 62), and his subsequent harsh incarceration. The Goodriches also describe the fear whites felt at the coming of black troops, the dashed hopes former slaves experienced as they found that freedom was but an illusion, and the sadness attending the return home of Johnny Rebs to scenes of destruction and disgrace.  Interspersed throughout are reminders of largely forgotten episodes of the early days of the occupation: the vengeful oratory of Henry Ward Beecher at the raising of the federal flag at Fort Sumter, and ominous portent of attitudes to come; the rumor Mills of Dixie, dubbed “grapevine batteries” (p. 42), that shaped popular thought among dejected southerners; the humiliation of taking the oath of allegiance to the United States, and the arrest of a pastor who failed to remember Lincoln in his prayers.  Such tales continually highlight the drama the Goodriches unfold.  In all, it is a story well told.

The volume is not, however, flawless.  Because of the authors’ commendable desire to let the players in the drama tell their own stories, they frequently include protracted chains of quotes, some of them several pages in length.  While usually effective, such heavy borrowing lends to detract for the Goodriches’ own rich insights.  Furthermore, while the book is solidly researched, its historiographic posture tends to ignore recent scholarship.  For instance, the coverage of public reaction to Lincoln’s death could have benefited greatly from the studies by David Chesebrough and Thomas Reed Turner and the description of Jefferson Davis’s escape and capture might have received illumination from Michael B. Ballard’s A Long Shadow.  Moreover, the consideration of southern reflections on God’s role in Dixie’s sufferings might have been enriched through insights from the collaborative Why the South Lost the Civil War.  Nor are the seminal contributions of Kenneth Stampp, Eric Foner, Harold Hyman, and Hans Trefousse utilized.

 Despite these oversights, The Day Dixie Died tells a story today’s students of the Civil War need to recall.  It reminds us of the travesty and tragedy of early Reconstruction, a time when civil liberties were denied, repression of both black and white southerners prevailed, and lawlessness ruled the countryside.  It is therefore good that Thomas and Debra Goodrich have given those who suffered through those days another chance to speak.

Special thanks to Lloyd A. Hunter
Franklin College
Franklin, IN

Top of Page


The Final Fury: Palmito Ranch:
 The Last Battle of the Civil War

Phillip Thomas Tucker.
Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 2001. Pp. x, 196. Maps. Illustrations. Notes. Index.

 Bibliography. $26.95.

Palmito (often erroneously “Palmetto”) Ranch, fought 12-13 May 1865, was the last land engagement of the Civil War. The small battle took place a short distance up the Rio Grande, between the river’s mouth and Brownsville, Texas. It had no impact on the war which, in fact, had effectively ended several weeks earlier. The Confederates won this last battle, driving a Union column back to the coast in a near rout. Only a few hundred men took part of each side, and only about sixty—half Yankees, half Confederates—became casualties.

 The battle, nevertheless, holds interest for several reasons in addition to being the war’s final combat. The last Union soldier killed in action, Private John Jefferson Williams of the 34th Indiana, fell on the field. Apparently the Confederates suffered no fatalities in the struggle, so we must look elsewhere for the final Rebel KIA. The opposing forces included Anglos, Hispanics (on both sides), blacks, and Tejanos. One Confederate veteran of the battle had fought at the Alamo in 1836 for the Mexicans. Later he served in the armies of the Texas Republic, the United States, and the Confederacy—one of a very few soldiers to fight for four countries and against three of them! The battle’s participants included a contingent of French troops who thus became the only soldiers of a foreign government’s army to aid the Confederacy. (The government of France was then attempting to establish a puppet state in Mexico, and the commander of the French forces along the lower Rio Grande let the Rebels borrow enough of his men to man one of their cannon.)

All of these oddities should have sufficed to make this a fascinating little book.

  Unfortunately Phillip Thomas Tucker writes so badly that he manages to make his story dull. Part of the problem is sloppy wording—”Rio Grande River,” “1 A. M. on the morning,” “first ever,” “minimized the wisdom,” and so on (pp. ix, vii, 60, 80, 146). Part of the problem is simple bad grammar. Part is pedantry. Chapter 5 contains 248 footnotes—227 of them citing the same source, “Morrison Court-Martial.” (In some of the 227 notes Tucker also cites other sources.)  

Many passages are very badly written. Tucker seems incapable of referring to an officer without giving his military grade. To be sure, this fact is appropriate when an officer is introduced, but it is almost always unnecessary thereafter. On p. 73, for example, Tucker six times refers to “Lieutenant Colonel [David] Branson.” On p. 26, in a six-line paragraph, he writes three times of “Colonel Ford” and twice of “General Magruder.” On p. 135 we are told no fewer than seven times that two companies of troops were Indianans. Then for variety we learn from four other lines that they were also Hoosiers. Then, lest we forget, Tucker reminds us ten times on the next page that these men were from Indiana and twice that they were Hoosiers.

Such bad writing, unfortunately, runs through the book and will kill the interest of many readers. Private Williams, his fellow Hoosiers, the Frenchmen, and the others who fought in the war’s last battle— as well as Tucker’s readers—all deserve much.

Special thanks to Richard M. McMurry
Roanoke, Virginia

Top of Page


A Soldier’s General: The Civil War: Letters of Major General Lafayette McLaws

Edited by John C. Oeffinger. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2002. Pp. 299.
Notes. Illustrations. Index. ISBN: 0-8078-2690-1. $34.95.

    Major General Lafayette McLaws (1821-1897) served the Confederacy as a regimental, brigade, and division commander. This native of Georgia graduated from West Point in 1842 (one of his boyhood friends and Academy classmates was James Longstreet). He then served in the United States Army until 1861 when he followed his state into the Confederacy.

 McLaws served capably but not brilliantly as a division commander. In 1863 at Gettysburg and even more so at Knoxville he fell out with Longstreet who commanded the corps of which McLaws’ Division was a part. Longstreet refused to allow McLaws to fight at Gettysburg as the latter wished and sought to make McLaws the scapegoat for the failed attack at Knoxville. As a result McLaws left Longstreet’s command. He served in the Savannah defenses in 1864 and commanded troops in the Carolinas in 1865.

 For inclusion in this collection, editor John Oeffinger has selected ninety-five of McLaws’ letters, mostly to members of his family (five of the letters date from his years in the U. S. Army); extracts from transcripts of thirteen more letters; and twenty-seven entries (February-March 1865) from the general’s journal.

 McLaws’ writings, mostly letters to his wife Emily Taylor, a niece of Zachary Taylor, do give us insights into the life and mind of one of the least-known major generals in the Army of Northern Virginia. They also shed some light on the internal politics of the Rebel military establishment. Except for the journal entries covering the 1865 operations in the Carolinas, however, the documents do not deal with military operations in much detail.

 Oeffinger’s editorial work is not intrusive. Overall, the index is more helpful than is often the case these days, although users should be aware that not every person mentioned in the letters is included. One of the letters is misdated (1862 rather than 1863 as the contents clearly indicate), but this is probably McLaws’ fault, not Oeffinger’s (pp. 126-127). The editor does confuse Columbia, South Carolina, and Columbus, Kentucky, (p. 129) and makes several other minor errors in his identification of people and things.

 McLaws’ handwriting is often very difficult to read, and it is good to have these documents available in this easily accessible form. Students of the Confederate army and its high-ranking officers can profit from this collection. Those seeking detailed material on battles and campaigns will probably be disappointed.  

Special thanks to Richard M. McMurry 
Roanoke, Virginia

Top of Page

Banners to the Breeze:  The Kentucky Campaign, Corinth, and Stones River

Earl J. Hess (Lincoln, NB, University of Nebraska Press, 2000), 253 pages, Introduction, Preface, Illustrations, Maps, Notes, Bibliography, Index, $32.00.

 Earl J. Hess is a Missouri native who has published more than 30 articles and reviews in history journals and newspapers. Dr. Hess is deeply interested in the human drama of war. He is currently associate professor of history at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, TN.  Hess views war as being the “quintessential” experience which tests human emotions both good and bad. Previous works with Civil War themes include The Union Soldier in Battle: Enduring the Ordeal of Combat, and (Editor) A German in the Yankee Fatherland: the Civil War Letters of Henry A. Kircher.

This enjoyable book is a part of the 13 volume Great Campaigns of the Civil War series, currently being published by the University of Nebraska Press. Banners to the Breeze offers the reader an analysis of three major Civil War campaigns in the Confederate West in 1862—1863.  Hess goes to great effort to demonstrate that these pivotal battles and campaigns had far reaching impact on the future success of the Confederate armies in the Western Theatre of combat and on the overall success of the Confederacy as a nation. After the Confederate disasters at Fort Henry and Fort Donelson and the defeat at Shiloh, the Confederate Army attempted to regain the initiative and to retake the territory lost in the previous year.  Banners to the Breeze tells the story of the battles of Perryville, Kentucky, luka and Corinth, Mississippi, and the Battle of Stones River, Tennessee. These campaigns covered hundreds of miles of territory and, as demonstrated vividly by Hess, had far reaching effects on the Southern armies in the Western theatre of the war. Author Hess views the period from June 1862 to January 1863 as the Confederacy’s greatest opportunity to take the strategic initiative from the Northern armies. The results of the battles fought during this time frame seriously impacted Southern—and Northern— morale, both in and out of the armies involved.

Earl J. Hess has done a masterful job of providing a full, well rounded and easy to read narrative of the June 1862 - January 1863 time frame of events in the Civil War in Western region of the Confederacy. Hess makes sure that the reader understands the impact that territory, geography and man made fortifications have on the battles discussed in the book. By blending hard hitting analysis with a talent for storytelling Hess offers accurate views of leaders such as Braxton Bragg, Don C. Buell, Kirby Smith, and William Rosecrans. None of these men escapes his sharp pointed analysis of their strengths and weakness, and their contributions to victory or defeat in the various battles and campaigns discussed in the pages of Banners to the Breeze.

Banners to the Breeze joins books by James L. McDonough and Peter Cozzens that covered the battles fought between June 1862 and January 1863. While McDonough and Cozzens both focused on specific aspects of the battles and campaign, Hess views the battles fought in this time frame as inseparable and successfully demonstrates that they must be considered together as one huge effort on the part of the Confederate leaders to drive the Union armies from the states of Tennessee and Kentucky and regain huge amounts of Southern soil lost in early 1861—1862. Hess does not attempt a blow-by-blow, detailed description of the battles, but describes them in enough detail to inform the novice reader of the topic as well as hold the interest of the veteran Civil War enthusiast. His interpretation of the impact these battles had on the Confederacy after January 1863 is hard-hitting and accurate.

Banners to the Breeze is a welcome addition to the Civil War literature and research. The book has excellent maps and photographs, some of which have never been published before. Hess made good use of primary sources as well as secondary sources in researching his topic. The description of the trials that the Confederate soldiers endured on the retreat from Kentucky are heart rendering and demonstrate Hess’ ability to relate and empathize with the common foot soldier of both armies.

Hess offers the view that “…the Confederate failure to take the strategic initiative from their enemy and control the course of the war in the West doomed the entire Confederacy. Never again would the Rebels have such an opportunity to do this as they had in the summer of 1862. Their failure may have been the decisive turning point of the Western campaign.” It would be difficult to disagree or dispute this viewpoint, given the history of Confederate armies in the Western theatre after January 1863.

Special thanks to Bill Barkley
Grand Bay Alabama  

Top of Page