War’s Desolating Scourge: The Union’s Occupation of North Alabama
By Joseph W. Danielson
Any soldier that witnessed the total ruin of German Cities during World War II or the massive destruction of Croatian villages during the Balkan wars of the 1990’s understand full well the impact an Army has on the life of a non combatant. Historians caught in the number of battles, casualties, the contrasting personalities of politicians and leaders may be too engrossed in blood and pathos to notice that, what may appear to be an insignificant military operation at Huntsville, AL in April of 1862; one that removed a major railroad of the South’s lines of communication did, just as importantly, lead to a series of events that would galvanize the residents to resist and exist through the foreign occupation of Northern troops and alter the North’s definition of waging war on the noncombatants of the South. Those that have engrossed themselves in the details of General Ornby’s occupation and the exploits of Colonel Turchin may be only a little disappointment but casually review the references Dr. Danielson lists and you will find sources most of our local enthusiasts have never seen or knew existed. This book is not about shedding blood for a new nation but could easily be defined as a political/military analysis and case study of the logic and causes for the Union altering the rules for taking the war to civilians during the Civil War. He addresses all the elements that made North Alabama unique. Dr. Danielson very effectively weaves the key issues of home front attitudes and disposition, the impact of slavery on both the occupiers and the residents of North Alabama, and the juggling of conflicting political and military guidance that ultimately must be enforced by troop on the street. What today we call “Rules of Engagement”. Even the most experienced historian of North Alabama will learn something and be entertained by Dr. Danielson’s the presentation.
The reviewer is Arley McCormick, the Newsletter Editor for the Tennessee Valley Civil War Round Table. He is a former soldier, consultant, and writer for the Military Review. Residing in Europe for fifteen years and totally engrossed in Napoleon he only recently began to absorb the details regarding the American Civil War and its impact upon the culture and social change in the South.