Under the Crescent Moon: With the XI Corps in the Civil War, Volume I. James S. Pula. Savas Beatie. 308 pages. Reviewed by John Scales.
Under the Crescent Moon is the first volume of a history of the famous, or infamous, Union army corps that somewhat unfairly received the blame for the collapse of Union lines at Chancellorsville and during Gettysburg’s first day. The purpose of the author is clear: remove the stain associated with the corps by blaming its commander O. O. Howard and anti-German (“Dutch”) prejudice for its sullied reputation. This first volume covers first discusses the officers who initially served under Sigel in the Valley and under Pope at II Manassas and followed him as his troops were designated the XI Corps of the Army of the Potomac. Serving in the defenses of Washington during Antietam and arriving too late for Fredericksburg, the corps was something of a stepchild to start with. Sigel’s resignation and replacement by Howard did not help. After the first hundred pages or so which moved rather slowly, the author delves deeply into the Battle of Chancellorsville for the balance of the book. Apparently, Gettysburg will be treated in Volume II. The author makes a convincing case that Howard was primarily to blame for the collapse of the corps in the face of Jackson’s attack and a somewhat less convincing argument that the corps was militarily very capable. I think he somewhat overstates his case, but he does advance some excellent arguments and the discussion of the battle at the regiment level is very interesting.