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Tennessee Valley Civil War Round Table

Education and Preservation

Gettysburg: Kids Who Did the Impossible!

The book, Gettysburg Kids Who Did The Impossible by Gregory Christianson, is about a bunch of kids who risked their lives to either help soldiers or just keep their family and animals safe. This book also gives some perspective on what life was like during the war and battles. As I was reading this book I found that is was very interesting to me. I feel like both adults and kids could enjoy this book. There were pictures and stories to satisfy readers of all ages. There were facts about generals in the war, about Abraham Lincoln, and more. 

I cannot think of a single bad thing about this book. It was very well organized and had many paintings and pictures showing what was happening. I feel like this is an important book because all the time the only people mentioned were the adults who fought (and don’t get me wrong, they deserved to be mentioned for their actions) but everyone forgets about kids who also played an important role in the wars and battles. For ever person who bought a loaf of bread for a soldier and every young woman who helped at a hospital, they should have a chance for their story to get told. I feel that this is what the book did. It let their stories be told.

Reviewed by Emily Creekmore, 7th grade.

Confederate Soldiers in the American Civil War: Facts and Photos for Readers of All Ages

 Mark Hughes has written a great primer for those who are new to studying the War Between the States.  Chocked full of period “images”, this book gives a great overview into the culture of the period.  It is not a definitive history but serves to whet the appetite of those who do not have an in-depth understanding of the war.  It is a “picture book”.  The table of contents gives a fast overview of the topics illustrated.  They range from enlisting in the armies to technology, and POWs among other topics.

   What should be interesting to the reader are the numerous descriptions and captions for images not usually seen in other publications.  One would think that after all the books being printed, the images would be the same ones.  Not so with this book.  There are a plethora of images and they are well-annotated with interesting narratives.

   Hughes does a very good job of tying the images to historical facts regarding the war.  Prisoners are not just soldiers who are captured ---- they are used as teaching points.  He uses the POW images to describe prisoner camps on both sides and the “exchange” system which eventually broke-down.  The images serve as a means by which to discuss the war in finite “bytes”.   For example, the war at sea is concisely addressed by giving the history of specific ships ---- such as the CSS Chicora.  The Chicora’s history is the background for an explanation of the blockade.  Hughes even includes an image of one of his ancestors, Andrew Jackson Hughes explaining what happened to each veteran.

   The end of the book has interesting information on the “last” Confederate soldier; researching Confederate ancestors; an excellent glossary of period terms; and geographic points of interest in the South (including short descriptions, website addresses and locations).

   I highly recommend this book for high school students to senior citizens who don’t have a depth of knowledge regarding the war but would like to learn more.  

 

Reviewed by Ed Kennedy

Targeted Tracks: The Cumberland Valley Railroad in the Civil War, 1861-1865

 Admittedly, at first glance the thought may occur regarding why the Cumberland Valley Railroad, with its origin in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and terminus only about 25 miles inside the Maryland border at Hagerstown be of any consequence or interest with Civil War enthusiasts. The answer is revealed.

   The authors illustrate why every great military commander understands the value of a strong logistics support structure and they very ably address how a fledgling nation, recognizing the need to move goods from their point of origin to the American market and beyond to Europe, needed faster and more efficient transportation alternatives than road and rivers. They also address the contrast between the quality and quantity of rail in the North and the South and the use of rail as a force multiplier by rapidly transporting troops and war supplies by using interior lines i.e., rail but always subject to enemy interdiction. General Joseph E. Johnston demonstrated the concept at first Bull Run. 

   They describe the difference between the Federal government’s practice of nationalizing the use of rail and the Confederacy’s less aggressive management that conceded to States Rights doctrine by relying on patriotism to support an essential military need.

   Substantial research supports the narrative and the authors describe the various incidences with direct Civil War implications from John Brown’s clandestine shipment of arms to support his aggressive action in Kansas and Harpers Ferry, the Confederate raid on Chambersburg, Pennsylvania and the impact on the Union Army resupply after the Battle of Gettysburg. 

   Unlike the South, where the limited industry was devastated by war, in the North, the economy flourished and the railroads benefited financially adding to the economic benefits of westward expansion.

   The author’s respective skills complement and benefits the narrative with Scott Mangus’ skills as a consultant as well as his research and writing regarding slavery and the Underground Railroad. Cooper Wingert is also an accomplished author of Civil War related topics that complement the scientific background of Mr. Mangus. They provide a compelling analysis of the Cumberland Rail line in the era of national growth and war.

 

Reviewed by Arley McCormick

Attack at Daylight and Whip Them: The Battle of Shiloh, April 6-7, 1862

  The Savas Beatie paperbacks referred to as the “Emerging Civil War Series” are detailed guidebooks of the titled Battlefields. Similar to previous publications in the series a visitor to the site may drive the referenced route of the battlefield and digest the key elements of the fight from the perspective of both the Blue and the Gray. 

   Attack at Daylight and Whip Them, is focused on the leadership, tactical decisions of the Battle of Shiloh on both armies and the impact of national understanding of what the Civil War would become. It is an overview that describes and illustrates the judgment most historians consider the most insightful regarding the battle. It doesn’t challenge previous judgments but does offer explanations regarding the decisions and the personalities of those that made them. 

   The guide highlights the background leading to the battle, and the conflict often written regarding Generals’ Albert Sydney Johnson and P.G. Beauregard, General Lew Wallace, and Generals’ William Tecumseh Sherman and U.S. Grant. Gregory Mertz also highlights notable participants and the order of battle is very useful as well as the appendix listing other accounts of the Battle of Shiloh.

   There are ample photographs, sketches, and maps to prepare the reader for an interesting and informed visit to the battlefield. 

   I recommend this account of the Battle of Shiloh. It continues in the tradition of the series to providing a simplified version of the battle with all the ingredients needed to peak the enthusiasm of the Civil War novas and experienced student alike.  

 

Reviewed by Arley McCormick

“too Much for Human Endurance”: The George Spangler Farm Hospitals and the Battle of Gettysburg

   Libraries, private and public, include shelves of books dedicated to the Battle of Gettysburg. All the fighting at the epic battle is documented in detail but the logistics and medical services have yet to be fully explained and documented. Mr. Kirkwood fills that void with “Too Much for Human Endurance”. 

   Ronald D. Kirkwood is an award winning writer and a docent at the Spangler farm since it opened in 2013. In describing the contribution of the Spangler farm he introduces leaders, surgeons and sergeants, and describes the ebbs and flow of the battle line as it applies to the tenacious attempts to save soldiers lives. He includes 60 photos and 13 sketches and maps with sufficient detail to clearly support his narrative.    

   Mr. Kirkwood describes the medical support that occurred on George Spangler’s Farm and much more. There is no doubt the authors intent to detail the medical support provided on the land associated with the farm and it’s relation to the battle itself is fulfilled. His description of the support structure amplified by numerous narratives provided by those that served as reluctant patients, and provides a description of death such as that of Confederate General Lewis A. Armistead.

   His narrative amplifies the status of medicine, sanitation, and the use of chloroform to mitigate pain and anguish, allowing medical practitioners to apply their skill to save lives.  While the patients on the farm were principally from the XI Corps. Other organizations were treated as well and the annexes detail the biographies of surgeons, elements of the XI Corps, how the artillery reserve at the battle was utilized, specifically the 2nd Connecticut Light Artillery, and an accounting of the Spangler farm wounded and dead. 

   This is an excellent and very detailed look at the activities behind the battle line fighting at Gettysburg and a rare description of the energy exerted to save lives and support the tactical success of the Union Army at Gettysburg.

   As an aside former President Richard Nixon placed flowers at his great-great-great grandfather’s grave in 1953 at Gettysburg.

   Mr. Kirkland’s book is clearly an excellent addition to the Gettysburg story as well as a detailed accounting of military medical practice in 1863.

 

Reviewed by Arley McCormick

Meade and Lee at Bristoe Station: The Problems of Command and Strategy After Gettysburg, from Brandy Station to the Buckland Races, August 1 to October 31, 1863

 Meade and Lee at Bristoe Station is an outstanding book that answers the question: what did Lee and Meade do when both armies were in Virginia after returning from Gettysburg? It will be remembered that Longstreet with two divisions was sent West to reinforce Bragg, leading to Chickamauga, and some may remember the Union countered by sending the XI and XII Corps to reinforce Rosecrans. This left two depleted armies facing each other in Northern Virginia. 

   Lee resolved to take advantage of the situation by trying to replicate the Second Manassas Campaign – and he was partially successful, driving Meade all the way back to Centerville. However, miscues by A. P. Hill and skill mixed with some luck on Meade’s part thwarted Lee’s designs, and by the end of October, 1863, the armies had returned to their previous locations. This book is the story of that campaign.

   The author has done a great job – excellent description with plenty of maps allow you to see exactly what both sides intended and how they executed those intentions. I highly recommend this book as an exposition of both the tactics employed and the campaign strategy (operational art to us Army guys). Great read!

 

Reviewed by John Scales

“This Place Matters”

Tuesday, April 30, 2pm
205 Eastside Square

Mayor Battle and local officials will kick off Huntsville’s 2019 annual historic preservation campaign, which runs during May. He will proclaim that “This Place Matters” at the formerly-hidden, mid-1800s brick sidewalk.

The Huntsville-Madison Historical Society and The Historic Huntsville Foundation partnered with city departments and Berry Baugh Allen of Baugh Art, to design, fabricate, and install a modern viewing structure. It replaces the heavily weathered box that stood over the old sidewalk since 1974.

High school students from the theater department of Randolph School will mingle as characters from Huntsville’s early days, in honor of the Alabama Bicentennial, 1819-2019. A short tour of the ornate lobby of the former Elbert H. Parsons Law Library may be available as time allows.

The public is cordially invited.

Questions? Carol Codori, 256-293-0075 or carolcodori@att.net





The Real Horse Soldiers: Benjamin Grierson’s Epic 1863 Civil War Raid Through Mississippi

Dr. Timothy B. Smith, the author, wanted to tell a good story, describe the events in a social context, and include the operational considerations that fully illustrate the significance of the achievement.  He achieved his objectives.

John Wayne’s cavalry adventure “The Horse Soldiers” was entertaining but not exactly correct. Dr. Smith, also the author of “Champion Hill: Decisive battle for Vicksburg”, explains the considerations and analysis leading to the operational faints and distractions orchestrated in Northwest Mississippi and North Alabama to confuse the Confederate commanders in Mississippi and Richmond allowing Grierson to execute the primary mission; destroy and disrupt the Mississippi Southern Railroad resupply of Vicksburg that passed through the rail hub at Newton Station and distract Confederate action from Grant as he crossed the Mississippi River south of Vicksburg.

Mr. Smith includes a number of simple yet clear maps of the area of operation, essentially Mississippi, that aid understanding the complexity of the operational situation and the audacity of Grierson’s challenge. He provides an interesting character study of Grierson and other officers and men participating. He describes the task organization of the cavalry and detachments and the missions they were assigned and executed on their trek through Mississippi. All topics essential to a complete study of military operations. Readers will also enjoy the prologue that describes journalists, individual participants, Union military leaders, and even the Confederate response to the raid. The author also describes the impact of the raid on the lives of some soldiers for the remainder of the war and in life, providing testimony to how the hazards of war linger with its participants. 

This book will not only impress cavalry enthusiasts, but anyone with a serious or casual interest in Civil War operations and the personalities that experience it.

 

Reviewed by Arley McCormick

Holding the Line on the River of Death: Union Mounted Forces at Chickamauga, September 18, 1863

This exceptionally well-researched and written book provides a tremendous view of the opening tactical actions of the battle of Chickamauga, Georgia 19-20 September 1863 from the Federal’s perspective.  The author, Eric Wittenburg writes a detailed account of the actions of two major units involved in the opening stages of the battle: Minty’s cavalry and Wilder’s mounted infantry brigades.   His bibliography is extensive and demonstrates the use of a wide breath of applicable resources.  

The basic premise of the book is that the two mounted brigades of Wilder and Minty “saved” the Army of the Cumberland in September 1863.  Although the army was defeated, it was not destroyed.  I think the author definitively proved his thesis in a clear, logical manner.  Much of the mounted forces’ actions happened in spite of the very confused, and almost panicked response by Major General Rosecrans to the discovery of General Bragg’s army in close proximity.  Rosecrans’s actions to consolidate his widely dispersed forces to meet Bragg’s imminent threat caused units to re-task organize on-the-move and conduct a withdrawal in contact, a less than desirable method of conducting operations.  

Colonel Robert Minty, a former British Army officer and extremely capable cavalry commander, led a cavalry brigade in Major General McCook’s XX Corps (cavalry).  Two of the three regiments were armed with carbines, the third was armed with Colt revolving rifles essentially making them “mounted infantry”.  Colonel Wilder, a former businessman, led a brigade of mounted infantry who were armed with the relatively new, breech-loading Spencer rifle.  While mounted infantry was not a new concept, it was first successfully employed in the Army of the Cumberland during the Tullahoma Campaign.  While Wittman claims Wilder “invented” the “concept” of mounted infantry, this is not exactly correct.  The Regiment of Mounted Riflemen, later becoming the 3rd U.S. Cavalry, was formed in 1846, pre-dating Wilder’s unit.  Arguably, the U.S. Dragoons (1833) pre-date both of those organizations.  The concept had been around for a number of years.  Wilder’s real claim-to-fame was the arming of his mounted units with the new, multi-shot, Spencer rifle.

Both brigades had a complement of field artillery.  Minty had a section from the Chicago Board of Trade battery and Wilder had Eli Lilly’s battery (18th Independent Battery, Indiana Light Artillery) which was attached to Wilder’s unit giving both units their own direct support artillery responding to their commanders’ needs.

In mid-September 1863, McCook’s XX Corps was operating on a widely separated avenue of approach as the right wing of the Army of the Cumberland.  All of Rosecrans’ corps’s were out of mutually supporting distance based on his misperception that the Confederates were withdrawing to Atlanta.  Minty’s brigade had been detached from XX Corps to provide cavalry support to XXI Corps (Crittenden) on the far-left wing of the army.  Wilder’s brigade was nominally part of Reynolds division of Granger’s Reserve Corps, but because of their unique capabilities, were operating, almost at the discretion of Major General Rosecrans, forward of the army.  This had the potential for impacting command and control except for the excellent cooperation exhibited by both Minty and Wilder with each other.  As the battle developed, so did potential problems as commanders “jumped the chains of command”.  Major General Rosecrans was not beyond by-passing corps and division commanders to order division commanders (two levels down) what to do, a significant faux pas in the military.

Both Minty and Wilder recognized the threat posed by Bragg’s army consolidation in north Georgia during mid-September 1863.  Both these brigades immediately deployed against Bragg’s consolidation and north-ward advance with the intent to slow the Confederates.  Minty’s superior, Crittenden, refused to acknowledge Bragg’s threat until it was literally on top of him.  Rosecrans recognized the threat to his line of communication and ability to withdraw to Chattanooga but time was not on his side.  It was then that the mounted forces of Wilder’s mounted infantry and Minty’s cavalry proved their real value to the Army of the Cumberland.

Wittenberg makes an excellent analogy to modern tactical doctrine.  The deployment of Minty and Wilder’s brigades against Bragg on 18 September was, as aptly pointed-out by Wittenberg, in what are now considered “traditional” cavalry roles.  They acted as a “covering force” in modern doctrinal parlance.  Additionally, while the definition of security tasks have not changed substantially since WWII, Wittenberg does reference an Army manual twenty years out-of-date. The tasks performed by Minty and Wilder were “covering forces” cited by Wittenberg because they operated away from the main force, were designed to “buy-time” for the main body to maneuver, and they accepted engagement in decisive combat.  This is a significant topic of discussion with Army units that I frequently take to Chickamauga.  The difference between a “cover” and “screen” (or “guard”) tasks differ in a number of ways to those in Army units that must conduct these.  Wittenberg correctly assesses what Minty and Wilder did and correctly ties it to our modern doctrinal tasks.  

Wittenberg does a great job of introducing the reader to the different commanders and key participants by the use of explanatory footnotes.  They add much to the book and add a great deal to the understanding of who these men were.  I give major kudos to his excellent notes.  The short biographies of these personnel makes for interesting reading and does much to add to the understanding of the people involved in this major battle.

The writing style is easy to read and Wittenberg’s organization is excellent.  The bane of editors are maps but I believe that there can never be too many.  A few more would have been excellent but the ones that are used are very good.  The period and modern images of commanders and locations are interesting although the modern photos are not the best printed quality.  I really like the driving instructions and the fact that GPS coordinates are listed for those not familiar with the battlefield.  They make the book infinitely more useable for those visiting the battlefield. The organization table showing the armaments of the different regiments is superlative.  However, photos and descriptions of the weapons would have been a nice addition for those who are not familiar with period weapons.

There are a few points that I disagree with, or, are minor editorial errors.  The claim that Bragg and President Jefferson Davis were life-long “friends” is not an interpretation that I agree with since Bragg left the US Army largely as a result of Davis’ treatment.  Infantry cartridge boxes carried 40 rather than 60 rounds, and Bragg’s offensive plans seemed to be more of a result of fragmentary orders than “carefully laid plan(s)”.

Wittenberg weaves the complex maneuver of both armies into a highly readable and logical story making this book a tremendous resource for the study of the campaign and battle of Chickamauga.  Overall, I rate this book as an A+ that does much to add to the understanding of the battle at Chickamauga and the war.  It is a “must read” for students of the battle.  

Reviewed by Ed Kennedy

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