The Summer of ’63: Vicksburg & Tullahoma Favorite Stories and Fresh Perspectives from the Historians at Emerging Civil War, by Chris Mackowski and Dan Welch, Savas Beattie, 2022, 288 pages, A Tennessee Valley Civil War Round Table review by Arley McCormick.
This is another book in the Emerging Civil War series created by Savas Beatie. At first glance it is a curious link between two different campaigns; Vicksburg, a campaign that clearly employed deception, maneuver and siege and, Tullahoma, one army, more or less chasing the other. Vicksburg, a strategic objective, that when taken, would divide the Confederacy and the Tullahoma operation, focused on destroying a Confederate army and ridding Tennessee of a belligerent foe.
On a curious note; Tullahoma is not recognized by the U.S. Army as a campaign and there is no Tullahoma campaign ribbon on its flag staff, but the authors are in good company because many creditable Civil War historians refer to Tullahoma as a campaign.
Many pages are devoted to Vicksburg and include compelling narratives regarding the controversial topics and relationships between General Grant and Admiral Porter, Grant’s disfavor with General McClernand, General Sherman’s feints, Colonel Grierson’s raid, and a key battles leading to the siege and capture of Vicksburg.
It should not be unexpected that the majority of the book is devoted to Vicksburg and it is not a distracter. There are 13 points of interest at Vicksburg described and many are supported by the narrative of the Campaign and the narrative adequately describes the execution of General Grant’s operations and the Confederate response.
The portion of the book devoted to the Tullahoma may be smaller and less dramatic but understanding the terrain features that logically drove General Rosecran’s operations plan and the fights at Hoover and Liberty Gaps, a cavalry engagement at Shelbyville, and smaller actions at river crossings; one of which occurred on the banks of the Elk River resulting Medal of Honor awards for a large number of infantrymen, certainly provides an understanding of the impact the tactical conditions.
The drama of the Tullahoma operation is focused on General Braxton Bragg who is already suffering from bad press in the South, mixed with, often unsolicited advice from his subordinates, and untethered contempt for his leadership.
The authors cannot escape comparing the significance and impact of the Union victories at Vicksburg, Gettysburg, and Tullahoma. One defeated a small Confederate Army and influenced a change in the Union Army leadership of the very top. One repelled a large Confederate Army’s northern invasion with massive casualties and solidified a Union Army leadership team that would be, for the most part, sustained for the remainder of the war, and one chased a large Confederate Army from Tennessee yet the Union Commander was replaced.
1863 was a decisive year in the fight to save the Union and this particular book illustrates how it impacted the Western Theater. It is worthy of a good easy read and, as is often the case, a useful companion if your journeys take you to the terrain cited in the narrative.
MAJ (ret) Mark Smith and COL (ret) Wade Sokolosky, Savas Beatie LLC, El Dorado Hills, CA, 2015 270 pages, $27.95
In March 1865, the War Between the States had about six weeks left. The Confederate Army was not beaten however. In a series of tactical actions, the understrength and depleted Confederates bloodied the nose of advancing Federal forces. One of those places was at Wise’s Forks, southeast of Goldsboro.
“To Prepare for Sherman’s Coming: The Battle of Wise’s Forks, March 1865” by MAJ (ret) Mark Smith and COL (ret) Wade Sokolosky (former USACGSC faculty member) is a well-documented and researched study. This is the authors’ second book and an outstanding addition to “No Such Army Since the Days of Julius Caesar: Sherman’s Carolina’s Campaign from Fayetteville to Averasboro”.
Wise’s Forks lies just off the Atlantic and North Carolina Rail Road that runs from New Bern to Goldsboro. Near the town of Kinston, the Confederate army under General Bragg made a stand to delay Federal forces moving from the coast to Goldsboro. The rail line was key to Sherman’s advance into the interior of North Carolina. Union control of the rail line would allow Federal logistical support to Sherman’s army. It thus became the focus of a major operation to clear the line to Goldsboro.
The dilemmas faced by Confederate General Johnston in the allocation and positioning of forces was that his armies faced threats from multiple axes. The Union Army corps commander, Maj Gen Jacob Cox, was thrown into the fight with a “Provisional” army corps. This ad hoc unit of both veteran and untried units was tasked by the Department of North Carolina commander with making junction with Sherman’s Army and facilitating the opening of the rail logistics line to Goldsboro.
With a tie to the problems faced with current expeditionary force doctrine and modularity; what happens to the Federal Army demonstrates leadership issues with units that have not trained together. By dint of heroism and luck, they do not suffer a major defeat at the country crossroads known as Wise’s Forks.
Written by Army veterans and military historians, this story exudes a level of understanding of the intricacies that those who have not worn combat boots do not normally grasp. Illustrated with excellent tactical maps; rare images of participants never before published; and superlative footnotes, this book does much to add to the history of the campaign in the Carolinas. An outstanding bibliography belies the excellent research conducted by the authors.
Smith and Sokolosky have made a readable history that ties tactics, logistics and “face of battle” leadership issues together that both novice and seasoned historians can enjoy. The analysis at the end of the book is outstanding in regards to relating exactly what we teach our military students today about the link between the tactical, operational, and strategic “ends-ways-means”. This is an excellent addition to professional officers’ book cases for these reasons.
LtCol (ret) Edwin Kennedy, Jr is a retired infantry officer and former history department and tactics department instructor at the United States Army Command and General Staff College, and currently the President of the Tennessee Valley Civil War Round Table.
The Great “What Ifs” of the American Civil War, Historians Tackle the Conflict’s Most Intriguing Possibilities, edited by Chris Mackowski and Brian Matthew Jordan, published by Savas Beatie, 2021, a Tennessee Valley Civil War Roundtable review by Arley McCormick
It’s here. This is supporting analysis that addresses alternatives Civil War enthusiasts have considered and debated for years. “What ifs” have no right answer but they certainly challenge the logic and understanding of the known facts or at least the accepted historical facts. Yet this time the authors and editors, having extensive experience researching and analyzing aspects of the War and Lost Cause with basic logic and solid thought and analysis. They create compelling and convincing arguments based upon historical and technical knowledge and each possess a grasp of the character(s) position and perspective. They write impeccably well and they spin an interesting yarn and that is just what is needed to spice up conversation regarding the War Between the States.
Timothy B. Smith begins with what could have happened if Albert Sidney Johnston had not bled out on the battlefield and his successor not called off assaults because of darkness? And there are other suggestions regarding Shiloh. Then, Kevin Pawlak addresses September 13, 1862; the Maryland campaign and the famous Special Order No. 191 covering Robert E. Lee’s intent lost and found by the Union leadership.
Dwight Hughes addresses the big international question President Davis waited for; British intervention on behalf of the South. Frank Jastrzembski addresses the impact of Alfred Pleasonton not accepting command of the Army of the Potomac and Kristopher D. White presents arguments that may be valid if General “Stonewall Jackson” had not died. Dan Welch presents an alternative reality describing what may have happened at Gettysburg if General Longstreet’s advice to go around the right were accepted. Then, a question that lingers in every enthusiasts’ mind; What if Jefferson Davis and not been so loyal to Braxton Bragg? Chris Mackowski presents the possibilities if Robert E. Lee had hit the North Anna River really hard and even the Western Theater is covered as Kristen M. Trout challenges a different outcome if Sterling Price’s 1864 Missouri Expedition were successful. Even the Northern political outcome of 1864 is challenged with Jonathan A. Noyalas suggesting an alternative result if Sherman and Sheridan had not set the military conditions for Lincoln’s successful Presidential campaign. And what if Robert E. Lee had encouraged a Guerrilla War in April 1865 and what if Lincoln had lived? Brian Matthew Jordan and Evan C. Rothera have an alternative. Finally, Chris Mackowski and Daniel T. Davis suggest an alternative if General George Meade were captured at Spotsylvania.
There is a lot to get your head around here and it is supported with suggested reading, graphics and character sketches throughout. Proposing the alternatives suggested will certainly spice up any Civil War discussion among the enthusiasts that try to find a reason for turning West rather than South where all the marbles were lost.
The Summer of ’63: Gettysburg: Favorite Stories and Fresh Perspectives from the Historians at Emerging Civil War (Emerging Civil War Anniversary Series), By Chris Mackowski, a Tennessee Valley Civil War Round Table review by Arley McCormick
You have enough space on your shelf for another volume of Savas Beatie’s Emerging Civil War Series addressing, possibly, the most written about the battle of the Civil War. There are 8 maps that will not surprise enthustic students of the battle and included are details regarding leaders, decisions, and failures well documented and debated, that contributed to the result each day. The essays from various authors provide an interesting spin including Melville’s poetry and Eric Wittenberg’s contrast of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. Another essay addresses the commanders of the Army of the Potomac, Joseph Hooker to George Meade; and, also the often slighted first day failure of the Confederate Army to capture Culp’s Hill and Cemetery Hill.
Joshua Chamberlain attracts many authors as a subject of great importance but is only lightly mentioned as writers focus on other aspects of the day’s fighting. After the battle when the guns are silent another essay addresses the impact upon the post war period and for a final word, a description of the 1913 reunion when survivors from North and South gathered on the battle ground to mend the fences that separated them in 1863.
It may be useful to be familiar with the battle, but if not, a more contemporary perspective may offer a solid contrast to support further analysis of the battle, leaders, and events that make the Civil War such a fascinating, devastating, and pivotal event in the history of our country.
Lincoln Comes to Gettysburg – The Creation of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, by Bradley M. Gottfried and Linda I. Gottfried, Savas Beatie, A Tenneessee Valley Civil War Round Table review by Ricardo Jaramillo
In 1863 the Union States that lost soldiers during the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863) agreed to the establishment of the “Soldiers’ National Cemetery” (now known as the Gettysburg National Cemetery). The coordinators invited war-time President Lincoln to make “a few appropriate remarks” for the cemetery’s consecration and dedication. The Commissioners were shocked when Lincoln accepted the invitation. At the Soldiers National Cemetery, on November 19, 1863, Lincoln’s remarks followed the famous orator Edward Everett’s two-hour speech. In 272 words in ten sentences, Lincoln delivered his ‘few appropriate remarks’ in approximately two minutes. One hundred fifty-eight years later, a speech he might have finished composing in his room the night before, President Lincoln’s immortal Gettysburg Address, is well-known throughout the free world.
What is not well known, and what the book’s authors provide, is the logistics and political maneuvering conducted in preparation for the cemetery’s design, consecration, and dedication. The Commander-In-Chief only decided to attend on November 17, two days before the ceremony commencement. In addition, fifteen thousand spectators were planning to attend the momentous consecration ceremony, thus making transportation, lodging, and other necessities scarce for a small town of 2,400 people. The task of creating a cemetery befitting the thousands of Union soldiers who succumbed to the battle and were lying on the battleground was monumental.
Dead soldiers lay all over the battlefield. The carnage also consisted of many dead horses, mules, and other creatures. Fellow soldiers made efforts to bury their comrades on the battlefield during and immediately after the battle. The stench was horrific after just a few days and during the cemetery consecration. However, the task of removing the dead soldiers from the battlefield took months. Finally, the disinterment to bury the soldiers in the Soldiers’ National Cemetery began October 27, 1863, with the last exhumed on March 18, 1864. The authors have captured this often omitted part of the cemetery’s creation.
The authors provided interesting information related to the written Address. For example, is the final edition of the Gettysburg Address, as spoken by Lincoln, what we know today? Even though reporters dictated as Lincoln said it, it differs by what the newspapers printed. The Nicolay Copy, named after John G. Nicolay (Lincoln’s personal secretary), is thought to be the most accurate copy of Lincoln’s Gettysburg address. Also, when and where Lincoln completed composing the Address has been questioned by historians. Some propose that Lincoln wrote it on the train to Gettysburg. Others think he scribbled it out the night before the Address, and several other opinions exist.
I enthusiastically recommend this book for both the novice and well-rounded civil war enthusiast.
A Mortal Blow to the Confederacy, The Fall of New Orleans, 1862, Mark F. Bielski, 2021 Savas Beatie, 194 pages. A Tennessee Valley Civil War Round Table review by Arley McCormick
This volume is a credit to the Savas Beatie Emerging Civil War Series and follows a similar format as previously published books in the series. Mark F. Bielski covers the antebellum years, the advantage of New Orleans as a port to the world, the slave trade, and the debate within the Confederacy’s leadership regarding its importance and defense. He amplifies 1861 as more than the year the war began, but as a year when the reality of conducting a war illustrated the limitations of the Confederacy’s ability to wage war and the constitutional limitations a Commander in Chief possessed to implement any plans approved in Richmond.
There is ample discussion regarding the forts and outer defenses including Ship Island. One annex is devoted to both the Union and Confederate Navy and Army organizations and of course, throughout the book, the characters that played a key role in the establishment of New Orleans and the State of Louisiana, National policy, military decision making, and failures to act decisively.
This is another excellent reference and guide to the numerous locations in and around New Orleans that became targets and points of interest created by the events of the American Civil War.
Grant’s Left Hook, The Bermuda Hundred Campaign, May 5 – June 7, 1864
by Sean Michael Chick, Savas Beatie, A Tennessee Valley Civil War Round Table
(July 2021) by Emil L. Posey
After being promoted by President Lincoln to Lieutenant General (at the time
only the second in our history to hold that rank) and assigned to command of all
Union armies, Grant developed and implemented a coordinated strategy to bring
the war to an end. He sent Maj. General Tecumseh Sherman with three Union
armies (of the Tennessee, of Ohio, and of the Cumberland) south from
Chattanooga into Georgia to capture Atlanta and Maj. General George Gordon
Meade’s Army of the Potomac southward from the Rapidan River in northern
Virginia towards Richmond. Grant accompanied the Army of the Potomac. One
of the supporting operations would be conducted by Maj. General Benjamin
Franklin Butler’s Army of the James. It would ascend the James River with
something over 30,000 men towards Richmond and invest the city from the
south. In doing so, it would act as a detached left wing for the Army of the
Potomac, hence the title of this book.
There are two themes in this book. One is a detailed description of the military
operations undertaken by this “left hook,” including the organization, objectives,
performance, and personalities of both sides. Mr. Chick’s analyses of objectives,
maneuvers, and results are meticulous and insightful. The other theme, which I
found even more interesting, is a character study of Butler himself. Of particular
interest is the deteriorating relationship between Grant and Butler, never good
at its best. The first sentence of Mr. Chick’s first chapter sets the tone in this
regard, “In a war noted for contentious personalities, few could compete with
Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler.” To use a modern aphorism, Butler was a real piece
of work. While Butler had his moments in the field, overall, he was a mediocre
general officer moved too often by political ambition rather than battlefield
exigencies. He was also unprincipled and larcenous, character flaws to which he
Mr. Chick provides context for events throughout, supported by a large
number of photographs, maps, and biographical profiles of key individuals. He
includes a detailed driving tour for those interested in viewing the ground firsthand,
six appendices on various topics (several of which are authored by
historians in addition to Mr. Chick, and two of which expand on Butler himself),
a detailed order of battle for both sides, and a suggested reading list for further
This is a great read on a topic that is too often treated as a sideshow in Civil
War histories. While not decisive for either side, the campaign was of great
importance to Lee’s efforts in response to Grant’s Overland Campaign. It is a
useful work for both the casual reader and more experienced students of the
Mr. Chick is a New Orleans native with an undergraduate degree from the
University of New Orleans and a Master of Arts from Southeastern Louisiana
University. He is currently a New Orleans tour guide who gives one of the only
guided tours of the French Quarter concentrating on the American Civil War and
slavery. He also volunteers at the Historic New Orleans Collection and writes for
NOLA Defender. His first book was The Battle of Petersburg, June 15–18, 1864.
Your reviewer is Emil L. Posey, member in good standing of the TVCWRT. His work
history spans almost 45 years of military and civilian service to our country. He retired
from NASA/George C. Marshall Space Flight Center on December 27, 2014. He has a
bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Hood College, Frederick, Maryland; is a former
president of the Huntsville chapter of the National Contract Management Association, a
life member of both the Special Forces Association and the 175th Infantry Association,
and a member in good standing of Elks Lodge 1648 (Huntsville, AL). He is a dedicated
bibliophile and a (very) armchair political and military enthusiast.
Unlike Anything That Ever Floated, The Monitor and Virginia and the Battle of Hampton Roads, March 8-9, 1862, by Dwight Sturtevant Hughes, Savas Beatie, 194 pages, a Tennessee Valley Civil War Round Table review by Arley McCormick
This is another instalment in the Emerging Civil War Series that will delight Navy enthusiasts and others. The author, Mr. Hughes, is a former Naval officer and well suited for describing one of the most exciting innovations to America’s sea power. In ten quick chapters he describes the technical aspects of the CSS Virginia and Monitor, the people that dared to dream what was possible, man it in war, and make history.
Contrasts of technology innovation compared to the standard ship of the line, the maneuver limitations and challenges, and the impact of weather and shipmates on the days and hours preceding the fight that has inspired writers for decades is well defined. There is ample discussion of the impact and context of war facing the Confederacy in the early months of 1862 and the administrative decisions and actions that proceeded construction and destruction of vessels in the fight. Excellent narratives detail the fight with supporting maps and topics that aroused the press, military leadership, and future historians and give clear unequivocal clarity to the events of the fight.
Readers will appreciate the abbreviated biographies of many key people who influenced and fought the battle on the water as they represent the character of America’s fighting men of the day. There is ample insight from various participants on the day that illustrate the fear, training, and memorable events. John V. Quarstein provides an excellent Afterword describing events most readers seldom pursue regarding ships, technology, and presidential guidance. And, Annexes provide ample tour guidance and orders of battle.
This is certainly a useful primer from the Emerging Civil War Series to add to your collection.
Meade and Lee at Rappahannock Station, The Army of the Potomac’s First Post-Gettysburg Offensive, From Kelly’s Ford to the Rapidan, October 21 to November 20, 1863, By Jeffrey Wm Hunt, Savas Beatie, 283 pages, 2021. A Tennessee Valley Civil War Round Table Review by Arley McCormick.
There were many more battles to fight in the Eastern Theater (1863) after Gettysburg and there were distractions in the Western Theater and Trans-Mississippi Theater. This title is the third of a four-volume series devoted to the war in Virginia after Gettysburg and focuses on the Army of the Potomac (AoP) and the Army of Northern Virginia (AoNV) meeting at Rappahannock Station and Kelly’s Ford. The commanders are General George Gordon Mead, commander of the AoP, and General Robert E. Lee, commanding the AoNV.
The author, Jeffrey William Hunt, illustrates the characters that play key roles in these contests and frame their action with strategic considerations offered from General Halleck and President Abraham Lincoln in Washington, adding well documented operations analysis considered by both Commanders and some of their subordinates. The drama eventually played out on the battlefield is antagonized by the national press and Washington bureaucrats judging General Meade’s inaction and comparing him to the previous AoP Commander, General McClelland, suggesting General Lee’s superiority.
Jeffrey William Hunt is Director of the Texas Military Forces Museum and an adjunct professor of History at Austin Community College, where he has taught since 1988. His experience is clearly evident as he transitions easily from the a discussion on operational art to unit movements such as Longstreet’s departure to the Western Theater with his 19,000 First Corps troops reducing General Lee’s troop strength facing the AoP. He addresses General Mead’s consideration of moving behind the repair of the O&A railroad, posting formations along the way to protect supply lines from Confederate raiders, and the personal overt criticism of allowing Lee to get away from Gettysburg and not aggressively pursuing him until November.
Mr. Hunt’s description of each tactical scene is accompanied with antidotes of soldiers that experienced the contest as documented in diaries, letters, and other recorded formats of the era including the official records. He, in dramatic fashion, illustrate both the courage and the sacrifice soldiers in blue and gray willingly contributed to win the day.
This is an exceptionally well written and documented publication and the challenge of troops on the ground and the maps depicting the assorted positions of the Armies are sufficient to illustrate troop movement and contact.