Tennessee Valley Civil War Round Table

Education and Preservation


The Summer of ’63 – Vicksburg & Tullahoma – Favorite Stories and Fresh Perspectives from the Historians at Emerging Civil War

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.

The Great “What Ifs” of the American Civil War, Historians Tackle the Conflict’s Most Intriguing Possibilities

 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

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.

Fight Like the Devil: The First Day at Gettysburg, July 1, 1863

The first day of the Battle of Gettysburg is sometimes overlooked by students of the battle, dismissed as a mere prelude to the more significant combat taking place on 2d and 3d July, 1863. Many casual students of the battle recall the first day for the “missed opportunity” when the Confederate Army failed to seize Culps and Cemetery Hills at the end of the day. This failure permitted the Federal Army to rally on this commanding ground, then fortify and reinforce the terrain to anchor their defensive line for the next two days of battle.

The authors argue that the first day’s fight deserves greater attention from the Civil War students, and have written a provocative if brief history and driving-tour guide to assist visitors better understand the significance of the fighting north and west of Gettysburg town.

Part of the successful Emerging Civil War series, this book is the first of at least three that Savas Beatie will publish on the Battle of Gettysburg. The authors are all former or current National Park historians and together have published over a dozen books on Civil War topics.

After a short review of the Confederate invasion and the Federal countermoves, the narrative chronologically reviews the first day’s events, completing each episode with a ‘Stop;’ generally a statue or battlefield marker. These dismount points are provided with GPS coordinates, and the text orients the reader to the ground, as an aid in better understanding the importance of the terrain to the event.

The authors contradict two of the ‘myths’ of the Battle of Gettysburg, devoting space in the main narrative and in more detailed appendices:  That Gettysburg contained large supplies of shoes, and that Stonewall Jackson could have and would have seized the high ground south of Gettysburg, had he been spared to command his troops that day.

For me those appendixes, and several others written by noted experts such as Eric Wittenberg, are the most interesting parts of the book. One appendix re-considers the ability of Federal General John Reynolds (who was killed during the first day’s battle and is often given credit for choosing Gettysburg as a battleground). Another explains the significance of General George Meade’s “Pipe Creek” memorandum, and still another explains just what happened in the course of General Stuart’s ride around the Federal Army and why Stuart’s absence disabled General Lee’s campaign plan.

The authors pack a great deal of information into this small book. The maps are very well done and will add considerably to understanding unit movements. It is a good beginner’s guide to the battle.


Reviewed by David Lady

That Furious Struggle: Chancellorsville and the High Tide of the Confederacy, May 1-4, 1863

Chancellorsville is a classic in the study not only of the Civil War and military history in general, but also of leadership, risk-taking, and military tactics.

The First Battle of Manassas (Bull Run) on July 21, 1861, had shown that indeed there would be large-scale, open war between north and south.  The Battle of Shiloh (April 6-7, 1862) had shown that the war would be long, hard-fought, and bloody.  And as the 1863 campaign season got underway, with major battles already having been fought in all theaters, the war appeared to stretch indefinitely into the future.

Thus the armies of Robert E. Lee the Army of Northern Virginia, and Joseph “Fighting Joe” Hooker the Army of the Potomac faced each other in April-May, 1863, across the Rappahannock River in a thickly-wooded region known as “the Wilderness” west of Fredericksburg.  The Army of the Potomac was the Union’s premier maneuver force in the Eastern Theater.  Steeped in the theories of Antoine-Henri Jomini (as were all that had attended West Point before the war), Union leadership looked to the east (principally Virginia) as the critical theater of war.  Several times the Army of the Potomac had sought decisive victory in major set-piece battles.  And despite not yet having achieved victory, Major General Hooker intended to have another go at it.  As with his predecessors, he was confident of victory (and admittedly, his, was a good plan of maneuver), yet he was just as unsuccessful as they had been.  What makes this battle particularly interesting was that General Lee had absented a major portion of his force (First Corps, under Lieutenant General James B. Longstreet) south to Suffolk, Virginia and nearby parts of North Carolina to forage for food and supplies for the Army of Northern Virginia.  Thus General Lee and a reduced Army of Northern Virginia faced a reinvigorated AoP and, making great use of Lieutenant General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, had to execute some truly brilliant tactics to once again defeat it.

Mackowski and White capture the battle with a concise, yet reasonably detailed description of the engagements, supporting movements, and the key personalities, including an excellent description of the wounding of Jackson.  The writing is generally crisp and effective, and is supported by maps of sufficient detail to allow the reader to understand the action.  There are a large number of photos and diagrams from the time, as well as more current photos of the terrain that will facilitate touring the battlefield, although some of these are dark with resultant loss of detail.  The book includes five appendices on related topics, a detailed order of battle for both sides down to regimental and battery level, and a suggested reading list for further study.

All in all, this is a good primer on the campaign.  But it is more than that.  The book’s strength is its battlefield tour guide.  Interwoven into the text, it will facilitate the planning of personal and professional tours of all or parts of the battle area, particularly for families with elementary through high school children who want to walk and see the ground over the course of a two or three-day weekend, perhaps with evening readings as a review of the coming day’s tour.  The Chancellorsville battlefield is a beautiful piece of ground and would make for a great family outing.  Mackowski’s and White’s book would provide an ideal supplement.


Review by Emil Posey

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