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.