Thursday, May 31, 2007

Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, Volume 5

Edited by Peter Cozzens

From the publisher:
Indispensable must-reads for all Civil War buffs and historians, bringing together little-known and never before gathered first-hand accounts, articles, maps, and illustrations.

Praise for Volumes 5 and 6:

The first four volumes of Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, published in the late nineteenth century, became the best-selling and most frequently cited works ever published on the Civil War. Volume 5, assembled by the acclaimed military historian Peter Cozzens, carries on the tradition of its namesake, offering a dazzling new collection of fresh material written by military and civilian leaders, North and South, on a broad array of war-related topics. Featured articles include General Grant on the second battle of Bull Run, General Beauregard on the Shiloh campaign, General Sherman on the conference at City Point, Joshua Chamberlain on the Fredericksburg campaign, and many more. Also presented are dozens of maps and more than one hundred illustrations.

Peter Cozzens, a foreign service officer, has published many books on the Civil War, including General John Pope: A Life for the Nation and his popular trilogy, The Civil War in the West

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Letters to a Civil War Bride

by Sandra Marsh Mercer (Compiler), Jerry L. Mercer (Compiler)

From the publisher:
Captain Wolcott Pascal Marsh wrote numerous letters to his young bride, Anna, during the early months of the Civil War (May 10, 1861 through December 19, 1862).

These letters were preserved as a family heirloom and are presented here in their original form replete with the rich language and political views of the day. They were written on the battlefield and give detailed descriptions of daily life in the Union Army, successful and failed battle strategies, the tragedy of sudden death, and the fear and flight so commonly experienced by the unseasoned soldier.

Marsh tells of writing one letter while lying on his back in a brush arbor, while on picket duty prior to the first battle of Manassas. Through his letters, readers will become acquainted with Wolcott Pascal Marsh, an average citizen who loved his wife and loved his country. He enlisted in the Union Army just two weeks after their nuptials to join in the fight to preserve the Union.

The authors have added notes from historical journals to help the reader put these letters in their original setting. Historic details of Burnside's campaign in North Carolina; the Battles of South Mountain, Antietam and Fredericksburg; and other notable events are included. Numerous vintage photographs, illustrations and facsimile reprints of original documents enhance the text.

Yearning to Breathe Free: Robert Smalls of South Carolina and His Families

by Andrew Billingsley

From the publisher
On May 13, 1862, the enslaved African American Robert Smalls (1839-1915) commandeered a Confederate warship, the Planter, from Charleston harbor and piloted the vessel to cheering seamen of the Union blockade, thus securing his place in the annals of Civil War heroics. Slave, pilot, businessman, statesman, U.S. congressman - Smalls played many roles en route to becoming an American icon, but none of his accomplishments was a solo effort. Sociologist Andrew Billingsley offers the first biography of Smalls to assess the influence of his families - black and white, past and present - on his life and enduring legend. In so doing, Billingsley creates a compelling mosaic of evolving black-white social relations in the American South as exemplified by this famous figure and his descendants.

Born a slave in Beaufort, South Carolina, Robert Smalls was raised with his master's family and grew up amid an odd balance of privilege and bondage. His distinctive situation instilled in him both an understanding of and desire for freedom. Billingsley underscores the influence of the slaveholders' household as well as Smalls's biological family on the development of the passions and abilities that led Smalls to his bid for freedom in 1862. Likewise, Billingsley charts the critical involvement of Smalls's wife, Hannah, and his extended family of black crewmates in the success of that plan.

Smalls served with distinction in the Union forces at the helm of the Planter. After the war he returned to Beaufort and bought the home of his former masters - a house that remained at the center of the Smalls family for a century. A founder of the South Carolina Republican Party, Smalls was elected as a delegate to the black majority 1868 Constitutional Convention, which confirmed the right of black men to vote, as well as to the overwhelmingly white Constitutional Convention of 1895, which took away that right. Between those two events, he was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives, the state senate, and five times to the U.S. Congress. Throughout the trials and triumphs of his public service, Smalls was surrounded by an ever-growing family of supporters. Billingsley illustrates how this support system, coupled with Smalls's dogged resilience, empowered him for political success.

Today three branches of the Smalls family remain: the descendants of his daughter with first wife, Hannah; of Hannah's two daughters from a previous marriage whom Smalls adopted; and of his son with his second wife, Annie. Writing of subsequent generations of Smalls's family, Billingsley delineates the evolving patterns of opportunity, challenge, and change that have been the hallmarks of the African American experience thanks in no small part to the selfless investments in freedom and family made by Robert Smalls of South Carolina.

Monday, May 28, 2007

The Balloonist: The Story of T. S. C. Lowe---Inventor, Scientist, Magician, and Father of the U.S. Air Force

by Stephen Poleski


This first full-scale biography of Thaddeus Lowe (1832-1913) makes fascinating reading for aviation buffs and students of nineteenth-century eccentricity. Lowe is best known for organizing the Civil War Army of the Potomac's Balloon Corps, though it was disbanded because of losing high-ranking support, bureaucratic infighting, and, to some extent, the technological immaturity of balloons. Lowe was a stage magician before the war and after it worked seriously in such fields as mountain railroading and the extraction of hydrogen from water. His career suggests a failed Thomas Edison. Endlessly fertile in invention, he lacked an organization to support the development of his ideas and winnow the viable ones from the rest. He never abandoned balloons, however, and left a definite legacy to fixed-wing aviation in the person of his granddaughter, aviatrix Pancho Barnes (1901-75, subject of Lauren Kessler's biography The Happy Bottom Riding Club, 2000). Aviation and history collections may acquire this seemingly tangential book with clear consciences. - Booklist

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Secret Lives of the Civil War: What Your Teachers Never Told You About the War Between the States

by Cormac O'Brien

From the publisher:
The author of Secret Lives of the U.S. Presidents (100,000 in print) and Secret Lives of the First Ladies (30,000 in print) is back with another bizarre look at history's most celebrated personalities. With Secret Lives of the Civil War, Cormac O'Brien unearths a host of strange, little-known facts about Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, and Harriet Tubman. He also introduces lesser-known people who changed the fate of our country people like:

* Sarah Edmonds, who disguised herself as a man so she could fight in the Battle of Bull Run (the Civil War had a surprising number of women soldiers).
* William Clarke Quantrill, a sociopath who fought in both armies, mostly for the pleasure of shedding blood.
* And of course, Officer Ambrose Burnside, whose unique "sideburns" would later influence generations of Elvis Presley fans.

Complete with 30 dazzling portraits and illustrated maps, Secret Lives of the Civil War is a new look at one of the most fascinating chapters in American history.

Cormac O'Brien is the author of Secret Lives of the U.S. Presidents (Quirk, 2004) and Secret Lives of the First Ladies (Quirk, 2005). He lives in Bloomfield, New Jersey.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Last Flag Down: The Epic Journey of the Last Confederate Warship

by John Baldwin, Ron Powers

From the publisher:
As the Confederacy felt itself slipping beneath the Union juggernaut in late 1864, the South launched a desperate counteroffensive to shatter the U.S. economy and force a standoff. Its secret weapon? A state-of-the-art raiding ship whose mission was to prowl the world’s oceans and sink the U.S. merchant fleet. The raider’s name was Shenandoah, and her executive officer was Conway Whittle, a twenty-four-year-old warrior who might have stepped from the pages of Arthurian legend. Whittle would share command with a dark and brooding veteran of the seas, Capt. James Waddell, and together with a crew of strays, misfits, and strangers, they would spend nearly a year sailing two-thirds of the way around the globe, destroying dozens of Union ships and taking more than a thousand prisoners, all while continually dodging the enemy.

Then, in August of 1865, a British ship revealed the shocking truth to the men of Shenandoah: The war had been over for months, and they were now being hunted as pirates.

What ensued was an incredible 15,000-mile journey to the one place the crew hoped to find sanctuary, only to discover that their fate would depend on how they answered a single question. Wondrously evocative and filled with drama and poignancy, Last Flag Down is a riveting story of courage, nobility, and rare comradeship forged in the quest to achieve the impossible.

From Kirkus
The story of Confederate raider Shenandoah, which preyed on Yankee shipping in an epic round-the-world voyage. Baldwin, a descendant of the executive officer who left a detailed log of that voyage, teams with Pulitzer Prize winner Powers (Mark Twain, 2005, etc.) to tell the Shenandoah's story.

While their account covers essentially the same territory as Lynn Schooler's The Last Shot (2005), they focus on Baldwin's ancestor, Lieutenant Conway Whittle. In London, Whittle boarded Sea King, a steam-and-sail clipper that had set a record for a passage to China, He sailed to the Madeiras, where he met his fellow officers and Captain James Waddell, evidently a deeply troubled, uncommunicative man who distrusted his subordinates. The ship was renamed Shenandoah, provisioned and armed with cannon and commissioned as a Confederate warship. Her mission: to prey on U.S. commerce and weaken the federals' ability to wage war.

Shenandoah's crew was recruited from captured ships, choosing service with the C.S.A. over being held prisoner. The authors paint Whittle as a romantic hero of the Old South, obsessed with honor and eager to prevent his native land from falling prey to northern aggression. To that end, the raider attacked merchantmen and whalers from the Atlantic to the Bering Sea, where she captured or sank more than three dozen whalers before Waddell was convinced to cease operations by reports that the war was over.

Shenandoah then made her final run back to England, dodging U.S. warships and struggling to keep her crew dedicated to a suddenly pointless mission. Whittle, a southern gentleman to the end, declined a chance to escape from his ship as she lay in the Liverpool docks while British officials decided whether to turn her crew over to U.S. authorities aiming to try them for piracy. In the end, the Brits set them all free. A stirring adventure, smoothly recounted.

About the authors:
John Baldwin, a relative of Conway Whittle, is a magazine writer, lecturer, and the author of two novels. At seventeen, Baldwin was apprenticed to the ship’s carpenter on a merchant vessel sailing the ports of Africa.

Ron Powers, a Pulitzer Prize winner, is the author or coauthor of twelve previous books, among them the number one bestseller Flags of Our Fathers and the acclaimed biography Mark Twain, a finalist for the 2005 National Book Critics Circle Award.

Becoming Free in the Cotton South

by Susan E. O'Donovan

From the publisher
Becoming Free in the Cotton South challenges our most basic ideas about slavery and freedom in America. Instead of seeing emancipation as the beginning or the ending of the story, as most histories do, Susan O'Donovan explores the perilous transition between these two conditions, offering a unique vision of both the enormous changes and the profound continuities in black life before and after the Civil War.

This boldly argued work focuses on a small place--the southwest corner of Georgia--in order to explicate a big question: how did black men and black women's experiences in slavery shape their lives in freedom? The reality of slavery's demise is harsh: in this land where cotton was king, the promise of Reconstruction passed quickly, even as radicalism crested and swept the rest of the South. Ultimately, the lives former slaves made for themselves were conditioned and often constrained by what they had endured in bondage. O'Donovan's significant scholarship does not diminish the heroic efforts of black Americans to make their world anew; rather, it offers troubling but necessary insight into the astounding challenges they faced.

Becoming Free in the Cotton South is a moving and intimate narrative, drawing upon a multiplicity of sources and individual stories to provide new understanding of the forces that shaped both slavery and freedom, and of the generation of African Americans who tackled the passage that lay between.

From reviewers:
Susan O'Donovan details the major changes for the slave and free black population of Southwest Georgia in the years of settlement, of the Civil War, and of the economic and political adaptations to emancipation. Of particular importance are the different impacts these changes had upon black men and black women, and upon the relations between belief and behavior in slavery and then in freedom.
--Stanley L. Engerman, University of Rochester

The seismic shifts set in motion by the emancipation reached into every corner of the American South. In exploring one small corner, Becoming Free reveals how the earthquake that accompanied freedom's arrival shifted gender relations in the household, field, and hustings and in the process changed much more. Susan O'Donovan's small story is a big story, an original one, and an important one.
--Ira Berlin, author of Many Thousands Gone and Generations of Captivity

As an exposition of how land, labor, and gender structured a hard slavery and a 'hard' emancipation as well, O'Donovan's analytical narrative is hard to beat. An exceptionally rich and textured study that never loses sight of the larger stakes.
--James C. Scott, Yale University

With meticulous and probing scholarship, O'Donovan's work acutely demonstrates the tragic continuities between slavery and freedom in the American South. Her analysis of the intersection of ethno-racial, economic and gender domination immediately after slavery illuminates a crucial period in African American history and radically alters conventional scholarly interpretations of the development of the black family. This exquisitely accomplished and engagingly written work is surely one of the most important studies in African American and Southern histories to appear in years.
--Orlando Patterson, author of Rituals of Blood: Consequences of Slavery in Two American Centuries

Becoming Free in the Cotton South

by Susan Eva O'Donovan

From the publisher:
Becoming Free in the Cotton South challenges our most basic ideas about slavery and freedom in America. Instead of seeing emancipation as the beginning or the ending of the story, as most histories do, Susan O'Donovan explores the perilous transition between these two conditions, offering a unique vision of both the enormous changes and the profound continuities in black life before and after the Civil War.

This boldly argued work focuses on a small place--the southwest corner of Georgia--in order to explicate a big question: how did black men and black women's experiences in slavery shape their lives in freedom? The reality of slavery's demise is harsh: in this land where cotton was king, the promise of Reconstruction passed quickly, even as radicalism crested and swept the rest of the South. Ultimately, the lives former slaves made for themselves were conditioned and often constrained by what they had endured in bondage. O'Donovan's significant scholarship does not diminish the heroic efforts of black Americans to make their world anew; rather, it offers troubling but necessary insight into the astounding challenges they faced.

Becoming Free in the Cotton South is a moving and intimate narrative, drawing upon a multiplicity of sources and individual stories to provide new understanding of the forces that shaped both slavery and freedom, and of the generation of African Americans who tackled the passage that lay between.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Lincoln: And the American Manifesto

by Allen Jayne

From the publisher
"I have often inquired of myself, what great principle or idea it was that kept this Confederacy [nation] so long together. It was ... something in that Declaration giving liberty, not alone to the people of this country, but hope to the world for all future time ... that all should have an equal chance. That is the sentiment embodied in the Declaration of Independence.... I would rather be assassinated on this spot than to surrender it." -Abraham Lincoln, February 22, 1861

In this compelling study of the moral principles that most influenced the thinking of Abraham Lincoln [Lincoln and the American Manifesto], historian Allen Jayne argues persuasively that Lincoln regarded the Declaration of Independence, above all other documents, as the most important embodiment of American principles. This "American manifesto," as Jayne calls it, with its eloquent expression of the ideals of individual liberty and government created to protect and preserve that liberty, was the script that Lincoln followed in his struggle to preserve the Union and extend individual liberties to African Americans. Moreover, Jayne demonstrates that Lincoln's philosophy was rooted, not in a Bible-based evangelical Christian perspective, but in the European Enlightenment and deism, which so profoundly influenced the thinking of Thomas Jefferson and other Founding Fathers.

Jayne begins with a chapter devoted to the influence of deism on Jefferson's formulation of the Declaration of Independence. Next, he discusses Lincoln's adoption of the deistic perspective and the crucial role that the Declaration played in his thoughts and actions. He also considers Lincoln's moral sense, based on deism's tolerance of different belief systems and universal moral idealism. Finally, he describes Lincoln's role as chief advocate for the Declaration's principles and how the Gettysburg Address and his Second Inaugural Address reflect this underlying philosophy.

This insightful look into the thinking of one of our nation's greatest presidents during a time of crisis is highly relevant in today's climate of religious extremism and debates over the balance between individual liberty and national security.

From Publishers Weekly:
In this thorough examination of Abraham Lincoln's ideology, Jayne argues that Lincoln's greatest accomplishments-including his Emancipation Proclamation and Gettysburg Address-were heavily influenced by his unbending belief in the Declaration of Independence's primacy among the trappings of United States democracy. Tracing Lincoln's evolving and often contradictory views on slavery and race through pivotal historical moments such as the Dred Scott decision, Jayne demonstrates that Lincoln possessed a complex understanding of the ways slavery was entrenched in his nation, as well as a natural tendency toward prudence. Something of a "religious radical" himself, Lincoln's personal Christian theology-heavily influenced by deist thinkers like Theodore Parker-emphasized God above Jesus and placed great confidence in man's moral capacity; in Lincoln's eyes, that moral capacity formed the bedrock of democracy. Lincoln regarded the Declaration of Independence itself as a kind of national "ancient faith" and looked to it reverently, ultimately concluding that "those who deny freedom for others deserve it not for themselves," and, conversely, "In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free." This volume will appeal as much to Civil War history buffs as to those who simply admire Lincoln as a singular leader and thinker.

From CWBN:
The idea that Lincoln gave primacy to the Declaration over the Constitution should be news to no one who has read Harry Jaffa. The politician Allan Keyes has built a mass movement around that insight.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Little to Eat and Thin Mud to Drink: Letters, Diaries, and Memoirs from the Red River Campaigns, 1863-1864

by Gary Joiner (ed.)

From the publisher:
Little to Eat and Thin Mud to Drink does more than just document the history of the Trans-Mississippi conflict of the Civil War. It goes much deeper, offering a profound, extended look into the innermost thoughts of the soldiers and civilians who experienced the events that took place in Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas. Gleaning from a rich body of rare journals, diaries, and letters, this groundbreaking book demonstrates the significant impact that military operations in this region had on the local population in years between 1863 and 1865.

Readers will be introduced to the many different individuals who were touched by the campaign, both Confederate and Union. Ably edited by Joiner, a leading expert on the Trans-Mississippi conflict, and others, some of these manuscripts are witty, others somber, some written by Harvard- and Yale-educated aristocrats, others by barely literate farmers. All profoundly reflect their feelings regarding the extraordinary circumstances and events they witnessed.

In Little to Eat and Thin Mud to Drink, readers will have access to the diary of James A. Jarratt, a Confederate sergeant whose cogent narratives dispute commonly held views of the Battle of Mansfield. Representing a much different point of view is the diary of Private Julius Knapp, whose lengthy diary sheds light on the life of a Northern soldier fighting in the ill-fated Union march through Louisiana in 1864. A rare glimpse into the diary of a Southern woman is offered through the fascinating and melancholy musings of plantation belle Sidney Harding. Readers will also encounter the private letters of a French prince turned Confederate officer; of Elizabeth Jane Samford Fullilove, the angst-ridden wife of a Confederate soldier; and many others.

These first-person narratives vividly bring to life the individuals who lived through this important, but often neglected, period in Civil War history. Little to Eat and Thin Mud to Drink will engross anyone interested in exploring the human side of the Civil War.

Gary Joiner is an assistant professor of history at Louisiana State University in Shreveport and the director of the Red River Regional Studies Center at LSUS. His books include One Damn Blunder from Beginning to End: The Red River Campaign of 1864 and Union Failure in the West and Through the Howling Wilderness: The 1864 Red River Campaign and Union Failure in the West. He is also the coeditor, with Marilyn S. Joiner and Clifton D. Cardin, of another volume in the Voices of the Civil War series, No Pardons to Ask, nor Apologies to Make: The Journal of William Henry King, Gray's 28th Louisiana Infantry Battalion.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Dissonance: The Turbulent Days Between Fort Sumter and Bull Run

by David Detzer

From the publisher
April of 1865 has been referred to as the month that saved America but April of 1861 may have been just as vital if not more so. It was during this time that Washington DC sat completely surrounded by two states that were teetering on the verge of secession. Once Virginia did leave the Union only Maryland provided the federal government with a connection to the rest of the nation and it was a tenuous connection at best.

Abraham Lincoln was clearly out of his league in this early stage of the game and he leaned heavily on General Winfield Scott. For his part, Scott was keenly aware of the danger facing Washington and began to immediately call for any militia units that could get to DC quickly from loyal northern states. The problem was that these militia units would have to travel through Maryland, a slave state that might well consider these Yankee troops to be invaders and could easily be pushed into the Confederacy by such an affront to state sovereignty. It was also distinctly possible that these militia units might be attacked by not only the people of Maryland but also ultimately by the state militia.

In the meantime Virginia forces had seized the federal armory at Harper's Ferry and the Gosport navy yard near Hampton Virginia. Rumors are rampant in DC that the Virginia militia that had taken Harper's Ferry was preparing to move on Washington and many in the Federal City were in a state of panic.

The questions that arise from this drama involve the decision making process on both sides and the ultimate question is of course whether Washington DC was ever in any real danger. Did the Confederacy in fact lose it's only real chance for ultimate victory during this time period? David Detzer has done an admirable job in this book [Dissonance] of not only bringing this evolving drama to life but also of answering these questions in a clear and concise manner.

This book reads much like a great historical drama and the author's writing style is superbly readable. It is rare for the author of a history book to achieve such a sense of drama since the reader usually already knows the outcome. Detzer has accomplished this however and although I was keenly aware of what was about to happen at every turn I had a tough time putting the book down. This invigorating writing style is often derisively referred to as popular history but Detzer blows the sides off of that old mold by not only offering new information but also keen observations that cut directly to the heart of this eventful period of American history. No hero of American history is spared criticism when criticism is due and conversely even Ben Butler is praised when his actions merit it.

This is the story of those fateful days of April and May of 1861 and it is a story that is well told by this supremely able author. This book is well researched, very well written and the story is told from the point of view of both governments as well as the lowliest private in the Pennsylvania militia. It is a story upon which the fate of the United States once turned.

From CWBN:
David Detzer is one of those important new writers taking Civil War history out of the dreary conventions of the Centennial era (1960-1965); he does this by adding a fresh perspective to underlying primary sources neglected by most Civil War writers. This is vigorous writing in masterful English capable of changing your long-held views.

This is the pb reissue of a hb original.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Army of the Potomac: McClellan's First Campaign, March - May 1862

by Russel Beatie

From the publisher
McClellan's First Campaign, the 3rd volume of Russel Beatie's masterful series, covers the pivotal early months of General George McClellan's Peninsula Campaign through the siege of Yorktown, the pursuit toward Richmond, and the fighting at Williamsburg. As he did in his first two volumes, Beatie tells the story largely through the eyes and from the perspective of high ranking officers, staff officers, and politicians. This study is based upon extensive firsthand research (including many previously unused and unpublished sources) that rewrites the history of Little Mac's inaugural effort to push his way up the peninsula and capture Richmond in one bold campaign.

In meticulous fashion, Beatie examines many heretofore unknown, ignored, or misunderstood facts and events and uses them to evaluate the campaign in the most balanced historical context to date. Every aspect of these critically important weeks is examined, from how McClellan's Urbanna plan unraveled and led to the birth of the expedition that debarked at Fort Monroe in March 1862, to the aftermath of Williamsburg. There were many reasons why the march to Richmond did not move as expeditiously as many hoped it would, though until now, few of these reasons have been satisfactorily (or even fairly) explored. President Abraham Lincoln's interference, both politically and militarily, argues the author, lengthened considerably McClellan's odds of success. Just one example was the president's tampering with the corps command structure. Lincoln's experiment undermined his army commander by elevating the wrong men to positions of importance, a sad fact amply demonstrated by the inept leadership displayed before Yorktown and during the important fighting at Williamsburg.Beatie is the first author to deeply investigate and expose the role of the Navy in the Yorktown episode. His sweeping and convincing conclusion is that if the Navy had done what it promised it would do-what it could have done, but refused to do-Yorktown would have fallen weeks sooner than it did. McClellan's First Campaign is a story about the men in command-their knowledge, intentions, successes, and failures. To capture the full flavor of their experiences, Beatie employs the "fog of war" technique, which puts the reader in the position of the men who led the Union army. The Confederate adversaries are always present but often only in shadowy forms that achieve firm reality only when we meet them face-to-face on the battlefield.

Well written, judiciously reasoned, and extensively footnoted, McClellan's First Campaign will be heralded as the seminal work on this topic. Civil War readers may not always agree with Beatie's conclusions, but they will concur that his account offers an original examination of the Army of the Potomac's role on the Virginia peninsula.

From CWBN:
One must read Beatie's Army of the Potomac series to understand the war in the Eastern Theatre. Built on a trove of unknown and neglected sources, his decades of research have produced an electrifying retelling of the Civil War marked by fairness to facts. Beatie makes his audiences feel intimate with events - not superior to them - and the gems of his original research are scattered like treats for the experienced reader. Thrilling, delightful,profound, each new volume in this series is a major event in Civil War publishing. After 40 years of reading Civil War nonfiction, I rate this the one title or series that is indispensible.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Ironclad Down: USS Merrimack-CSS Virginia from Design to Destruction

by Carl D. Park

From the publisher
The result of more than fifteen years of research, Ironclad Down is a treasure trove of detailed information about one of history s most famous vessels. Describing the fascinating people--Stephen Russell Mallory, John Mercer Brooke, John Luke Porter, et al.--who conceived, designed and built one of the world's first ironclads as well as describing the ship itself, Carl Park offers both the most thoroughly detailed, in-depth analysis to date of the actual architecture of the Virginia and a fascinating, colorful chapter of Civil War history.

About the Author
After serving in the army, CARL D. PARK studied design at the Layton School of Art and majored in fine art at Lake Forrest College. He has worked as an art director and an exhibit designer and builder. Park has written and illustrated numerous articles for Fine Scale Modeler magazine.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters

by Elizabeth Brown Pryor

From the publisher:
Robert E. Lee’s war correspondence is well known, and here and there personal letters have found their way into print, but the great majority of his most intimate messages have never been made public. These letters reveal a far more complex and contradictory man than the one who comes most readily to the imagination, for it is with his family and his friends that Lee is at his most candid, most engaging, and most vulnerable. Over the past several years historian Elizabeth Brown Pryor has uncovered a rich trove of unpublished Lee materials that had been held in both private and public collections.

Her new book, a unique blend of analysis, narrative, and historiography, presents dozens of these letters in their entirety, most by Lee but a few by family members. Each letter becomes a departure point for an essay that shows what the letter uniquely reveals about Lee’s time or character. The material covers all aspects of Lee’s life—his early years, West Point, his work as an engineer, his relationships with his children and his slaves, his decision to join the South, his thoughts on military strategy, and his disappointments after defeat in the Civil War. The result is perhaps the most intimate picture to date of Lee, one that deftly analyzes the meaning of his actions within the context of his personality, his relationships, and the social tenor of his times.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Civil War Paintings of Mort Künstler: Vol. 2: Fredericksburg to Gettysburg

by Mort Kunstler

From the publisher:
For nearly thirty years, Mort Künstler has focused his considerable talent on interpreting the Civil War. In crafting his work to reflect poignant moments or critical instances of the conflict, he has turned to leading historians and scholars -- such as Henry Steele Commager, James McPherson, William C. Davis, and James I. Robertson Jr. -- for informative details that he has then translated on canvas to create an indelible image of this defining ordeal in America's history. More than 160 of these images -- supplemented by preliminary sketches, early studies, and photographs of works in progress -- are the basis for the four volumes in this series.
Künstler has also explored the human side of this national struggle. Thus, he has produced thoughtful studies of leaders at decisive moments, instances of daily camp life for the soldiers, and those early romantic notions that it would be a bloodless war, predicated on the belief that a show of inner strength would prevail.

Historian James I. Robertson Jr. recently noted, "Among the handful who truly sense the human, indelible element of that war is Mort Künstler. That alone goes far in explaining why he is the premier Civil War artist of our time, if not all time. ...His subjects are widely appealing to the eye and to the mind. [He] pursues accuracy to an extent that would make some historians blush."

In the past twenty years, Künstler's portfolio has been published in twelve books, including companion pieces for the epic films Gettysburg and Gods and Generals. These paintings are reproduced here along with a lively history of the war.

A South Divided: Portraits of Dissent in the Confederacy

by David C. Downing

From the publisher:
When the civil war began, there were outpourings of patriotic fervor in the North and the South. Both sides, however, soon discovered that not all of their citizens were in aggreement and they would have to deal with dissidents throughout the war. Lincoln had to contend with guerrillas in Kentucky and Missouri, violent mobs in Baltimore, draft riots in New York City, and Copperheads and Peace Democrats. At one time or another, the U.S. president censored or suppressed three hundred opposition newspapers in the Northern states.

A South Divided is an account of Southern dissidents in the Civil War, at times labeled as traitors, Tories, deserters, or mossbacks during the war and loyalists, Lincoln loyalists, and Unionists by historians of the war. In recent years there has been an upsurge of interest in Southern dissenters among specific groups or communities. But A South Divided presents a panoramic overview of Southern dissent. What emerges is a complex pattern of dissent involving every state in the Confederacy and every year of the war.

A South Divided is the first book to tell these behind-the-battle-lines stories that have been largely overlooked by most historians of the war.

DAVID C. DOWNING is the R. W. Schlosser Professor of English at Elizabethtown College in central Pennsylvania and the author of six books, the most recent of which is Into the Wardrobe: C. S. Lewis and the Narnia Chronicles. He has been an avid student of the Civil War for nearly twenty years and has walked many of the battlefields and led tours of Gettysburg.

Randall Lee Gibson of Louisiana: Confederate General and New South Reformer

by Mary Gorton Gorton McBride

From the Publisher:
Randall Lee Gibson of Louisiana offers the first biography of one of Louisiana's most intriguing nineteenth-century politicians and a founder of Tulane University in Randall Lee Gibson of Louisiana: Confederate General and New South Reformer. Gibson (1832-1892) grew up on his family's sugar plantation in Terrebonne Parish and was educated at Yale University before studying law at the University of Louisiana in New Orleans. He purchased a sugar plantation in Lafourche Parish in 1858 and became heavily involved in the pro-secession faction of the Democratic Party. Elected colonel of the Thirteenth Louisiana Volunteer Regiment at the start of the Civil War, he commanded a brigade in the Battle of Shiloh and fought in all of the subsequent campaigns of the Army of Tennessee, concluding in 1865 with the Battle of Spanish Fort.

As Gibson struggled to establish a law practice in postwar New Orleans, he experienced a profound change in his thinking and came to believe that the elimination of slavery was the one good outcome of the South's defeat. Joining Louisiana's Conservative political faction, he advocated for a postwar unification government that included African Americans. Elected to Congress in1874, Gibson was directly involved in the creation of the Electoral Commission that resulted in the Compromise of 1877 and peacefully solved the disputed 1876 presidential election. He crafted legislation for the Mississippi River Commission in 1879, which eventually resulted in millions of federal dollars for flood control.

Gibson was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1880 and became Louisiana's leading "minister of reconciliation" with his northern colleagues and its chief political spokesman during the highly volatile Gilded Age. He deplored the growing gapbetween the rich and the poor and embraced a reformist agenda that included federal funding for public schools and legislation for levee construction, income taxes, and the direct election of senators. This progressive stance made Gibson one of the last patrician Democrats whose noblesse oblige politics sought common middle ground between the extreme political and social positions of his era. At the request of wealthy New Orleans merchant Paul Tulane, Gibson took charge of Tulane's educational endowment and helped design the university that bears Tulane's name, serving as the founding president of the board of administrators. Highly readable and thoroughly researched, Mary Gorton McBride's absorbing biography illuminates in dramatic fashion the life and times of a unique Louisianan.

Mary Gorton McBride was professor of English and dean of Liberal Arts at Louisiana State University at Shreveport and at Florida Atlantic University, where she also served as vice-president of the Broward County Campuses. She lives in Fairhope, Alabama.

From CWBN:
We assigned May 1 to this undated May release.

Peninsula and Seven Days: A Battlefield Guide

From the Publisher:
Often cited as one of the most decisive campaigns in military history, the Seven Days Battles were the first campaign in which Robert E. Lee led the Army of Northern Virginia—as well as the first in which Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson worked together. In this guidebook, the acknowledged expert on the Seven Days Battles [Brian K. Burton] conducts readers, tourists, and armchair travelers through the history and terrain of this pivotal series of Civil War battles. Maps and descriptive overviews of the battles guide readers to key locales and evoke a sense of what participants on either side saw in 1862. From the beginning of George B. McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign, which culminated in the Seven Days, to the bloody battles that saved the Confederate capital from capture, this guide unfolds the strategies, routes, and key engagements of this critical campaign, offering today’s visitors and Civil War enthusiasts the clearest picture yet of what happened during the Seven Days.

Brian K. Burton is a professor of management, associate dean of the College of Business and Economics, and MBA program director at Western Washington University. He is the author of Extraordinary Circumstances: The Seven Days Battles.

From CWBN:
Some notes on Burton appeared on Civil War Bookshelf.

Jeb Stuart and the Confederate Defeat at Gettysburg

From the publisher:
The Army was much embarrassed by the absence of the cavalry,” Robert E. Lee wrote of the Gettysburg campaign, stirring a controversy that has never died. Lee’s statement was an indirect indictment of General James Ewell Brown (“Jeb”) Stuart, who was the cavalry. Jeb Stuart and the Confederate Defeat at Gettysburg reexamines the questions that have shadowed the legendary Confederate hero and offers a fresh, informed interpretation of his role at Gettysburg. Avoiding the partisan pros and cons characterizing previous accounts, Warren C. Robinson reassesses the historical record to come to a clearer view of Stuart’s orders for the crucial battle (as well as what was expected of him), of his actual performance, and of the impact his late arrival had on the outcome of the campaign. Though Stuart may not have disobeyed Lee’s orders, Robinson argues, he did abuse the general’s discretion by raiding Washington rather than scouting for the army at Gettysburg—a move that profoundly affected the Confederate fortunes and perhaps the war itself.

Warren C. Robinson, a professor emeritus at Pennsylvania State University, is the author and editor of numerous works in the field of economics and the author of many articles in the field of military history and policy. He is currently a free-lance writer and consultant based in Washington DC.

From CWBN:
Mr. Robinson's topic was anticipated in September of 2006 by Savas Beatie's release of Eric Wittenberg's and J. David Petruzzi's Plenty of Blame to Go Around. They reach different conclusions than Prof. Robinson. Note that on both Amazon and B&N, neither site offered a link to Plenty of Blame when Robinson's title was searched on. The algorithm for "if you liked this" is not connecting these topically similar works.

Amongst Immortals Raging, Gettysburg's Third Day Begins

by Marshall Conyers

From the publisher:
An epic poem about Gettysburg’s third day, told from various soldiers’ perspectives.

This story encompasses all the raging emotions of war, the doubt, fear, camaraderie, frustration, and innocence, as told by the participants of the events of the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg. The author examines the bravery, strength, and faith of the soldiers in both blue and gray who fought for duty and country in the face of impending death.

Marshall Conyers wrote this volume of poetry because he wanted readers to be privy to the thoughts of the brave men engaged in this historical attack. He is the author of the children’s book How Many Feathers Does It Take to Make an Eagle Fly?

Jim Lane: Scoundrel, Stateman, Kansan

by Robert Collins

From the publisher:
James Lane was one of the most visible faces of the Free State movement during the Territorial period of Kansas's history. He was the most powerful politician west of the Mississippi River during the Civil War. This book addresses Lane's early life, military and political careers, and his controversial reputation as a fanatic who was responsible for leading Kansas into the Civil War

Robert Collins has written and published magazine articles and books on subjects ranging from railroads to science fiction. His biography, General James G. Blunt: Tarnished Glory ($23.00), was also published by Pelican.