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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


The Bloody Crucible of Courage: Fighting Methods and Combat Experience of the Civil War by Brent Nosworthy (Carroll & Graf) Some historians argue that the Civil War, with its use of rifled muskets and artillery, was the first great "modern" war; others argue that it was a sideshow of amateur generals and citizen soldiers whose tactics yielded few innovations or lasting lessons. Acclaimed military historian Brent Nosworthy takes on this great controversy and, in The Bloody Crucible of Courage, for the first time in any book, covers the methods of Civil War warfare in their entirety. Everything from grand tactics to hand-to-hand combat during the War Between the States is given its proper due in the development of warfare.

Nosworthy weaves together the story of newly emerging weapons, the resulting changes in military doctrine, and the combatants' experiences as these innovations were applied to the battlefield. Detailing the four-year evolution of warfare from General Irvin McDowell's first tentative efforts at Bull Run to Lee's and Grant's final exertions at Petersburg and Appomatox, the author examines tactical variation due to regional differences and the distinctive circumstances of each campaign: the methods used in the eastern theater versus those in the west; the confused fighting in the wilderness; the "trench" warfare at Vicksburg; and the techniques used in other famous battles, like Gettysburg and Antietam. And the book recognizes the primacy of the war’s most compelling voices, containing hundreds of first-hand accounts – graphic and emotional descriptions of what it was like to see and hear a Minié ball striking a nearby companion.

Filled with over seventy diagrams, photos, maps,`and period illustrations, and endorsed by respected Civil War military historians, this book is an essential addition to every library. From readers with a casual interest in how the Civil War was fought to Civil War aficionados, the most dedicated re-enacters, and the most erudite academics, The Bloody Crucible of Courage explains the doctrine, technology, and actual battlefield experience in a single volume.

While God Is Marching on: The Religious World of Civil War Soldiers by Steven E. Woodworth (Modern War Studies University Press of Kansas) They read the same Bible and prayed to the same God, but they faced each other in battle with rage in their hearts. The Civil War not only pitted brother against brother but also Christian against Christianl with soldiers from North and South alike devoutly believing that God was on their side.

By providing the first account of the nature of religious discourse during the Civil War itself, Woodworth has touched upon a heretofore-neglected phase of American religious history. Welcome study.

Steven Woodworth, one of our most prominent and provocative Civil War historians, presents the first detailed study of soldiers' religious beliefs and how they influenced the course of that tragic conflict. He shows how Christian teaching and practice shaped the worldview of soldiers on both sides: how it motivated them for the struggle, how it influenced the way they fought, and how it shaped national life after the war ended.

Through the diaries, letters, and reminiscences of common soldiers, Woodworth illuminates religious belief from the home front to the battlefield, where thoughts of death and the afterlife were always close at hand. Woodworth reveals what these men thought about God and what they believed God thought about the war.

Wrote one Unionist, "I believe our cause to be the cause of liberty and light . . . the cause of God, and holy and justifiable in His sight, and for this reason, I fear not to die in it if need be." With a familiar echo, his Confederate counterpart declared that "our Cause is Just and God is Just and we shall finally be successful whether I live to see the time or not."

Woodworth focuses on mainstream Protestant beliefs and practices shared by the majority of combatants in order to help us better understand soldiers' motivations and to realize what a strong role religion played in American life throughout the conflict. In addition, he provides sharp insights into the relationship between Christianity and both the abolition movement in the North and the institution of slavery in the South.

Ultimately, Woodworth shows us how opposing armies could put their trust in the same God while engaging in four years of organized slaughter and destruction. His compelling work provides a rich new perspective on religion in American life and will forever change the way we look at the Civil War.

Classic Civil War Biography Now Available Again

Albert Sidney Johnston: Soldier of Three Republics by Charles P. Roland (Kentucky) Selected as one of the best 100 books ever written on the Civil War by Civil War Times Illustrated in 1981 and by Civil War: The Magazine of the Civil War Society in 1995. This classic work is now newly revised  and still the only full-scale biography of the Confederacy’s top-ranking field general during the opening campaigns of the Civil War. Charles P. Roland also wrote An American Iliad: The Story of the Civil War that concisely and comprehensively reflects history as a synthesis of the major writings on the war, as refined and focused through Professor Roland's own research and interpretation. This is the story of the war with the emphasis on the military action, that element which distinguishes war from all other human activities. Accounts of the major political, economic, diplomatic, social, and cultural developments of the epoch are covered; approximately half of the book is devoted to them. But these discussions are woven into the central narrative in a manner designed to show their role in the war effort itself.

Jefferson Davis considered Johnston to be the Confederacy's outstanding military leader. He had the most varied pre‑Civil War career of any active officer, having served in the armies of the United States and the Republic of Texas.

When Johnston was killed at Shiloh, he held the highest rank (full general) of any American military officer ever killed in action. His early death left unanswered many questions about his generalship. As commander of the river‑threaded western department of the Confederacy, he had one of the most difficult assignments of the war. While he made a number of tactical errors, in the final stages of his career he surpassed other Union and Confederate generals involved in the campaign

The Encyclopedia of Civil War Usage: An Illustrated Compendium of the Everyday Language of Soldiers and Civilians by Webb B. Garrison (Cumberland House) There are few systematic guides to the language used by the generation that fought the American Civil War. In the 150 years since the great conflict, our language has changed, and as meanings have become obscure or lost, links with this vibrant past have dissolved and much of that which had meaning to our forefathers no longer has the same meaning to us.

What did it mean "to cross the bar"? What was a soldier's "big ticket"? What did it mean "to see the elephant" or "to go South"? Why did the armies have so‑called ninety‑day men and hundred‑day men? What were soldiers supposed to do when their commander shouted, "Let her go, Gallagher"? How did one "pay tribute to Neptune"? What was a "picket pin"? Could one make a passable meal of "possum beer" and "secession bread"? How did one "vibrate the lines," and why would anyone want to attempt such a maneuver?

To address this need, Webb Garrison has pored over his notes from more than thirty years of research and study to produce this dictionary and encyclopedia of words and phrases (including nicknames and slang) commonly used during the war. Where appropriate, examples and anecdotes are included to illustrate meanings. Often

overlooked naval terms and esoteric formal and informal military expressions are addressed as well as`short descriptions of oceangoing vessels and river craft.

More than 2,500 entries and 250 illustrations cover the terms, equipment, and organization of the three`million soldiers who fought in the war.


THIS VOLUME EXPLORES STANDARD, SLANG, AND SUBSTITUTE words and phrases in the vocabulary of both Billy Yank and Johnny Reb and their civilian contemporaries. It deals with syntax, battle sectors, and weapons and their components. Prisons, nicknames, generals, officeholders, named guns, horses, ships, and a few famous mascots are also treated.

A small number of unofficial titles of several well‑known fighting units are briefly explained. Clothing, food, and insignia are also defined. Also described briefly are projectiles, maneuvers, and fortifications (both permanent and temporary).

Although there were relatively few dramatic and vital battles on the water, the naval war was central to the outcome of this sectional struggle. Hence a substantial number of naval terms are included.

In this volume, the choice of entries was based primarily upon the language of military and naval reports and the diaries, letters, memoirs, eyewitness accounts, autobiographies, acts of Congress, and reports of key congressional bodies. Numerous terms that are not self-explanatory appear in these indispensable primary sources.

It is my wish that this volume will be a helpful tool and will stimulate new thought among another generation of Civil War scholars. There is much that has fallen by the wayside as scholarship on the war has accumulated new insights over the almost 150 years since the conflict concluded. Some of that which has receded into the shadows is rooted in the evolution of our language, and only by rediscovering how words were used during the war years can we better grasp what our predecessors recorded of their experiences in the midst of this convulsion in the nation's history. From Introduction

Gettysburg to Vicksburg: The Five Originial Civil War Battlefield Parks photographs by A. J. Meek Text by Herman Hattaway  (Shades of Blue and Gray Series: University of Missouri Press) "The photographs rivet the attention and haunt the memory. The narrative is sprightly and well focused. The work fills a niche‑too long neglected‑for those who study a battlefield but also want to know how the site came to be preserved for us today. I can foresee visitors tramping the fields depicted here with this work in hand." ‑JOSEPH L. HARSH

Splendidly written and dramatically illustrated, Gettysburg to Vicksburg is a stunning pictorial history of the first five Civil War battlefield parks: Gettysburg, ChickamaugaChattanooga, Shiloh, Antietam, and Vicksburg. Renowned photographer A. J. Meek brings the battlefield parks into vivid focus with one hundred memorable photographs, while noted Civil War historian Herman Hattaway provides a brief history of these major battles and of the formation of parks on the battlefield grounds.

Through his striking photographs, Meek provides inspired glimpses of personal vision and historical significance, guiding the reader through the settings for the battle narratives. He also shows how the battlefield grounds are different today, as trees and grass cover hills and former breastworks.

Hattaway provides critical insight into the personalities and achievements of military leaders on both sides. He also offers extensive descriptions of the events that took place before, during, and after each battle, explaining the significance of each encounter within the larger conflict between the Union and Confederate armies. In addition, he describes what happened to the battlefield areas long after the fighting ended, as the government, veterans, and private organizations wrestled over how the actual grounds‑and in some sense, the memory of the soldiers ‑should be preserved.

Much more than a handbook, Gettysburg to Vicksburg is one of the most comprehensive resources available to battlefield park visitors. With Meek and Hattaway's help, visitors will, at long last, be able to understand fully just exactly what they are seeing. This important new work will make a significant addition to Civil War scholarship and will be welcomed by scholars, students, and Civil War enthusiasts alike.

A. J. Meek is Professor of Art at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. His photographs have appeared worldwide in numerous exhibits and collections, and he is the photographer for several books, including Gardens of Louisiana: Places of Work and Wonder.

Herman Hattaway is Professor of History at the University of Missouri‑Kansas City. He is the author or coauthor of numerous books, including Shades of Blue and Gray: An Introductory Military History of the Civil War (University of Missouri Press), Why the South Lost the Civil War, and General Stephen D. Lee, all past selections of the History Book Club.


From Blue to Gray: The Life of Confederate General Cadmus M. Wilcox by Gerard A. Patterson (Stackpole) Cadmus Marcellus Wilcox started off his military career as a promising young West Point cadet and proved himself in battle with service as an officer in the Mexican War. But when the South seceded in 1861, Wilcox, along with 305 other West Point graduates, sided with the Confederacy. Aside from the historical perspective his life provides, a closer analysis reveals Wilcox as a man whose life, like those of many of his colleagues, was forever altered by the Civil War. Author Gerard Patterson brings his little-known subject to life in this fascinating biography.

The story of a Confederate general with the then‑fashionable Romanesque name of Cadmus Marcellus Wilcox does not deal with some great Civil War leader. He was merely one of Robert E. Lee's nine infantry division commanders, and hardly the most distinguished. In the massive volume of information about that war, why then should the experiences of Wilcox demand any particular attention?

The answer lies in the personal perspective Wilcox provides on how the conflict tragically redirected the lives of some of its more reluctant participants. Wilcox was one of those Southern officers who had been to West Point, done well in the Mexican War, and had a promising career in the regular U.S. Army when, to his chagrin, he found himself being swept up in what was being regarded by his government as an armed rebellion. Leaving the "old army" to go with the Confederacy was, in Wilcox's case, a particularly difficult and wrenching step, because few officers were as universally popular as he or, for that matter, progressing as well.

Aside from the historic perspective his life provides, analysis reveals Cadmus Wilcox as a very human, personable individual possessed of a wry, dry humor that is often charming; what seems to be a touch of hypochondria, given the list of exotic ailments his letters catalog; and a rather picturesque taste in military attire. (Although he was sometimes ornately uniformed, in the field he usually wore a battered straw hat and a short, round jacket and rode a white pony, carrying a long hickory switch as a crop.)

Author Gerard Patterson brings his little known subject to life in this fascinating biography.

 At a time when Wilcox's career could not have been progressing more enviably, and when he must have felt assured of his future in the army, alarming reports began arriving belatedly at his and other distant frontier posts of the worsening political situation back in the States that was threatening to break up the Federal Union. Having been so recently stationed in New York City, he had a sense of the mood in Yankeedom toward the South and the concern there over the direction affairs were moving on questions ranging from slavery to secession.

Now a momentous decision was rapidly approaching for Wilcox and the 165 other academy graduates from the Southern states then on duty with the Regular army. For the few who were politically active and felt strongly the grievances of their section, their course was clear. Most, however, were far removed from the controversies and were doing little to promote or discourage disunion beyond engaging in quarrels at the officers' mess. With the time, ties to home states had become more and more tenuous. It is doubtful that Wilcox had returned to Tennessee more than a few times in the twenty years he had been in the military; now he regarded the army as his home.

The career consequences of taking sides in the looming conflict, which they all were under enormous pressure to do, were almost imponderable. To leave the army meant giving up the investment of years of service and hard‑earned advancement, pensions, and security . . . . A newly forming Confederate army might offer the immediate promise of lofty rank, but what sort of an amateurish military force would they be directing? Taking up arms against the government of the United States was a chilling prospect, and what would become of them as commissioned officers if the struggle for Southern independence should fail?"

From From Blue to Gray

 Southern Hero: Matthew Calbraith Butler, Confederate General, Hampton Redshirt, and U.S. Senator by Samuel J. Martin (Stackpole) As a member of a distinguished South Carolina family, Matthew Calbraith Butler led a most interesting life. With a father who had served with Andrew Jackson during the battle of New Orleans and a mother whose brothers included Comdr. Oliver Hazard Perry (hero of the War of 1812) and Comdr. Matthew Calbraith Perry (a naval explorer whose expedition opened Japan to the world) it is perhaps not surprising that Butler eagerly left his South Carolina law practice to join Wade Hampton's "Legion" early in 1861 when his state seceded from the Union.

Butler's cavalry service during the Civil War saw him rise from regimental captain to major general in command of a division. He participated in most of the major campaigns and battles of the war. From defending The Peninsula against Federal attack at the outset of hostilities to resisting Sherman's final advance into South Carolina, Butler served with distinction, repeatedly demonstrating his courage and leadership on the battlefield, his coolness under fire. Along the way he was wounded in the battle at Brandy Station and lost his foot as a result, but he never allowed his injury to hamper his performance in battle.

When Butler returned to South Carolina in 1865, he faced an uncertain future. For many former Confederate and Union soldiers, the war would prove to be the climax of their lives. Butler, however, went on to become an outstanding lawyer; a Hampton Red Shirt, who helped to bring an end to the injustices of Reconstruction; a United States senator; and, finally, a major general during the Spanish-American War.

Few individuals have led such interesting and accomplished lives. Fewer still have done so while securing both the love and respect of their fellow men. Matthew Calbraith Butler managed to achieve both.

 "COL. MATTHEW CALBRAITH BUTLER, leader of the 2nd South Carolina Cavalry, had been in many a tight spot during his service in the Civil War, but never one quite so precarious as that he faced the morning of June 9, 1863. Matthew and his mounted troops were positioned just east of Stevensburg, Virginia, and anticipating the arrival of a superior Federal force. The battle of Brandy Station had been raging for almost five hours to the northeast. The rattle of muskets and the bellow of artillery filled the air with an ever increasing crescendo ....

Astride his horse, a silhouette against the blue sky, Butler shouted directions to his men where to fall in. He offered an attractive target to the Federal cannoneers, who were advancing with the cavalry. They took aim and sent a missile screaming toward him.

The shell struck the earth about thirty yards in front of Butler, skipped, and then veered forward. The shrapnel sliced through Butler's right leg at the ankle, disemboweled his horse, and then smashed into Capt. William Farley,`who was mounted beside Butler. The metal severed Farley's right leg before burrowing into his steed, killing the animal.

Although he was certainly in shock, Matthew had the presence of mind to take a silk handkerchief and wind a tourniquet around his leg. His foot dangled from the limb, held on by a shred of skin. Butler then called to Farley to follow his example in stopping the flow of blood from his terrible wound.

Matthew's men, of course, rushed up to their commander. `Go at once to Farley,' Butler exhorted, `since he needs you more than I do.' This was the typical gesture of a Southern gentleman. This was Matthew Calbraith Butler .... a Southern hero. ‑From Southern Hero 

More than a Civil War Life: a Study in Character:

RICHARD S. EWELL: A Soldier’s Life by Donald C. Pfanz ($39.9u hardcover, 680 pages, University of North Carolina Press, ISBN: 0807823899 Toll free credit card orders: 800-848-6224) General Richard Stoddard Ewell was Stonewall Jackson’s most trusted subordinate; after Jackson’s death, Ewell took command of the Second Corps, leading it at Gettysburg, the Wilderness, and Spotsylvania Court House. His failure to capture Cemetery Hill on July 1, 1863, is frequently cited as a turning point in the pivotal Battle of Gettysburg and may have cost the South the war.

One of seven infantry corps commanders of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, Ewell has been widely ignored by history, especially compared to the treatment of his contemporaries James Longstreet, A.P. Hill, Jubal Early, and, of course, Jackson himself. Now Ewell is featured in a new and definitive biography, one that concludes that Ewell was a highly competent general whose successes on the battlefield far outweighed his failures.

In RICHARD S. EWELL, historian Donald Pfanz provides a complete and detailed account of Ewell’s life and a balanced view of his personality and wartime achievements. Most biographies of Civil War figures focus on the war years, Pfanz notes, but while the war was the defining event of Ewell’s life, it encompassed just four of his fifty-five years. Ewell participated in two famous cross-country expeditions, fought in the Mexican War, and was instrumental in the settlement of the American Southwest. He crossed paths with Kit Carson, was an adversary of Cochise, and served in Mexico with the likes of Philip Kearny and Robert E. Lee. After the war, Ewell moved to Tennessee and created one of the finest stock farms in that state. All of these events are encompassed in Pfanz’s biography.

The picture of Ewell that has come down through history is one of a hot-tempered eccentric and mediocre commander. As Pfanz points out, this view of Ewell was based on the postwar writings of men such as Jubal Early, Isaac Trimble, and John Gordon, who criticized Ewell and others in order to bolster their own reputations. Their self-serving comments have been taken at face value by most people who have written about the war since then.

Pfanz’s analysis of Ewell’s career, however, shows him to have been a remarkable talented officer who knew how to handle troops in combat. Pfanz consults recent tactical studies to confirm his ability: in the Shenandoah Valley and the Wilderness, at the Seven Days and`Second Winchester, Pfanz argues, he performed well and sometimes brilliantly. Even his performance at Gettysburg does not appear to have been as flawed as previously thought, says Pfanz; certainly it was no worse than those of Lee, Longstreet, Stuart, or A.P. Hill.

When weighed against his many accomplishments, Ewell’s shortcomings appear small. "When the balance sheet is tallied up," Pfanz concludes, "Ewell’s successes as a general far outweigh his failures. "

Kirkus Reviews calls the book "a shrewd, highly readable, and exhaustively researched account that restores Ewell’s reputation as a skilled commander and one who stubbornly gave his all for the lost cause."

Pfanz is a Civil War historian who lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia. His previous writings include the book Petersburg Campaign: Abraham Lincoln at City Point March 20-April 9,1865.

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