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theknightirish
Apr 24, 2021
In Civil War Book Enabling
Everyone can tell by now that I'm on a Peninsula Campaign streak at the moment. Well Crenshaw's detailed look at the Battle of Glendale (sometimes called Frayser's Farm) was next on my list... I am going to start with my conclusion - this is one of the best battle narratives I have read on the Civil War in years. I enjoyed it immensely. Crenshaw's style and prose very much appeal to me. He recounts the masterplan for the closely co-ordinated attack of units under Hill, Holmes, Huger, Jackson, Longstreet and Magruder, and how its falls apart. Poor timing, lack of experience, non-existent staff work and an unwieldly pre-corps division system mean that only Longstreet's and Hill's troops make attacks and these are mistimed and disjointed. Even though only 20,000 rebel troops of a potential 70,000 make the attack it's a rough day for the Union Army. McCall is captured, Meade is horribly injured multiple times, and John Reynolds' replacement, Simmons, is killed. The Union is saved by the performance of the actors on the flanks, Phil Kearny and Joe Hooker. His Glendale performance is probably the pinnacle of Kearny's military career. Crenshaw's description of the confused but determined fighting in thick woods and appalling terrain, and particularly his description of the seesaw fighting over the Union batteries in the centre really gives a sense of the visceral struggle at Glendale. You get some sense of the horror and barbarity of close quarters infantry versus artillery fighting from Crenshaw's descriptions. This is a first class contribution to a much neglected campaign of the Civil War and I heartily commend it to you.
The Battle of Glendale: Robert E. Lee's Lost Opportunity
by Douglas Crenshaw content media
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theknightirish
Apr 11, 2021
In Civil War Book Enabling
The Battle of Williamsburg gets lost in histories of the Peninsula Campaign as a minor prelude, but it deserves better. Earl C. Hastings Jr and David Hastings seek to restore Williamsburg to its proper status in what appears to be the only book-length study of the battle. The first thing to note about the authors is that they are locals with an intimate and detailed knowledge of the ground. They seem to have walked it all including private areas not generally accessible to the public. That knowledge combines with their research on the defences and the concepts of military engineering behind them to deliver an excellent grasp of the challenges facing both the defending Rebels and the assaulting Union Army. While the authors go to great lengths to debunk many of the hackneyed myths about the battle they do deliver credit to its traditionally well known figures e.g. Kearny, Hooker, and Hancock. They also note the performance of less well-known characters like John J. Peck. On the rebel side they are rather more forgiving of John Bankhead Magruder than many authors before or since, choosing to ascribe his performance to exhaustion and disappointment rather than drink ("tired and emotional" in British Parliamentary code). The less well known elder Ewell brother, Benjamin S. Ewell, also gets some well-deserved publicity. In a level of detail that would frustrate Phil Kearny (who described it as "minor affair") the authors give an excellent description of Hancock's crossing of Cub Run, his seizure of the abandoned redoubts, and his repulse of the piecemeal attacks of Early and D.H. Hill. Yes there are a great many typographical errors in the book (good luck working out who the historians referred to are - their names are often garbled beyond recognition) and the odd error creeps in on the periphery (they have the West Point goats assigned to the infantry rather than to the cavalry) but for anyone interested in a thorough and engaging treatment of this early battle this is a must have text.
A Pitiless Rain: The Battle of Williamsburg content media
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theknightirish
Mar 28, 2021
In Civil War Book Enabling
When you want to get to know a Civil War General like Phil Kearny, but the only biographies are uncritical hagiographies, you have no choice but to go direct to the well - in this instance the Civil War Letters of General Philip Kearny as edited by William B. Styple. After a brief introduction and a contemporary tribute we follow Kearny's letters from camp at Alexandria, through his advance on Manassas, the Peninsula Campaign, back to Manassas, and finally to the night before Chantilly. These letters are primarily to his wife Agnes and to his friend and lawyer Cortlandt Parker. We do not have the other side of the conversation in the form of their correspondence so occasionally references and responses in Kearny's letters lack context. Interspersed with the correspondence are various official reports of engagements and anecdotes of Kearny's war. While these anecdotes are some of the most engaging elements of the book, this is also where frustration with the editor begins. There are no notes or references in the book at all and so the reader is left in the dark as to where the editor found these stories and even on occasions who is telling them. Nonetheless there is a lot to be learned from Kearny's letters. Kearny rates his own Mexican and European military experience highly, and has grave doubts about those who do not have comparable experience, at least in Mexico, to command large bodies of volunteers. He is particularly scathing about the preponderance of former engineers among the early Civil War generals given their lack of command and combat experience. The leads us to Kearny's bete noire - George Brinton McClellan. Forget the most critical biographies of McClellan you've read. No one has a worse opinion of McClellan than Kearny. Furthermore Kearny's attitude manifests itself from early in his appointment. The decision not to press the rebels following their retreat from their supply base at Centeville; the decision to reorient the advance on Richmond to the Peninsula; the conduct of the campaign in the Peninsula; the promotion, in every sense, of incompetents and mediocrities (in Kearny's expert opinion); all these Kearny declares are signs that McClellan is at best a fool and at worst, and in Kearny's opinion more likely, a traitor. Kearny's dissatisfaction manifests itself, unexpectedly if you've read the hagiographies, in whining and complaint: about his lack of promotion; his lack of credit in the press and amongst politicians; about the content of McClellan's official reports; in criticism of his superiors, comrades and elements of the army; and in constant threats to resign. Often his frustrations boil over into the ridiculous, at one point declaring Pennsylvania the most cowardly state! Oddly we also see that in many ways his sympathies ought to have lain with the South. He declares himself Southerner by education and inclination. His friends are Southerners - Magruder, Ewell, Lee, Beauregard, Joe Johnston, and Roberdeau Wheat. However Kearny detests slavery and rebellion and those are the deciding factors for his allegiance notwithstanding his obvious contempt for "Northerners". In fact, while we would find Kearny's views of race deplorable now, they seem remarkably forward thinking for the time given his sympathies, especially early in the war. He proposes the incorporation of freedmen into the army for all non-combat roles, and ultimately acknowledges that the Army should experiment with armed and disciplined regiments of freedmen. However his views are driven by his European experiences with 'native' troops. He thinks that European officers or sergeants with experience in the West Indian regiments might be required to make regiments of freedmen effective. We see the circle of Kearny's friends in the army (even if he doesn't always respect their abilities): Hooker, Sickles, John J. Peck, Butterfield, David Birney, Hiram Berry and, of course, the French Princes on McClellan's staff. We see Kearny and his division become the emergency response unit for the eastern armies: at Williamsburg, at Fair Oaks, at Glendale, at Second Manassas and finally at Chantilly. Kearny argues that he is not 'rash', as he fears many perceive him (described wonderfully as commanding in the "French style"), but rather that a good general ought to be at the front to direct events unlike, yes you guessed it, George McClellan. In the end we see a much more nuanced version of Kearny than can be found in his biographies. His vanity, his professional self-pity, his grief, his sense of humour, his courage and professionalism all shine through his letters and the anecdotes to provide a much more rounded picture of the man. For those with a interest in Philip Kearny this book is an essential acquisition, but be prepared for the irritation of having to trace the sources for the most interesting elements of the book yourself...
Letters From The Peninsula - The Civil War Letters of General Philip Kearny. Edited by William B. Styple content media
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theknightirish
Mar 16, 2021
In Civil War Book Enabling
For all my book enabling and for all the books that are written about the Civil War each year I find that there are important characters and subjects that have either not yet been written about or written about well. I thought I'd focus on the characters in need of a good biography (and save the other subjects for another time). If you know of a good book on the following please speak up. In the meantime I have come up with the following, purely at random, who seem to be short of a good bio: William Farrar Smith aka Baldy Smith; Sir Percy Wyndham; Andrew A. Humphreys; Wesley Merritt; George Sykes; Nathan Kimball; Michael Corcoran; Regis de Trobriand; Robert Minty; Franklin Gardner; Dabney H. Maury; Richard B. Garnett; Benjamin F. Cheatham. When I think about how many books there are about Lee, Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, Jackson, Forrest, Custer and Chamberlain I rather wish we had more and better books on a wider field of characters. After all not all of the unsung have left no papers - Baldy Smith bequeathed a huge amount of correspondence and comment. John Buford left almost none and we have several books on his life and wars...Who needs a (new) biography and why?
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theknightirish
Mar 06, 2021
In Civil War Book Enabling
My recommendations for Pea Ridge relevant bios that I have/have read are: Pea Ridge by William L. Shea and Earl J. Hess War Eagle: A Life of General Eugene A. Carr by James T. King (I love this one and Carr) Van Dorn: The Life and Times of a Confederate General by Robert G. Hartje Yankee Dutchman: The Life of Franz Sigel by Stephen D. Engle Jefferson Davis in Blue: The Life of Sherman's Relentless Warrior by Nathaniel Cheairs Hughes Jr and Gordon D. Whitney
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theknightirish
Mar 06, 2021
In Western Theatre
Reference to the short article I referred to in the livestream is https://doi.org/10.2307/40025429
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theknightirish
Jan 30, 2021
In Civil War Pics
Oh Mr President... content media
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theknightirish
Jan 30, 2021
In Civil War Talk
In my reading on the Civil War the subject that is notable by its absence is the discussion of the use, impact and perhaps misuse of the Staff Officers. At a time when European armies, like the French and Prussians, have already identified challenges to the staff when directing large armies in complex battles and set up staff colleges to train dedicated staff officers, the United States hasn't. Maintaining a small army during the early nineteenth century, through both the War of 1812 and the Mexican War, these lessons were never learned by American officers even though the likes of Lee, Joe Johnson, McClellan and Beauregard had served on Scott's staff in Mexico. In fact their experience suggested they required only a small staff to communicate in the field. Does anyone know good studies of the subject or have views of their own? Is Gettysburg a disorganised shambles for the Confederates because Lee has too small and inefficient a staff? Does Chilton need to be handed a pistol and given some privacy for the loss of Special Order 191 - a staff officer's worst nightmare? How much of Grant's reputation belongs to John Rawlins? How much of the credit Hooker gets for reorganising the Army of the Potomac after Fredericksburg belongs in reality to Dan Butterfield? Are the successful generals the ones who have the best, most effective staff? Are there unsung excellent staff officers buoying the reputation of average generals...? Discuss...
The Hidden Staff... content media
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theknightirish
Jan 18, 2021
In Civil War "What If..."
If anyone is familiar with alternatehistory.com there are a few rather interesting and detailed expansions of Civil War What if Stories (and a lot of bloody awful ones): There's a Trent Affair goes hot with multiple British Armies on the North American continent in "Wrapped in Flames" https://www.alternatehistory.com/forum/threads/wrapped-in-flames-the-great-american-war-and-beyond.384833/ or a very minor work by an idiot known to some of you about McClellan dying during the Peninsula Campaign "A Glorious Union" with a harsher civil war and better looking Reconstruction https://www.alternatehistory.com/forum/threads/a-glorious-union-or-america-the-new-sparta.237525/ I am also interested in any What If book enabling. Unless you say Harry Harrison. I'll invent a "BAN" button if you mention Harry Harrison...
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theknightirish
Jan 18, 2021
In Civil War Talk
Just copying and pasting my comments from the Book enabling for wider attention of the subject: the effect on some denominations is profound. With the Episcopalians its Bishop Leonidas Polk of Louisiana, one of the senior Southern bishops, who 'secedes' from the national organisation forming The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America (1861-1865). With the Methodists its much earlier and more profound. The Methodist Episcopal Church, South breaks of in 1844 over the national church's prohibition against slave owning (a Southern bishop bought one and then inherited another). The Methodist Episcopal Church lost the Free Methodist Church, which wanted to be more radical, and the Christian Union, which seems to me to have been the Methodist Church of Copperheads. However the Methodist Episcopal Church remained robust enough, not withstanding these splits, to get the War Dept. to order the army to support the 'MEC' to seize MEC South churches in the rebelling states. However the MEC South survives until 1939 before reuniting. Even then there is another schism as hardliners left to form (in 1940) the Southern Methodist Church. Ironically their are a lot of African Americans in the MEC South up to the Civil War, but naturally there is an exodus to northern and/or African American focused Methodist churches. I am going to look back at the Baptists, Presbyterians and the Catholic Churches over lunch to remind myself about those, but it really is a fascinating subject...
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theknightirish
Jan 16, 2021
In Civil War Book Enabling
This book was my introduction to the religious aspects & splits in the Civil War: Faith in the Fight: Civil War Chaplains by John W. Brinsfield (Editor)
Religion in the Civil War content media
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theknightirish
Jan 03, 2021
In Civil War Book Enabling
My list of Civil War books in general and my collection of Civil War biographies in particular can be found at https://www.goodreads.com/friend/i?feature=friend-invite-url&invite_token=ZWEwZTYwZjgtZGNlNi00NTZkLWFhOGYtZDQzZTRjZmU5MzE2 If its on my Goodreads I own it. Its either here in Enfield, in my storage unit, or at the Ryan Diamond Memorial Library Suite that my parents have maintained in Northern Ireland for about 20 years now...
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theknightirish
Jan 03, 2021
In Civil War Talk
Which General had the most potential to affect the direction of the war at the moment of his death? Anyone mentioning Jackson at Gettysburg better make it good or its Andersonville for you old boy! A.S.Johnson? Birdseye McPherson? My two are Philip Kearny Jr. and Charles Ferguson Smith... Kearny is marked for corps command at least by Lincoln at the time of his death at Chantilly. Implacably hostile to McClellan and an acquaintance of Lincoln's going back to before the Mexican-American War, he had the advantage of actually fighting in battles of 100,000s before the Civil War, fighting with the French at Solferino. He originated the idea of the corps badges that his friend Hooker expanded on. He originated his own medal, the Kearny Cross, in frustration with the failure of Congress to authorise awards for the men which inspired the Medal of Honor. He had a positive view of recruiting freedmen having formed his ideas watching Africans in French service fight in North Africa and Italy. Imagine a Chancellorsville with Kearny as a corps commander or as Hooker's no.2 ready to step in...? Or Kearny at Antietam attacking in conjunction with other corps because he's not waiting for orders from McClellan (who Kearny thought a coward at best, a traitor at worst)...? Charles Ferguson Smith had been Grant and Sherman's teacher at West Point. Appointed to serve under Grant he was steadfastly loyal to Grant. He showed his skill whipping his raw recruit division into a force fit to perform outstandingly at Fort Donelson. Smith's experience, dignity, and unselfish character made him Grant's mainstay. Sherman spoke of him fondly too. When Grant was relieved by his enemy Halleck it was Smith who was placed in command. If he had lived he would have led his division at Shiloh (W.H.L. Wallace replaced him). A living C.F. Smith likely stays at Grant's left hand just as Sherman is at his right. If Smith lives then who knows - he might be the one marching on Atlanta...or he might be one of Sherman's wing commanders instead of Howard or Slocum. Perhaps he keeps McPherson from rising to corps command...? These are my favourite two "the General lives" what ifs. One for the East and one for the West. What are yours?
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