BOOK REVIEWS

TITLE------ A CRISIS IN CONFEDERATE COMMAND, EDMUND KIRBY SMITH, RICHARD TAYLOR
                AND THE ARMY OF THE TRANS MISSISSIPPI
AUTHOR---JEFFERY S PRUSHANKIN
PUBLISHER---LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY PRESS
ISBN---------0-8071-3088-5
 
First of all, let me state that the Trans Mississippi, and it's army and commanders, have been largely ignored over the years.  Mr. Prushankin, tries to remedy this oversight in this study, of the clash between, Smith and Taylor and it's effect on the war in the trans Mississippi area.
 
Edmund Kirby Smith. was the department commander of the Trans Mississippi and Richard Taylor was supposedly his subordinate.  The reason I said supposedly is that Taylor understood that he had an independent command and hence was not under Smith's control.  Smith had won fame at First Manassas, and was trying to win that glory back in the Trans Mississippi.  It was a situation set up for an internal fight for control, with the Confederacy's hopes in that area of their country.
 
Smith's first problem with Taylor was a diplomatic one.  How do you command the son of one president, and the brother in law of the an other, without being too commanding? The other diplomatic problem for Smith was the fact that Taylor was a native Louisianan.
 
Taylor's problem with Smith was more on the level of priorities.  Taylor wanted to drive the Yankee's out of Louisiana.  Smith wanted the theater of operations to be in Arkansas. and Missouri.  Consequently, since neither could agree on the priorities, the south lost the Trans Mississippi.
 
The author does a good job on the battles in the Trans Mississippi, not too much detail. But then this is about the battle of two egos, and not a battle study.  The author does a great job on the battle between Smith and Taylor, and it's effect on the Army of the Trans Mississippi.
 
I recommend this book, simply because it covers an area of the war that has been overlooked since the end of the war.
 
I give it 7 stars
 
AntietamCW/Peggy

TITLE---DOLLEY MADISON AN THE CREATION OF THE AMERICAN NATION
AUTHOR---CATHERINE ALLGOR
PUBLISHER---HENRY HOLT
ISBN-------------0-8050-7327-2
 
I really had looked forward to reading this biography.  I think Dolley has intrigued most women since we first heard the story of how she saved the famed Washington portrait, from burning with the White House, during the war of 1812.  I was sorely disappointed in this biography.
 
The author chucked her objectivity in about the second page of the book.  Her version, basically made Dolley a cross between Joan of Ark and Hillary Clinton.  I guess you could say this is the feminist biography.
 
According to the author it was Dolley, and Dolley alone, who saved the government from falling apart in the 1800's.  Oh, and after she saved the government, she helped her husband run the country too.  The author credits Dolley's people skills in preventing the formation of a two party system.  I hate to tell Ms Allgor, that the split into parties took place before Dolley came on the scene in Washington.
 
I do believe that somewhere in the midst of all this feminist babble, is the real Dolley Madison, and I would have liked to meet her, and get to know that Dolley.
 
I give it five stars
 
AntietamCW/Peggy

 
TITLE--------COMMANDING THE ARMY OF THE POTOMAC
AUTHOR----STEPHEN R TAAFFE
PUBLISHER----UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS PRESS
ISBN--------------070061451-6
 
Let me be the first to caution you, if you are looking for a complete study in the command of the Army of the Potomac, this is NOT IT.  Mr. Taaffe's book is more like an overview of the command structure, corps commanders, along with the AOP's commanding generals.  Don't get me wrong, this is a book well worth reading, if you have not studied the topic in depth.
 
Mr. Taaffe has included in this overview of the command of the AOP, biographical sketches of each of the corps commanders and the commanding generals.  In some ways it moves the book along, but in other ways, it does little to move the story of the chaos<for lack of a better word> in the AOP from start to finish.  Most of the biographical information, a serious student of the AOP, and probably of the war as a whole already knows.  I found very few new facts in this book.
 
I do recommend it to a new student of Army of the Potomac, if any in introducing the cast of commanders.  It, is, I think, a helpful book in that regard.
 
I give it 5 stars
 
AntietamCW/

 
TITLE-------BLACK JACK LOGAN
AUTHOR------GARY ECELBARGER
PUBLISHER----THE LYONS PRESS
ISBN-------------1-59228-566-X
 
Most of us have heard of "Black Jack" Logan, in reference to the BATTLE OF ATLANTA. Mr. Ecelbarger, brings Jack Logan to life and makes him more than a figure in a mural, at Grant Park, Atlanta.
 
Logan grew up in that part of Southern Illinois, known as Little Egypt.  Little Egypt had more in common with the states of the Confederacy, than with Northern states.  Logan as product of that region, was one of the most racist and rabid anti abolitionists Illinois had ever seen.  But as presented by the author, Logan is more a believer in the Union itself, then in the sum of it's parts.
 
Logan leaves politics and enters the United States Army, in 1861.  He is wounded three times during the battle for Fort Donelson.  He worships one general by the name of Ulysses Grant, fights with and for him, on the battlefield and in the political field.  When Grants dies, John Alexander Logan is one of his pallbearers.
 
During the war, Logan sees the error of his ways and in the end becomes a champion of the newly freed slaves.  The author makes sure that you understand this change did not over night, but gradually.  As most change in one's outlook usually does.
 
Mr. Ecelberger, brings us a John Logan, with all his faults, and attributes that have been hidden since his passing in 1886.  We are enamored with the famous men and women of the Civil War, and forget that behind,  Grant and Lee were generals who labored with them and for them, till the end.
 
I highly recommend this book.  We have so few on the supporting players of that National Crisis.
 
I give it        8 STARS
 
AntietamCW

 
TITLE---------DAUGHTERS OF THE UNION, NORTHERN WOMEN FIGHT THE CIVIL WAR
AUTHOR----NINA SILBER
PUBLISHER----HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS
ISBN-------------0-674-01677-7
 
First of all, I was really looking forward to reading this book.  My main reason, was I think the northern women during the war get short shift.  I found this book, is not the answer, no matter what James McPherson, may think.  Ms Silber, I believe inflects today women's political agenda on to the women of the Civil War period.
 
Her theory is that northern women, became not less subordinate to men during and after the war but more.  Of all Civil War women that uses to try to make her point, she chooses Mary Ann Bickerdyke, the woman whom even General Sherman would not give orders to. 
 
Through most of the book she uses letters to and from women to their husbands, on the front, to also illustrate the subordinate role of the women.  Did it not occur to her that women in the letters were telling their men what their men expected to hear.
 
My other argument, is that when doing a book on the northern women during the war, she gives very short shift to Catholic Nuns of the north.  She does not have count them as northern women.
 
I give this book only    2 stars
It's not a bad place to start a study of northern women during the war, but there is much more to be written
 
AntietamCW

 
TITLE------TWILIGHT AT LITTLE ROUNDTOP, JULY 2 1863-THE TIDE TURNS AT GETTYSBURG
AUTHOR---GLENN W LAFANTASIE
PUBLISHER---JOHN WILEY AND SONS
ISBN----- 0-471-46231-4
 
First of all, I'll let you know I don't believe that Gettysburg in and of itself turned the tide.  Now on to the book.  Mr. Lafantasie, has taken a portion of the three day battle and turned it in to a microcosm of the whole 3 days.  He has written of the battle of Little Roundtop and gave it a significance that maybe it does deserve.  He follows both side as they make that journey into immortality on a piece of a hill in Pennsylvania.
 
We meet not only Lawrence Chamberlain and William C Oates.  We meet the lowly privates of both armies who more or less slugged it out for a piece of a hill, and for their respective countries, right or wrong.  We feel their fear as well as their heroism.
 
Mr. Lafantasie has done a very good job of demoting Chamberlain from the only hero of Little Roundtop. yes he was one of them.  He makes us learn of Stephen Weed, Strong Vincent, Paddy O'Rourke, and the others who never came off that hill. He makes us understand William C Oates, as he has to leave his wounded brother behind when he orders a retreat.
 
Now let me say I believe that we have way too many books on Gettysburg, that said this one does belong in the collection.
 
I gave this one 8 stars
 
AntietamCW

 
TITLE---TO DIE IN CHICAGO, CONFEDERATE PRISONERS AT CAMP DOUGLAS,1862-1865
AUTHOR-----GEORGE LEVY
PUBLISHER---PELICAN
ISBN-----1-56554-331-9
 
Mr. Levy does a masterful job of bringing the life of Camp Douglas, alive for me.  We tend to forget that the North had POW camps, too.  But in recent years, there has been some excellent books on the northern prison camps.  I would place this one, on the same level as Lonnie Spears, PORTALS OF HELL and Benton McAdams, REBELS AT ROCK ISLAND.  There has also been books on Elmira and Fort Delaware.
 
Mr. Levy, follows a Father and son through their time at Camp Douglas, which gives it a more human face.  Camp Douglas was a trouble spot from the day it opened. The camp never had just one commander, I think I counted 5 or 6,and Mr. Levy, in a way, rates each one.  I must say this is the first book on Northern Prison camps that Colonel later General Hoffman, head of the POW camps for the north did NOT get a lot of the blame for the way they were run.
 
The one thing that bothered me, were the tables at the end of most chapters.  I think they could have been left till the end of the book.  Otherwise i highly recommend this book.
 
I give it 9 stars
 
AntietamCW/Peggy

 
TITLE---AND TO KEEP MOVING ON, THE VIRGINIA CAMPAIGN, MAY-JUNE 1864
AUTHOR----MARK GRIMSLEY
PUBLISHER----UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA PRESS
IBSN-------------0-8032-2162-2
 
Mr. Grimsley, tackles a subject already done well by Gordon Rhea, on the Overland Campaign of 1864.  Grimsley wisely, does move like an overview of the campaign. The book itself is only 237 pages, so as you can see, it's more like a primer for Rhea's multi volume books on the campaign.
 
Grimsley, tells the story with flair and not without some humor along the way.  He has one chapter i do believe could have been left out, that's chapter with a decidedly less historical outlook and more of a psychical outlook. I don't believe a chapter on PTSS is belongs in a book on the overland campaign,  I could be wrong.
 
gets 6 stars
 
AntietamCW/Peggy

 
TITLE----WINFIELD SCOTT HANCOCK, A SOLDIER'S LIFE
AUTHOR----DAVID JORDAN
PUBLISHER---- UNIVERSITY OF INDIANA PRESS<PAPERBACK>
ISBN--------------0-253-21058-5
 
I really wanted to enjoy this book on Hancock, since he is on of the Civil War's authentic heroes, who happened to be a general.  Mr. Jordan, does well, but in only 319 pages, I believe he basically just skimmed the surface of this extraordinary man.
 
Mr. Jordan does a great job writing about Hancock before and after the war.  It's in his telling of the war itself, the book bogged down a bit.  It could be it's because we have grown to know HANCOCK THE SUPERB a bit too well during that era.  There is nothing new in the civil war area of his life that had not already been told elsewhere.
 
One instance, in the post war era, in which Mr. Jordan ,does the great job I alluded to, is in the political arena of Hancock's life.  A Democrat and a constitutionalist, Hancock was a "babe in the woods" politically, and his first run for the democratic presidential nomination in 1868 showed that political inexperience.  But it does make you wonder who would have won that 1868 election if it had been Winfield Hancock vs. U S Grant.
 
Overall, this is not a bad book, just a good book to begin a study of Winfield Scott Hancock.  Glenn Tucker's is still the best.
 
i give it 6 stars
 
AntietamCW/Peggy

 
TITLE-----CAMPAIGNING WITH THE IRISH BRIGADE, PVT. JOHN RYAN,28TH MASSACHUSETTS
EDITED BY---SANDY BARNARD
PUBLISHER---AST PRESS
ISBN------------09618087-9-9
 
I was highly disappointed by this memoir, for several reasons. 

First, The editor first told you of Mr. Ryan's life prior to entering the Federal Army and then proceeded to let Mr. Ryan tell us the same thing.  I found the Mr. Barnard's editorial inserts most interruptive, in the narrative.  He did not really let Mr. Ryan tell us his story.

 
Second, you never get the Irish Brigade till around page 70, so if this was about Mr. Ryan's experience with the Irish Brigade, why did you not reach it till about half way through the book.  It also is a short story about life in the Irish Brigade. not a true memoir of Mr. Ryan's service with it
 
The editor, at the end of each chapter, has notes which are fine and do help.  But what bothered me about notes is that most of the time the editor was correcting what Mr. Ryan wrote in the chapter
 
i give this one a lowly 2 stars, it could have been put together much better
 
AntietamCW/Peggy

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TITLE------CHAMPION HILL, DECISIVE BATTLE FOR VICKSBURG
AUTHOR----TIMOTHY B SMITH
PUBLISHER---SAVAS BEATIE
ISBN-----------1-932714-00-06
 
Mr. Smith ,takes on one of most ignored battles of the Civil War in the West, which is itself ignored. He tries valiantly in my mind to do it justice, but falls just short of the finish line.  The are quite a few errors, not sure if it was not proof read well or Mr. Smith, actually wrote them that way.  For example he has young Fred Grant, along with his army companion, who was with him, being threatened by FEDERAL skirmishers.
 
Champion Hill was a badly managed battle by John Pemberton, with help from William W Loring, who detested Pemberton.  Mr. Smith does well in setting up the battle and the personalities involved.  He reminds us that this was Pemberton's first major battle that he fought as an Army Commander, and that he was a bureaucrat<a gloried paper pusher before he took command>.
 
On the other side of the coin, he believes if Grant had not won at Champion Hill, we may never had heard of him.  He does have kind words for Grant and all his commanders, except John "Black Jack" Logan, who even after the battle was won, stated to Charles Dana that it was lost.
 
Mr. Smith, quotes freely from other Vicksburg historians, such as Terry Winschel and the dean of Vicksburg historians, Mr. Ed Bearss.  Mr. Smith has researched this part of the Vicksburg battle well, and I really don't argue his conclusions. just his writing style. 
 
I give it 7 stars
 
AntietamCW/Peggy

 
TITLE-------THE SWORD OF LINCOLN, THE ARMY OF THE POTOMAC
AUTHOR-------JEFFRY D WERT
PUBLISHER----SIMON AND SCHUSTER
ISBN---------------0-7432-2506-6
 
Once again, Jeff Wert has written and informative and easy to read book, on the war in the East.  His writing has never been better, to my way of thinking.  He writes this tribute to the AOP with a lot of emphasis on the everyday solider.
 
Mr. Wert, once told me he would rather write of the soldiers in the field than of generals.  I agree it's the men in the field who give you the most honest and open thoughts on what is going on around them.  The common soldiers does not have a reputation to worry about.  Mr. Wert has many excerpts from letters and diaries of the common soldier, in this book.
 
He does not forget the generals of the AOP, but like all generals, they have the soldiers' reputations to guard.  He does not explore the under current of the conflict between Gen Grant and Gen Meade to my disappointment, but then this is not a book on their relationship.  It is a book about an Army in search of itself.
 
That Army, indeed, did finally find itself in a small town in Pennsylvania, and never looked back,
 
As I said, this is a well written book, and easy to read. My other objection to the book is, in my mind, poor quality maps to follow.
 
Overall, I give this one 9 stars
 
AntietamCW/Peggy

 
TITLE----THE WIDOW OF THE SOUTH
AUTHOR---ROBERT HICKS
PUBLISHER---WARNER BOOKS
ISBN---0-446-50012-7
 
Mr. Hicks has written a grand story set against the background of the Battle of Franklin and it's aftermath. This Civil War fiction is much better written and much more interesting than Charles Frazier's COLD MOUNTAIN.
 
The main character in the book was a living and breathing southern "belle" Carrie McGovock, who became known as THE WIDOW OF THE SOUTH and how she fought the second battle of Franklin, to make sure those Confederates who died had a place of rest.  The rest of us are fighting to keep what Carrie started alive.
 
The author invents other characters around Carrie that help us understand this woman.  The most interesting, is a Volunteer from Arkansas, Zachariah Casewell, who is wounded during the battle and brought to Carnton. 
 
Mr. Hicks in the epilogue tells the story of the Battle of Franklin, and what happened to real people in the book.  He also acknowledges several well known historians, including the incomparable, Ed Bearss.
 
This is a work of fictlon, but the author draws you in and you almost forget it's a historical fiction.  This is Mr. Hicks first book, and in my eyes is a promising start.
 
I give this one 9 out of 10 stars
 
AntietamCW/Peggy