Book Review–A Fierce Glory

Martin, Justin. A Fierce Glory: Antietam–The Desperate Battle That Saved Lincoln and Doomed Slavery. New York: Da Capo Press. 2018. 318 pages, 256 pages of text. Index, notes, b/w photos, three maps. ISBN 9780306825255, $28.00.

When it comes to Civil War battles there are several that are most prominently mentioned: Gettysburg, Vicksburg, and Antietam. Gettysburg is of course by far the most widely studied and written about with microhistories on topics that can not begin to be comprehended by the average reader. Antietam has not  reached that level yet. In his recently published book A Fierce Glory, author Justin Martin attempts to provide a more general history of the battle; one that the novice can sink their teeth into and use as a springboard for some of the more dense works like those by Carmen, Harsh, or Sears.

Antietam was the deadliest single day in American war history. Martin uses the generic number of more than 3,500 killed on both sides (XIII). The National Park Service provides us with the approximate number 3,650 killed and a total of 22,720 casualties (dead, captures, wounded). As John Meade Gould is quoted “how mighty easy it was to get killed or wounded that day.” (XI)

Martin has two focuses in his text; the Maryland battle including the main leaders McClellan and Lee and then Washington D.C. and the tragic hero Abraham Lincoln. Robert E. Lee is shown in a positive light, especially in light of the injuries suffered in a fall from his horse Traveller. Martin states that Lee was radicalized, truly turned into a Rebel, with the seizing of Arlington by Union forces. (132) McClellan however is described as being “…inflated; his broad shoulders, puffed-out chest, showy uniforms, and the alpha-rooster bearing.” (59) Despite this negative view Martin does stray from the often stated view that McClellan did not act in a timely manner when presented with Lee’s “lost order”; “McClellan responded with uncharacteristic alacrity.” (76) Lincoln is often portrayed in a tragic light, with the sickness and death of his son Willie being a major focus.  With the White House being a sad place for him, the President was known to spend many of his nights in the Soldier’s Home, located a distance from the hum of the capital. The Emancipation Proclamation is discussed  throughout the story as Lincoln waited for the perfect time to make his announcement. The book is finished with a section titled Further Explorations; suggestions for readers to visit.

Overall, this is a good book for someone just learning about the Battle of Antietam or for a general reader. They will not be overwhelmed with regiments, lower ranking officers, troop movements, and in depth battle analysis. Instead, a general history with coverage of major events such as the Rohrbach Bridge (soon to be nicknamed the Burnside Bridge), the cornfield, the sunken road, the Confederate retreat, and a fine section on the medical situation in the area during and after the battle, coupled with accessible writing is a good launch point for more in depth study.

This is not to say however I don’t have some quibbles with the book however. My guess that most of these are publisher related rather than author choices. Having three maps, one of which I consider useless (the map from the Soldiers Home to the White House), is unjustifiable in my mind. The general battlefield map is serviceable but hardly good enough and provides no real perspective. The map placing the town of Sharpsburg area is of limited value to the story. Another issue for me is the formatting of the endnotes. Sure, I prefer footnotes so as to not have to flip back and forth but I am willing to work with publishers. Instead of the traditional numbering system which lets a reader know there is a note there is nothing. Instead, there are page numbers listed and the reader is forced to hope there is a note for something they want to check on. Rather inconvenient in my view. Finally, the lack of a proper bibliography is quite bothersome.

For readers with a grasp of the battle or looking for new research leads this is probably not for you. For a reader new to the Civil War, the armchair traveler, or somebody with a casual interest this is certainly a book to consider. The writing is easy to follow and the pace of the book moves along well. The book will certainly find a place on the Antietam shelf in my library.

Thank you to Da Capo Press for providing a complimentary review copy.

 

Advertisements

Library Additions–November 2018 (3)

Thank you to LSU Press for providing review copies of two new books. Both look quite interesting.

The American South and the Great War, 1914-1924 edited by Matthew L. Downs and M. Ryan Floyd.

Edited by Matthew L. Downs and M. Ryan Floyd, The American South and the Great War, 1914–1924 investigates how American participation in World War I further strained the region’s relationship with the federal government, how wartime hardships altered the South’s traditional social structure, and how the war effort stressed and reshaped the southern economy. The volume contends that participation in World War I contributed greatly to the modernization of the South, initiating changes ultimately realized during World War II and the postwar era. Although the war had a tremendous impact on the region, few scholars have analyzed the topic in a comprehensive fashion, making this collection a much-needed addition to the study of American and southern history.

These essays address a variety of subjects, including civil rights, economic growth and development, politics and foreign policy, women’s history, gender history, and military history. Collectively, this volume highlights a time and an experience often overshadowed by later events, illustrating the importance of World War I in the emergence of a modern South.

Hardcover. 248 pages, index, each entry with own end notes. ISBN 9780807169377, $47.

Upon the Fields of Battle: Essays on the Military History of America’s Civil War (Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War) edited by Andrew S. Bledsoe and Andrew F. Lang  with a forward by Gary W. Gallagher.

New developments in Civil War scholarship owe much to removal of artificial divides by historians seeking to explore the connections between the home front and the battlefield. Indeed, scholars taking a holistic view of the war have contributed to our understanding of the social complexities of emancipation—of freedom in a white republic—and the multifaceted experiences of both civilians and soldiers. Given these accomplishments, research focusing on military history prompts prominent and recurring debates among Civil War historians. Critics of traditional military history see it as old-fashioned, too technical, or irrelevant to the most important aspects of the war. Proponents of this area of study view these criticisms as a misreading of its nature and potential to illuminate the war. The collected essays in Upon the Fields of Battle bridge this intellectual divide, demonstrating how historians enrich Civil War studies by approaching the period through the specific but nonetheless expansive lens of military history.

Drawing together contributions from Keith Altavilla, Robert L. Glaze, John J. Hennessy, Earl J. Hess, Brian Matthew Jordan, Kevin M. Levin, Brian D. McKnight, Jennifer M. Murray, and Kenneth W. Noe, editors Andrew S. Bledsoe and Andrew F. Lang present an innovative volume that deeply integrates and analyzes the ideas and practices of the military during the Civil War. Furthermore, by grounding this collection in both traditional and pioneering methodologies, the authors assess the impact of this field within the social, political, and cultural contexts of Civil War studies.

Upon the Fields of Battle reconceives traditional approaches to subjects like battles and battlefields, practice and policy, command and culture, the environment, the home front, civilians and combatants, atrocity and memory, revealing a more balanced understanding of the military aspects of the Civil War’s evolving history.

Hardcover. 304 pages, index, each entry with own end notes. ISBN 9780807169773, $48.

Library Additions–November 2018 (2)

Thank you to Arcadia Publishing for providing a review copy of The Battle of Ball’s Bluff: All the Drowned Soldiers (Civil War Series) written by Bill Howard.

Softcover, 189 pages, 162 pages of text. Index, bibliography, notes, b/w images, maps. ISBN 9781467140737, $23.99.

From the publisher website:

Three months after the Civil War’s first important battle at Manassas in 1861, Union and Confederate armies met again near the sleepy town of Leesburg. What began as a simple scouting mission evolved into a full-scale battle when a regiment of Union soldiers unexpectedly encountered a detachment of Confederate cavalry. The Confederates pushed forward and scattered the Union line. Soldiers drowned trying to escape back to Union lines on the other side of the Potomac River. A congressional investigation of the battle had long-lasting effects on the war’s political and military administration. Bill Howard narrates the history of the battle as well as its thorny aftermath.

Library Additions–November 2018 (1)

Thank you to LSU Press for providing a complimentary review copy of Lincoln’s Mercenaries: Economic Motivation among Union Soldiers during the Civil War (Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War) written by noted author William Marvel.

Hardcover. 329 pages, 236 pages of text, index, bibliography, notes, b/w images. ISBN 9780807169520, $48.

From the publisher website:

In Lincoln’s Mercenaries, renowned Civil War historian William Marvel considers whether poor northern men bore the highest burden of military service during the American Civil War. Examining data on median family wealth from the 1860 United States Census, Marvel reveals the economic conditions of the earliest volunteers from each northern state during the seven major recruitment and conscription periods of the war. The results consistently support the conclusion that the majority of these soldiers came from the poorer half of their respective states’ population, especially during the first year of fighting.

Marvel further suggests that the largely forgotten economic depression of 1860 and 1861 contributed in part to the disproportionate participation in the war of men from chronically impoverished occupations. During this fiscal downturn, thousands lost their jobs, leaving them susceptible to the modest emoluments of military pay and community support for soldiers’ families. From newspaper accounts and individual contemporary testimony, he concludes that these early recruits—whom historians have generally regarded as the most patriotic of Lincoln’s soldiers—were motivated just as much by money as those who enlisted later for exorbitant bounties, and that those generous bounties were made necessary partly because war production and labor shortages improved economic conditions on the home front.

A fascinating, comprehensive study, Lincoln’s Mercenaries illustrates how an array of social and economic factors drove poor northern men to rely on military wages to support themselves and their families during the war.

Press Release–Civil War Barons Book Release Set

I recently received this information from Da Capo Press about an upcoming release.

Civil War Barons: The Tycoons, Entrepreneurs, Inventors, and Visionaries Who Forged Victory and Shaped a Nation

From prominent historian and Pulitzer Prize finalist Jeffry D. Wert, a multi-biographical work of a remarkable yet largely unknown group of men whose contributions won the war and shaped America’s future

Before the Civil War, America had undergone a technological revolution that made large-scale industry possible, yet, except for the expanding reach of railroads and telegraph lines, the country remained largely rural, with only pockets of small manufacturing. Then the war came and woke the sleeping giant. The Civil War created a wave of unprecedented industrial growth and development, producing a revolution in new structures, ideas, and inventions that sustained the struggle and reshaped America.

Energized by the country’s dormant potential and wealth of natural resources, individuals of vision, organizational talent, and capital took advantage of the opportunity war provided. Their innovations sustained Union troops, affected military strategy and tactics, and made the killing fields even deadlier. Individually, these men came to dominate industry and amass great wealth and power; collectively, they helped save the Union and refashion the economic fabric of a nation.

Utilizing extensive research in manuscript collections, company records, and contemporary newspapers, historian Jeffry D. Wert casts a revealing light on the individuals most responsible for bringing the United States into the modern age.

On Sale: November 6th 2018
Price: $16.99 / $21.99 (CAD)
Page Count: 288
ISBN-13: 9780306825132

Library Additions: October 2018 (1)

Thank you to the good people at Da Capo Press for providing a complimentary copy of the new book A Fierce Glory: Antietam–The Desperate Battle That Saved Lincoln and Doomed Slavery  written by Justin Martin. ISBN 9780306825255, cover price $28.

From the publisher website:

On September 17, 1862, the “United States” was on the brink, facing a permanent split into two separate nations. America’s very future hung on the outcome of a single battle–and the result reverberates to this day. Given the deep divisions that still rive the nation, given what unites the country, too, Antietam is more relevant now than ever.

The epic battle, fought near Sharpsburg, Maryland, was a Civil War turning point. The South had just launched its first invasion of the North; victory for Robert E. Lee would almost certainly have ended the war on Confederate terms. If the Union prevailed, Lincoln stood ready to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. He knew that freeing the slaves would lend renewed energy and lofty purpose to the North’s war effort. Lincoln needed a victory to save the divided country, but victory would come at a price. Detailed here is the cannon din and desperation, the horrors and heroes of this monumental battle, one that killed 3,650 soldiers, still the highest single-day toll in American history.

Justin Martin, an acclaimed writer of narrative nonfiction, renders this landmark event in a revealing new way. More than in previous accounts, Lincoln is laced deeply into the story. Antietam represents Lincoln at his finest, as the grief-racked president–struggling with the recent death of his son, Willie–summoned the guile necessary to manage his reluctant general, George McClellan. The Emancipation Proclamation would be the greatest gambit of the nation’s most inspired leader. And, in fact, the battle’s impact extended far beyond the field; brilliant and lasting innovations in medicine, photography, and communications were given crucial real-world tests. No mere gunfight, Antietam rippled through politics and society, transforming history.

A Fierce Glory is a fresh and vibrant account of an event that had enduring consequences that still resonate today.

World War I Centennial Event in Geneva, FL

Press release from the Geneva Historical & Genealogical Society:

leinster-colour-40~ Oct. 10, Wed. – Come to a WWI Centennial Memorial for Perry Taylor of Geneva and the other 500+ who died on the RMS Leinster in the Irish Sea on Oct. 10, 1918, when it was hit by 3 German torpedoes just before the end of WWI. Memorials are being held in Ireland and other Allied countries on the same day. Most of those killed were military young men and women. It is at 2:00 PM, in Geneva Cemetery, Cemetery Road, off 1st Street. Come honor those who died as well as our military men and women from WWI buried in Geneva. We are the only U.S. community having the Memorial for the 6 U.S. soldiers who drowned.

Art in Public Places–DeLand, Florida

Art is all around us. Some cities are enthusiastic supporters of public art and work to make sure their landscapes are enhanced with art, whether it be murals, sculptures, or other types. The city of DeLand, Florida is one of those cities.

Take a look at this page hosted by Maintstreet DeLand to review an amazing series of murals that can be found throughout the city. Here is an interesting look at Florida and DeLand history on the sides of local businesses. Also included in the listing is a page showcasing a series of plaques recognizing historical buildings. You can learn a lot about early DeLand history by taking this walk.

If you are more interested in sculpture how about taking the DeLand Sculpture Walk, available through the Museum of Art—DeLand. My personal favorite is American Dog, by Dale Rogers, that is located at the fire station. On this page you can also learn about the DeLand Utility Box Art Project, which is an innovative way to disguise the rather ugly utility boxes that dot modern American streets.

No matter where you live or visit, keep your eyes open. There is wonderful public art available for your viewing pleasure. Some is traditional, some is modern, a lot of it is just plain funky. It’s up to you to find and enjoy it.

Have a favorite piece of public art? Share it with us by commenting.

New Book on World War II Era Sherman Tanks

ATGLEN, PA – Schiffer Publishing, Ltd. would like to introduce Sherman Tank Vol. 1: America’s M4A1 Medium Tank in World War II (Legends of Warfare: Ground) by David Doyle.

This book documents the development and production of the M4A1 through its many variations, as well as its combat use around the globe. Produced by Lima Locomotive Works, Pressed Steel Car Company, and Pacific Car and Foundry, the M4A1 was the first of the famed Sherman tanks and preceded the welded-hull M4 into production. Powered by a nine-cylinder, air-cooled radial engine, the M4A1 fought in North Africa with both US and British forces, across northwestern Europe, and on Pacific Islands with both the Army and the Marines, serving well into the 1950s. The evolving design went through three major hull designs, multiple turret designs, and armament with either a 75 mm or 76 mm gun—all of which are detailed in this book. Extensive archival photographs are augmented by stunning color images of preserved tanks, taking the reader around and inside this famed warhorse. Part of the Legends of Warfare series.

David Doyle’s earliest published works appeared in periodicals aimed at the historic military vehicle restoration hobby. By 1999, this included regular features in leading hobby publications, appearing regularly in US, English and Polish magazines. Since 2003, over 100 of his books have been published. Broadening his horizons from his inital efforts concerning vehicles, he soon added aircraft and warships to his research objectives.

New World War I Related Exhibit at Musee de l’Armee Invalides

A major new exhibition at the Musée de l’Armée (if you visit the museum website you may translate to English through the drop down menu in the upper right corner) opening musee de l'armee invalidesin October will retrace the reorganization of the Eastern Europe and the Near East from 1918 with the loose conglomeration of disturbances, violence and instability. The exhibition will explore this little-known period in history marked by revolutions, civil wars, major border shifts and the creation of new states.

While the conflicts came to an end on 11 November 1918 in Western Europe, the Great War allowed in the East until 1923. This exhibition is a unique opportunity to understand the complex struggles of the Eastern Europe and the Near East whose repercussions can still be seen today.

In the wake of the fall of the empires – Russian, Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian and German – some new countries were created by treaties which were soon contested. The Treaty of Sèvre, signed on 10 August 1920 by Turkey and the Allies, was replaced by the Treaty of Lausanne, signed on 24 July 1923.

The exhibition sets out to show how, in this troubled context of the resolution of the First World War, France tried, with some difficulty, to put its military dominance to use in bringing stability to the region within a complex partnership of allies.

READ THE PRESS RELEASE