Civil War Book Review Has New Website URL

I am a bit late on posting this but better late than never I suppose. I received this press release and wanted to pass it along.

The Civil War Book Review, a quarterly journal published by the LSU Libraries’ Special Collections Division, has released its Spring 2018 issue.

I’ll start by addressing the elephant in the room: the CWBR’s website has changed! Along with the new design, the CWBR has a new URL: https://digitalcommons.lsu.edu/cwbr/. Using CWBR.com, however, should still redirect you to the new website. Read more about these changes in my editorial.

Now let’s take a peek at some of this issue’s great content.

Frank Williams’ reviews Lincoln’s Sense of Humor by Richard Carwardine. Williams finds Carwardine’s book a worthwhile venture for its succinct explanations of how humor helped Lincoln survive the rough-and-tumble world of antebellum politics and navigate the presidency.

For this issue’s author interview, I spoke with Brook Thomas about his new book The Literature of Reconstruction: Not in Plain Black and White.   In the interview, Dr. Thomas not only shared his thoughts about the period’s major novels, but he also explained why the era’s fictional works are essential for understanding the era’s political and legal debates.

In Civil War Obscura, our new column about classic books, Meg Groeling takes a close look at Mary Chestnut’s diaries. Groeling not only revisits Chestnut’s significance as an eye-witness, but also provides a short history about the book’s life after its original 1905 publication.

Special Collections librarian Hans Rasmussen discusses the fortifications of Civil War Washington, D.C. in this issue’s Civil War Treasures column. Be sure to view the detailed sketches Hans included by downloading the images from the supplemental materials link beside the article’s abstract.

Some of our reviews include Gaines Foster’s look at Denmark Vesey’s Garden: Slavery and Memory in the Cradle of the Confederacy and Mark Cheathem’s appraisal of The Lost Founding Father  by William J. Cooper. 

As always I want to thank the CWBR’s contributors for their hard work, and our readers for their patience and attention.

Editorial Staff
Civil War Book Review
108A Hill Memorial Library
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, LA 70803
https://digitalcommons.lsu.edu/cwbr/

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University of North Carolina Press 40% off sale

For history lovers, the University of North Carolina Press has announced a whopping 40% off sale in conjunction with having released their 2018 American History catalog. Spend $75 or more and get free shipping. I did not see an end date for this sale but I wouldn’t wait too long. For more information click HERE and get to saving.

Press Release–New Ulysses S. Grant Biography

I received the following information from Westholme Publishing concerning a new release of theirs, scheduled for May 2018; The Presidency of Ulysses S. Grant: Preserving the Civil War’s Legacy written by Paul Kahan.

A short, focused history of the politics of Reconstruction in a changing America:
On December 5, 1876, President Ulysses S. Grant transmitted his eighth and final message to Congress. In reviewing his tenure as president, Grant proclaimed, “Mistakes have been made,” though he assured Congress, his administration’s “failures have been errors of judgment, not of intent.” Until recently, scholars have portrayed Grant as among the country’s worst chief executives. Though the scholarly consensus about Grant’s presidency is changing, the general public knows little, if anything, about his two terms, other than their outsized reputation for corruption. While scandals are undoubtedly part of the story, there is more to Grant’s presidency: Grant faced the Panic of 1873, the severest economic depression in U.S. history, defeated the powerful Senator Charles Sumner on the annexation of Cuba, and deftly avoided war with Spain while laying the groundwork for the “special relationship” between Great Britain and the United States. Grant’s efforts to ensure justice for African-Americans and American Indians, however, were undercut by his own decisions and by the contradictory demands of the various constituencies that made up the Republican Party.

In The Presidency of Ulysses S. Grant: Preserving the Civil War’s Legacy, historian Paul Kahan focuses on the unique political, economic, and cultural forces unleashed by the Civil War and how Grant addressed these issues during his tumultuous two terms as chief executive. A timely reassessment, The Presidency of Ulysses S. Grant sheds new light on the business of politics in the decade after the Civil War and portrays an energetic and even progressive executive whose legacy has been overshadowed by both his wartime service and his administration’s many scandals.

Library Additions–February 2018 (1)

Thank you to my good friends at Arcadia Publishing for sending along copies of a couple of their new Civil War releases.

New Bern and the Civil War (Civil War Series) written by James Edward White III.

On March 14, 1862, Federal forces under the command of General Ambrose Burnside overwhelmed Confederate forces in the Battle of New Bern, capturing the town and its important seaport. From that time on, Confederates planned to retake the city. D.H. Hill and James J. Pettigrew made the first attempt but failed miserably. General George Pickett tried in February 1864. He nearly succeeded but called the attack off on the edge of victory. The Confederates made another charge in May led by General Robert Hoke. They had the city surrounded with superior forces when Lee called Hoke back to Richmond and ended the expedition. Author Jim White details the chaotic history of New Bern in the Civil War.

Wade Hampton’s Iron Scouts: Confederate Special Forces (Civil War Series) written by D. Michael Thomas.

Serving from late 1862 to the war’s end, Wade Hampton’s Scouts were a key component of the comprehensive intelligence network designed by Generals Robert E. Lee, J.E.B. Stuart and Wade Hampton. The Scouts were stationed behind enemy lines on a permanent basis and provided critical military intelligence to their generals. They became proficient in “unconventional” warfare and emerged unscathed in so many close-combat actions that their foes grudgingly dubbed them Hampton’s “Iron Scouts.” Author D. Michael Thomas presents the previously untold story of the Iron Scouts for the first time.

Library Additions January 2018 (1)

Thank you to Southern Illinois University Press for sending along a complimentary copy of Turning Points of the American Civil War (Engaging the Civil War).

Engaging the Civil War, a series founded by the editors of the Emerging Civil War blog group, adopts the sensibility and accessibility of public history while adhering to the standards of academic scholarship. To engage readers and bring them to a new understanding of America’s great story, series authors draw on insights they gained while working with the public—walking the ground where history happened at battlefields and historic sites, talking with visitors in museums, and educating students in classrooms.

With fresh perspectives, field-tested ideas, and in-depth research, volumes in the series connect readers with the story of the Civil War in ways that make history meaningful to them while underscoring the continued relevance of the war, its causes, and its effects. All Americans can claim the Civil War as part of their history. This series helps them engage with it.

About the book:

Contributors to this collection, public historians with experience at Civil War battle sites, examine key shifts in the Civil War and the context surrounding them to show that many chains of events caused the course of the war to change: the Federal defeats at First Bull Run and Ball’s Bluff, the wounding of Joseph Johnston at Seven Pines and the Confederate victory at Chancellorsville, the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, the Federal victory at Vicksburg, Grant’s decision to move on to Richmond rather than retreat from the Wilderness, the naming of John B. Hood as commander of the Army of Tennessee, and the 1864 presidential election. In their conclusion, the editors suggest that the assassination of Abraham Lincoln might have been the war’s final turning point.

Library Additions July 2017 (2)

I recently received a complimentary review copy of the self-published memoir Hilltop Doc: A Marine Corpsman Fighting Through the Mud and Blood of the Korean War written by Leonard Adreon.

As a Marine corpsman, Leonard Adreon saw some of the worst of the Korean War’s carnage and the best of its humanity. His gripping description brings to life the war between the Chinese army and the U.S. Marines as they battled to take the high ground. You will feel the anguish, the frustration and the terror endured by Marines on the hillsides of Korea, and how U.S. troops fought with valor and esprit de corps under adverse conditions and against massive Chinese forces. As a corpsman, Adreon tells the story from the unique perspective of a young man from St. Louis, with no medical background, thrown into the role of saving lives amid the war’s violence. He leavens the grim, emotional, and sometimes ironic battlefield scenes with his background story – of how his own mistakes and the military’s bumbling landed him at Korea’s 38th Parallel.

Learn more by visiting Mr. Adreon’s website by clicking HERE.

With my current writing being about Korean War vets this one will no doubt rise to near the top of my to be read pile considering the early reviews have been positive.

Library Additions–July 2017 (1)

Hurley, Richard. California and the Civil War (Civil War Series). Charleston: Arcadia Publishing. 2017. 176 pages, index, annotated bibliography, end notes, b/w photos. ISBN 9781625858245, $21.99.

Thank you to Arcadia Publishing for sending along a complimentary review copy. From their website:

In the long and bitter prelude to war, southern transplants dominated California government, keeping the state aligned with Dixie. However, a murderous duel in 1859 killed “Free Soil” U.S. Senator David C. Broderick, and public opinion began to change. As war broke out back east, a golden-tongued preacher named Reverend Thomas Starr King crisscrossed the state endeavoring to save the Golden State for the Union. Seventeen thousand California volunteers thwarted secessionist schemes and waged brutal campaigns against native tribesmen resisting white encroachment as far away as Idaho and New Mexico. And a determined battalion of California cavalry journeyed to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley to battle John Singleton Mosby, the South’s deadliest partisan ranger. Author Richard Hurley delves into homefront activities during the nation’s bloodiest war and chronicles the adventures of the brave men who fought far from home.

Library Additions–June 2017 (1)

Dekle, George R. Prairie Defender: The Murder Trials of Abraham Lincoln. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. 2017. 231 pages, index, bibliography, end notes, b/w photos. ISBN 978089335978, $34.50.

Thank you to Southern Illinois University Press for sending along a complimentary review copy. From their website:

According to conventional wisdom, Abraham Lincoln spent most of his law career collecting debt and representing railroads, and this focus made him inept at defending clients in homicide cases. In this unprecedented study of Lincoln’s criminal cases, George Dekle disproves these popular notions, showing that Lincoln was first and foremost a trial lawyer. Through careful examination of Lincoln’s homicide cases and evaluation of his legal skills, Dekle demonstrates that criminal law was an important part of Lincoln’s practice, and that he was quite capable of defending people accused of murder, trying approximately one such case per year.

Dekle begins by presenting the viewpoints of not only those who see Lincoln as a perfect lawyer whose only flaw was his inability to represent the wrong side of a case but also those who believe Lincoln was a less-than-honest legal hack. The author invites readers to compare these wildly different stereotypes with the flesh-and-blood Lincoln revealed in each case described in the book, including an axe murder suit in which Lincoln assisted the prosecution, a poisoning case he refused to prosecute for $200 but defended for $75, and a case he won by proving that a supposed murder victim was actually still alive.

For each case Dekle covers, he first tells the stories of the feuds, arguments, and insults that led to murder and other criminal activity, giving a gripping view of the seamy side of life in nineteenth-century Illinois. Then he traces the course of the pretrial litigation, describes the trials and the various tactics employed in the prosecution and defense, and critiques the performance of both Lincoln and his adversaries.

Dekle concludes that Lincoln was a competent, diligent criminal trial lawyer who knew the law, could argue it effectively to both judge and jury, and would use all lawful means to defend clients whether he believed them to be innocent or guilty. His trial record shows Lincoln to have been a formidable defense lawyer who won many seemingly hopeless cases through his skill as a courtroom tactician, cross-examiner, and orator. Criminal defendants who could retain Lincoln as a defense attorney were well represented, and criminal defense attorneys who sought him as co-counsel were well served. Providing insight into both Lincoln’s legal career and the culture in which he practiced law, Prairie Defender resolves a major misconception concerning one of our most important historical figures.

New Nathan Bedford Forrest Biography

Bust Hell Wide Open: The Life of Nathan Bedford Forrest
Bust Hell Wide Open: The Life of Nathan Bedford Forrest

Nathan Bedford Forrest: Hero or Villain? Defending the Legacy of One of America’s Greatest Generals

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Union General William Tecumseh Sherman cursed him as “That devil Forrest.” Confederate Commander Robert E. Lee said he was the greatest military genius of the war. This giant of a man—six foot two, two hundred and ten pounds—was Nathan Bedford Forrest, a general who killed no less than thirty men in man-to-man combat in the Civil War. There have been other biographies of Forrest, but none like Bust Hell Wide Open: The Life of Nathan Bedford Forrest (Regnery History; $29.99; October 3, 2016) by Professor Samuel W. Mitcham, Jr.

Forrest’s legacy is clouded by his role as the first Grand Wizard of the KKK (a group he later helped to disband and disavow); however, there is more than meets the eye behind his controversial past. Bust Hell Wide Open is a comprehensive portrait of Forrest as a man: his achievements, failings, reflections, and regrets.

Mitcham taps all the latest scholarship while approaching Forrest not just as a celebrated general whose campaigns are studied to this day, but as a man in full, a man raised and shaped by the Tennessee frontier, with a conscience sharpened by his devoutly Christian wife.

Gallant, tough, chivalrous, Forrest was the epitome of a Confederate cavalryman, but without the polish and education of a Virginia aristocrat.

Bust Hell Wide Open reveals little-known, fascinating stories about a multi-faceted man, such as:

· When Forrest said he would “bust Hell wide open” rather than surrender to the Federals during the siege of Fort Donelson

· How he hunted down a panther when he was fifteen

· When he fought a gunfight in the Western frontier

· How he grew up in poverty on a ramshackle farm—responsible, as a teenager, for the well-being of his widowed mother and nine siblings

· How he amassed a business fortune, which he spent on his troops