Updated 5/31/04

Eastern ACW Books

This is the least interesting of the major campaigns in the east, IMHO. Burnside, while not the "worst military commander in history" (according to the History Channel), had no imagination and just drove straight ahead once his plans to surprise Lee failed. His initial plan to cross at Fredericksburg while Lee was still far to the northwest almost worked and was actually a pretty good idea.


Fredericksburg 1862: 'Clear the Way'



Carl Smith
Yet another of the fine "Osprey Campaign Series". Can you tell I have a lot of these? This book contains the usual excellent and colorful maps, and also has the added bonus of having an OOB that also contains regimental level strengths, making this one a must-buy for scenario designers interested in the battle. 96 pp., 13 maps

The Fredericksburg Campaign: Winter War On The Rappahannock

Francis A. O'Reilly
Updated 8/18/03 Here is the definitive study on the Battle of Fredericksburg, from a Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania NMP Historian to boot! Buy this book. It has a ton of excellent maps, done by Ed Coleman, which go down to the regimental level and show lines of elevation as well. This is the way all Civil War tactical studies should be produced. Frank O'Reilly's book is the one to get. He doesn't just focus on the fighting around the Sunken Road and Marye's Heights, giving equal time to the fighting between the Pennsylvania Reserves and Jackson. The regimental level of the maps is exactly the way it should be. The text is actually enhanced by the many fine maps, a statement which I can rarely make. O'Reilly also does a good job leading up to the battle and detailing the consequences after it was finished. Also, this one comes with a recommendation from Drew Wagenhoffer, designer for HPS' Campaign Corinth, whose opinion on various books has proven very useful to me. 630 pp., 15 maps

The Fredericksburg Campaign : October 1862-January 1863 (Great Campaigns Series)

Victor Brooks
Updated 5/19/04 This is a book in the Great Campaigns Series. It is a typical entry, with pretty good maps and numerous sidebars giving extra information about the campaign. I think there could have been a few more maps, but the ones present are excellent. There is a complete OOB at the back of the book, but it unfortunately only gives the PFD numbers for each Army as a whole. Casualties incurred are noted, and while interesting information, aren't too helpful to the typical wargamer out there. 252 pp., 5 maps

The Fredericksburg Campaign: Decision on the Rappahannock (Military Campaigns of the Civil War)

Gary W. Gallagher

Various Authors

Updated 5/31/04 This is the second review of Gallagher's essay books where I will review each article individually, thereby giving readers a chance to judge for themselves whether or not enough articles interest them to buy the book. This one is on the Fredericksburg Campaign, deemed by many as not worthy of study due to the unimaginative way Burnside threw his troops at Lee's strongest point. Recent studies, however, have mentioned that Burnside's plan was not as horrible as is generally thought, and that he tried to make the main attack at Prospect Hill, only to fail due in part to General Franklin's poor showing in that area. My favorite essay I the book was Carol Reardon's describing Andrew A. Humphreys' Division's attack on the Stone Wall, and my second favorite was A. Wilson Greene's essay describing Burnside's Mud March and the time period between the Battle of Fredericksburg and Burnside's cashiering and replacement by Hooker. My least favorite essay was George Rable's on the effect of the Battle on civilians. It wasn't that I found it poorly written, but this type of Social History essay just does not interest me much. Fredericksburg: Decision on the Rappahannock is a solid to good entry in Gallagher's "essay series" of books. There are a good number of tactical and strategic essays in the book, and even the New History essays were good enough to keep me interested. I definitely recommend this book as a solid buy. 243 pp., 6 maps

For a full summary, click HERE.

Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg!

George C. Rable

Note: I don't actually own this book and I probably never will because of Drew Wagenhoffer's review, which follows below.

Drew Wagenhoffer's Review of this book:

"Rable's new book will be the darling of academic historians because it is a model of "New Military History" (at least this is one accepted term for it), the relatively recent school of thought that places military conflicts in the context of broad cultural issues such as politics, society, race, and gender. What is downplayed is the importance of strategic and tactical detail of the battle itself. A book about the battle of Fredericksburg can in no way be definitive if the details of the battle itself cover only 92 some odd pages out of a total of 450+ text (non- endnotes, index, etc) pages. It was a BATTLE after all!. The problem with NMH is it requires everything about the CW to be placed in such broad context that a book on a large CW battle would easily run over 1500 pages if you give proper treatment to all of its tenets. I don't see what is wrong with one book on a CW battle being an ultra-detailed tactical battle study with little addressing of social issues while other books cover the other issues such as hospitals, civilians, race, causes, politics, etc etc etc. There is simply no reason was all this must be examined in detail in a single volume. It simply cannot be done in the size of a book that most editors will accept. Invariably, it is the battle details that lose out when something must be cut.

Anyway, this does not detract from the fine book that Mr. Rable has written. I give it only 3 stars (which is a positive rating--I would like to give it 3 1/2) because the author failed in my opinion to render an adequate modern tactical treatment of the battle equal in importance to the other issues tackled in the book. My rating may appear at first glance to be doing to Rable's book what I accuse academic historians of doing to tactical studies, but it is grounded in Rable's failure in his own goal of providing a comprehensive treatment of the battle. The military issue is too thin.

Another book on Fredericksburg will available soon that is a lengthy tome covering the fighting in fine detail. Undoubtedly, it will be roundly criticized for doing so but all I have to say to that is why must it compete with Rable??? Their focuses perfectly complement each other and together we come to a higher understanding that we do not get from reading each in absence of the other. This is how it should be."