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America's Civil War, November 2005

The November 2005 issue is the first issue of America's Civil War that I'll be reviewing for this blog. ACW is of a little lower quality than North & South and Blue & Gray. It is virtually identical to Civil War Times Illustrated at this point, because both magazines are published by Primedia. There are no endnotes for the articles, and the maps are usually Division level or higher. I'm not particularly fond of either of those choices both as a fan of detailed tactics and wargaming. Despite this generally lower quality, some good authors still find their way into ACW's pages. Eric Wittenberg, who guest blogs for me from time to time, is just one example. In this latest issue, James A. Morgan III writes an article on Ball's Bluff. His book "A Little Short of Boats" looks to be the definitive account of that battle. I've been sidetracked but I'm in the middle of reading it now and it looks very good. Lastly, I wanted to mention that one of the guest bloggers at this site, J.D. Petruzzi, wrote an article in last issue's ACW that received a lot of praise in the letters to the editor section this issue.

Page 12
Men and Materiel: Col. Richard Owen by Dennis Alberts

This article covers Col. Richard Owen's time as commandant of Camp Morton in Indianapolis, Indiana. His humane and kind treatment of the prisoners located there even earned him the disapproval of his superiors. His Confederate charges decided after the war to raise money to have a bust of the Colonel dedicated at the Indiana State House.


Page 14
Commands: 15th Connecticut Infantry by Gordon Berg

Your average American does not realize that disease was a far greater threat to a soldier's life than was fighting during the Civil War. The 15th Connecticut Infantry illustrates this idea perfectly. They were stationed in North Carolina for the greater part of the war, and only got into one really large fight at Wise's Fork on March 8, 1865. However, when they served as provost guard for the city of New Bern, North Carolina, they faced a silent killer. "Yellow Jack", the colorful name given to Yellow Fever, struck New Bern for 45 days in the late summer and early fall of 1864. The 15th Connecticut lost between 60-80 men during this time from the disease and they were prevented from doing their provost duty.


Page 20
Personality: William B. Mumford by Robert P. Broadwater

On April 26, 1862, the Union Navy was in the Mississippi River opposite New Orleans negotiating its surrender. While these negotiations were going on, a crowd of Southern men led by civilian William B. Mumford tore down a United Dtates flag that was already flying over the mint building. Mumford tried to take the flag to city hall, but by the time he got there the angry crowd had torn it to pieces. General Benjamin Butler made an example of Mumford and hung him on June 7, 1862.


Page 22
Sabers Glistening on the Ride to Victory by Allan L. Tischler

One of the largest cavalry charges of the war took place at the Third Battle of Winchester on September 19, 1864. There, 7,000 troopers of Phil Sheridan's Army of the Shenandoah charged the left wing of Jubal Early's Confederate Army of the Valley, causing a mass rout. The charge was also notable for the fact that it actually WORKED. Unlike in the Napoleonic Wars, Civil War cavalry normally acted as mounted infantry, especially at this late stage of the war.


Page 30
Ball's Bluff: 'A Very Nice Little Military Chance' by James A. Morgan III

Morgan is well-qualified to write about the Battle of Ball's Bluff. He lives nearby and gives numerous tours of the battlefield. This article is basically a summary of his excellent book on the battle entitled A Little Short of Boats. I highly recommend that book. It looks to be the definitive account of Ball's Bluff.


Page 40
The Union's Jefferson Davis by George Tipton Wilson

This article is basically a brief biography of the Union General with the unfortunate name, with emphasis on his wartime service. Amazingly, despite murdering Gen. William Nelson in front of witnesses, Gen. Jeff Davis rose to Corps command in Gen. Sherman's Army during the Atlanta Campaign and the March to the Sea. During the latter event Davis had a pontoon bridge taken up even though many escaped slaves were following his Corps. This was a controversial action, and many accused Davis of being a racist. However, the high command in Sherman's Army defended him and he received no ill effects from this action. Despite the controversy, the bottom line is that Jef Davis was an excellent combat commander, and he performed well in numerous engagements.


Page 46
Fredericksburg Redemption by John C. McManus

The story of the 7th U.S. Infantry's redemption in front of the Stone Wall at Fredericksburg is recounted in this article. Apparently, early in the war, the 7th U.S. had been surrendered to an inferior Confederate force while attempting to defend New Mexico. The 7th's reputation was stained until the completion of their parole terms allowed them to join the Army of the Potomac in time for Fredericksburg. They stood the terrible circumstances there very well, and they were given a new set of colors not long afterward.


Page 62
Eyewitness to War: Michael H.B. Cunningham by Robert Lee Cunningham and Gregory Robert Cunningham

Michael Cunningham fought with the 18th Michigan in many of the war's Western battles. He survived a prison term as a POW and witnessed the Vicksburg and Atlanta Campaigns.


Page 66

Books reviewed in this issue:

1. Field Armies and Fortifications in the Civil War : The Eastern Campaigns, 1861-1864 by Earl J. Hess
I rarely comment on the book reviews because I do not yet know enough about a book to decide whether or not I'll buy it. This book happens to be an exception. I am keenly interested in Hess' series of books, especially when he gets to the volume covering the Siege of Petersburg. It is only a matter of time before I buy and read this one. I've heard only good things about it from a lot of people whose opinions I value.

2. Confederates of Chappell Hill, Texas: Prosperity, Civil War and Decline by Stephen Chicoine

Reviews in Brief:

1. Harvard's Civil War: The History of the Twentieth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry by Richard F. Miller
2. River Run Red : The Fort Pillow Massacre in the American Civil War by Andrew Ward
3. Twilight at Little Round Top : July 2, 1863 The Tide Turns at Gettysburg by Glenn LaFantasie
4. The Forgotten Hero Of Gettysburg: A Biography of General George Sears Greene by David W. Palmer
5. Cannoneers in Gray : The Field Artillery of the Army of Tennessee by Larry J. Daniel
6. Far From Home edited by Ellen Sheffield Wilds
7. Lincoln and the Sioux Uprising of 1862 by Hank H. Cox
8. General James G. Blunt: Tarnished Glory by Robert Collins

Page 74
Preservation by Kim A. O'Connell

The sacrifices of Loudoun County, Virginia's Confederate soldiers are commemorated with a statue in their honor in the town square of Leesburg. However, the statue is suffering from bronze poisoning, and its features are being lost with time. Fundraising efforts are underway to save this part of our heritage.


Looking at the Amazon page for Hess's book about field fortifications, it seems the general premise and his conclusion is what most of us would have expected.

Having read Paddie Griffith's "Battle Tactics of the Civil War," I can tell you that Griffith agrees with Hess that the rifle musket's importance has been historically overrated. I would guess Hess makes the same arguments Griffith does: the rifle's importance was lessened both by the continued use of Napoleonic tactics and the hesitation of defending forces to open fire until the target got within 50-100 yards.

But I'm also guessing Griffith and Hess differ radically on the importance of field fortifications. Griffith essentially concludes that field fortifications were a psychological deterrent more than a physical one. He even outlandishly suggests that condensed cavalry charges would have been useful against fortifications because theoretically horses could jump them.

I'm guessing the difference between the two books runs the "Is the Civil War the last Napoleonic War (Griffith) or first Modern War (Hess)" paradox, and given a general lack of a book specifically concentrated on Eastern campaign field fortifications, Hess's book should make for a good read.

I don't think I was greatly surprised by any of Hess's conclusions, but I did find that the first volume spent entirely too much time doing battle summaries, especially of overland battles with little or no relevance to the nominal topic of field fortification. As Dimitri would say, Hess succumbed to the temptations of Narrative.