Our Country's Fiery Ordeal

A blog about the American Civil War, written and maintained by historian Daniel J. Vermilya, author of The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain (History Press, 2014) and James Garfield and the Civil War (History Press, 2015)

Dedicated to my great-great-great grandfather, Private Ellwood Rodebaugh, Company D, 106th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, killed at the Battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862.

"And may an Overuling Providence continue to cause good to come out of evil, justice to be done to all men where injustice has long prevailed, and finally, peace, quiet, and harmony to come out of this terrible confrontation and our country's fiery ordeal." -- Albert Champlin, 105th Ohio, Diary entry of June 19, 1864 (Western Reserve Historical Society)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Christmas Shopping: Civil War Books

Yesterday, I went to see "Lincoln" with my Dad (it was the third time I have seen it, and it is still incredible), and afterwards, I braved the "Black Friday" crowds to check out Barnes and Noble (I am a member so I get discounts there, only reason to go). While there, I picked up a few Christmas gifts (when you are related to a Civil War historian, odds are you will get books or book themed gifts for Christmas, ok, enough with the parentheses). I also picked up Jon Meacham's new biography of Thomas Jefferson, titled, Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power. After reading a few chapters, I can say that I am really enjoying it, and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in the political history of the early Republic, or anyone who simply is interested in great American leaders. Anyways, picking up that new book gave me an idea for pointing out a few other Civil War themed books that have just been released that are on my radar for the Holiday shopping season. Keep in mind, I haven't read these yet, but they look pretty intriguing. If you have read them, feel free to post your thoughts on them as a comment below.

Confrontation at Gettysburg, by John David Hoptak

John Hoptak, my colleague from Antietam, and a very good friend, has just released his latest work for the History Press's Sesquicentennial Series on the Civil War. Last time, John did a splendid job taking on the Battle of South Mountain. This time, he went for a topic a little bit more obscure: Gettysburg. I had the pleasure of reading some of John's manuscript earlier this year, and I must say, it is very good. This book is meant to be an introduction to the battle. Following each chapter, John has a paragraph on sources and other works to investigate for learning about the campaign and each day of the battle in more depth. I would highly, highly, highly recommend this to anyone who has a dad or brother who loves history and wants to learn more about Gettysburg. With the 150th anniversary of that battle coming up next year, there is no better time to pick up a copy of John's book than now. I will post a full review of it on here when I get a chance. But for now: buy it. It is very good.

The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses S. Grant in War and Peace, by H.W. Brands

I have read some mixed reviews on H.W. Brands's new biography of Grant. From what I know, Brands is an accomplished historian, and this work is well written and does a splendid job of discussing Grant as a general. However, where it falls short (again, this is just based off of reviews I have read, not my own thoughts) is in fitting Grant's story into current trends of scholarship, mainly in terms of Grant's feelings toward slavery and emancipation. I will have to read it for myself to either verify or reject these claims, but I think this book is still worth a look. Here is a review from acclaimed historian Eric Foner that explains these notes in more depth: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-man-who-saved-the-union-ulysses-grant-in-war-and-peace-by-h-w-brands/2012/11/02/154ae6e0-fe79-11e1-8adc-499661afe377_story.html

A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln, and the 1846 U.S. Invasion of Mexico, by Amy Greenberg

In many ways, the War with Mexico was a warmup for the nation's plunge into Civil War. Many Civil War officers from both sides got their start during the 1840s conflict in Mexico, and the end result of the war led to some of the arguments and problems which directly contributed to the start of the Civil War just over one decade later (namely land acquisition and the spread of slavery). Now, again, I haven't read this work yet, but from what I have read about it, Amy Greenberg has done a nice job in taking on the War with Mexico. Here is a review of the work: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/amy-s-greenberg/wicked-war/#review.

Battle of Stones River: The Forgotten Conflict between the Union Army of the Cumberland and the Confederate Army of Tennessee, by Larry Daniel

Those who are students of the War in the West are no doubt familiar with Larry Daniel, who has authored one of the best books out there on Shiloh and a definitive account of the Army of the Cumberland. I have already ordered his latest on Stones River, and hope to post some thoughts on it when it arrives, but if this is as good as his other works, I won't be disappointed.

To Antietam Creek: The Maryland Campaign of 1862, by D. Scott Hartwig

This is one work which I have been reading for awhile. It is almost 800 pages, and covers the Maryland Campaign up to the night before the Battle of Antietam. After reading most of it, I can firmly say that I fully recommend this book. It is fantastic. It will soon become one of the must read, go to accounts of the Maryland Campaign. I posted some early thoughts on it awhile back, and I have to say that I still agree with much of what I posted about this work upon first getting it. If you are interested in Antietam and don't yet have this book, you are doing yourself a great disservice.

Here are a few other new titles which might merit investigating...

We Have the War Upon Us: The Onset of the Civil War, November 1860 to April 1861, by William J. Cooper

Seward: Lincoln's Indispensable Man, by Walter Stahr

Terrible Swift Sword: The Life of General Phillip H. Sheridan, by Joseph Wheelan

And, although it is not Civil War related, the third and final volume of the late William Manchester's biography of Winston Churchill has just been released. Churchill ranks high upon my list of admired figures in history, and I will certainly be looking to pick this one up soon.

The Last Lion: William Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965, by William Manchester and Paul Reid

These are just a few titles that have caught my eye. If you are a history buff, or are shopping for one, look into them. Keep in mind, the only ones which I am fully recommending are John Hoptak's book on Gettysburg and Scott Hartwig's To Antietam Creek (although I would recommend Jon Meacham's aforementioned Jefferson bio as well). As I said, if you have read any of these books, feel free to post your thoughts as a comment below. If you are like me and you haven't yet read them but are interested, check out these books!


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