Question of the Week 11/9 – 11/15


This week’s QotW comes from Bert Dunkerly who asks:

With the thousands of books published each year on the Civil War, do you think there are any topics left? What areas have been overlooked by historians of the conflict? What are some that you would like to see more of?

28 Responses to Question of the Week 11/9 – 11/15

  1. I would like to understand better how heavy engagement in battle affected CW veterans later on in their lives. Did anyone in the postwar era study vets, e.g at a soldiers home? How do they compare with vets of later wars?

    1. That is my question and especially I’m interested in the whole field of study of the southern residue.

    2. Great question! Undoubtedly the Civil War generation was affected. Of course, they didn’t know what PTSD was or how to define it. I’m sure this is fertile ground for research.

  2. There are topics left, IMO. There is always room for a well-done regimental, for example. The Atlanta campaign is another – there are really only a few studies on aspects of the campaign, and one overall operational analysis – which has some quirks. Eastern cavalry has been well covered, but outside of Forrest, Western Cav has not been. East Tennessee has one recent book, but it really only discusses the latter half of the campaign. Given how significant East Tennessee was to both sides right from the start, this is surprising. Besides, Gettysburg still needs coverage.:)

    1. Right on, many areas or regions are not well covered, and certainly regimental/unit histories are valuable. Even well covered units, like the Stonewall Brigade or Iron Brigade, could benefit from new analysis.

  3. There are still large swaths of the West and Trans-Mississippi that need more and better coverage. This includes events, leaders, and units; as an example, every corps commander in the Army of the Potomac has a biography, but not every one in the Army of the Tennessee or the Army of the Cumberland.

    I’d also add the coastal campaigns (NC, SC/Charleston, FL, and along the Gulf), not to mention the naval war in general.

    1. Amen to more on the trans-Mississippi West! My book is really more about slavery in that region, but I do talk about black recruitment in Missouri and Kansas. I am only scratching the surface, though.

      1. You are both right, the war in the Trans Mississippi was a different war entirely from that in Virginia, or Tennessee. Hopefully these neglected regions will draw the attention of historians. In my own limited research on events in Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana, I found it both fascinating- there are many topics to explore, and frustrating- since so little has been done.

  4. I’d like to see a multi-volume series on Atlanta, Seven Days, and Petersburg. There are also many campaigns in need of a definitive study, such as 1st Manassas. I’d like to see someone pick up the baton and finish Beatie’s work. How about a Union perspective on Antietam, which follows the blueprint laid down by Dr. Harsh? Many bios need to be penned and some updated. As friend Dave Powell states, we can always use a well-written, researched regimental. Hint! The Western Theater Zouaves (54th Ohio, 11th Indiana, etc.) could use a bit more coverage.

    And don’t forget more studies of Gettysburg, more bios on Lincoln, Grant, and Lee. 🙂

    1. I agree with Atlanta, the Seven Days, and Petersburg. Those are large campaigns and could be broken down into phases for study. And yes, I agree with your comment on Beatie’s work. Thanks for these thoughts!

  5. I would like some in depth studies on civilian casualties and the impact the war had on the population in general.

      1. Absolutely! This is such a neglected topic, and most historians can do nothing but speculate. Let’s hope someone picks this up as a topic of study.

  6. I have seen and read several books about Southern women during the Civil War (Drew Gilpin Faust’s “Mothers of Invention” is one of the better known ones), but not much about Northern, pro-Union women. Not sure why that is, but I’d like to find more about female abolitionists and others who supported the Union. My own family history led me to write a book about my great-great-grandmother’s life before and during the Civil War. She and others in her western Virginia family fed, clothed and sheltered Union soldiers after two early Virginia battles, Cross Lanes and Carnifex Ferry. The book is available on Amazon–Panther Mountain:Caroline’s Story.

    1. Good points. I think southern women have been such a focus because the war was fought there and impacted them directly… and those women had such a large role in the post war South. We do need more on Union/northern women.

  7. There are few books devoted to 1865 topics beyond Lee vs Grant. There are not many that deal with Bentonville, only two that I know of on Palmito Hill, none on the 1865 campaign around Mobile, I think only one rare book on the 1864 Union Campaign to take the Rio Grande Valley, and RIP Ford’s campaign to retake it.

    1. Bentonville has gotten some attention lately from Mark Bradley and a few others, but in general the Carolians Campaign and that of Palmitto Ranch could use more study. As others have noted, there are certain regions that have been overlooked and are fertile ground

  8. I feel there is a strong need to look at the destruction of the south during the war and the direct impact such actions had on the population, both black and white. Did Union strategies to wage “total war” on civilians in south have an impact on race relations, day to day survival for all those who lived in ravaged areas, and the political order that grew out of that maelstrom and epic struggle of survival? Did this strategy slow economic recovery of the south? What responsibility did the actions and orders of Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, and many others have on the chaos that enveloped the south. Did these destructive policies waged on civilians make the evolution of the “Lost Cause” mentality inevitable?

    1. Excellent points. These are the big questions that I would like to know more about, myself. The evolution of strategy, politics, and social aspects of the war are intertwined with the military events and deserve more attention.

  9. As has already been pointed out, Western Theatre battles are still badly in need of coverage. Not just that, but even actions in Virginia– I don’t think the Battle of Lynchburg has any type of monograph, and yet the battle was crucial to operations in 1864.

    1. There is one book on Lynchburg, but a more recent study would be welcome, I think. It was a crucial Confederate victory- imagine cutting Lee’s supply line from the rear in June 1864!

  10. I would like to learn more about the Union’s Veterans Reserve Corps. Haven’t seen much written on them. Also, Sibley’s New Mexico campaign needs to be covered more.

  11. This may sound a little odd, but I think there needs to be a new history/picture book with strong, accurate information for the general public. I am involved in Civil War living history and it is truly alarming what people think about the war. A short overview of the war (can there really be such a thing? I think so…) in a 180 page book would be great, and it should be followed or preceded with a picture-filled, snappy information book about the war.
    For in-depth studies, I’d like to see more primary sources published on CW medicine and accounts of civilians who played “forgotten roles”.

    1. I honestly havn’t looked at what new general histories are out there, I think the recent 150th anniversary generated some that might be good to recommend to those with a casual interest. A few good studies have come out recently on medicine, and of course I can’t recall their titles right now.

  12. I would like to see a book on the affects of alcohol, booze, oh-be-joyful, etc had on the war. I think may commanders were drunk in battle and I think soldiers passed most of the time between battles intoxicated. It seems to be a theme running through every book from regimental histories to diaries. On another subject, I think we have filled the cup on Abe Lincoln. Unless discovered in an attic, books about the assassination are mere duplicates and add nothing new.

    1. The military records are certainly there for analyzing the effect of alcohol on both troops and commanders. Let’s hope someone picks this up

  13. I believe there is so much material left that hasn’t been covered and detail that there’s enough to go on for decades if not centuries. For example you always see books about the seven days around Richmond when Robert E Lee took over, but you don’t see individual books yet about ewach battle. There’s enough drama in enough going on that you could write a thick book on each one of the six battles during the seven days so they’re not even close yet. And the Civil War is kind of like a strange paradox in terms of the farther away we get from it the more we learn. What I mean is we continue to find more information whether it’s people finding Diaries and letters and their basements addicts that we’re actually learning new information even though we’re getting further away. Another good example is favorite Battle of mine is Vicksburg, obviously had bears wrote what at the time was the definitive 3 volume set on Vicksburg will a lot of new information has come out since then, you can’t find all three books generally, and even if you could they cost three figures. Yet frustratingly all the young up-and-coming authors many I really admire like Timothy B Smith who’s written on Champion Hill Shiloh and many other Western battles has a book coming out on Vicksburg in 2018 and in my research I found its 270 pages. If you take away the number of pages dedicated to order of battle, index, and sources you’re looking at about 220 pages on the actual battle. I meanCOME ON with all the different attempts at trying to get to the point he could lay Siege to Vicksburg he’s going to write it in 220 pages? It’s at least where the of 2 800 page volumes easily so there’s a lot of work to do hopefully the young up and coming authors are up to the challenge I think they are and I enjoy most of their work but I can’t help the throw-in because I’ve Loved all this other books I am disappointed in Timothy P Smith if you’re going to write a book on Vicksburg do it right man

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