April’s ECW Bookshelf

Do you need some ideas about what books to read next from your collection? Look no further than the current list of what ECW’s members are reading this month! Let us know what books you are currently reading in the comments below.

Ed Alexander
Jeffrey Hunt – Meade and Lee at Rappahannock Station: The Army of the Potomac’s First Post-Gettysburg Offensive, From Kelly’s Ford to the Rapidan, October 21 to November 20, 1863 (Savas Beatie, 2021). I thought this first modern look at this engagement did a great job capturing the strategy and tactics. As someone who has researched and delivered presentations on the battle I was surprised to learn new details that challenged my understanding of the storming of the bridgehead. I thought the author also did a great job introducing frequently written about generals with a fresh perspective.

Patrick Brennan – Secessionville: Assault on Charleston (De Capo Press, 1996). The author did a good job balancing theater context, campaign strategy, and battle tactics. I thought the pacing of the book thoroughly covered what was needed to be known without bogging down into minutiae.

Sarah Bierle
A Worse Place Than Hell by John Matteson
This volume examines the Battle of Fredericksburg through the experiences of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Louisa May Alcott, Walt Whitman, Arthur Fuller, and John Pelham. It’s looking at the social and ideological changes prompted through the Civil War using this battle as a crucible. I’m about half-way through it and carefully considering the points.

Sean Chick
Tom Worthington’s Civil War by James Brewer—This is a decent book on an obscure topic. Worthington was an odd ball, who lacked social skills but was a decent officer who predicted the Confederates would attack at Shiloh. He then entered upon a bitter feud with Sherman, which hurt his reputation and left him broke and reclusive. And yet, he never gave up. I left the book unsure if I admired him or just thought him plain stupid, for his skill with people was truly abysmal and explains his fall.

Doug Crenshaw is currently halfway through Ian Toll’s trilogy on the War in the Pacific. Great writing, great research. An enjoyable read. Next up is Jeffrey Hunt’s Meade and Lee at Rappahannock Station.

Steve Davis is having a whale of a good time reading Eliza Frances Andrews’ The War-Time Journal of a Georgia Girl. Fanny kept a diary in the last year of the war, but waited to have it published till 1908. She was a fiery Rebel, and as a literary artifact of wartime passions, I believe this book is unequaled.

Jon-Erik Gilot just finished the Battle of Big Bethel: Crucial Clash in Early War Virginia. As a fan of the early war battles and maneuvering I enjoyed learning more about this small, highly publicized clash on the Virginia peninsula. Next up on the ‘to read’ pile is David Mowery’s latest book, Cincinnati in the Civil War.

Phill Greenwalt
By the Noble Daring of Her Sons, The Florida Brigade of the Army of Tennessee by Jonathan C. Sheppard—Being a small state, Florida had only a few regiments/battalions that fought in each of the major Confederate armies. Sheppard examines the role and service of the units that fought for the Confederate Army of Tennessee. He includes their high points; Perryville, Stones River, Chickamauga and their lows, the Tennessee Campaign of late 1864. He does a great job of mixing in primary sources with the general history of the war in the west. One of the better unit histories and especially of a more obscure brigade in Confederate service. Very readable.

Dwight Hughes
I’m finally reading a book that has been on my shelf forever and should have been tackled long ago: Rowena Reed, Combined Operations in the Civil War (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1978). Fascinating discussion of the development of unprecedented Army-Navy collaboration from the coasts to heartland rivers. It seems George McClellan had a comprehensive strategic vision integrating land and water power using steam propulsion against Rebel transportation hubs. Most of his recommendations eventually occurred but only slowly and sporadically.

Frank Jastrzembski
I’m currently reading The Pope’s Legion: The Multinational Fighting Force that Defended the Vatican by Charles A. Coulombe. It’s a fantastic look at the history of the Pontifical Zouaves.

A number of veterans who fought in its ranks, such as Myles Keogh, would go on to serve during the Civil War. Lincoln conspirator John Surratt fled to Italy and joined the pope’s unit, but was later apprehended. This was a colorful unit with a fascinating history!

Chris Kolakowski
I’m reading Richard Norton Smith’s On His Own Terms: A Life of Nelson Rockefeller. Ever since living in Albany I’ve been interested in Rockefeller, who is one of the most significant Governors of New York in the last 100 years, if not ever. The book is well-researched and detailed, covering all aspects of his life and career. It is a very good portrait of an important and fascinating figure.

Chris Mackowski
I’ve been reading The Education of Henry Adams (and sharing a couple snippets here at ECW). The book has provided an interesting lens through which to look at the Civil War years and the postwar Gilded Age, where many wartime figures played prominent roles. Adams serves more as commentator than historian. The book won the 1919 Pulitzer Prize for Biography.

Prior to that, I read John Boehner’s memoir On the House and Haruki Murikami’s new short story collection, First Person Singular.

Nate Provost

I am currently reading Frederick the Great: Military History by Dr. Dennis Showalter. It is not a biography; it focuses on the battles and wars of Frederick the Great. I am reading it because it strictly examines Frederick the Great’s battles and generalship. I always enjoy Dennis Showalter’s analysis.

Terry Rensel

I just started Michael B. Ballard’s Vicksburg: The Campaign that Opened the Mississippi.  Chris Mackowski recommended it to me as I prep to go there for the first time next month.

Jon Tracey

I’m working my way through Thomas J. Brown’s 2019 work, Civil War Monuments and the Militarization of America. Tracking a range of Union and Confederate monuments, he argues that were instrumental in the nation coming to embrace militaristic values and martial virtue during the late nineteenth century. Though several other recent works have explored how monuments, especially those dedicated to the Confederacy, worked to establish a racial hierarchy, it has been interesting to read Brown’s argument about how they make an argument for martial citizenship. His analysis of how these monuments relate to American involvement in the Great War and how the nation commemorated that conflict is also a unique connection.

7 Responses to April’s ECW Bookshelf

  1. I like Nate’s choice on the Campaigns of Frederick the Great. I always felt that there was as much his style in Lee’s DNA as was Napoleons.

  2. I’m currently reading Decisions of the 1862 Kentucky Campaign by Larry Peterson. Part of the Decisions series from the University of Tennessee Press. I’m three quarters through this one. I hope to read the Stones River volume next.

  3. Toll’s trilogy is excellent, but tell Doug to put it down and wrap up that ECW book on the Peninsula Campaign. (:

      1. Doug: Now THAT’s what we want to hear. You’re allowed to get back to reading up on the shortcomings of “Grape Juice” Turner and “Typhoon” Halsey … 🙂

  4. I have started “What Though the Field Be Lost ” from LSU Press by Christopher Kempf, PhD, a professor at University of Illinois. It is a short collection of poems using the Gettysburg Battlefield to engage the subjects of race,, regional identity and ethics of memory. I heard Dr. Kempf read some of his works last night during an alumni event sponsored by his college alma mater, John Carroll University.

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