In this work of astonishing mediocrity, Niels Eichhorn sets out to explain the handful of small engagements fought during the war near Macon, in central Georgia, “in greater detail” than previous authors. Unfortunately, one doesn’t have to read too far to see he hasn’t done this.
The first of these four engagements pertains to Stoneman’s cavalry raid in July 1864. The author doesn’t explain why Sherman sent out the mounted column (to break the Macon & Western railroad at Lovejoy’s), only hints at Stoneman’s insubordination (riding instead to free several thousand Union officers confined in Macon’s Camp Oglethorpe), and fails to mention entirely that Stoneman’s column was to cooperate with another one being led at the same time by Brigadier Edward McCook, also aimed at Lovejoy’s. I had to turn to David Evans’ Sherman’s Horsemen to find a map of this battlefield of East Macon (fought July 30, 1864). I also got a clearer picture of Stoneman’s repulse from Bill Bragg’s article in CWTI (June 1985). Neither Evans nor Bragg is listed in Eichhorn’s bibliography. The author speaks of “Wheeler’s ten thousand cavalrymen” pursuing Stoneman; actually, it was Alfred Iverson’s 1,400. He dismisses the battle of Sunshine Church, fought a dozen miles north of Macon, in a half-sentence; it was there that Stoneman surrendered, the highest-ranking general to have been captured during the war.
The author is adjunct instructor at Macon’s Central Georgia Technical College and is admirably conversant on such war-related sites as the Cannonball House and Griswoldville battlefield. Unfortunately, an unseemly partisanship seeps into his writing, especially when he uses such loaded terminology as “the War of the Rebellion,” which was Northerners’ favored term till, decades later, Civil War came into use. He seems to prefer “rebellion” over “Confederacy,” and calls Southern troops “Rebels” more often than he does “Confederates.” Noting how a Macon paper complimented William C. Quantrill even as it condemned Stoneman’s raiders, Eichhorn sneers, “While U.S. raiders were vandals, Rebel murderers were heroic individuals.” Such sarcasm has no place in a work like this.
There was a “Second Battle of Macon” on Nov. 20, 1864, when Judson Kilpatrick’s cavalry demonstrated against Confederate defenses. Eichhorn claims that his narrative is stronger than Richard Iobst’s Civil War Macon (1999). Yet it was to Iobst that I turned for casualties in this second “battle” (1 K, 9 W, both sides). Moreover, it is Iobst whom Eichhorn quotes to summarize it: “Sherman’s men failed to capture a city which they did not really intend to take.”
Griswoldville, fought Nov. 22, 1864, involved Georgia militia charging Federal veterans who were ready for them. The predictable slaughter is chronicled in Bragg’s Griswoldville (2000), which Eichhorn dismisses as “a decidedly pro-Confederate view” (and which he fails even to cite in his bibliography). Turnabout’s fair play, I guess; in his chapter on the battle, Eichhorn uses Rebel twenty-two times, Confederate just three. So that makes his book a decidedly pro-Federal view? Pardon me; historical narrative shouldn’t be judged on such terms these days.
In a troubled text, inadequacies hit high and low. The Confederate engineer fortifying Macon in the fall of 1864 was not “R. W. Frobol,” but Bushrod W. Frobel. (I’ve read his NARA records.)
“With the departure of Jefferson Davis, the final episode of the War of the Rebellion ended in Macon,” the author’s last paragraph begins. Confederate monuments are tumbling down—and we can all talk about that-–but the insertion of war-enflamed, sectional and dated terminology into Civil War history does nothing to bring about the cool, educated discussion of our common area of study.
…which is where I think most of us want to be.