Book Review: Unceasing Fury: Texans at the Battle of Chickamauga

The experience of the Civil War soldier was never far off from how people understood the war. Much of it was because of the voluminous letters written home. Even more importantly many veterans left behind reminiscences or wrote colorful regimental histories, which discussed a unit’s role in battles from Pea Ridge to Williamsburg. Unceasing Fury: Texans at the Battle of Chickamauga is a bit different. It is at once a basic narrative of Chickamauga combined with individual experiences among the various Texas regiments, which included regiments from both Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee in a rare combination. Joseph L. Owen has some experience with this, having written Texans at Gettysburg: Blood and Glory with Hood’s Texas Brigade, which he wrote along with Randy S. Drais. Scott L. Mingus Sr. usually writes more about the Eastern theater, in particular the Gettysburg campaign. Chickamauga is a bit of a detour.

The narrative of Unceasing Fury is straight forward and effective, supported by plenty of maps and images. The war’s larger questions are absent; this is pure drum and trumpets history but with a human face. Throughout it all anecdotes are provided and the research is superb. David Powell wrote the foreward and he admits that while he noticed a few familiar names, there were plenty he did not use in his three volumes on Chickamauga. For a book of this scope, there are plenty of primary sources used. In that regard this is a great book for anyone writing about Chickamauga, whether they want to go in greater detail than Powell or write a more introductory book.

The authors provide background on the regiments, but there is no social history here. It does not say anything new about the experience of soldiers in the war or the tactics used. In that sense it is the opposite of reading Earl J. Hess, who is great for tactical analysis if lacking the blood and guts of war. There is also no special angle. I kept thinking back to one of my favorite books, “Seeing the Elephant”: Raw Recruits at the Battle of Shiloh by Joseph Allan Frank and George A. Reaves. “Seeing the Elephant” did much that Unceasing Fury did but with the angle of understanding how soldiers processed combat. Frank and Reaves had the advantage that Shiloh was unusual in its scale, carnage, and that most of the roughly 100,000 men involved had never seen a battle. In addition, those who were at Fort Donelson repeatedly said Fort Donelson paled by comparison.

I am not sure what Mingus and Owen could have done to bring Unceasing Fury to another level.  One might have taken a more analytical approach, looking at the experience of battle in several different engagements as the war’s tactics, experiences, and soldier composition changed. Yet, that is the book I would want. Mingus and Owen gave us the book they wanted, and it is solid. It is well written, illustrated, easy to follow, and does offer something to those interested in Chickamauga. It is even a decent introductory book on the battle. For the Civil War historian looking for analysis, this is not their book. I offer my critique because I wanted more. However, I ended the book satisfied that I had read a decent old fashioned history with enough well incorporated anecdotes to keep me reading. Indeed, the book almost reminds one of the better regimental histories of the postbellum period, only on a grander scale considering the number of regiments involved at Chickamauga.

Unceasing Fury: Texans at the Battle of Chickamauga, September 18-20, 1863

by Scott L. Mingus Sr. And Joseph L. Owen

Savas Beatie, 2022.

Reviewed by Sean Michael Chick

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