Book Review: The Cassville Affairs: Johnston, Hood, and the Failed Confederate Strategy in the Atlanta Campaign, 19 May 1864

The Cassville Affairs: Johnston, Hood, and the Failed Confederate Strategy in the Atlanta Campaign, 19 May 1864. By Robert D. Jenkins, Sr. Macon: Mercer University Press, 2024. Hardcover, 384 pp. $39.00.

Reviewed by Darryl Smith

Over the last several decades, history has been relatively favorable to Gen. Joseph E. Johnston while lambasting the efforts of Johnston’s eventual successor, Gen. John Bell Hood, during the Atlanta and Tennessee campaigns. However, more recent historians and their studies have started delving deeper into the personalities of both men and revising traditional interpretations. Included among these works is Robert D. Jenkins’s The Cassville Affairs: Johnston, Hood, and the Failed Confederate Strategy in the Atlanta Campaign, 19 May 1864, which takes the reader on a deep examination into the failed Confederate attack on the morning of May 19, and the unsuccessful Confederate defense later that afternoon. Framed by a single day early in the Atlanta Campaign, The Cassville Affairs provides an insightful look at how incorrectly these two Confederate generals have been portrayed for the last one hundred and fifty years.

Organized into two distinctive parts, the book’s Part 1 deals with the planned Confederate attack on the morning of May 19, while Part 2 focuses on the planned Confederate defense. At the end of each part Jenkins offers a conclusion section, recapping his explanations and how he has arrived at his suppositions. There are appendices that include Federal and Confederate orders of battle, as well as a listing of Confederate causalities from Dalton to Cassville, and the important “Appendix F,” that compares three reports showing how they were changed by the time they appeared in the ,Official Records of the War of the Rebellion. The book is footnoted and contains an extensive bibliography and index. There are also several pages of illustrations (called exhibits) included.

Jenkins tackles the subjects of miscommunication, and more importantly, the willful misconstruing of facts, with the lens of a practicing attorney, which happens to be his profession. Jenkins sets the stage, describing with utmost (and albeit at times somewhat confusing) detail the road network that the Confederates themselves did not fully understand. However, one of the strengths of this book is the numerous maps, both historic and modern, that help to clarify the series of roads running from Adairsville and Kingston, particularly the former. These maps and Jenkins’s writing brings readers onto the field, splicing in first-person accounts and troop movements to show how Johnston did not fully grasp the road network (Confederate maps focused on the ten-mile span on either side of the Western & Atlanta Railroad, and at times failed to denote every road within this focused corridor), nor did Johnston react with any sort of defined purpose.

Another strength of this book is how Jenkins presents his case. Providing reports written by those staff members who observed the events first hand, and providing comparisons as to how those accounts were changed, both during the war, and perhaps more impactfully, after the war by Johnston himself, shows a clear understanding by the author as to how these alterations impact to this day the general acceptance of both Hood’s and Johnston’s performance as commanders in the Western Theater.

Jenkins has written a compelling and convincing argument that Joseph Johnston did manipulate the reports so as to place blame on John Bell Hood for failing to attack the Federals on the morning of May 19, 1864, at Cassville. This book, along with more recent offerings by Richard M. McMurry and Stephen Hood, as well as the forthcoming multi-volume Atlanta Campaign history by David Powell, has its place for those who want a deeper understanding of the Atlanta Campaign. Those who appreciate challenges to the traditional and often outdated view of Civil War history in light of new thinking about primary source evidence will also find it intriguing.


Darryl Smith is the owner and operator of Walking With History LLC. Darryl is an avid hiker and backpacker, who also is a Civil War and American military history enthusiast.  Darryl was the founder of the Miami Rivers Chapter of the Buckeye Trail Association, served as the Activities Chair for the Cincinnati Civil War Round Table, served as the Communication Coordinator for the Military Heritage Chapter of the League of World War One Aviation Historians, and was a board of trustees member for the Buckeye Trail Association. He served as membership chair for the Cynthiana Battlefields Foundation and is currently involved in helping develop a Civil War organization in Augusta, Kentucky. In addition, Darryl serves as blog writer and co-administrator for the Western Theater in the Civil War website. He has always believed that the most effective way to understand our history is to walk the ground where history took place.

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