Woodworth's edited collection on the Chickamauga campaign is a welcome contribution to the understanding of not only the battle itself but of the campaign that led to it as well as its postwar commemoration. [End Page 282] Chickamauga, in a word, was a mess; bushwhacking on a grand scale, remarked Union general John B. Turchin. The test for any treatment of that (or any) battle is to provide narrative coherence without becoming mired in the confusing ebb-and-flow of units coming onto the field, entering the fray, and moving through the smoke- and noise-filled woods. In his 1998 monograph, Six Armies in Tennessee, Woodworth struck such a balance as well as anyone has yet done. He produced a concise volume that covered the Chickamauga and Chattanooga campaigns in sufficient detail so that the reader grasped the strategic significance and overview of the actions but was never bogged down in minute descriptions of regimental-level firefights which have plagued other interpretations of the particularly chaotic fighting.
Rarely in Six Armies did Woodworth go below division level in his account of the maneuvers to the benefit of the clarity of the volume, but in tapping each of these contributors he has highlighted and expanded on specific actions on which the course of the campaign—not just the two and a half days of pitched battle—hinged. Even before the armies are on the field proper, the volume has presented three useful essays on the weeks leading up to the battle. Ethan Rafuse and Alexander Mendoza rehabilitate the reputations of corps commanders in both armies, and Woodworth documents the lost Confederate opportunity and high-command strife at McLemore's Cove. Lee White's chapter on A. P. Stewart's Confederate division begins the battle section and strikes an admirable balance between the commander and the voices of the soldiers themselves. John Lundberg and William G. Robertson analyze two of the Confederacy's most popular figures at present, Patrick Cleburne and James Longstreet respectively, and find that neither had a particularly good outing in the woods of north Georgia. Confederate leaders, though, were not the only ones to have had a shockingly bad performance at the battle as David Powell's essay on Union division commander James Negley demonstrates.
Timothy Smith's final chapter on Henry Van Ness Boynton's efforts [End Page 283] to establish Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park (NMP) and, indeed, the national military park system as a whole, is a wonderful inclusion that opens readers to the importance of memorialization and memory formation in the years following the war. It is an especially important inclusion, too, considering the audience of this volume, those desiring a detailed analysis of leadership and combat at Chickamauga. Drawing on his recent monographs on the early decades of the military parks, Smith focuses on the Ohioan's postwar career as a journalist and critic of early Civil War memoirs—William T. Sherman's in particular. Smith makes a vital point by doing so; he shows how the Americans' understanding of the battle and the war has been shaped by conflicts extending decades after the last shot was fired. Smith reinforces the concept of historiography which has been at work, implicitly, throughout the essays in their reexamination of the consensus reputations of these commanders. Smith, though, might have taken his essay a step further by filtering Boynton through David Blight's work on the Civil War in American memory. This would allow him to better illuminate the intersection of the military experience with broader trends in American culture, society, and politics, but his point is well made nonetheless.
In the introduction to the reprint of Boynton's own 1902 book on the campaign, now reprinted by the University of Tennessee press, Smith provides an expanded biography of Boynton. In it, we learn more of Boynton...