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A City Set Down in Dixie
The Remarkable Life of Brigadier General Alfred Jefferson Vaughan, Jr.
Until relatively recently, conventional wisdom held that the Trans-Mississippi Theater was a backwater of the American Civil War. Scholarship in recent decades has corrected this oversight, and a growing number of historians agree that the events west of the Mississippi River proved integral to the outcome of the war. Nevertheless, generals in the Trans-Mississippi have received little attention compared to their eastern counterparts, and many remain mere footnotes to Civil War history. This welcome volume features cutting-edge analyses of eight Southern generals in this most neglected theater—Thomas Hindman, Theophilus Holmes, Edmund Kirby Smith, Mosby Monroe Parsons, John Marmaduke, Thomas James Churchill, Thomas Green, and Joseph Orville Shelby—providing an enlightening new perspective on the Confederate high command. Although the Trans-Mississippi has long been considered a dumping ground for failed generals from other regions, the essays presented here demolish that myth, showing instead that, with a few notable exceptions, Confederate commanders west of the Mississippi were homegrown, not imported, and compared well with their more celebrated peers elsewhere. With its virtually nonexistent infrastructure, wildly unpredictable weather, and few opportunities for scavenging, the Trans-Mississippi proved a challenge for commanders on both sides of the conflict. As the contributors to this volume demonstrate, only the most creative minds could operate successfully in such an unforgiving environment. While some of these generals have been the subjects of larger studies, others, including Generals Holmes, Parsons, and Churchill, receive their first serious scholarly attention in these pages. Clearly demonstrating the independence of the Trans-Mississippi and the nuances of the military struggle there, while placing both the generals and the theater in the wider scope of the war, these eight essays offer valuable new insight into Confederate military leadership and the ever-vexing questions of how and why the South lost this most defining of American conflicts.
Essays on America's Civil War
The American Civil War was won and lost on its western battlefields, but accounts of triumphant Union generals such as Grant and Sherman leave half of the story untold. In the third volume of Confederate Generals in the Western Theater, editors Lawrence Hewitt and Arthur Bergeron bring together ten more never-before-published essays filled with new, penetrating insights into the key question of why the Rebel high command in the West could not match the performance of Robert E. Lee in the East. Showcasing the work of such gifted historians as Wiley Sword, Timothy B. Smith, Rory T. Cornish, and M. Jane Johansson, this book is a compelling addition to an ongoing, collective portrait of generals who occasionally displayed brilliance but were more often handicapped by both geography and their own shortcomings. While the vast, varied terrain of the Western Theater slowed communications and troop transfers and led to the creation of too many military departments that hampered cooperation among commands, even more damaging were the personal qualities of many of the generals. All too frequently, incompetence, egotism, and insubordination were the rule rather than the exception. Some of these men were undone by alcoholism and womanizing, others by politics and nepotism. A few outlived their usefulness; others were killed before they could demonstrate their potential. Together, they destroyed what chance the Confederacy had of winning its independence. Whether adding fresh fuel to the debate over the respective roles of Albert Sidney Johnston and P. G. T. Beauregard at Shiloh or bringing to light such lesser known figures as Joseph Finegan and Hiram Bronson Granbury, this volume, like the ones preceding it, is an exemplary contribution to Civil War scholarship.
Mixed-Race Identity in Modern American Fiction and Culture
A mid-level Confederate official and lawyer in secessionist North Carolina, David Schenck (1835–1902) penned extensive diaries that have long been a wellspring of information for historians. In the midst of the secession crisis, Schenck overcame long-established social barriers and reshaped antebellum notions of manhood, religion, and respectability into the image of a Confederate nationalist. He helped found the revolutionary States’ Rights Party and relentlessly pursued his vision of an idealized Southern society even after the collapse of the Confederacy. In the first biography of this complicated figure, Rodney Steward opens a window into the heart and soul of the Confederate South’s burgeoning professional middle class and reveals the complex set of desires, aspirations, and motivations that inspired men like Schenck to cast for themselves a Confederate identity that would endure the trials of war, the hardship of Reconstruction, and the birth of a New South.
After secession, Schenck remained on the home front as a receiver under the Act of Sequestration, enriching himself on the confiscated property of those he accused of disloyalty. After the war, his position as a leader in the Ku Klux Klan and his resistance to Radical Reconstruction policies won him a seat on the superior court bench, but scathing newspaper articles about his past upended a bid for chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, a compelling fall from grace that reveals much about the shifting currents in North Carolina society and politics in the years after Reconstruction. During the last twenty years of his life, spent in Greensboro, Schenck created the Guilford Battleground Company in an effort to redeem the honor of the Tar Heels who fought there and his own honor as well.
Schenck’s life story provides a powerful new lens to examine and challenge widely held interpretations of secessionists, Confederate identity, Civil War economics, and home-front policies. Far more than a standard biography, this compelling volume challenges the historiography of the Confederacy at many levels and offers a sophisticated analysis of the evolution of a Confederate identity over a half century.
Rodney Steward is an assistant professor of history at the University of South Carolina, Salkehatchie. His works have appeared in the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Encyclopedia of North Carolina, and North Carolina Historical Review.
The Nineteen Critical Decisions That Defined the Campaign
The Campaign and Battle of Gettysburg have inspired scrutiny from virtually every angle. Standing out amid the voluminous scholarship, this book is not merely one more narrative history of the events that transpired before, during, and after those three momentous July days in southern Pennsylvania. Rather, it focuses on and analyzes nineteen critical decisions by Union and Confederate commanders that determined the particular ways in which those events unfolded.
Matt Spruill, a retired U.S. Army colonel who studied and taught at the U. S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, contends that, among the many decisions made during any military campaign, a limited number—strategic, operational, tactical, organizational—make the difference, with subsequent decisions and circumstances proceeding from those defining moments. At Gettysburg, he contends, had any of the nineteen decisions he identifies not been made and/or another decision made in its stead, all sorts of events from those decision points on would have been different and the campaign and battle as we know it today would appear differently. The battle might have lasted two days or four days instead of three. The orientation of opposing forces might have been different. The battle could well have occurred away from Gettysburg rather than around the town. Whether Lee would have emerged the victor and Meade the vanquished remains an open question, but whatever the outcome, it was the particular decision-making delineated here that shaped the campaign that went into the history books.
Along with his insightful analysis of the nineteen decisions, Spruill includes a valuable appendix that takes the battlefield visitor to the actual locations where the decisions were made or executed. This guide features excerpts from primary documents that further illuminate the ways in which the commanders saw situations on the ground and made their decisions accordingly.
The Recollections of a Sharecropper’s Son