- The Tennessee Campaign of 1864 ed. by Steven E. Woodworth and Charles D. Grear
Considering the almost endless list of works on the American Civil War, one would think that everything has been covered; however, The Tennessee Campaign of 1864, a collection of essays edited by Steven E. Woodworth and Charles D. Grear, demonstrates that the field is still fertile. While historians have paid a great deal of attention to the Atlanta campaign and William T. Sherman's March to the Sea, they have paid much less attention to Confederate efforts to turn things around in the fall and winter of 1864, which culminated in the battle of Nashville. The editors have assembled a rather distinguished list of [End Page 170] authors to explore this rarely examined campaign from both Confederate and Union perspectives. This particular collection is unique due to its topical focus and the diverse approaches represented.
Some of the essays, including Stewart Bennett's "'The Storm Broke in All Its Fury': The Struggle for Allatoona Pass" and John R. Lundberg's "Errant Moves on the Chessboard of War: The Battle of Spring Hill, November 29, 1864," are more traditional examinations of actual engagements. Bennett examines the battle of Allatoona Pass, which he argues was "a microcosm of an ill-fated Confederate campaign that was marked with problems from its inception" (p. 23). While overshadowed by later struggles at Franklin and Nashville, this hard-fought skirmish was indicative of the problems that General John Bell Hood and the Army of Tennessee repeatedly dealt with in the campaign into central Tennessee. Lundberg challenges the conventional view of the importance of the battle of Spring Hill, claiming that Hood was not forced into advancing toward Franklin and Nashville as a result of his failure there and that the importance of the fight was magnified by "Lost Cause mythology" rather than its actual relevance (p. 46).
A number of essays focus on leadership in the Franklin and Nashville campaigns. Andrew S. Bledsoe's "The Destruction of the Army of Tennessee's Officer Corps at the Battle of Franklin" examines in gritty detail the decimation of the best of the Army of Tennessee's officer corps. In "A Failure to Communicate: Grant, Thomas, and the Nashville Campaign," Brooks D. Simpson argues that Ulysses S. Grant's frustration with Major General George H. Thomas before the battle of Nashville was actually justified due to Thomas's tendency to not keep Grant informed. Paul L. Schmelzer's essay, "Where Genius Cannot Exist: The Generalship of George H. Thomas," interestingly analyzes Thomas and his actions through the lens of Carl von Clausewitz–esque questions. William Lee White's brief essay is a revealing look at Confederate major general Patrick R. Cleburne's little-known diary, which contains entries for only nineteen days.
Steven E. Woodworth, D. L. Turner, and Scott L. Stabler look at the participation of troops at the battle of Nashville. While there were a number of different African American units within Thomas's troops at Nashville, according to Woodworth's "A. J. Smith's Detachment in the Battle of Nashville," it was the training, experience, and aggressive leadership of Major General A. J. Smith and his officers that made Smith's three divisions of the Army of the Tennessee particularly effective. Turner and Stabler's "'No More Auction Block For Me': The Fight for Freedom by the U.S. Colored Troops at the Battle of Nashville" examines the bravery and accomplishments of African American troops at Nashville, which convinced many, including George H. Thomas, of the value and reliability of black soldiers.
The impact and participation of civilians in the war is another area of study. In "Civilian Participants and Observers During the Franklin-Nashville Campaign," John J. Gaines studies the realities of battle from the perspective of civilians in Franklin and Nashville before, during, and especially after the battles. Charles D. Grear's "'Our Peoples Are Depressed in Spirit': Texans...