Reading Matters

‘A Military History of the Civil War’

I’m not that interested in the battles of the Civil War.

However, I have a cousin who is. So whenever I happen on a book about the Civil War, I turn to the index and look for the Battle of Chicamauga. I do this because an ancestor of ours, James Gibson, fought in this battle, we’re told – and, of course, the story goes that he was beyond heroic – so I’m always on the lookout for new information to send to cousin Frank in New Zealand.

The index of “A Savage War: A Military History of the Civil War,” did not disappoint.

The authors, Williamson Murray and Wayne Wei-Siang Hsieh, both history professors – Murray, professor emeritus at Ohio State and Hsieh at the United States Naval Academy – and both residents of Fairfax, Va., have included nine consecutive pages on that one battle and two or three references on other pages, including a map of the battlefield.

Here’s how the authors describe Robert E. Lee: “REL and his major corps commanders were aggressive risk takers who never failed to take advantage of what they regarded as an opportunity.”

And Sherman: “As a strategist in the largest sense, he was brilliant, but while a competent operational commander, he never quite matched Lee’s capabilities on the battlefield.”

If you’re a student of the Civl War, you’ll find all the old familiar names here: Jubal Early, Nathan Bedford Forrest, Millard Fillmore, George Meade, Jefferson Davis, George Pickett, etc., and at 602 pages, you’ll get quite a lot of information about the military history of the Civil War.