Eastern Theater Bibliography, Part 1
In my younger days, especially before the internet blew up, I always found it difficult to find the best books available for the major campaigns and battles. Now that I am a little more seasoned in my studies, I have decided to share with the readers and posters here some of my notes that I have converted into a sort of bibliographic essay format. The intent is to help those who may not know where to start concerning a particular battle or campaign of interest, shortening their search and making it much easier for them than it was for me.
I have been developing this list for the past several months and decided to share the first part of it with you today. I hope some of you find this useful, I enjoyed writing it [Note: I used the NPS's campaign/battle listings to help me organize the list so I wouldn't carelessly leave anything out]
Operations in Western Virginia [June-December 1861]
The best single volume account available so far is Clayton R. Newell’s Lee vs. McClellan: The First Campaign, which not only focuses on the fall operations concerning the two generals in the title, but also gives attention to important early engagements in the campaign (Phillipi, Rich Mountain, Carnifex Ferry). There are also a few well-written studies of the campaign’s individual engagements, if you can find them, but Newell’s book should satisfy most scholars’ appetites for this particular campaign.
Manassas Campaign [July 1861]
More than thirty years later and William C. Davis’s Battle at Bull Run: A History of the First Major Campaign of the Civil War is still the standard account of the first battle at Manassas. David Detzer’s Donnybrook: The Battle of Bull Run, 1861 comes very close but severely suffers from its lack of maps while Ethan Rafuse’s A Single Grand Victory doesn’t offer up the depth or style that Davis’s does. John J. Hennessy, who wrote the definitive account of the second battle, has also authored a brief account on the first one titled End to the Innocence as part of the Virginia Battles and Leaders series but its brevity keeps it from being considered truly definitive. Davis’s maps, while adequate, are at times difficult to decipher but luckily Bradley M. Gottfried’s The Maps of Bull Run offers us excellent depictions of all stages of the battle and makes a great companion piece to have alongside Davis’s book.
McClellan's Operations in Northern Virginia [October-December 1861]
James Morgan year-old study on the battle, A Little Short of Boats: The Civil War Battles of Ball's Bluff and Edwards Ferry, October 21 - 22, 1861, has quickly become the standard for this small, but highly interesting, engagement. Byron Farwell’s Ball’s Bluff: A Small Battle and It’s Long Shadow was a fair enough overview considering the paucity of available material at the time, but Morgan’s more detailed and scholarly approach to the subject has graced us with not only an excellent campaign study, but also a modern-day classic worthy enough for all Civil War libraries.
Burnside's North Carolina Expedition [February-June 1862]
Although it lacks serious competition, Richard Allen Sauers’ The Burnside Expedition in North Carolina: A Succession of Honorable Victories is unquestionably the campaign study for Burnside’s expedition, but unfortunately it is almost impossible to find. Unless you want to pay some pretty outrageous prices to own it, a library rental is at least recommended, as its importance cannot really be overstated. Hopefully a new edition will be released in the future so this significant piece of research can reach the audience it deserves.
Jackson's Valley Campaign [March-June 1862]
Although it’s not quite up to the high standards set by his works on the Western Theater, Peter Cozzens’ Shenandoah 1862: Stonewall Jackson's Valley Campaign presents us with the first truly balanced study of the campaign so far. Of course, Robert G. Tanner’s Stonewall in the Valley: Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s Shenandoah Valley Campaign, Spring 1862 is a classic in its own right but it is hampered from a campaign study viewpoint by focusing almost entirely on Jackson and the valley army. Meanwhile, Gary Ecelbarger has presented us with two excellent studies of Valley battles: We Are in for It!: The First Battle of Kernstown and Three Days in the Shenandoah: Stonewall Jackson at Front Royal and Winchester. While Ecelbarger has the initial Valley engagements covered, Robert L. Krick has thankfully taken the later engagements at Cross Keys and Port Republic to task with Conquering the Valley: Stonewall Jackson at Port Republic. Krick’s typical painstaking attention to detail and research makes this a must have for any serious student of the Valley campaign or Jackson. As an essential supplement to the above studies, The Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862, edited by Gary W. Gallagher, is a collection of eight essays on various topics concerning the campaign and makes for interesting, although not always agreeable, reading.
Peninsula Campaign [March-July 1862]
Stephen Sears is one of those authors whose campaign studies almost immediately become the authoritative versions of their respective operations upon release. To The Gates of Richmond: The Peninsula Campaign is no exception as Sears makes sense of this confusing, and oftentimes frustrating to follow, campaign, while also examining the controversial roles of McClellan, Jackson, Johnston and other players, both major and minor. Going into a little more detail concerning the Seven Days is Brian K. Burton and his relatively new study Extraordinary Circumstances: The Seven Days Battles. Burton’s contemporary research has shed new light on many aspects of the Seven Days battles and is a very worthwhile, and essential, companion to Sears’ earlier work. Lee biographer Clifford Dowdey gives his own take on the Seven Days battles, with an understandably Southern slant considering his other works. Although it can’t be considered essential, The Seven Days: The Emergence of Lee is still suggested reading because of the detailed examinations of many higher ranking Confederate generals and their respective roles in the Seven Days as well as its precursor, Seven Pines. For an eminently readable look at the campaign’s naval prologue, see Reign of Iron: The Story of the First Battling Ironclads, the Monitor and the Merrimack by James L. Nelson. Gary Gallagher’s collection of essays on the campaign, The Richmond Campaign of 1862: The Peninsula and the Seven Days, is once again recommended supplementary reading due to the varying opinions and viewpoints presented by the authors within.
Northern Virginia Campaign [August 1862]
Every once in a while, a campaign study comes along that no succeeding, or even contemporary, scholars attempt to match. John J. Hennessey has given us one of those studies with Return to Bull Run: The Campaign and Battle of Second Manassas. Hennessey has contributed a very readable book with excellent maps and research which doesn’t overwhelm the reader with minutiae and at the same time doesn’t leave us wanting more. For those wanting to read a little further into the Confederate assault on the Union left there is Scott Patchan's Second Manassas: Longstreet’s Attack and the Struggle for Chinn Ridge. While not required reading, it does give the reader a different perspective on an often overlooked, and misunderstood, phase of the battle. Robert L. Krick’s Stonewall Jackson at Cedar Mountain is the best available account on that particular battle, and despite the title gives a fair, balanced, and above all thorough, look at the actions of both sides during Jackson’s last battle as an independent commander.
Maryland Campaign [September 1862]
Stephen Sears’ Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam is that author’s first major work on the Civil War and quite possibly his best. Engaging writing combined with in-depth research gives us the best account so far of this famous battle and its landmarks; the corn field, the Dunker church, the sunken road, and Burnside’s Bridge to name a few. James V. Murfin’s The Gleam of Bayonets: The Battle of Antietam and Robert E. Lee’s Maryland Campaign , 1862 dates Sears’ work by almost twenty years but is still a worthwhile read for any student of the battle. Going even further back is Ezra A. Carman’s exhaustive and unique (Carman commanded a regiment under McClellan at the battle) turn-of-the-century study on the campaign, The Maryland Campaign of 1862, which is quite ahead of its time, especially with its relatively impartial treatment of the participants involved. Its first publication changed little of the original prose and layout, making it at times difficult to read and interpret, but thankfully Thomas Clemens has edited a new release of the manuscript, which at a whopping 500+ pages covers only the first half of the campaign. Unfortunately, the second half concerning the battle itself has yet to materialize, joining Bradley Gottfried’s long awaited Maps of Antietam as highly anticipated future releases for devoted students of the battle. Antietam: The Soldier’s Battle, by John Michael Priest, gives us a look at the battle from a soldier’s perspective, drawing on innumerable letters, diaries, and other manuscript sources to paint a unique, and at times terrifying, portrait of the battle. Certainly not to be overlooked is Joseph L. Harsh’s massive labor of love, Taken at the Flood: Robert E. Lee and Confederate Strategy in the Maryland Campaign of 1862. Not so much a narrative of the campaign as it is a re-thinking, Harsh analyzes on a massive scale the thought processes behind the campaign’s major decisions which is at times both fascinating and overwhelming. As the title indicates, much of his focus is on the actions of Lee but he does take some time to analyze the decisions of his counterpart, McClellan. Brian Matthew Jordan has recently contributed an excellent study on South Mountain, Unholy Sabbath: The Battle of South Mountain in History and Memory, September 14, 1862. Oftentimes dismissed or overlooked as a mere skirmish on the road to Antietam, Jordan gives the battle the well-deserved attention it merits as it had a significant impact on the campaign as a whole as well as the battle at Sharpsburg three days later. As additional reading, Gary W. Gallagher offers us not one, but two collections of essays by renowned Civil War authors (The Antietam Campaign and the similarly titled, earlier collection Antietam: Essays on the 1862 Maryland Campaign), and as usual they give us intriguing and differing viewpoints on many of the battle’s subjects.
Thank you for reading! Look for part two sometime in the near future.
Last edited by AboveAverage484; 14 May 12 at 19:23..