Friday, July 31, 2015

Gateway to the Confederacy review

Gateway to the Confederacy: New Perspectives on the Chickamauga and Chattanooga Campaigns, 1862-1863. Edited by Evan C. Jones and Wiley Sword. Illustrated, photos, maps, notes, index, 336 pp., 2014, LSU,, $39.95.
The battles of Chickamauga and Chattanooga are rapidly becoming the most written about Western theater battles in recent years.Our understanding of these battles is becoming greater and our perspectives of what happened, plus the how and why, are growing as well.Adding to this greater, and varied, view of these battles is a new collection of ten essays that tries to shed light on lesser known aspects of the campaigns and challenge the common story in other areas.
One area that has been long overlooked is the 1862 campaign for Chattanooga led by Union General Don Carlos Buell that came up short when Confederates led by Braxton Bragg and Kirby Smith launched an offensive into Kentucky.That missed opportunity gets treatment here under the well known Army of the Ohio scholar Gerald Prokopowicz.
Rising Chickamauga historian David Powell adds two essays, one on Nathan Bedford Forrest’s lackluster, yet typically acclaimed, role in the campaign that has also been the subject of one of his books, and another on the growth of the Army of the Cumberland.This focuses on some changes being made at the staff level and also how the army was structured to fight.Generally overlooked areas but provides great insight into how William Rosecrans prepared his army.
One of my favorite essays was “A Tale of Two Orders” by William Glenn Robertson.This covers the well known order from Rosecrans to Wood that created the hole in the Union line, but also the order that was to bring on the Confederate dawn attack on September 20th.Both have their myths and, as far as I recall, this is the most through rehash of how the Confederates failed to get the orders through in time as I can recall.Commanders and their orderlies barely missed each other in the fog shrouded forest on the evening of September 19th, then later the finger pointing would begin.
Another essay I especially liked was the one detailing the Grant-Rosecrans feud.This is something that battle histories don’t have the space to delve into as deeply as here, and magazines articles lack enough space.Evan Jones explains masterfully the feud in all its complexities.
Overall this is a very nice collection of essays from many preeminent modern Chickamauga historians.I would highly recommend adding this volume to the growing Chickamauga shelf.

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