Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Corpus of Civil War Letters: Private Voices

I do not often make two posts in one day, but I'm enjoying the last of my vacation and thought, why not?  Besides, this is something that I've wanted to share for a while now.

At the Gettysburg College Civil War Institute this past June, Dr. Stephen Berry, from the University of Georgia, spoke about a digital project (an alternative archive) that he is involved with called The Corpus of Civil War Letters: Private Voices. Rather than having me try to explain what it is all about, I'd encourage you to read their press release that announced its launch in 2017.

However, I do feel a certain responsibility to provide a warning. This site is addictive! First of all there are a number of fascinating subject studies like those under "Camp Talk." But, there are also word maps that allows one to see where certain words used by Civil War soldiers were most common. Then there are the collection of letters. These written treasures, most of which were composed by men who were not fully literate, provide an insight into the common soldier's war that are found in few other places. Granted, some are quite difficult to read due to the phonetic spelling, lack of punctuation and capitalization, but they are transcribed true to form, just as the soldiers wrote or dictated them. In my opinion, this is where they serve the Civil War enthusiast community the most. Sure it might take some time and effort to get through some of the letters, but sometimes with history, like exercise, "no pain, no gain."

Here's the video of Dr. Berry's presentation. Do yourself a couple of favors and check out the website and watch the talk. I think you'll enjoy and benefit from both.

Just Finished Reading - Practical Liberators

Well, what with reading several slimmer volumes in attempt to pad my "Books Read in 2019" list, and taking a few days off for a wonderful vacation, it seems I've fallen a little behind in sharing some thoughts on a few recently read volumes. One of the finest books I've read so far this year is Kristopher A. Teters' Practical Liberators: Union Officers in the Western Theater during the Civil War.

Serious students of the Civil War will not find it surprising that early in the conflict the Union field armies offered various and inconsistent plans in attempt to deal with the large numbers of escaped enslaved people coming into their lines and camps. Their programs for handling refugees differed widely due to a number of factors including: where that particular force was located, who was in command (and thus what his particular feelings toward black people were), what level of command they had (i.e. army vs. regiment), and the number of refugees who arrived. Some officers, particularly those from strong abolitionist sections of the Old Northwest (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan), were more strident in their refusal to return refugees to their former masters. However, some of those Union officers from say parts of Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, and of course the slave states of Missouri and Kentucky, were more willing to allow owners to reclaimed what they saw as their legal property. When Congress passed the Second Confiscation Act in the summer of 1862, though, a shift occurred. Now, working from a solid government mandate, and after having a significant amount of time to observe the great force of labor that enslaved African Americans provided to their Confederate enemies, Union officers began to develop a more consistent plan of offering liberation to those who came seeking freedom.

Teters argues that the majority of western theater Union officers developed a pragmatic idea of emancipation. He contends that it was "military necessity" that formed western Union officers' thinking about this central issue of the Civil War. However, not all Union officers fell in line. Some believed that emancipation, whether by act of Congress or presidential edict, would only undermine their past western theater successes by strengthening the will of the southern people to fight with even more determination. In addition, some believed that Union soldiers from areas such as Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri, would switch their allegiance if emancipation became an official Union war aim.

Teters covers these issues, and much more, in the first three chapters of this fascinating book. But perhaps the most intriguing chapter in this study to me was the fourth chapter, "Officers, Servants, and Race." For many Union soldier and officers moving into areas such as Kentucky, Tennessee, and northern parts of Alabama and Mississippi this was the first time that some of these men had the opportunity to be around large numbers of black people. Of course, many had previously conceived notions that they had obtained through jokes, ministerial shows, popular songs, and print media, and the many primary sources these men left behind too often reflect those sentiments. Teters found that "Officers found black people exotic, curious, childlike, ignorant, animalistic, dirty, funny, pitiful, and ultimately, inferior." Those officers who were thinking individuals, wisely understood that slavery imposed these factors on African Americans. But, unfortunately the majority of officers believed these were inherit traits for black people. It appears that their ideas changed to a certain degree for those officers who hired personal servants from the refugee populations and actually got to known them a little. But it seems that those positives were most often reserved for the individual level rather than the general population of refugees. It is here where Teters uncovers some amazing primary source information. Officers commented often on their servants, but it appears clear that their war experience and contact with blacks did not radically alter the racial attitudes of the majority.

For most Union officers, emancipation was yet another practical means of depriving the Confederates of a vital manpower source and at the same time adding to their own; a double-negative to their enemies, if you will. Emancipation was another fiber in the rope that would help pull the Union to victory, end the war, and thus the allow their return home.

In some respects Practical Liberators is much in the same line as Glenn David Brasher's The Peninsula Campaign and the Necessity of Emancipation: African Americans and the Fight for Freedom, but in others it is quite different. Practical Liberators provides not only a comparative study to Brasher's eastern theater focus, but it narrows the lens to Union officers, which allows for a deep study on this important and relevant subject, and it covers a wider chronological period.

Practical Liberators is excellently written with stacks of primary source evidence. This book adds significantly to our level of understanding on the emancipation process and how it played out on the ground. I highly recommend it!

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Just Finished Reading - A Great Sacrifice

One of the challenges of telling the African American story, before or during the Civil War, is the lack of direct sources that provide their perspective. The disparity of extant primary sources from this period is due largely to their limited opportunities to attain an education and thus benefit from learning with acquired literacy skills. Another hindrance was the fact that few blacks at that time had little leisure time to develop and exercise reading and writing skills. In addition, it was not until the Civil Rights Movement of the mid-20th century that African American documents started to be actively collected in large numbers, and by that time many had been lost forever. To counter this obstacle historians search for primary sources in non-traditional forms that have resided in repositories for decades. For instance, government and state pension records inform us better about the black military experience, as do reports from black soldiers sent to northern African American newspapers.

A Great Sacrifice: Northern Black Soldiers, Their Families, and the Experience of Civil War by James G. Mendez makes great use of the letters sent mainly by northern black women to government and military officials like the president, secretary of war, and various generals to tell the black Civil War story. Today these documents are largely held in the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

In this book Mendez offers an engaging and informative introduction, then provides 11 chapters that follow the chronology of the black military experience during the Civil War-era and covers issues that elicited correspondence from the families of black soldiers. In the introduction, Mendez makes a number of important points. A primary point is the stake that northern free blacks placed on the importance of contributing toward U.S. military service in proving the race's worthiness of citizenship, and the eradication of slavery. Mendez writes, "Therefore, northern blacks could not help but take a stand on the slavery issue. Struggling to survive at the bottom of the political, economic, and social ladder in northern society, blacks wanted to improve their lives and opportunities for advancement, but the existence of slavery made this task even more difficult."

The army service of young black men, many of whom were the primary providers for their families, often left those on the home front in economic distress. Families of the soldiers felt the need to write government and military officials to let them know that they were not only sacrificing their loved one for the good of the country, with him they were also giving up much of their economic earning power. So, when issues such as unequal pay between white and black soldiers arose, black families wanted Union officials to know they saw it as unfair and described how it affected them. One letter to Lincoln on this issue, this one from a black soldier in the 54th Massachusetts, argued the point with penetrating logic: "Now your Excellency, we have done a Solider's Duty. Why Can't we have a Soldier's pay? You caution the Rebel Chieftain [Davis], that the United States knows no distinction in her Soldiers. She insists on having all her Soldiers of whatever creed or Color, to be treated according to the usages of War? Now if the United States exacts uniformity of treatment of her Soldiers from the Insurgents, would it not be well and consistent to set the example herself by paying all her soldiers alike?" It's difficult to argue that point without being hypocritical, isn't it?

Other issues that families and soldiers wrote letters about were the unfortunate episodes of racial violence in northern cities, desires for up-to-date information on their soldier loved ones whereabouts and safety, requests for discharges for health or economic reasons, and the undesirable conditions encountered during occupation duty, among others. These amazing sources vividly show that northern African Americans during the Civil War attempted to exercise citizenship rights, although not officially recognized as such at that point. By actively participating in petitioning government and military officials in addressing their grievances, blacks, especially women, blazed a trail toward true freedom and equality that is still a goal today.

A Great Sacrifice is wonderfully written and well researched. It adds significantly to our knowledge of the African American Civil War experience and fills a previous scholarly void. I enthusiastically recommend it!

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Just Finished Reading - Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain & the Petersburg Campaign

If there is a Civil War general (other than the biggies) that casual enthusiasts recognize by name, it's Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. Thanks to his actual impressive war record, his ability to self-promote, the book Killer Angels, its movie version Gettysburg, and Ken Burns's PBS documentary, Chamberlain's story (especially his Gettysburg story) is quite well known. However, his experience as a brigade commander during the Petersburg Campaign has received significantly less coverage.

Years after his severe wounding of being shot though the hips on June 18, 1864, he left accounts about his brigade's actions and his combat injury. He noted that his attacks on the Confederate Dimmock Line protecting the city of Petersburg that day occurred in a charge from the part of the Union line that later became the site of Fort Sedgwick (aka Fort Hell) toward Rives' Salient on the Dimmock Line. Chamberlain even returned to the site years decades after the Civil War and proclaimed that specific location as the proper one. That account and where it happened had been accepted by historians for 150 + years. But, with his book Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and the Petersburg Campaign: His Supposed Charge from Fort Hell, his Near-Mortal Wound, and a Civil War Myth Reconsidered, author Dennis A. Rasbach provides a wealth of primary source evidence to refute Chamberlain's claim for the location of his wounding.

Rasbach does not attempt to deny Chamberlain the glory he deserves for his brave action in leading his men that June day, but Rasbach piles up a haystack of evidence that shows perhaps Chamberlain's critical wounding, the passage of time and thus the cloudiness of his memory, along with a changed geography prompted the gallant leader to unintentionally misremember the location of his wounding.

A medical doctor by trade, Rasbach incorporates the deft skills of a veteran historian by gathering battle reports, soldiers' accounts, period geographical descriptions, and even modern topographical technology to locate Chamberlain's wounding near Elliott's (aka Pegram's) Salient and later site of the Battle of the Crater as the true site where Chamberlain fell wounded. Originating the attack from the Union lines near the Taylor House and Deep Cut of the Petersburg and Norfolk Railroad, Rasbach details the assault and its results. Rasbach's location is about a mile north of where it was long situated by Chamberlain and previous historians at Rives' Salient.

This impressive piece of battlefield detective work draws rather high praise from some of the Petersburg Campaign's best historians for its meticulous review of source material and how the author presents his argument. Bonuses I found significant to this book are the wonderful maps provided by Hal Jesperson, and the appendices; one giving a thorough order of battle, another a medical explanation of Chamberlain's wounding and treatment, and a third about period maps concerning the discussed locations.

In my opinion, Rasbach provides a very convincing case. This book is an important read, not only for students of the Petersburg Campaign, but also for any historian. It serves as an excellent example for how one makes a sound argument using evidence to overturn previously accepted accounts based mainly on memory. I highly recommend it.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Just Finished Reading - Raising the White Flag

From the Civil War's beginning, throughout its deadly course, and to its bitter end, surrenders occurred. Some surrenders were famous, like those at Fort Sumter, Vicksburg, and Appomattox. But, what about on the field of combat when one soldier got the best of another and demanded he give up? What about situations when surrenders are demanded, rejected, and then a massacre occurs? These issues, and many more, are covered in the trailblazing study Raising the White Flag: How Surrender Defined the American Civil War by David Silkenat.

Civil War officers had little precedence to go on when it came to surrenders. As Silkenat explains early in the book, there was no true textbook model for how to go about surrendering or demanding surrender. However, the Fort Sumter incident did provide an example for how future surrenders (on a large scale) should ideally play out. It was typical for Civil War surrenders to be initiated by the demand of the subjugating forces rather than it being offered up by the subjugated force. And, another point that seemed to bear importance was the issue of surrendering to someone of equal or higher military rank. There appears to have been no real loss of honor in surrender situations where there was a true attempt at resistance or when a military leader believed further resistance was futile and he accepted the same fate as his men. But, when commanders "gave up the fort" without a shot being fired, or they fled, leaving others to "do the deal" of surrendering, they could expect a healthy dose of criticism by their soldiers and citizens alike.

The most illuminating chapter, in my opinion, is Chapter 3, "Instinctively My Hands Went Up: Soldiers, Agency, and Surrender on the Battlefield." In it Silkenat explores surrender on the small scale. From the soldier's-eye-view in the heat of combat there was not often the time or opportunity to consider the pros and cons of demanding or offering one's surrender. When soldiers believed that they had a reasonable chance for a quick prisoner exchange they were more likely to surrender, however, as the exchange cartel broke down with Confederate refusal to treat black prisoners as legitimate soldiers, fighting men tended to battle more desperately and refuse the enemy's surrender demands. In addition, soldiers who were viewed as outside of conventional (white, regular, loyal) warfare bounds, such as African Americans, guerrillas, or Southern Unionists, sometimes were not afforded the ability to surrender.

Other chapters in the book focus on soldier surrenders at the Battle of Gettysburg, a comparison of Grant and Forrest and their understanding of "unconditional surrender," surrender and the "hard war," and looks at the final surrenders at Appomattox, Bennett Place, and others across the South.

Surrender still makes its way into our current events. Prisoner of war soldiers in our current war zones, and the president's comments on Sen. John McCain's Vietnam capture not being heroic in his eyes, keep the issue of military surrenders on our minds. But when it comes to the Civil War, Silkenat summarizes things well with the book's last paragraph: "Recognizing the central role of surrender in the Civil War requires some reconsideration of what being American means. If Americans define themselves as a people who never give up, never compromise, and never surrender, what does it mean that during one of the defining events in the nation's history, Americans surrendered in droves? For many modern Americans, 'take no prisoners' and 'never surrender' function as mantras, signifying their ideological purity and relentless work ethic. Yet if we are to learn anything from the Civil War generation, we might come to see surrender not as a sign of weakness but as a hallmark of humanity."

In a conflict in which about one in every four soldiers experienced surrender it is astounding that the topic has not been the focus of a book-length study until now. Raising the White Flag is an important work in the field. Hopefully it will provide a scholarly opening for future historians to explore other aspects of this topic (like how surrender played out differently in different campaigns or theaters, etc.). I highly recommend it.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Recent Acquisitions to My Library

As a way of both continuing to build my personal Petersburg Campaign library, and obtain secondary sources for my research project on prisoners captured in that campaign's fighting, I located and purchased a used copy of John Horn's The Siege of Petersburg: The Battles for the Weldon Railroad, August 1864. I can justify it by killing two birds with one stone, or something like that. I read this study a few years ago and remembered it being very helpful to understanding Grant's Fifth Petersburg Offensive, where numerous prisoners from both sides were captured.

Back at the end of May I learned that Tony Horwitz was going to be in Richmond for a talk on his new book, Spying on the South: An Odyssey Across the American Divide. I quickly signed up for the talk as I had enjoyed reading his Confederates in the Attic (can it really be 20 years old now), as well as his book on John Brown's Harper's Ferry Raid, Midnight Rising. A couple of hours later I received an email stating the the talk was canceled due to Horwitz's passing. His death was a significant loss to the history community. Our book club chose Spying on the South for its next selection. I look forward to reading Horwitz's insights and touch of humor.

Rated as one of the best selling Civil War books a couple of years ago, Tom McMillan's Gettysburg Rebels: Five Native Sons Who Came Home to Fight as Confederate Soldiers also consistently receives good reviews from readers. However, the title pretty much sold me the book. It sounds like a fascinating read.

Yet another Petersburg Campaign book! Often when I do customized tours, folks want to go to the area where then Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was grievously wounded through the hips on June 18, 1864. With Dennis A. Rashach's Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and the Petersburg Campaign: His Supposed Charge from Fort Hell, his Near-Mortal Wounding, and a Civil War Myth Reconsidered, the title and subtitle pretty much speaks for itself. It argues the wounding incident didn't happen where it has long been believed. I'm currently reading this one and will have a review ready within the next week or so.

There are numerous incidents during the Civil War where prisoners of war were either not allowed to surrender or were abused or massacred after surrendering. I bought a copy of Lonnie R. Speer's War of Vengeance: Acts of Retaliation Against Civil War POWs as some background reading for my research. Published in 2002 War of Vendeance was a little ahead of it time in examining the war's "dark side." It appears that it will provide several examples where these tragic acts occurred.   

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Just Finished Reading - Slave Trading in the Old South

A few months ago one of our book club members expressed interest in the group choosing a book on the internal slave trade for us to discuss. At the next meeting I brought in several books from library on that subject that I had previously read. However, there was also one I had not read; Slave Trading in the Old South by Frederic Bancroft. I suggested it for that very reason. We discussed it last Sunday, and it seems that everyone took something away from it and found it very informative.

I'm always skeptical about a book published such a long time ago (1931). So much in both sources and interpretation has changed since then. But I was truly amazed at the depth of research Bancroft put into this book and how well he cited his many sources. Incorporating largely newspaper articles and advertisements, oral history interviews with formerly enslaved people, and city directories, sources not significantly different than much more modern studies, Bancroft paints an unpleasant picture of what is known as by several names; the domestic, internal, or interstate slave trade.

To do so Bancroft writes about the trade and how traders practiced it in various regions of the slave states. The Washington D.C; Virginia and Richmond markets; the Border States of Missouri, Kentucky, and Maryland; Charleston; Savannah; Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee; Alabama and Mississippi; and New Orleans all receive a significant amount of attention. In between the chapters on regional distinctions, other aspects of the interstate slave trade are also explored. Topics like slave-rearing, slave-hiring, family divisions, and slave price inflation are discussed with solid evidence used to show their parts in the practice.

The internal slave trade's brutal commodification of human beings is what clearly rings throughout the book. Following on the heels of earlier published scholarly works such as U.B. Phillips's American Negro Slavery, published in 1918, which provided a benign interpretation of slavery, Bancroft broke from that mold and shows how ingrained slavery was into Southern culture, society, politics, and economy.

One important point that Bancroft shares is that just going through the census records of 1850 and 1860 and looking for "slave traders" or "negro traders" is not a valid way of understanding how many people were involved in the internal slave trade. Many men, who served as auctioneers, brokers, and commission merchants used those positions not only to peddle things like dry goods, crops, and real estate, but also to sell human beings. These sales often came about due to either the deaths of owners or financial failings and often used one of these "middle men" to move their chattel property, which often resulted in the separation of husbands from wives and children from siblings and parents.

Reading Slave Trading in the Old South is important for students of the subject to get a better understanding of its historiography. Not everyone during the era of the nadir of race relations told the history of the "peculiar institution" with a Jim Crow interpretation. I highly recommend it . . . and if you do read it, read all the footnotes. You'll learn so much more by doing so.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Capturing the Enemy, Capturing Information

Well, I'm currently diving into the Official Records of the Rebellion and reading through different correspondence and reports to find references to Union and Confederate prisoners of war captured during the Petersburg Campaign. I was hoping the indexes of the various volumes would prove helpful, but I'm finding they are not much assistance. Therefore, it takes a considerable amount of time and effort to scan through the numerous reports.

However, some of the details they impart are pretty amazing. One of the things that I've found particularly surprising is the amount useful information that captives gave their captors. For example, on June 22, 1864, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler reported the following to Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant:
" A prisoner belonging to the Forty-eighth North Carolina, Cooke's brigade, Heth's division, of A. P. Hill's corps, was captured by General Foster to-day at Grover's house, on the north side of the James [River]. He states that his brigade, consisting of the Forty-eighth, Twenty-seventh, Forty-sixth, and Fifteenth North Carolina, numbering about 1,000 men, left their breast-works, five miles in front of Richmond, last night, on a scout. Some cavalry had preceded them by several days; that they moved there from before us, near Petersburg, on the south side of the Appomattox [River]; that it was currently rumored in camp that Ewell had gone up the Valley to meet Hunter. He also says that the rear line - his brigade being the last - withdrew from my front yesterday about 12 and that none but the front line remains. My signal officer reports that at 2 p. m. a train of twenty-five freight cars, five of them loaded with troops, passed Walthall Junction. This is the first train that has crossed since the tearing up of the track."

Gathering information about the movements of the enemy was partly the job of cavalry and army scouts. Supplementing the news that cavalry supplied by that freely given by the enemy's captured soldiers only added to the ability for army leadership to make significant strategic and tactical decisions. Knowing things like the soldier above provided, such as what brigade was in your front or how many men they had could be crucial to officers. And, while all of the information that this prisoner gave was not correct (i.e. Gen. Ewell going to the Valley, when it was actually Gen. Early) being partly right made a difference, too.

In another instance, on that same day, Col. George H. Sharpe, who served as the chief of military intelligence for the Army of the Potomac wrote to Gen. Andrew Humphreys:
"Four men from Thomas' (Georgia) brigade, Wilcox's division, A. P. Hill's corps, taken this a.m. in front of their division between the Weldon railroad and the Jerusalem plank road, say that yesterday they were on the extreme right of the enemy's infantry line at a point they cannot well indicate, nearer the city than now; that at 3 p. m. they were moved farther to the right, the division crossed the railroad, and they were put out on skirmish line toward evening; that yesterday p.m. when they came out on skirmish line there were no earth-works on our front (here); that some guns were put into position. One says he saw General Lee on Saturday on the Richmond road on the other side of Heth's division, of the same corps, being next on their left. They know nothing of Ewell, but can account of all of A. P. Hill's and Longstreet's being here except McLaw's division, of Longstreet's, which they have not seen for some days. They think, however, that it is here. The Third Division Cavalry sent in two officers (1 colonel) and 9 men during the night, taken yesterday p. m. down the Jerusalem plank road. I can get little out of them except that there are three North Carolina regiments of cavalry on our left commanded by General Barringer."

It is strange that Sharpe ended his report by saying he "can get little out of them," when they provided a significant amount of information to him. One wonders what type of interrogation techniques military intelligence used at this time. It seems that these captured men gave up the information rather freely. Perhaps the prisoners felt that now that they were out of the fighting for a while they had nothing to lose by giving up what they knew. Or perhaps, they felt they may gain a favor or two by supplying information.

Regardless of their reasoning, taking today's modern military practice of providing only one's "name, rank, and serial number" to one's captors, it seems strange to give an enemy information that could help them. 

Monday, July 1, 2019

Just Finished Reading - The Fight for the Old North State

While admittedly there are a number of gaps in my Civil War knowledge, two of the most yawning are the conflict's navies and the various actions that occurred in eastern North Carolina. Fortunately for me, Hampton Newsome's most recent work, The Fight for the Old North State: The Civil War in North Carolina, January-May 1864, which was published earlier this year by the University Press of Kansas, covers significant aspects of both.

I've had the good fortune to network some with Hampton over the past year. We've discussed his previous book, Richmond Must Fall: The Richmond-Petersburg Campaign, October 1864 (a military study that I highly admire and can't recommend enough), research topics, and various projects. Through our email and phone conversations I've sincerely appreciated Hampton's sage advice and I respect his honest opinions.

During the winter of 1863-64, as Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia wintered largely around Orange County, Virginia, and his Union adversary, Gen. George Gordon Meade did the same not far away in Culpeper County, the Southern commander proposed a bold plan to regain parts of North Carolina that had been in Northern hands since 1862. This was believed necessary largely due to a pro-peace movement within the state and growing numbers of desertions to the Old North State. It was believed that military successes in the state might reverse these trends.

To do so a joint army-navy expedition was outlined to retake New Bern. Leading this initial Confederate offensive was Gen. George E. Pickett, who commanded the Department of Virginia and North Carolina. This operation, and those that followed in the coming months, have largely been overlooked by scholars in favor of totally skipping over these actions and moving right to the Grant and Lee's clashes of central Virginia in early May 1864 or those between Sherman and Johnston at the same time in the western theater. We can thank Newsome for shedding much needed light on this under-examined region and period in the Civil War. Newsome's impressive scholarship blends the political issues spurring these military initiatives, while at the same time thoroughly painting the strategic and tactical actions that developed. Worked into this story, too, are other previously unexplored aspects involved in the campaign such as white Southern Unionists who fought against Confederate neighbors, African American refugees who sought freedom within Union lines while often serving as scouts and pilots, and black soldiers battling for a reordered society.

Newsome brilliantly tells the story of the Confederate's failed first New Bern attempt in early February, Pickett's executions of Kinston Unionists that followed, Gen. Robert Hoke's successful capture of Union camps in Plymouth and Washington in April, and then Hoke's move on New Bern in early May before ultimately being recalled to central Virginia to help defend the Old Dominion against Grant's initial Overland Campaign movements.

As Newsome states at the end of the work: "The Confederate efforts in North Carolina in early 1864 would not rank among the Civil War's largest or most decisive military operations. However, the victories there aided the Confederacy. Confronted with huge manpower odds and material disadvantages, the rebels assembled and executed a remarkable campaign- a 'very splendid success,' in the words of [Gov. Zebulon] Vance's words-that may have helped keep North Carolina in the war."

Meticulously researched, vividly told and interpreted, The Fight for the Old North State not only helped fill a void in my own knowledge, it will certainly become the go to source for the greater Civil War community to understand these particular actions. In addition to a nice set of maps, the book also contains a number of photographs that help the reader with some of the campaign's lesser known figures. Do yourself a favor and add The Fight for the Old North State to your library. I highly recommend it.