Sunday, March 24, 2019

The End-Papers: The Fight for the Old North State

The end-papers in The Fight for the Old North State feature a sprawling, detailed 1863 map of Plymouth N.C. drawn by Lt. Felix Vinay of the 85th New York - courtesy of North Carolina State Archives. Kudos to University Press of Kansas for producing a great looking book.

The end-papers

map detail
the book

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Talk at Rocky Mount CWRT, April 25

The first stop on my book tour (of sorts) for The Fight for the Old North State will be at the Pender Civil War Roundtable in Rocky Mount, NC on Thursday, April 25.

Time: 7:00 p.m. (buffet dinner at 6:00 p.m.)
Place: Gardners at 1331 N. Wesleyan Boulevard, Rocky Mount, NC

I will be talking about the events covered in the new book - including the New Bern expedition, the battle of Plymouth, and other aspects of operations in North Carolina during the first months of 1864. Looking forward to it!

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Author Q&A: The Fight for the Old North State

It has been great to work with University Press of Kansas on The Fight for the Old North State. Recently, the Press posted an author Q&A about the new release on their website. Here are the questions below. Check out the answers at the Press website:

1.What’s your elevator pitch for The Fight for the Old North State?
2.What led you to research and write about the late-war Confederate resurgence in the Old North State?
3. What were some of the challenging aspects of researching the book?
4. Your book offers a compelling account of Confederate efforts in early 1864 to turn the tide of the Civil War in eastern North Carolina. What would you list as the most important decision made by the rebel leaders in their efforts?
5. Robert E. Lee’s proposal to take eastern North Carolina triggered one of the last successful Confederate offensives. What was the impact of these operations on the culmination of the Civil War?
6. What is one thing you would like readers to take from your work?

Thursday, March 7, 2019

New Book from Bradley and Maass -- North Carolina: A Military History

Mark Bradley, one of the deans of North Carolina Civil War history, was kind enough to read through a draft of The Fight for the Old North State and provide his insights and suggestions. A historian at the U.S. Army Center of Military History, Bradley's past books include a highly-acclaimed account of the Battle of Bentonville (Last Stand in the Carolinas, Savas), an excellent study on Reconstruction in N.C. (Bluecoats and Tarheels, Univ. Press of Ky.), and a thoughtful look the war's end in the state (This Astounding Close, UNC). 

Now, Bradley, along with USACMH colleague John R. Maass, has completed a sweeping new survey titled North Carolina: A Military History. Published by Westholme, the book is scheduled for a June release. I'm sure it will be a must buy for anyone interested in the history of the Old North State.

From the publisher:
"This fourth volume in Westholme’s State Military History Series, North Carolina: A Military History will provide readers with a comprehensive overview of North Carolina’s long and storied martial past, recounting wars from the colonial period to the present, and relating the heroism and sacrifices of its citizens and soldiers over the past four centuries. The book is illustrated with original maps and numerous photographs and line drawings, and includes recommendations for further reading."  

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Book Photos: The Fight for the Old North State

Here are some photos of my new book - The Fight for the Old North State. Kudos to the staff at University Press of Kansas. The cover, maps, and illustrations all look great. And the endpapers . . . very nice! Check them out.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Book Release Day! The Fight for the Old North State

Today is release day for The Fight for the Old North State. I had a great time researching and writing this study about the Civil War in eastern North Carolina during the first half of 1864. Thanks to all who helped out with this project over the last several years. I hope everyone enjoys it!

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

More Books - More Notes

With The Fight for the Old North State set for release in a matter of days, I've been able to read several books recently including titles related to operations in Virginia in 1863 (a new project) as well as some books outside of my usual research and writing focus. Here are some brief thoughts on a few noteworthy ones:

Lee's Maverick General:  Daniel Harvey Hill by Hal Bridges (McGraw-Hill: 1961; Reprint, Nebraska: 1991). First published nearly 60 years ago, Bridges work remains the standard biography of this intelligent, aggressive, and quarrelsome Confederate general. The research is substantial and the writing is clear. Bridges, who was a professor at University of California-Riverside, recounts Hill's uncanny ability to get crosswise with nearly everyone around him, especially Robert E. Lee. After playing an important role in the Army of Northern Virginia during the 1862 campaigns, the confident and assertive Hill managed to annoy his way out of a job, leaving him with no command by 1864. I haven't read any of Bridges' other books, but it appears that he led an interesting career. In addition to the D.H. Hill biography, he wrote a survey of American mysticism and, at the age of 90, penned a novel about Lincoln. 
Excommunicated from the Union: How the Civil War Created a Separate Catholic America by William Kurtz (Fordham: 2015). This is a thoughtful analysis of Catholics and the Civil War. It highlights the tensions within the Catholic community regarding Union war aims and the fallout from such friction in the postwar years. Kurtz, the managing director of the Nau Center for Civil War History at UVA, has established himself as an expert on Catholicism and the war. His next book, Soldiers of the Cross, the Authoritative Text: the Heroism of Catholic Chaplains and Sisters in the American Civil War, will be published by Notre Dame Press later this year and is coedited by David Endres. Over the last several months, I've had the pleasure to meet with Will in Charlottesville and chat about his work and Civil War scholarship.

Virginia Railroads in the Civil War by Angus James Johnston (UNC Press: 1961). This older title examines the importance of the railroads to the campaigns and operations in Virginia. It has the feel of a strategic study and delves into how the Commonwealth's rail lines shaped nearly every military operation in the east. I've found it immensely useful in understanding the whys and hows of the Virginia campaigns. It serves as a good companion to similar titles such as Black's The Railroads of the Confederacy, Turner's Victory Rode the Rails, and Hess's recent Civil War Logistics.

Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David Blight (Simon & Schuster: 2018). I'm a huge David Blight fan. Race and Reunion is one of my standard Civil War book recommendations. I enjoyed this new Douglass biography, which has received many great reviews. Among many other things, I was impressed at how the study conveys the sheer volume of Douglass's life - so many speeches, so much travel, pages and pages of writing, and never-ending political and personal challenges.

The Field of BloodField of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War by Joanne Freeman (Farrar: 2018). Another popular new title, Freeman's study of violence in the antebellum Congress has received a lot of well-deserved praise. I was particularly struck at how the patterns of violence in Congress reflected overall sectional tensions leading up the war. I also enjoyed listening to the book in the author's voice.

Commander of All Lincoln's Armies: A Life of Henry W. Halleck by John F. Marszalek (Harvard: 2004).  Halleck appears nearly everywhere in Civil War military studies. He was in charge of operations out west early in the war. In 1863, he coordinated military matters from Washington as general-in-chief. When Grant took charge in 1864, Halleck was demoted to chief of staff. Marszalek's biography is a detailed, lucid account of Halleck's career. The study highlights Halleck's corrosive tendency toward indecision. Though an intelligent and well-read officer, businessman, and lawyer, he damaged the Union war effort time and time again by failing to provide clear, unequivocal plans, directives, and guidance to his subordinates. The book also demonstrates that Halleck may have tended to adhere too slavishly to the maxims of military theorists of the time.

The Peninsula Campaign and the Campaign of Necessity: African Americans and the Fight for Freedom by Glenn Brasher (UNC: 2012). Brasher explores the role that slaves played in the Peninsula Campaign of 1862. It details how self-emancipated slaves aided the Union cause by providing military intelligence, laboring on Union fortifications, and conducting other activities on the peninsula between the York and James Rivers east of Richmond. Brasher discusses the impact these contributions would have on Federal policy, particularly Lincoln's issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation. The book stands out as an compelling fusion of military, political, and social history.

The Grand Design: Strategy and the U.S. Civil War by Donald Stoker (Oxford: 2010). This is my go-to book for getting to the big picture. It is worth reading and rereading. Along with How the North Won by Hattaway and Jones, Stoker's book does a great job of laying out the forest often obscured by tactical minutiae. While I may not agree with every conclusion, I've found Stoker's analysis indispensable in explaining how the pieces of a complicated war fit together.