One advantage of a mid-summer birthday is I always have “gift money” to spend around this time. Always nice to get more “stuff” in the middle of the year to balance out Christmas! As practice for, the last … oh… I’d say fifteen years, this time my gift money went toward books.
During the winter, I had exhausted my “pack along” books while jumping between metro stops. So my purchases were influenced by a requirement for smaller paperbacks that would fit in the leftover space in my computer pack. Thus several offerings from The History Press’s Civil War Sesquicentennial Series caught my attention:
- The Battle of Franklin: When the Devil Had Full Possession of the Earth, by James R. Knight.
- The Battle of Brandy Station: North America’s Largest Cavalry Battle, by Eric J. Wittenberg.
- The Civil War at Perryville: Battling for the Bluegrass, by Christopher L. Kolakowski.
- The Union is Dissolved! Charleston and Fort Sumter in the Civil War, by Douglas W. Bostick.
These four join Rick Simmons’ Defending South Carolina’s Coast, Michael Coker’s The Battle of Port Royal, and Daniel Crooks’ Lee in the Low Country from the series, which I purchased around Christmas this year. I was quite pleased with the coverage of lesser known topic areas, which are particularly suited to my tastes. The Sesquicentennial Series format fits my “requirement” rather well. The books are paperbacks, about 8 1/2 by 6 inches, and between 125 and 200 pages. And the cost per book is below a couple of sawbucks.
As with any series with an array of authors contributing, content and styles vary between the offerings. Several of the titles lack annotations, with the authors preferring to provide many block quotes, with mention to the source in the text. But this seems more writing style than publisher preference. While I have not read it through, Wittenberg’s book on Brandy Station is well documented and supported by detailed maps, as his readers have grown to expect.
But not all my purchases came from that publisher. Working off several recommendations, I picked up The Maryland Campaign of September 1862 – Volume 1: South Mountain, by Ezra Carmen – the first of a two-volume set edited and annotated by Tom Clemens. I also have Joseph Pierro’s edited version of the same work, and had used it heavily when working on the Antietam markers some time back. I’m tempted to lay the two side-by-side for full effect. From just a cursory read, I am more appreciative of the notations provided by Clemens. His publisher, Savas Beatie, opted to use footnotes, thankfully. Endnotes would probably force the reader to stress the binding, continually looking back and forth!
I am less impressed with So You Think You Know Gettysburg? by James and Suzanne Gindelsperger. Perhaps, given the other references I have on the shelf, my bar is a bit high with respect to Gettysburg field guides. This book would be useful for the average stomper. But I was looking for a reference to add further details to the Gettysburg marker entries, and unfortunately this guide offers little more beyond that of the other references I have.
On the other hand, I am extremely pleased with A Guide to the Battles of the American Revolution, by Theodore Savas and J. David Dameron. As an “equal opportunity” battlefield stomper, my Revolutionary War field guides are well worn and dated. For some time Mark Boatner’s Landmarks of the American Revolution (1992), and Craig Symond’s Battlefield Atlas (1986) have filled the role. Both are good works, but their limits are more apparent every year. After thirty minutes of reading Savas and Dameron’s guide, I knew I’d found a replacement. Well organized and supported with plenty of maps, this book is worth double the list price, in my opinion.
As I’ve been exploring more of the old Revolutionary War topics over the last few months (a trip through South Carolina does that for me), I picked up another book in that topic area – With Zeal and with Bayonets Only: The British Army on Campaign in North America, 1775-1783, by Matthew H. Spring. This work promises a deep look into the way the British Army operated and fought during the war.
Lastly, to satisfy my interests in World War II topics, I picked up a copy of Armored Thunderbolt: The U.S. Army Sherman in World War II, by Steven Zaloga. No, Civil War fans, this is not about Uncle Billy’s march to Berlin! Rather a proper examination of the design, refinement, use and misuse of the M4 Sherman tank by the U.S. Army during World War II. I always like fresh views of supposedly “well mapped” topics. Zaloga tackles many of our notions of the ineffectiveness of the M4, and American armor in general, during that war. Perhaps down the line I’ll write-up a full review, offering my two cents on the subject.
That’s why I like having a birthday in July – lots of new “stuff” to brag about!