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Library Additions–October 2021 (1)

USS Tecumseh in Mobile Bay book cover
USS Tecumseh in Mobile Bay book cover
The USS Tecumseh in Mobile Bay

Smithweck, David. The USS Tecumseh in Mobile Bay: The Sinking of a Civil War Ironclad. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2021. 158 pages, 126 pages of text. Three appendices, index, bibliography, notes, b/w images. ISBN 9781467149747, $21.99.

Thank you to Arcadia Publishing for providing a review copy of The USS Tecumseh in Mobile Bay: The Sinking of a Civil War Ironclad  written by David Smithweck. Look for a review in the future. 

In April 1861, Lincoln declared a blockade on Southern ports. It was only a matter of time before the Union navy would pay a visit to the bustling Confederate harbor in Mobile Bay. Engineers built elaborate obstructions and batteries, and three rows of torpedoes were laid from Fort Morgan to Fort Gaines. Then, in August 1864, the inevitable came. A navy fleet of fourteen wooden ships lashed two by two and four iron monitors entered the lower bay, with the USS Tecumseh in the lead. A torpedo, poised to strike for two years, found the Tecumseh and sank it in minutes, taking ninety-three crewmen with it. Join author David Smithweck on an exploration of the ironclad that still lies upside down at the bottom of Mobile Bay.

Learn about other titles from Arcadia Publishing by clicking HERE.

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Book Review: Hidden History of Civil War Tennessee

Jones, James B., Jr. Hidden History of Civil War Tennessee. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing,
2013. Bibliography, endnotes, b/w photos.126 pages, 100 pages of text. ISBN 9781609498993,
$19.99.

The Civil War produced stories too numerous to ever be covered, no matter the number of
words. These stories range from the big picture issues of slavery and battles, all the way through local impacts on communities and individuals. Volumes in the Arcadia Publishing Hidden History series often focus on more localized stories. These may be more well-known events all the way through smaller locally recognized happenings. These stories are always of interest and help expand our knowledge of how the war influenced our country.

Author James B. Jones, Jr. served as a public historian on the staff of the Tennessee Historical
Commission and served as editor of their newsletter, The Courier.

Jones covers six major topics in his book; most of which I would propose are unknown to
readers. The first chapter discusses the safety and vigilance committees of west and middle
Tennessee in the early years of the war. In reality, these were really misnomers for those not
loyal to the Confederacy or those having the slightest hint of Union sympathies. Violence and
intimidation were common by these groups. Voter intimidation was a common tactic and even
those who were not drummed out of town often did not vote knowing their ballot would be
discovered.

The following two chapters deal with public health issues. The topics of prostitution and
venereal disease were a major concern during the war years. Efforts to rid cities such as
Nashville of prostitutes failed. Rather than continue to fight this issue officials made efforts to
control the trade. It was mandated that prostitutes register and be licensed after being tested for
disease. These registration fees often helped cover the health care expenses of other workers. The
influx of military troops helped bring other public health issues to the fore. The city of
Murfreesboro suffered from smallpox in November 1863. Other cities, particularly large ones
such as Nashville suffered from poor sewage, inadequate waste removal, and vermin infestation.

James Negley: Photo courtesy Library of Congress https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2017894192/

The next chapters are more military in focus. Jones tells the story of Colonel John M. Hughs, the guerilla leader of the twenty-fifth Tennessee Infantry. This is followed by a chapter dealing the several days long Negley’s Raid of 1862. This Union attack helped drive Confederate forces from Chattanooga. In the minds of many Union brass, the actions of the raiders helped turn many local Union supports to the Confederates.

In the final full chapter, Jones discusses the occupation of Memphis by Union troops under the command of William T. Sherman. Sherman faced multiple problems during this early stage of the war. His first method of keeping control was to control the press. Despite being able to control the local narrative there were logistical problems not so easy to solve. These included a swelling contraband population. He then faced feeding, housing, and clothing these new arrivals. Multiple currencies were in circulation and with it came problems in issues of trade. Illegal trade with enemy troops, especially in cotton, became so onerous that Sherman expelled the traders and speculators. Jones asserts that while Sherman was considered to have wielded a heavy hand he really had no choice.

The book closes with a short appendix of General Orders.

The book is a quick read coming in at 100 pages of text including many interesting b/w photos. It
can certainly be completed during an afternoon on the back porch in your comfortable chair. The
notes and bibliography are welcome additions for those interested in learning more on selected
topics.

While some may quibble with the topics Jones has chosen to include, I do not think that is really
the point of this series. This series is meant to bring the unfamiliar to readers. Perhaps a second
volume can be produced telling additional stories. Because different authors write the books in
this series, there is little continuity book to book other than the use of short vignettes.

For those seeking a short Civil War read that is not heavy on detail this may be for you.

You may read other reviews of Arcadia Publishing titles by clicking here.

An excellent guide to Civil War sites in Tennessee can be found here.

For an excellent archive of Tennessee Civil War materials visit the Tennessee State Library and Archives, located in Nashville.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click these links and make a purchase, I may receive a small
commission. This commission does not affect any price that you pay. All views and opinions provided
are my own and are never influenced by affiliate programs or sponsors providing products.

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Book Review–Hidden History of Civil War Savannah

Hidden History of Civil War Savannah

Jordan, Michael L. Hidden History of Civil War Savannah. Charleston: Arcadia
Publishing, 2017. ISBN 9781626196438, 159 pages, 131 pages text, b/w photos,
notes, bibliography, index, $21.99.

As author Michael L. Jordan describes Savannah, Georgia, “…Savannah is a Civil
War city, an epicenter of activity in the conflict that southerners like to call “the
War Between the States.” While I might take umbrage with this stereotyped
portrayal of southerners, there is considerable truth to this statement.

In his book, Hidden History of Civil War Savannah, Jordan tells nine stories
allowing readers an introductory, yet thorough enough for many readers, glimpse
of the role Savannah played during the Civil War. Savannah was more than just a
Christmas gift from General Sherman to President Lincoln.

The first chapter starts out with controversial Confederate Alexander Stephens and
his infamous “Corner-stone Speech” given in Savannah in March 1861. In this
speech Stevens leaves little doubt that slavery and white supremacy were the
drivers of the new Confederate government. He went further calling abolitionists
“fanatics” stating they “were attempting to make things equal which the Creator
had made unequal.” It appears that Stephens’s views were in the mainstream of
Georgia voters. Just twenty years later he served as Governor of the state.

In the following chapter Jordan treats us to the life of Francis Barton, a signer of
the Georgia Ordinance of Secession, who as a brigade commander in the
Oglethorpe Light Infantry was killed during the July 1861 Battle of Bull Run.
Bartow’s remains are interred in Laurel Grove Cemetery.

The life of Robert E. Lee and his strong associations with Savannah, especially his
time as a young engineer helping to construct Fort Pulaski are quickly covered.
The following chapter contains a thorough discussion of the CSS Atlanta and the
problems the ship’s crew faced before the vessel was eventually surrendered to
Union forces. The newly named USS Atlanta served in the Union navy during the
blockade of the James River.

The fate of Union prisoners of war in 1864 is a chapter that I enjoyed considerably.
It left me wanting more however. The next chapters cover the Confederate
evacuation of the city, including the arrival of General Sherman and concerns of
the local residents. The story of the capture of Savannah is followed by a
discussion of Savannah rejoining the Union. Again, the concerns of local residents
and businesses are discussed in detail.

While General Sherman didn’t put the torch to Savannah as he did to others, there
was a major fire in the city during January 1865. The fire is traced to a stable in the
northwestern part of the city. As the fire spread, it reached the naval arsenal
causing major explosions that rocked the city. Union forces helped in removing
shells when possible and in protecting citizens and property. The cause of the
blaze, and other small ones in the city, was not determined. Jordan does not put
forth an opinion or provide any evidence as to who may have been the cause.

The book concludes with a chapter on Savannah’s Confederate Memory. The
importance of the Ladies Memorial Association and their role in raising money for
a Confederate monument is detailed. The story of men taking over the lead on the
creation of the monument and the story of the monument itself are quite intriguing
and well worth the read. The 20th century myths about no “Yankee” products being
used in the creation of the monument is amusing.

This book is a quick and enjoyable read with each chapter standing on its own
merit. These brief vignettes provide an interesting background and introduction
into the role of Savannah before, during, and after the Civil War. The notes and
bibliography are appreciated and allow readers the ability to follow up and learn
more on subjects of interest to them.

This is not a travel guide. No maps, directions, or addresses are included. Rather, a
reader can use this as an introduction to places they may wish to seek out during a
visit to the “Hostess City of the South.”

A wonderful single day tour of the highlights of Civil War Savannah can be found
on the American Battlefield Trust webpage.

There are several guided walking tours of Civil War sites available. Savannah Walks
offers what looks to be an interesting tour readers might enjoy.

Some incredible Civil War era maps are available for viewing and download
through the Library of Congress.

You may read other reviews of Arcadia Publishing titles by clicking here.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click these links and make a purchase, I may
receive a small commission. This commission does not affect any price that you pay. All views
and opinions provided are my own and are never influenced by affiliate programs or sponsors
providing products.

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Book Review: Abandoned Coastal Defenses of Alabama

Abandoned Coastal Defenses of Alabama book cover

Kenning, Thomas. Abandoned Coastal Defenses of Alabama. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2021. 96
pages, color photos. ISBN 9781634992831, $23.99.

One of the newer series being published by Arcadia Publishing imprint America Through Time is
“Abandoned.” According to the Arcadia website, “America through Time is a local and regional interest series that showcases the history and heritage of communities around the country. Using modern color photographs juxtaposed with old images, these titles capture a strong sense of the past while demonstrating the force of change through the passage of years.” The “Abandoned” series appears to use only modern color images.

As the reader might expect, the book is image heavy with little text, making this a quick read. Author Thomas Kenning starts out asking a fair question; “What is it about forts that make them so appealing?” (page 8) He puts forth the ideas of protection and security only to swiftly undercut those ideas with theidea, “as long as the waves don’t rise too high and this concrete, laid on a drifting dune, doesn’t crack beneath our feet…” (page 10)

This idea of change is put forth throughout the book. Whether it be the long trend of changing
ownership of the lands around Mobile Bay to the inevitability of climate change and the repercussions
for Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines, change is something not always under the control of man. Whether
humankind is able to step up to the challenge does not receive a rousing endorsement however, “The
immediate benefits of doing nothing, of continuing our carefree business as usual, look far greater in our
lizard brains than the abstract consequences, which will be suffered most seriously decades down the
line—not by us, but by our kids.” (page 95)

The aim of this book is not to educate the reader on the Battle of Mobile Bay or fort construction, or
ways that man can fight climate change and rising seas. Rather, the success of this title is in the
photography. The book is full of stunning, and sometimes dramatic, color photos showing these
amazing structural marvels and the surrounding environment in their current state. The captions are
often quite informative and should not be skipped over.

The book is not without issues however. A map would have proved quite helpful, as would a glossary.
Multiple times, I found myself having to look up a definition for a term with which I was unfamiliar.
These are formatting issues however and publisher decisions most likely dictated that there was not
space available for such. A stronger editorial pen however was needed as lines on pages 15 and 17 are
repeated almost verbatim.

Titles dealing in more depth with the Battle of Mobile Bay include:

West Wind Flood Tide: The Battle of Mobile Bay written by Jack Friend

Mobile Under Siege: Surviving the Union Blockade written by Paula Lenore Webb

Thank you to Arcadia Publishing for providing a review copy of this title.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click these links and make a purchase, I may receive a small
commission. This commission does not affect any price that you pay. All views and opinions provided
are my own and are never influenced by affiliate programs or sponsors providing products.

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Library Additions: March 2021 (2)

Abandoned Coastal Defenses of Alabama book cover

Thank you to Arcadia Publishing for providing review copies of the two following books. Look reviews in the future.

Kenning, Thomas. Abandoned Coastal Defenses of Alabama. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2021. 96 pages, color photos. ISBN 9781634992831, $23.99.

Abandoned Coastal Defenses of Alabama is a down-and-dirty guided tour through Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines, the retired guardians of Alabama’s Gulf Coast. For nearly two hundred years, these hauntingly beautiful Third System forts have stood stubbornly between the Yellowhammer State and a sometimes hostile world beyond.

 

 

 

 

Handwerk, Joel. Abandoned Virginia. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2021. 96 pages, notes, color photos. ISBN 9781634992954, 23.99.

Have you ever driven past a dilapidated old building, with broken windows and covered in ivy, and wondered what happened there? How long has that building been vacant and left to be consumed by nature? This book takes you on a photo tour of such buildings in Virginia, all forgotten and falling apart. There is an Art Deco city skyscraper, which formerly held a bank, complete with a bank vault. Another property contains a sprawling complex of a former Catholic high school. Additional locations include houses, schools, commercial warehouses, and even a former outdoor Renaissance Faire.

Sometimes there is available information about how these buildings became abandoned. In other cases, the story is a complete mystery. Regardless of the details, there is something intriguing about seeing a structure that has slowly decayed, a once pristine place being transformed into broken glass and crumbling ceiling tiles. The people are long gone, but you can still see what remains of something they have left behind, just waiting to be discovered with a camera.

 

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click these links and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission. This commission does not affect any price that you pay. All views and opinions provided are my own and are never influenced by affiliate programs or sponsors providing products.

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Book Review: Lincoln’s Wartime Tours from Washington D.C.

Lincoln's Wartime Tours

Schildt, John W. Lincoln’s Wartime Tours from Washington D.C. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2020. ISBN 9781467145718, 172 pages, 153 pages of text, index, bibliography, notes, b/w photos, $21.99.

Lincoln's Wartime Tours
Lincoln’s Wartime Tours from Washington D.C.

Has there ever been a more written about person that Abraham Lincoln? Ford’s Theatre houses a 34 foot book tower to the Great Emancipator, while estimating the number of titles published is more than 15,000. Moreover, every year more titles are released not even taking into account journal, magazine, and newspaper articles. Authors and publishers continue to find aspects of Lincoln’s life that have not been directly addressed, new interpretations are provided, and in some cases authors just rehash other secondary materials. The historiography is mind boggling.

Adding to the literature is John Schildt, a certified battlefield guide at Antietam National Battlefield, who has penned a new book discussing the travels made by Lincoln while he served as president. In total, Schildt covers nineteen wartime trips Lincoln made outside of Washington D.C. These trips became less frequent as the war dragged on; beginning with nine in 1862, five in 1863, four in 1864, and a single trip in 1865. (page 18) As would be expected these sojourns were made close to Washington D.C.; visiting Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York.

The author proposes that these trips were made for three specific reasons. The first was to confer with generals, second to plot military strategy, and a third reason was to visit troops in the field. (pages 16- 17). The president seemed genuinely concerned for the combatants whether they be Union or Confederate. An example being provided in a lengthy quote from the Donald C. Pfanz work Lincoln at City Point, where the president is seen moving through the tents of injured men, shaking hands, offering encouragement, sharing a tear, and telling them they had to live. When it came to Confederates, Lincoln was known to visit those who were confined to hospitals. Lincoln is shown to be a truly benevolent leader. (pages 141-145)

A continuing thread about family, in particular Mary Lincoln, runs throughout the work. Mary is often seen as difficult, jealous, and perhaps another reason for Lincoln to have tried to escape D.C. for these short periods. Tad is shown to be a boy, doing boy things, and having boyish reactions. During the 1865 trip to Virginia, the presidential entourage came across three pound bales of tobacco that some of the adults took for their own use. Tad joined in and grabbed some as well despite being too young to smoke. (pages 126-127)

Some of the visits are better known than others. The trip to Gettysburg is well documented and Lincoln’s “few appropriate remarks” is perhaps the most widely known speech of all time. Other tours are less well known and herein lies the value of the book. For those seeking a concise and easy to digest book outlining a unique aspect of Lincoln’s life this is recommended. The endnotes, more than 200 of them, are helpful for those looking for further documentation.

Thank you to Arcadia Publishing for providing a complimentary review copy of this book.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click these links and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission. This commission does not affect any price that you pay. All views and opinions provided are my own and are never influenced by affiliate programs or sponsors providing products.

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Library Additions: March 2021 (1)

Cover for Civil War Battles of Macon

Thank you to Arcadia Publishing for providing complimentary review copies of a couple of their newest releases. Reviews will be posted in the future. All reviews will be based upon my own readings and are not influenced by the publisher providing review copies.

Eichhorn, Niels. The Civil War Battles of Macon. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2021. 124 pages, 105 pages of text, bibliography, notes, b/w photos, ISBN 9781467146944, $21.99.

Macon was a cornerstone of the Confederacy’s military-industrial complex. As a transportation hub, the city supplied weapons to the Confederacy, making it a target once the Union pushed into Georgia in 1864. In the course of the war’s last year, Macon faced three separate cavalry assaults. The battles were small in the grand scheme but salient for the combatants and townspeople. Once the war concluded, it was from Macon that cavalry struck out to capture the fugitive Jefferson Davis, allowing the city to witness one of the last chapters of the conflict. Author Niels Eichhorn brings together the first comprehensive analysis of the military engagements and battles in Middle Georgia.

 

 

Bunn, Mike. The Assault on Fort Blakeley: The Thunder and Lightning of Battle. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2021. 158 pages, 139 pages of text, bibliography, notes, order of battle, ISBN 9781467148634, $21.99

On the afternoon of April 9, 1865, some sixteen thousand Union troops launched a bold, coordinated assault on the three-mile-long line of earthworks known as Fort Blakeley. The charge was one of the grand spectacles of the Civil War, the climax of a weeks-long campaign that resulted in the capture of Mobile—the last major Southern city to remain in Confederate hands. Historian Mike Bunn takes readers into the chaos of those desperate moments along the waters of the storied Mobile-Tensaw Delta. With a crisp narrative that also serves as a guided tour of Alabama’s largest Civil War battlefield, the book pioneers a telling of Blakeley’s story through detailed accounts from those who participated in the harrowing siege and assault.

 

 

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click these links and make a purchase, I may receive a small
commission. This commission does not affect any price that you pay. All views and opinions provided are
my own and are never influenced by affiliate programs.

 

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Library Addition: Lincoln’s Wartime Tours from Washington D.C.

Schildt, John W. Lincoln’s Wartime Tours from Washington D.C. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing. 2020. 172 pages, b/w photos, index, bibliography, notes. ISBN 9781467145718, $21.99.

Abraham Lincoln spent much of his presidency traveling. His visits to Antietam to issue the Emancipation Proclamation and to Pennsylvania for the famed Gettysburg Address are well remembered. During the course of the war, Lincoln also traveled to West Point and Harpers Ferry. As hostilities drew to a close, he spent time on the Virginia battlefields, from Petersburg to Richmond and beyond. In this new edition of Lincoln’s Wartime Travels, John W. Schildt details visits to wounded soldiers both Union and Confederate, conferences with generals and the logistics of getting a wartime president from place to place.

John W. Schildt grew up in Walkersville, Maryland, and is a graduate of Shepherd University and Wesley Theological Seminary. He has been a pastor, teacher and chaplain of the Twenty-Ninth Division Association. He is a founding member of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, Maryland, as well as the Save Historic Antietam Foundation. Among his many books are Drums Along the Antietam, Roads to Gettysburg, These Honored Dead and others. As a certified guide at Antietam, he has led tours of individuals, colleges, military groups and others for fifty years. Buy Book

Disclaimer: Arcadia Publishing has generously provided a complimentary copy of this book for me to review. Any comments or opinions are my own and are not influenced by the publisher. Links provided in this post may be affiliate links and any purchase made through them may earn me a small commission which does not influence the price you pay.