The Green and the Gray: The Irish in the Confederate States of America.
by David T. Gleeson. Read a review here.
A World On Fire
by Amanda Foreman
First let me say that this is one of the most enjoyable books I have read recently. I wish I
could say that "I couldn't put it down." However, at almost 1,000 pages, I had to put it
down occasionally to give my wrists a rest. Set against a superbly told background of the
Civil War, from Fort Sumter to Appomattox, Amanda Foreman gives us amazing insight
into parallel events in England, events and movements that were vital to both North and
Although the British were virtually unanimously against slavery, there was huge support
for the South. Many believed that, once the Confederates won the war, they would
abolish slavery. The Northern cause wasn't helped by the absence of any official move
towards Emancipation until 1862.
At the heart of the conflict between the two nations lay the complicated relationships
between four men: Lord Lyons, the shy British Ambassador in Washington, William
Seward, the blustering US Secretary of State, Charles Francis Adams, the dry but fiercely
patriotic US Ambassador in London, and the abrasive British Foreign Secretary, Lord
Russell. Despite their efforts, and some times as a result of them, America and Britain
came perilously close to declaring war on each other twice in four years.
Foreman has written an enthralling account of a complex historical period, with a
wealth of previously unpublished letters and journals. Her coverage of the "Trent" affair
and of Confederate ship-building and public relations efforts in Britain are by themselves
worth the price of admission.
Five Days to Glory
by Glenn W. Sunderland
Five Days to Glory tells the story of Tilghlman Jones of the 59th Illinois. Jones who
enlisted at age fifteen and fought with the regiment until the Battle of Nashville.
Originally the 9th Missouri Infantry, it was renamed on Feb. 12, 1862 at the request of
the men since most of its men were from Illinois. Besides drawing on Jones' letters,
Sunderland relies on the O.R., the regimental history and other sources to tell the story of
a young boy who grew into manhood on the Civil War's battlefields and camps.
Jones, like many Americans of the period, is a farm boy who lived at home with his
father, his younger brother and younger sister. Their mother had passed away two years
earlier and his father never remarried. As the oldest child, Jones helped out a lot on the
farm but also had time for studying and reading. Rebuked one day for taking a horse to
visit his girlfriend, Jones ran away and enlisted in the army. Well liked by his comrades,
Jones adapts readily to army life. He is especially pleased with his Springfield rifle
musket and its huge minié ball. His constant stream of letters home reveals that while
apart from his family, Jones remained very much a part of his family. Private Jones sees
action at Pea Ridge, Perryville and Stone River where he is captured. Paroled, he returns
in time to fight in the Battle Above the Clouds, the Tullahoma Campaign, Atlanta and
finally at Nashville.
Unlike many of his comrades, Jones does not elect to reenlist in 1863 and so does not go
home for a thirty day furlough in 1864. He is transferred temporarily to another unit
until the boys return. Five days before his discharge, Jones is wounded in the Battle of
Nashville. Initially the wound is not thought to be fatal, but complications set in and
Jones crosses the river. His father retrieved his body and returned it to their home.
"They Have Killed Papa Dead!"
The Road to Ford's Theatre, Abraham Lincoln's Murder, and the Rage for Vengeance
by Anthony S. Pitch
Formerly a journalist, They Have Killed Papa Dead! is not Pitch's first effort at historical
writing. His earlier book, The Burning of Washington: The British Invasion of 1814
became a selection of the History book Club.
Pitch begins his book with the death threats against Lincoln while he was enroute to
Washington for his inauguration. Southern sympathizers along his path swore that he
would never reach the capitol. Enter into the picture was Detective Allan Pinkerton who
was hired by the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad to safeguard Lincoln's
passage. Pinkerton's detectives discovered numerous plots and allowed Pinkerton to
re-route Lincoln's passage before the plotters could act. Once in Washington, the
additional troops mustered by Scott escorted Lincoln safely to his inauguration.
Pitch discusses Booth's childhood background and his relation to his siblings. He traces
his early development and his hatred of Lincoln. For years, Booth aspired only to kidnap
Lincoln and carry him south where Richmond could negotiate his release. Fate
intervened when Richmond was captured and Lee surrendered. Seething with anger,
Booth decided that only by assassinating Lincoln could the South be avenged.
Booth's conspiracy is discussed in detail and then executed though not without flaw.
Seward survived a brutal knife attack and the attack on Vice President Johnson never
occurred. The flight, capture and fate of all the conspirators constitute the majority of
For anyone who wants to learn more about the Lincoln assassination, this book would be
a good starting point.
The Last Wolf
by Thomas Cox.
Inspired by Henderson's Marine Sniper, Cox, a former National Guardsman and a
college graduate, enlists in the Marine Corps with one goal in mind: to become a
scout-sniper. In top condition, he survives boot camp without a hiccup and is assigned to
the Heavy Weapons platoon. He meets the chief sniper sergeant of his battalion who
encourages him to try out for it. He does, but his lieutenant turns him down in favor of a
more senior marine. Salt is rubbed into the wound when that more senior marine washes
out in less than a day. Cox and his unit are sent to Okinawa for jungle training. He
injures his knee but recovers in time to try out for the sniper squad. This time he is
selected and is made a pig (professional instructed gunman). Suddenly, the platoon looses
a lot of their snipers and five pigs are selected to go to sniper school. They undergo
intense training under the eye of their sergeant before the selection is made. Cox makes
it, but washes out on the stalk. He returns and on his second try, passes and is admitted as
a hog (hunter of gunmen) and is given the hog's tooth to wear around his neck. He sees
action in Iraq ('94) as part of the diversionary attack in Kuwait. In one incident, he is
compromised when an orange picker comes too close and he rises up from the ground in
his ghillie suit and startles the woman. She runs away screaming. While waiting for his
emergency extraction, her husband approaches (unarmed) and thanks him for not
harming her and invites him dine and have tea (he declines). He sees some combat and
kills one fellow at over 600 yards. While on one mission, he uses his M-16 to kill another
who was firing blindly at advancing marines. Cox returns home and resumes training his
new pigs. He is charged under Article 15 of the UCMJ for hazing his pigs (he hosed them
down with water), is demoted to corporal and kicked out of his beloved platoon. He does
not reenlist and returned to college where he learned to be a respiratory technician. He
reconciles his loss with the help of his wife who loves him whether he remained in
uniform or not. He still loves the Corps, but has moved on with life.
No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864.
by Richard Slotkin
Slotkin explores the Battle of the Crater beginning with the stalemated trench warfare
both armies find themselves locked into. Convinced that a mine could be dug beneath a
Confederate salient, Col. Henry Pleasants convinces his superior to attempt it. If nothing
else, it keeps the men busy and out of trouble. Slotkin's book has the best description of
the training of the USCT, the Fourth Division of Burnside's Ninth Corps, for the assault
that would follow the blowing of the mine. Doubt sets in with Meade, who ordered
Burnside to select another division. First, the USCT has seen little fighting and second,
should they fail, the political repercussions would be immense. As we know, the inept
Ledlie draws the shortest straw and his division is selected to lead the assault. Burnside
instructed Ledlie to storm the crest on Cemetery Hill. Ledlie takes advantage of an
ambiguity and orders his men to storm only to the outer edge of the crater. The attack is
bogged down and Slotkin covers the attack of successive divisions as they attempt to
expand the bridgehead in face of increasing Confederate resistence. The last to attack,
the USCT storms the second Confederate line, but being unsupported, is thrown back.
Slotkin relies heavily on letters, diaries, journals, the O.R. as well as the Court of
Inquiry's records. He has written the best account to date of the fateful battle.
The Diary of a Union Surgeon in the Virginia & North Carolina Marshes,
edited by Thomas P. Lowry
Thomas P. Lowry is no stranger to the Civil War reader. His previous books include
Tarnished Eagles: The Court-Martial of Fifty Union Colonels and Lieutenant Colones,
The Story the Soldiers Wouldn't Tell: Sex in the Civil War and more recently, Tarnished
Scalpels. In Swamp Doctor, he introduces the diary of Surgeon William M. Smith of the
85th New York Volunteer Infantry. Smith hails from a medical family and his father was
a country doctor. As a medical practitioner, Smith had the benefit of medical schooling
which, while primitive by today's standards, was as complete a medical education one
could receive in the mid-nineteenth century. His regiment is initially assigned to the
defense of Washington before joining McClellan's Peninsula Campaign. Unfortunately,
Smith's diary covering the early part of the campaign has been lost but it picks up before
the Seven Days Battle. After their ignoble retreat where McClellan saves (?) the army
from total destruction, they are sent to Southern Virginia and caught up in the battles of
Kingston and Goldsboro. Afterwards they participated in the defense of Washington
(NC) against a force led by A. P. Hill that is ten times their size.
Reflecting the morals of the period, Smith converses with fallen women, but does not use
their services. He is also entangled in the politics of the regiment when their major
accuses his assistant surgeon of going AWOL and then attributes the accusation to
Smith. Smith secures the original documentation and the major is allowed to resign for
his ungentlemanly conduct. Perhaps the most valuable aspect of the book is Smith's
examination papers where he is certified by an examining board to be eligible to hold his
post as Surgeon. For instance, he is asked, "Describe a disinfectant and describe the
several classes of disinfectants" or "What are the conditions on which secondary
hemorrhage after amputation depend, and what are the best modes of treating them?"
Microbes and bacteria were unknown in those days but there was some knowledge about
hygiene. Other questions are entirely irrelevant to the medical field. Under what
circumstances did the House of Hannover succeed to the British crown? or What were the
causes of the last war with Great Britain and in what year did it take place? For a
re-enactor working on his medical impression, the examination papers alone makes the
book worth its price.
The Rebel and the Rose
by Wesley Millet and Gerald White.
Whatever happened to the lost Confederate gold? As a subject of speculation with even a
movie loosely based on it, it is a mystery that haunts us today. In the wake of Richmond's
evacuation, the gold bullion and Mexican silver of Confederate treasury of was moved
south to escape the approaching Union army. Until recently, our knowledge was limited
to it being escorted south by armed midshipmen of the Confederate Navy under command
of navy paymaster James A. Semple. Authors Wesley Millett and Gerald White spent
years reseaching every clue. While no gold was recovered by them, they have accounted
for most of it in their historical novel, "The Rebel and the Rose." Unlike most historical
fiction, the authors' approach is unusual in that "The Rebel and the Rose" is thoroughly
endnoted like a non-fiction work. Semple's movements are tracked as well as his
relationship with Julia Gardniner Tyler, former first lady and step-mother to Semple's
estranged wife, Letitia. Millet and White account for the money as it is disbursed on
Semple's column fled south - sometimes in company with Confederate President Jeff
Davis. Men are paid off as they are discharged. Additionally, outstanding Confederate
debts are paid as Semple disburses the bullion and reduces his responsibility. The final
disbursements are made when the midshipmen are paid off and the remaining money is
entrusted to Confederate loyalists whom they identify. Not surprisingly, some was
siphoned to Tyler. Not everything is accounted for, and some $26,000 in gold alone
remains unaccounted for, but in tracing Sewell's movements, Millet and White have
given us the most up to date look into the mystery of the Confederate gold.
Crusade in Europe
by Dwight D. Eisenhower
Ike has a crisp to the point writing style. He succinctly illustrates what the difficulties
were which he and others encountered before, during, and, to some degree, after the
Second World War. He gives very favorable treatment of Generals Marshall, Patton,
and, Bradley, as well as Naval figures such as Admirals Stark and King, the latter having
been described as having been so feared by his subordinates that Ike once was rumored to
have said that King shaved with a blowtorch. One of the more pertinent topics which
Eisenhower covers is the lack of an effective and coordinated intelligence organization
and the difficulties which this presented when the United States entered the war.
Another was the need for a unified defense system, which later came about in the Post
War period with the establishment of the Defense Department Ike also develops why the
Allies adopted a defeat Germany first program. The body of the opus is, as the title
implies, about the European Campaign. The Decisions to use Great Britain as the main
depot for the allies, as well as the decisions to invade North Africa and the Italian
Peninsula as well as the invasion of "Festung Europa", i.e., the European Fortress of
the Germans, is covered in very clear terms. Ike, for instance, describes the reason for
going into the Saar area of Germany in the final months of the war.
In the ensuing decades, with revelations such as the existence of "Ultra" and the
"Venona" projects, and with the release of the Eisenhower Diaries in the 1990's,
historians have a new found respect for this key figure of the twentieth century who was
instrumental in shaping the post World War II era. "Crusade in Europe" lends to
understanding and appreciation of this historical figure and the times in which he lived
and served. The memoir was written shortly after Eisenhower retired from active duty and
assumed the Presidency of Columbia University. Eisenhower would pen other works in
later years, such as "At Ease, Stories I Tell to My Friends" and his Presidential
Mike McAdoo, Past President, SFCWRT
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