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I recently watched Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" and came away from the movie wanting to learn so much more about some of the portions of the movie I was unfamiliar with. This includes the opening scene of the movie where Lincoln is speaking with the black soldier about the Battle of Jenkins Ferry. To be honest, I thought this a made up battle as I had never heard of it. However, searching google, I found there was indeed a battle of Jenkins ferry, in Arkansas, in 1864. I sought out a good source for the battle here on Amazon - and found it in "Harvest of Death: The Battle of Jenkins' Ferry, Arkansas." The book talks about a horrific battle that occurred in the spring of 1864 in southern Arkansas. And the atrocities that are talked about in "Lincoln?" - these actually occurred there. The author, Joe Walker, does a tremendous job not only explaining the battle in detail (through well drawn maps) but also (and this was important to me) - explains WHY they were there at that place to start with. To often, I've wondered why armies chose a particular place to hold a battle and Walker explains this point in amazing detail. Now as to the atrocities depicted in the movie - Walker goes into much detail describing the events that occurred in the battle (you wonder if he knew the event would be depicted in the movie)...The black soldiers attacking the white confederates during the battle taking revenge for an earlier Arkansas battle a few weeks ago at Poison Springs is covered in fine detail and now gives me a much better understanding of the opening scene in "Lincoln." There are some photographs of the commanders of the battle as well as what the area looks like today - and the swamp in the movie pretty much looks the same down there today from the picture in Walker's book.Read more ›
This book offers a fresh look at the critical battle of the Camden Expedition. I enjoyed reading this work and found the observations of the author interesting. This book, while having several good points, is a diamond in the rough.
Good Points: 1. The narrative of events is, for the most part, easy to follow (a few places it could be a little clearer). The writing style flows well and is not dense. The author does not wander off from the main topic to discuss things that are not relevant. His presentation of events is objective and fair. 2. There are six maps and they are well done. The maps are detailed and pretty well show the movements of the forces during the battle. A very nice feature. 3. The few photographs are clear and nicely reproduced.
Here are the areas where this book needs improvement, mostly related to editing: 1.The book needs two more maps. Apparently the author did not consider that not everyone who reads this book will be familiar with this area of Arkansas. There is not a general map showing where Jenkins' Ferry, Camden, Arkadelphia, the Saline River, or any other point is located within the state. There also needs to be a map showing Gen. Steele's route of march from Camden to Jenkins' Ferry as well as the route of the Confederate's pursuit. 2. The book does not have a proper bibliography. This should be added. 3. The footnotes need serious editing. At times the title of books are not in italics, titles of articles are not in quotations,the citations are incomplete, or the same work is cited in different ways. Some portions of the main text need a citation and do not have one. For example, on page 57, footnote #51 is "Or page 689"- what is this referencing?Read more ›
I'd like to echo what was covered in the review above by Jeffery Stewart. He pretty much nails it. However, I would disagree with him on the quality of the maps. In my book they are very low resolution and blurry. It was difficult or impossible to read the small print next to some of the regimental markers. Also, they lacked a distance scale and north seeking arrow. The arrow would not normally be an issue, but the maps were not oriented North-South, so when the author mentions the north or south side of Cox Creek, for example, it did not match the maps as they were oriented. The maps had promise, but were not reproduced properly. I also agree a map showing the routes of both armies during the campaign would have been helpful.
Also, a little more background on Poison Springs early in book would be helpful to fully understand the vengence that is exhibited by the 2nd Kansas during the engagement. Poison Springs is described in only one paragraph on page 27 and the massacre of the 1st Kansas Colored is not mentioned.
Walker did a real good job telling the story of the battle of Jenkins Ferry. My understanding is that this is a self-published book and as such I wish the battle maps / illustrations printed a bit crisper and easier to read and that his copy-editor had done a bit better job. Walkers research & knowledge are solid. I liked that he included a chapter about the state park that is the home of the battlefield.
I do recommend this book to any one interested in battles of the american civil war. I think that anyone who saw the recent Lincoln movie with its beginning interview of Lincoln and some US Colored Troops who mentioned the battle of Jenkins' Ferry will be interested to learn more about the battle will enjoy the book.
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