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The Glories of War: Small Battle and Early Heroes of 1861 Hardcover – December 15, 2004
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The author tells the story by dividing the state of Virginia into four "invasion corridors". The first corridor is the Eastern Invasion Corridor. This invasion route is the one coming directly from Washington D.C. and even though I dont think most people have heard of this book it gives a fine description of the campaign and battle of First Bull Run. This alone makes the volume worth adding to anyones Civil War library. Balls Bluff is the other major action described in detail in this part of the book, and again, this makes it worth owning. Not only are these actions explained, but they are done so in a way that is easy to follow and highly informative, as are all actions in this volume no matter how obscure they might be. Other actions described in this part of the book are the Union occupation of Alexandria, Virginia and the death of Elmer Ellsworth commander of the 11th New York Fire Zouaves, and skirmishes at Pohick Church, Lewinsvile, Munson's Hill, and Dranesville.
Next covered is the Southern Invasion Corridor. This corridor originates from Fortress Monroe at the tip of the Virginia Peninsula bordered by the James and York Rivers southeast of Richmond and the shortest path for Union forces to capture the Confederate capitol. This is the single best and most detailed description of the battle of Big Bethel this reviewer has ever seen. This part of the book could stand alone as a book by itself. Excellent.
The third, or Western Invasion Corridor, covers all the actions in the northwestern part of the state of Virginia that in 1863 would become the new state of West Virginia. Again, this part of the book would make a worthwhile addition to anyones Civil War book collection by itself! Every action that occured during this campaign is covered. The Phillipi "Races", Belington, Rich Mountain, Corrick's Ford, Cheat Mountain, Greenbrier River, Camp Allegheny, Scary Creek, Cross Lanes, Carnifex Ferry, Sewell Mountain, and Cotton Hill, all these small actions, commanders, units engaged, and the campaigns that all these small battles and skirmishes comprise, are explained in great detail. Really good stuff.
The final invasion route covered is the Northern Invasion Corridor. This covers 1861 actions in the Shenandoah Valley. The Confederate capture of Harper's Ferry, the attempt by Union General Patterson to pin Joe Johnston's southern forces in the valley and keep them from reinforcing Beauregard at Manassas, and Stonewall Jackson's Romney campaign are laid out for the reader.
The final part of the book explains the reactions of, and conclusions the participants on both sides drew from the actions of 1861 in Virginia.
This book does not brush over anything, at 570 pages it describes in detail every campaign, battle, and skirmish covered. The information is laid out clearly and it is easy to understand what is happening. The reader never gets lost. Military history books require good maps to effectively show the reader, and allow them to follow along with the action and this book does not disappoint! There are 53 maps throughout the text, and from the look of them, they are all hand drawn by the author! Dont let this turn you off, these maps work. Twenty illustrations are included of participants and actions that make up this fine volume. The only reason I did not give this book five stars was there were quite a few typographical errors in the text. This volume needed more proofreading. (I have the paperback volume) Besides that criticism, I highly recommend this book!
This book, though, gives a flavor of the armies in the East in 1861, as most officers and soldiers were learning their job. Most of the "Old Army" officers had never commanded anything larger than a company or, at most, a regiment. Now, all of a sudden, these were moving into commands of brigades, divisions, and corps.
This volume provides a view of units often being little more than amateur armed mobs led by amateur officers. In 1861, soldiers and officers learned their job. Later, they became more skilled. The poor officers were weeded out with time; those who were competent were more likely to rise. This book certainly introduces us to some pretty poor excuses for officers--on both sides of the War.
The author uses geography as his organizing principle, examining four "invasion corridors": the eastern invasion line, from Washington DC across the Potomac, from the south from Fort Monroe, from the West through the western part of Virginia (now West Virginia)--where George McLellan first made his name, and from the north through Harper's Ferry.
There is enough detail so that the reader actually understands what happens at these smaller scale, obscure contests. But 1861 is when a lot of soldiers and officers began to learn their craft.
Soon, the scale of the Civil War would change, with Shiloh an almost incomprehensibly bloody battle as compared with those described in 1861. Forts Henry and Donelson would fall in early 1862, a major strategic victory for the north, much more profound in its effect than almost anything occurring in 1861.
Still, though the Civil War in 1861 was "small potatoes" compared with what would come later, it provides the early training ground for what came later. And this book does an excellent job of infrming the reader of this training ground.