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Roll Call to Destiny: The Soldier's Eye View of Civil War Battles Hardcover – March 4, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Military historian Nosworthy (The Bloody Crucible of Courage, The Anatomy of Victory), a specialist in combat tactics and weaponry, gets more personal in this book and offers a soldier's eye view of the Civil War. Focusing primarily on the on-the-ground experiences of Union and Confederate troops, Nosworthy sketches the roles of small units in a series of engagements, big and small, including a Union brigade's part in the first Battle of Bull Run, a New York regiment's role in the little-known battle at Fair Oaks and the cavalry engagements on the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg. The heart of the book, relying heavily on soldiers' memoirs, diaries and unit histories, is readable and evocative. While the writing in the introduction and conclusion is a bit stilted, this book will doubtlessly appeal to Civil War enthusiasts.
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"Brent Nosworthy's book has much to recommend it. It is an interesting and highly informative story that should appeal to anyone interested in military history who wants to know more about the American Civil War... it is a worthy starting point for those interested in the real nature of how a battle was fought during the American Civil War." -- Military History Online
"[T]he author clearly knows his stuff, and Civil War buffs will have a ball." -- Kirkus Reviews
"The heart of the book, relying heavily on soldiers' memoirs, diaries and unit histories, is readable and evocative...this book will doubtlessly appeal to Civil War enthusiasts." -- Publishers Weekly
Top customer reviews
The focus is not principally upon the experiences of individual soldiers, but rather upon the activities of "small units" (usually, regiments or batteries, but also brigades or larger organizations, where appropriate) at several different battles, including First Bull Run, Gettysburg, and Missionary Ridge, but also lesser-known actions such as Arkansas Post and Darbytown Road. The author does not attempt to provide detailed accounts of the whole battles, but rather focuses upon one or more selected small units at those actions to illustrate numerous facets of Civil War warfare. He is particularly careful to link the theory and practice of such American combat to European military history and technical developments, showing how the American experience fit into a broader picture and that it is impossible to really understand the battlefields of 1861-65 without taking that broader picture into account. In several cases, the author challenges conventional wisdom and provides convincing new answers to old questions.
Besides this innovative and insightful assessment of Civil War combat, "Roll-Call to Destiny" offers plenty of more traditional military history in the form of stirring narratives of dramatic episodes peopled by soldiers whose courage and skill rose to the occasion - or sometimes did not. This is a book that should be of great interest and value to anyone seriously interested in the real nature of fighting during the American Civil War. Even those who think that they have already read everything there is to be said on the subject will come away with new information and ideas. This is definitely a book that deserves a strong thumbs-up.
Burnside's Fight: The Struggle for Matthews Hill is a fine description of how a Brigade acts in battle. This is a detailed account of what it takes to handle a Brigade keeping in mind the condition of your men and trying to counter action's of the enemy. While detailed, the account is never boring and places us next to the commander during the fight. Burnside's Fight: The Advance to Bull Run Battlefield is a fresh look at the problems associated with marching inexperienced soldiers and trying to maintain a schedule. The Second Minnesota Infantry at Missionary Ridge and the Attack and Defense of Fort Sanders, round out the chapters on infantry combat. Each makes a real and unique contribution to understanding this experience.
Artillery is not ignored. The Washington Artillery on Mare's Heights gives us the experience of working guns under infantry fire. The artillery's complex dance receives just enough detail to make us understand what losing a trained man means. Webster's Parrotts and the Attack against Arkansas Post, give us an account of how deadly good artillery fire is and how guns can dominate the battlefield.
The chapters on cavalry are not on the same level as the infantry and artillery chapters. Cavalry versus Cavalry at Gettysburg, while not poor, has seen much better treatments. Little new is presented here. This is the weakest chapter in the book. However, the chapter on the Seventh South Carolina at Darbytown Road captures the grim reality of being the underdog but refusing to accept defeat because of it. The reality of the Overland Campaign is brought home as the Seventh is forced to retake ground lost the previous day.
The book contains a number of Tactical Observation sections that both help place the action and expand on the lessons learned and problems encountered. These give the reader a good idea of the why things happen which increases our understanding of the what. This is an excellent book and will increase the readers understanding of the problems, processes and realities of the Civil War.