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Valley Thunder: The Battle of New Market and the Opening of the Shenandoah Campaign, May 1864 Hardcover – May 10, 2010

4.7 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Charles Knight has provided an insightful and well-researched addition to the catalogue of works on the Battle of New Market. The Battlefield Park staff applaud this effort by one of our former co-workers! --Scott H. Harris, Director, New Market Battlefield State Historical Park

Mr. Knight has mined fresh material in an attempt to raise the fog of the battlefield. His use of firsthand accounts provide a fresh look at troop positions and movements. Valley Thunder is the first major study in forty years of one of the most important secondary actions of the war. It is an important addition to the library of the war in the Shenandoah Valley. --Col. Keith E. Gibson, Director, VMI Museum Operations

Valley Thunder surely takes its place now among the dozen finest and most complete accounts of any Civil War action, and it would be hard to name any account of a secondary fight of this size that has been better treated. Knight s study is a contribution not just to Virginia or Confederate literature, but a book that will serve the entire Civil War community for generations to come, and probably much longer than my thirty-six years. The only way we will get a better account is if Breckinridge and the others come to life and give it to us from their own lips. --William C. Davis, former editor of Civil War Times, Illustrated, author of The Battle of New Market (1975), and the award-winning author of Jefferson Davis: The Man and His Hour

About the Author

Charles R. Knight is a native of Richmond, Virginia. He is a former Historical Interpreter at New Market Battlefield State Historical Park, and currently serves as the curator of the Douglas MacArthur Memorial. Charlie has written articles for various Civil War and railroad publications, including Blue & Gray, Classic Trains, and NRHS Bulletin. He lives in Norfolk, Virginia, with his wife and son.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Savas Beatie; 1 edition (May 10, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1932714804
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932714807
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #836,610 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I am convinced that enthusiasts write the best histories. An enthusiast finds an event that touches them deeply, for whatever reason. They take the time to study the event intently. They walk the ground. They read every possible document and search for more documents. They discuss the event with others and in time, they write a book. If we are lucky, they can convey all their knowledge in an understandable, entertaining, and informative manner. With Charles Knight, we have gotten very lucky! A one-time resident of New Market, he was a Historical Interpreter on the battlefield. This is the enthusiast willing to invest the time and effort into understanding a campaign.
The May 1864 Battle of New Market is best remembered for the charge by the VMI Cadets. This charge is one of those moments that burns into our history. This book is a dual history. Primarily, it is a detailed history of operations in the Shenandoah Valley in May 1864. Secondly, it is an accurate but loving look at the VMI Cadet legend. Those holding the legend dear should not be upset with this book. The author clearly respects the cadets and is very truthful about what they did that day. An excellent introduction places the battle and the legend in the reality of history.
In the Shenandoah Valley, two small armies look for an advantage. In some ways, officers best assigned to a quiet front command both armies. Grant orders Sigel into The Valley as part of an overall attack on the Confederacy. Sigel is to sever railroad lines, prevent any reinforcement of Lee's army, and stop the flow of supplies. John D. Imboden holds the Valley with fewer than 2,000 men. John C. Breckinridge commands the Department of Southwest Virginia with about 7,000 men. Each knows they must delay any attacker until reinforced by the other.
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Format: Hardcover
"Valley Thunder" is an excellent read for both the Civil War enthusiast and the "layman" alike. This book has been touted as the definitive book on the battle of New Market, a title it richly reserves. Charlie Knight's exhaustive research, his grasp of the physical battlefield and his knowledge of the tactics used by both sides are outstanding. Added to this is his liberal and effective use of first-person accounts throughout the book. The combination of these attributes make for a completely enjoyable and educational reading experience.

I recommend this book not only to those who wish to study the tactics and the flow of the battle, but also to those who wish to get the feel of being there on the ground. I agree with a previous reviewer: buy the book, read it and then take it with you when you visit the site - in particular during the annual reenactment held there. Armed with the knowledge Charlie Knight imparts, and with the experience of being on the battlefield watching history re-lived, you may just experience a bit of mental time-travel!
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Format: Hardcover
"There was no hint of cowardice in General Sigel, just as certainly there was none of generalship" is one of many first hand accounts that author Charles Knight supplies in the first retelling of the Battle of New Market since William Davis' history of 40 years ago. Knight knows the ground well as evidenced by his descriptions of the battle and his refreshing multitudes of maps. Knight was a historian and guide at the New Market Battlefield, owned and operated by VMI, and lived in the town itself during his time there. Knight provides the critical over view of Grant's 1864 Virginia strategy of attacking simultaneously at several points that coincided with his overland campaign with Averell, Crook and Sigel attacking with separate commands in the valley and in southeast Virginia. Of particular interest is General Ord, one of Grant's favorites who despised Sigel and opted out of the campaign, which was critical in the loss of a decisive commander. Knight covers well Sigel's odd command structure, disruption of unit authority with odd changes of command, his failure to consolidate his army at New Market and his disastrous use of his cavalry starting off with the annihilation of a 300-man brigade east of New Market by Imboden's cavalry. In contrast, Knight describes Breckenridge's quick movements and utilization of not only VMI cadets but also dismounted cavalry taking an aggressive stance, combined with Imboden's delaying tactics, captures the high ground. Knight provides an excellent detail of this battle that is very compact because of the terrain and the fact that it is framed on by the North Fork of Shenandoah on the west and Smith's Creek on the east.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book has been touted as the definitive treatment of the Battle of New Market, made famous by the participation of the cadets of the Virginia Military Institute and their role in capturing a Federal cannon. The last book-length treatment of New Market was William Davis' book, which was first published in 1975; Davis himself provides the foreword to"Valley Thunder," saying that Knight's book surpasses his own with its use of sources found in the interim since his own book appeared.

"Valley Thunder" deserves the advance praise it has been getting. The purposes, tactical successes, and faults of the commanding generals, Franz Sigel and John Breckinridge, are spelled out. The whereabouts and expectations of CS cavalry commander John Imboden are explored. The exploits of the VMI cadets are presented in a realistic light, and not embellished. Knight writes about the battle in clear and exciting style. In short, this IS a very good book.

More importantly, its presentation is typical of its publisher, Savas Beatie, and it is yet another example of how Savas Beatie has established itself as the most important Civil War publisher going today. Great maps, excellently reproduced vintage photos, footnotes at the bottom of each page; all make for a quality work on a battle which deserved such a treatment. Highly recommended for all Civil War readers, especially those with an interest in the actions in the Shenandoah Valley.
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