- Hardcover: 360 pages
- Publisher: Savas Beatie; 1 edition (May 19, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1932714804
- ISBN-13: 978-1932714807
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 34 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,056,015 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Valley Thunder: The Battle of New Market and the Opening of the Shenandoah Campaign, May 1864 1st Edition
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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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This work tells the story of Sigel's movement up the valley and Breckenridge's down the Valley--meeting at New Market. John Imboden and his cavalry were also a part of Breckenridge's forces. Sigel had a number of problems with effective command--his English was not very good, causing on occasion some communication problems; many Union troops were not very impressed by "Dutch" soldiers; Sigel's record was mediocre. Further, Ord and Crook never really supported Sigel.
And Sigel performed poorly. He was slow moving down the Valley, allowing the Confederate forces to gather and organize for the battle. He did not handle his troops well or position them well (many of his troops were late getting to the battle because of his torpor in getting them moving). And so on. This marked Sigel's last chance for a significant combat role.
The books describes well the details of the battle and its aftermath,
All in all, a very nice depiction of a minor--but still noteworthy--struggle.
For decades, William Davis' book on New Market was the definitive single-volume study. Knight's short work is bound to displace it, with Davis standing in his cheering section. Knight tells the story from multiple perspectives, considering the challenges each commander faced and the means by which he attempted, and in Sigel's case failed, to overcome them. As Knight presents them, Breckenridge and Imboden are studies in calm, inspired leadership topped with a dash of consistent good luck. They fully grasp the importance of the campaign in which they find themselves, efficiently use the limited resources at their disposal, understand their enemy, practice a superior operational art, and employ more effective battlefield tactics. Sigel, in contrast, has a lackadaisical approach, seems to just dimly appreciate the strategic context of his operations, and exercises little control of his army as Breckenridge engages each piece in turn. Indeed, given Knight's portrayal of the unfolding battle, Union soldiers did well to resist the Confederates as long as they did. Sigel alone owns the defeat.
Valley Thunder is primarily a review of operations and tactics surrounding the battle. Knight makes sufficient reference to the strategic events off the battlefield to connect it to the bigger picture, but his focus is clearly on events immediately relating to the battle. In that, he succeeds admirably. In all likelihood, no one has a better command of the primary and secondary sources and they are well used. The book makes ample use of footnotes--not end notes--both as references and to explore certain narrative items in greater detail. Appendices examine some issues too long for footnotes. Savas Beatie has done another beautiful job presenting history, incorporating illustrations and maps into the text, and giving Knight an excellent foundation for his study.
It's a "must have" for historians of the period, professional or otherwise.
Also, consider Richard R. Duncan's "Lee's Endangered Left: The Civil War in Western Virginia, Spring of 1864" (1998). Duncan's review of New Market is considerably shorter, but he offers a more thorough examination of the overall campaign, discussing Cloyd's Mountain in greater detail and events after Sigel's relief by David Hunter. Scott Patchan's "Shenandoah Summer: The 1864 Valley Campaign" (2007) follows Early's summer campaign and then Jeffrey Wert picks up the story when Sheridan takes over for the Union in the fall of 1864 in "From Winchester to Cedar Creek: The Shenandoah Campaign of 1864" (1987).
Best known as the battle where the Corps of Cadets from the Virginia Military Institute gained immortality, Charles R. Knight's solidly researched and well written account fleshes out the earlier work by Davis and provides insight into heretofore little known aspects of the battle, the events leading up to the fight and its aftermath. An example . . . how did a single company of dismounted Missouri cavalry end up fighting as infantry in the Valley of Virginia under the command of a general who had won fame in both the Eastern and Western theaters of the war and would go on to become the last Secretary of War of the Confederacy?
"Valley Thunder" is full of such nuggets of information and is an easy, informative and entertaining read. An absolute must for any serious student of the war.