- Paperback: 268 pages
- Publisher: Univ Tennessee Press; 1 edition (December 1, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 157233598X
- ISBN-13: 978-1572335981
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,715,413 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Winter Lightning: A Guide to the Battle of Stones River Paperback – December 1, 2007
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About the Author
Matt Spruill is a retired U.S. Army colonel and formerly a Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide. He is the author of "Guide to the Battle of Chickamauga, Storming the Heights" and "Echoes of Thunder." Lee Spruill, a paramedic and fireman, is a major in the U.S. Army Reserve and has just returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
Top customer reviews
They battled from dawn on December 31, 1862, when the Southern troops successfully charged into, and pushed back Union lines, until the afternoon and evening hours of January 2, 1863, when Union troops repulsed yet another Southern infantry charge - this one from across McFadden's Ford, with devastating artillery fire - the series of engagements resulted in 23,500 men killed or wounded.
Intended as a guide for those visiting and walking the Stone's River National Battlefield and its vicinity, the authors provide an excellent, descriptive and carefully written overview of the battle and its principal locations. Then, narrating the action in twenty-one "stops," visitors are guided over the same routes used by the troops. Their narrative is illustrated with fifty-five photographs and forty-two tactical and operational maps and figures, all depicting the engagements and general situation on the terrain as it appeared then and today. In addition to the excellent index, the authors also include six appendices that provide additional detail regarding the Union and Confederate order of battle, casualties, and monuments and cemeteries.
Following the authors' directions is easy and using this guide to explore the battlefield areas makes for an interesting day or two of exploration. I found the contents to be very accurate except for where road construction has cut off a couple road exits off the Medical Center Parkway.
Assessing the efforts of these soldiers whose blood was left in the water and along the frozen banks of the Stone's River, Lincoln declared that a significant victory had been won. While, in military terms - considering the enormous losses of the Army of the Cumberland - most would consider his judgment an exaggeration, his "spin" on the outcome boosted the morale of civilians back home and supported Union efforts to push on, through the Confederate "Heartland," to Atlanta and beyond, on to Savannah.
Matt Spruill is a retired Army colonel who has dedicated himself in recent years to writing definitive battle guides that should be considered essential purchases for Civil War buffs, librarians and historians. These include two others for battles in Tennessee - Guide to the Battle of Chickamauga (UP of Kansas, 1993) and Storming the Heights: A Guide to the Battle of Chattanooga (U Tennessee Press, 2003) - and, one for the Seven Days Battles near Richmond, Virginia, titled, Echoes of Thunder: A Guide to the Seven Days Battles (U Tennessee Press, 2006). His co-author, Lee Spruill, is a major in the Army Reserve who served a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
Drawing heavily from letters, orders and other documents published in The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, (published 1880-1901), and from their experience in writing three previous guides for other Civil War battlefields, the authors are commended for writing what should henceforth be referred to as the definitive book-length guide for the Battle of Stone's River.
Recommended for all academic and public libraries with readers interested in the American Civil War.
R. Neil Scott
Middle Tennessee State University
Having moved to Murfreesboro nearly five years ago I am a regular visitor to Stones River National Battlefield, but I have never been able to make much sense of the battle by my battlefield visits, even when using the park brochure's guided tour. I suppose my confusion about the battle stems from the fact that the park's current 600 acres represents only about 15% of the total area where fighting took place.
Matt & Lee Spruill have come to my rescue with their book, Winter Lightning: A Guide to the Battle of Stones River. With twenty-one tour stops (as opposed to the National Park's six) the Spruill's lead you on a driving tour over the ground, both outside and inside of the park, where the three day battle between the Confederate Army of the Tennessee with General Braxton Bragg at its head, and the Federal Army of the Cumberland under General William S. Rosecrans.
The evening of December 30, 1862 found both armies facing each other northwest of Murfreesboro, Tennessee in opposing lines of battle, stretching diagonally from the town's west to its north, and each preparing to attack the other's right. Which ever side to launch their attack first would have the advantage. At sunrise, Bragg and his Confederate Army was the first to strike.
The Spruill's follow the battle chronologically as it progressed, following the action as the Confederate troops rolled up the Federal right and sending Union regiments, one after another, fleeing to the rear, to the Federal's stand at The Round Forrest, and finally to the fighting at McFadden's Ford on January 2nd. At each stop we are provided narration by the authors, giving the reader an overview of what happened, and then we are presented with a balanced view of the action from both sides with first hand accounts from the soldiers who were there, usually from official reports, but some times from diaries or letters.
The book contains 41 maps, which vary widely in scale from theater maps down to maps on the regimental level, depending on the situation or topic being covered. One only reading the book may find the maps a little cumbersome as north is not always oriented to the top of the page. This book was intended to be a tour guide, and the maps are presented to the reader at each of the stops as the reader would see the landscape that is in front of him. Therefore if you are directed to look to the southeast, southeast would be oriented to the top of the page. Not only do the historic roads appear in the maps but also the roads of the present and are clearly marked, for example: "Medical Center Pkwy (today)."
Not only have Matt & Lee Spruill added a book to the small library shelf dedicated to the battle, they have also given me a greater understanding of it. I can now point to a spot of land just south of the present day Medical Center Parkway and say with confidence that is where my great great grandfather, Walter E. Partridge (Company F, 36th Illinois Infantry) was during the battle.
The Spruills continue the tradition of excellent Civil War battlefield guides that are so valuable to walkers. These detailed guides contain directions, participant's accounts and good historical information telling us what we are looking at after telling us how to get there. Each one is a required addition to my library and packed for any trip to the field.
This is truly the "don't leave home without it" item.