Civil War books

Three New Books from Osprey

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Our friends at Osprey have recently released three new titles of interest to history buffs and/or wargamers. One is a fantasy book on Wizards From Merlin to Faust which is lavishly illustrated. This is part of Osprey’s “Myths and Legends” series. Wizardry has been a popular topic for several years, with the Harry Potter series of books and movies, as well as several other similar media series. Fantasy wargaming continues to enjoy a large following globally.

The other two new books are historical books. Continuing the “Combat” series, Osprey’s editors bring you Roman Soldier Versus Germanic Warrior. When I was a kid, I enjoyed reading about the Gauls, Franks, and other similar bands as they battled the Roman legions in what is now central Europe.  This book offers a concise look at the training and combat tactics of the Romans, as well as their armament and weapons. Information on the defending Germanic tribes is less precisely known, but the author gives us the best available details on their combat abilities.

The final of the new titles was timed to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the Overland Campaign, which began with two deadly battles in Northern Virginia. Wilderness and Spotsylvania 1864: Grant versus Lee in the East gives a broad overview of the strategic situation, the opposing commanders and the organization of their respective armies, the tactical fighting, and the aftermath. As usual, the maps, custom illustrations, and other graphics are up to Osprey’s usual high standards.

Here are a few photos from randomly selected pages in these three books.

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New book on Custer in the Civil War released

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Thom Hatch, a long-time and award winning writer of Old West history topics, has ventured into a Civil War topic, writing a biography of Brig. Gen. George Armstrong Custer during the tumultuous war years. His latest work is entitled Glorious War: The Civil War Adventures of George Armstrong Custer (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2013).

“Autie” Custer has become an almost mythical figure thanks to a very bad afternoon on the heights above Little Big Horn, and too often writers ignore or downplay his Civil War career in order to focus on his highly publicized encounters with Native Americans such as Crazy Horse, Black Kettle, and Sitting Bull. Much of the so-called “Custer’s Last Stand” historiography and media coverage, particularly in the 20th century, dives into speculation and conjecture, and at times is incorrect or mistaken.

Although not as prevalent as his Indian fighter years, Custer’s Civil War experiences have also become clouded in myth, misconceptions, and exaggerations. For example, over the past few years, most scholars of the battle of Gettysburg, including knowledgeable Licensed Battlefield Guides and park rangers, have discounted the theory proposed by Thomas Carhart and other writers that J.E.B.  Stuart precisely timed his attack at East Cemetery Hill to coincide with and support George Pickett’s ill-fated assault on the Union center. That controversy has been frequently re-fought in Civil War chat rooms and message boards, as well as in printed reviews and rebuttals.

Other legends and myths about Custer in the war years include a long enduring local one here in York County, Pa., regarding General Custer tying his horse to a maple tree on the town square in Hanover during the June 30, 1863, battle of Hanover during the Gettysburg Campaign.  This too has been debunked over the years (see this link to the Hanover Evening Sun). Few manuscript sources were used and definitive well-reasoned secondary sources on the battle such as John Krepps’ excellent book or Wittenberg & Petruzzi apparently were not consulted or used.

Author Thom Hatch has fallen into these common traps, as well as a few others, in this new book. Parts of the new book are of interest, but with me being a tour guide for York County’s Civil War history, perpetuating the Custer maple story is something to be avoided. He also writes that “Kilpatrick had no knowledge of Stuart’s ambitious ride toward Carlisle.” Not quite accurate… A party of Kilpatrick’s men dogged Stuart all the way through York County, engaging his rear guard (Wade Hampton’s brigade) in several small and relatively bloodless skirmishes in Jefferson, Dover, Rossville, and other York County sites. They did not peel off until Stuart was almost to Dillsburg, about 10 miles from Carlisle. Throughout July 1 it was quite clear to Alexander and the Union scouts that Stuart was not turning west but was continuing northwesterly on the Carlisle Road.

There are a few other nits, such as the misspelling Karle Forney as Carl Forney and the mention that the “terrified citizens” barricaded the streets (the soldiers did that, and several definitely not terrified citizens were up in their second story windows firing at the oncoming Rebels). Other residents rushed into the streets and were helping the wounded (Yank and Reb alike) while bullets flew.

The author also states that Custer departed for Abbottstown on the York Pike (today’s PA Route 116). Umm… no. I work nine miles from Hanover on the York Road (it was not a turnpike by the way), and it’s definitely the wrong direction  to head to Abbottstown. Custer first encountered the Rebels westward toward Littlestown; this is not mentioned and perhaps should have been addressed as this was his very first actions in combat as a brigadier general.

Glorious War: The Civil War Adventures of George Armstrong Custer

366 pages, annotated with a bibliography, indexed

10 glossy, coated-two-sides pages of photographs, no maps

ISBN 978-1-250-02850-1

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Four new titles from Osprey Publishing

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Among Osprey Publishing’s recent releases in the autumn of 2013 are these four new titles of interest not only to wargamers, but also to general military history buffs. All contain Osprey’s usual excellent custom-drawn graphics, as we have become used to seeing over the years, as well as an excellent selection of vintage and period photographs and drawings. Each paperback book is printed on high quality, coated-two-sides enamel paper using fine offset lithography printing.

The two books at the top of the photograph are both part of Osprey’s popular “Combat” series, which examine opposing warriors across a wide variety of periods and armies.

David Greentree has written an interesting account of the opponents in the Mediterranean 1942-43 theater: British Paratrooper Versus Fallschirmjager. His book details three key encounters between the airborne forces in Tunisia and Sicily. The new book contrasts their organization, training, tactics used on the battlefield, experience, and weaponry. Greentree has drawn from first-person accounts, military records, old photographs, and contemporary strategic and tactical maps to give a useful look at the opposing units. Tennessee freelance artist Johnny Shumate nicely drew the modern illustrations. Chapters include The Opposing Sides; Pont du Fahs, Depiene, and Oudna; Green Hill, Primosole Bridge, and an analysis and conclusion. He also includes a useful look at unit organizations and a selected bibliography. $18.95. ISBN:  978170969244.

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Two new Civil War books from Osprey

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The good folks at Osprey continue to pump out new books with regularity, including titles focused on the American Civil War. Clayton James Donnell is the author of a new book entitled Shenandoah Valley 1862, an excellent entry-level treatise on Stonewall Jackson’s brilliant operations in the Valley in the spring of 1862. Other than a loss to Nathan Kimball early in the campaign at Kernstown, Jackson confounded a myriad of Union commanders and eventually cleared most of the Valley for the Confederate cause. Connell gives a sweeping overview of the movements, the battles, and the strategic and tactical implications of the fighting. Augmented with Adam Hook’s usual fine illustrations and maps and an array of period photographs and illustrations, this book is a useful addition to the Osprey lineup.

Long-time author and historian Ron Field is back with his latest work for Osprey, Lincoln’s 90-day Volunteers 1861.  This is a concise account of how the states responded to President Abraham Lincoln’s call for 75,000 volunteers for three months to put down the rebellion, a seemingly easy task at the time. Field uses period newspapers, letters, diaries, and other first-person accounts to describe the response, the numbers of men, their armament and uniforms, and their early days as soldiers. As with Donnell’s book, Adam Hook has provided original graphics with some excellent plates of the early war uniforms (often gray for many of the Union fledgling regiments, which created some confusion at Manassas/Bull Run).

Here are a few photos of selected pages from the two new books, which are great additions to the ever growing Osprey lineup.

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New book on the American Presidents

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Of the hundreds of millions of people who have lived in America, less than 50 men have been elected as President of the United States. Some such as George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Grant and Ike were military heroes  (a once common way of achieving the White House). Others with seasoned politicians at the local or national level (governors, senators, congressmen), many of which were attorneys before entering politics. A handful were brilliant global statesmen with impressive resumes of international experience. Some of these men have remained famous and readily come to mind. Others have drifted into obscurity and are rarely discussed today.

What they all had in common was the enormity of the task of leading the United States in an ever changing world, once which over the past three centuries has become more complex and challenging on the international level. Yet, all of these presidents faced challenges unique to their own times, as well as the more mundane tasks of fighting Congress and political opponents, stimulating and growing the economy, protecting the borders and dealing with immigration, and how to properly maintain a military. Some had to face these challenges while dealing with overwhelming personal challenges, either health-wise or family-wise.

Some succeeded. Some failed. All deserve recognition.

Author Kathryn Moore has assembled a comprehensive single-volume book which explores the men who held the position. The new book is entitled The American President: Detailed Biographies, Historical Timelines, from George Washington to Barack Obama (Fall River imprint of Sterling Press, 2013, ISBN 978-1-4351-4602-0, MSRP $19.95). At a whopping 678 pages, this book makes a useful reference work, replete with enough details on each man to give the reader a solid overview of the presidents’ views, challenges, family, political leanings, and key issues. She supports the book with a worthwhile website with even more information and background details.

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Massive new U.S. Army photo book is a winner!

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The United States Army, rooted in the Continental Army of the late 1700s, tested in battle against domestic foes and  international forces, is now into its third century of existence. Hundreds of thousands of illustrations, photographs, paintings, and other graphics exist of uniforms, commanders, common soldiers, battlegrounds, and equipment/weaponry/vehicles/ships. Author D. M. Giangreco has mined these and selected a wonderful array of photographs and other visual media to illustrate his new book, United States Army: The Definitive Illustrated History.

1,400 to be precise.

In a stunning work which easily lives up to its name as the “definitive illustrated history,” Giangreco and his editors and publisher have created a book which is sure to be popular with anyone who has ever served in the U. S. Army, knows someone who did, or simply likes war stories and military history. The illustrations are lavish, frequent, and appropriate to tell the sweeping story of the everyday U.S. soldier in camp, on the march, or in combat. Here are photos of famous leaders, the warriors they c0mmanded, and the fields on which they served, and in some cases, bled and died.

Here are a few sample pages to give an idea of the general layout of the book, which is a must have for anyone interested in the Army.

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Wargamer Brad Butkovich issues new history of the Battle of Pickett’s Mills

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Brad Butkovich is known in Civil War wagaming circles for a series of excellent scenario books for regimental-level gaming, with a strong focus on action in the Western Theater. His research skills and attention to detail are evident in those scenario books, as is his grasp of the military tactics and objectives of the commanders.

Based in Lilburn, Georgia, Brad has maintained a keen interest in Civil War events in his region, including the May 1864 Battle of Pickett’s Mill. The old battlefield has remained free from major development, and in recent years has been preserved and nicely interpreted, sparking renewed interest in this early fight between William T. Sherman’s Union forces and the Confederates of Joseph E. Johnston. More than 2,000 men died in what became one of Sherman’s rare severe defeats, one which he conveniently neglected to mention in his post-war memoirs. It was a stinging loss, one which largely has also been overlooked in most histories of the fighting in North Georgia other than a passing mention.

Brad has corrected this oversight in his new book, which thoroughly recounts the fighting which Union soldier and later author Ambrose Bierce, sickened at the carnage to Sherman’s blue-clad ranks, deemed as “the dead-line.”

This 207-page book is divided into 17 short chapters which set up the battle in its military context, examine the leaders and major personalities, recount the movements of the opposing forces to come to the encounter, and then present the battle situation and unfolding combat action. Butkovich then dives into the aftermath of the fighting and what the next steps were for Sherman, Johnston, and their key subordinates.  He then finishes with an interesting account of the postwar history of the main properties where the fighting occurred and the efforts to preserve the old battlefield as a memorial park so that future generations may ponder what happened there.

Among the many useful features of the book are the excellent maps, which are plentiful and well crafted. Drawing from his previous experience in creating his own maps for his wargaming efforts, Brad has included more than a dozen useful maps of various phases of the Battle of Pickett’s Mill.  All are well done and serve the dual purpose of helping illustrate the ebb and flow of battle and to serve as an inspiration for tabletop wargaming the various phases of the battle.

All in all, this is an excellent addition to the historiography of the warfare in North Georgia and William T. Sherman’s movements toward Atlanta in the spring of 1863.

Brad Butkovich’s The Battle of Pickett’s Mill: Along the Dead-Line is a product of The History Press and is part of their popular Civil War Sesquicentennial  Series. The annotated,indexed book retails for $21.99 but can often be found at a lower price deeply discounted on amazon.com. It’s well worth the investment and should be a “must have” for anyone interested in the Atlanta and North Georgia military operations.

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Two new WWII books from Osprey Publishing

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Osprey Publishing has issued two new books that may be of interest to wargamers and WWII history buffs. The first is Sicily 1943: The Debut of Allied Joint Operations, which examines the Allied attack on the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, an operation code-named “Operation Husky.”  Lavishly illustrated with Osprey’s normal high quality full color, custom paintings, this book is a sweeping overview of the initial Allied landings, the drive inward, and the patterns developed and tested in Sicily which later bore fruit in similar operations on the Italian mainland at places such as Salerno and Anzio Beach.

Written by American aerospace analyst Steven J. Zaloga with illustrations by British artist Howard Gerrard, this is a worthy addition to the line-up of Osprey’s Campaign Series (this is Volume 251 in this popular series). Several easy-to-comprehend maps spice up the text and provide a useful reference to the events being described in the text. Zaloga’s writing style is informative and interesting, and he covers the most important aspect of the Allied invasion in sufficient depth so as to give the reader a solid understanding of the basic movements, the strategy, leaders, equipment, and terrain involved with the attack and defense of Sicily. Gerrard’s slick and well composed paintings and selection of other illustrations and photographs are among the major highlights of the book. The reader will come away with a broad understanding of Operation Husky and its importance in the overall Allied strategy in the Mediterranean.

Sicily 1943 went on sale in January 2013, with a suggested price of $24.95. It is paperback, with 96 pages including the index.

The second book is a rules supplement for wargamers who use the Bolt Action rules set. Armies of the United States is more than just a book of army lists, far more. Almost every page features several full-color photographs of some excellent WWII miniatures — figures, armament, vehicles, tanks, etc. are all here. There are also several excellent dioramas and vignettes which give the gamers some interesting “eye candy” to help them with setting up their own gaming tables.

Author Massimo Torriani and a team of gamers, painters, historians, researchers, playtesters, and other support staff have collaborated in creating a book that has much wider appeal than just the folks who use the Bolt Action rules. General WWII gamers will appreciate the army lists and composition and the background information on the equipment, artillery, tanks, and vehicles. WWII buffs will find much of value in here as well.

 

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Two new ACW books from Osprey

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Our friends at Osprey Publishing have issued two new Civil War-related titles which may be of interest to the wargaming community. The first of these, Avenging Angel, another title by long-time Osprey writer Ron Field, covers the infamous 1859 raid on Harper’s Ferry by abolitionist firebrand John Brown and his misguided followers. The attack culminated in the deaths of several townspeople, as well as most of the raiders (either on site or later via execution). This is  Number 36 of Osprey’s “Raid” series, and like the rest it is lavishly illustrated. In this case, the artists are Allan Gilliland, Johnny Schumate, and Mark Stacey. Their work is up to the normal high standards of Osprey publications.

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Excellent new scenario book for Regimental Fire & Fury ACW gaming!

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Author and wargaming expert Rich Hasenauer, a member of the HMGS Legion of Honor, has produced the first in what we at the Johnny Reb Gaming Society hope will be a long series of fantastic, full-color scenario books for his popular rules set, Regimental Fire & Fury.  If the quality of this first offering is a hint of what is to come, we are in for a real treat as this series progresses through the war.

Regimental Fire & Fury Civil War Battles Scenarios, Volume 1: 1861-1862 is a welcome addition to my library of scenario books for regimental-level ACW gaming. Rich presents 11 different battles, some of which have multiple scenarios to depict portions of the larger fighting on a manageable scale. These range in chronological order from Big Bethel in 1861 to Prairie Grove in 1862, and represent both the Eastern and Western Theaters of the war. He also presents some optional rules which the gamer may incorporate into these scenarios, or into any other RFF game. The most interesting of these is his take on deploying and using skirmish lines in an RFF game, as well as the use of extended lines and twilight/night game turns. These are elements which have evolved from the wider usage of RFF and extensive playtesting among a variety of gaming groups.

As with the original Regimental Fire & Fury rules book, this new supplement is printed on glossy coated-two side enamel paper, enabling crisp reproduction of the photographs, maps, and images. The images show several of Rich’s fantastic miniature wargames in progress, and help visualize how to layout the gaming table for each scenario. Having retired in 2011, he now has more time to devote to his hobbies, and with more than 2,000 copies of RFF sold, he has a devoted following who will look forward to his continued efforts in the years to come.

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