Osprey’s latest Civil War book released

Osprey Publishing has released its latest book in its popular Campaign series, this one covering the 1864 Nashville Campaign. Private John D. Sisson, my great-great-grandfather on my mother’s side, fought on the Union side in this campaign as a 15-year-old musician-turned-rifleman for the 51st Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He carried the memories of the marching and fighting until his death in 1937, making him one of the last veterans from the battle of Nashville in the Buckeye State. My late mother relayed some of these stories to me, so the Nashville Campaign has always been of interest.

The new Osprey book, titled Nashville 1864: From the Tennessee to the Cumberland, is the product of author Mark Lardas and long-time Osprey illustrator Adam Hook. This is Campaign 314 from the ongoing series and is representative of the high quality that we have come to expect from the series. Accurate and concise prose, profuse illustrations, Hook’s excellent full-color maps and custom paintings, and a fine graphics layout make this as appealing as any Osprey title (perhaps more so for me with my personal connection to Nashville and Franklin).

From the Osprey website: “In September 1864, the Confederate army abandoned Atlanta and were on the verge of being driven out of the critical state of Tennessee. In an attempt to regain the initiative, John Bell Hood launched an attack on Union General Sherman’s supply lines, before pushing north in an attempt to retake Tennessee’s capital Nashville.

This fully illustrated book examines the three-month campaign that followed, one that confounded the expectations of both sides. Instead of fighting Sherman’s Union Army of the Tennessee, the Confederates found themselves fighting an older and more traditional enemy: the Army of the Cumberland. This was led by George R. Thomas, an unflappable general temperamentally different than either the mercurial Hood or Sherman. The resulting campaign was both critical and ignored, despite the fact that for eleven weeks the fate of the Civil War was held in the balance.”

George “Pap” Thomas, now largely forgotten by the general public compared to Sherman, Grant, Meade, and Sheridan, is a name quite familiar to Civil War buffs. He was among the most capable senior Union commanders, and his stubborn stand at Chickamauga the year before the Nashville Campaign has earned him considerable praise, as well as the sobriquet “the Rock of Chickamauga.” He was competent, efficient, and cool-headed in battle, and his men greatly admired him (hence the affectionate nickname “Pap”). The Nashville Campaign would add to his accolades as his men held firm against repeated Confederate attacks that, in the end, all but smashed his opponent John Bell Hood’s gallant, but out-generaled army. The results left Tennessee in Federal hands for the remainder of the war and deprived the Confederacy of much-needed manpower at a time that fresh replacement soldiers were unattainable.

Author Mark Lardas holds a degree in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, but spent his early career at the Johnson Space Center doing Space Shuttle structural analysis, and space navigation. An amateur historian and a long-time ship modeller, he is currently working in League City, Texas. He has written extensively about modelling as well as naval, maritime, and military history. This is the first work of his that I have read, and I enjoyed it. He writes without bias toward either side, and clearly explains the movements, strategies, and tactics of the decisive Nashville Campaign in lucid language that is easy to follow and flows well.

Lardas, Hook, and the entire team at Osprey Publishing have produced a solid, well-written general overview of the Nashville Campaign, a martial effort that cemented Pap Thomas’s reputation as being at the top of his game. Likewise, Osprey remains at the top of its game with this latest book. Well done.

Mark Lardas, Nashville 1864: From the Tennessee to the Cumberland, Osprey Publishing, October 2017, paperback, illustrated by Adam Hook, indexed with orders of battle and bibliography. MSRP $24 US.

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