Osprey Publishing has long been a staple of the wargaming industry, as well as the general military history community. The company has long been noted for its consistently high-quality combination of original commissioned paintings and map graphics, succinct and accurate text, profuse illustrations, and incredibly diverse array of topics from all periods of world military history.
The latest group of offerings concerning Civil War topics does not disappoint. Each of the most recent five books in Osprey’s catalogue are of the usual high standard we have come to expect from this global publisher.
Osprey’s Campaign Series is arguably the company’s most popular grouping of titles. Mark Lardas’s Nashville 1864 is #314 in the long string of interesting books in the Campaign Series. Adam Hook, long a key part of the Osprey team of illustrators, provides his usual excellence in interpreting battle action through his detailed paintings. Steve Moon likewise capably illustrates the first volume on Gettysburg, title #374 in the series. Author Timothy J. Orr is no stranger to Osprey readers. Both books check in at 96 pages apiece, making them long enough for the reader to get a good grasp of the respective campaign while not getting bogged down into details. Useful bibliographies provide source material for those readers wishing to explore the topics in more depth.
Each book provides an outline of some of the key fighting that led up to the titular battle. For example, the above illustration shows the description of the battle in the ravine at Decatur, Alabama. Similar pages cover other aspects of the lead-up to the Battle of Nashville. My own great-great-grandfather, Pvt. John D. Sisson, fought at Nashville in the 51st Ohio Volunteer Infantry, so this book is of particular personal interest. My late mother knew him quite well when she was a girl; her stories of him are still vivid.
This map of the action on July 1, 1863, on the first day of the fighting at Gettysburg neatly shows the relative positions of the opposing forces, key terrain features, and tactical situations the commanders faced.
Ian MacGregor’s interesting little book, U.S. Civil War Battle by Battle, exceeded my expectations. From the size and dimensions, I was surprised by the amount of useful text that accompanies his battle maps. This is an excellent overview of some of the Civil War’s best-known battles, with a few more obscure ones tucked in. The author includes more than 30 battles, including examples from the Eastern Theater, Western Theater, Trans-Mississippi Theater, and the Old Southwest. Each battle has a series of full-color illustrations to accompany the verbiage. At 128 pages, this is an easy-to-read, well-illustrated booklet that would make a great gift for folks just starting to learn about Civil War history or who desire a broad overview of battles they may not know much about.
Sharpshooters grew in importance as the Civil War progressed over its four-year course. The Union army began raising specialized regiments of sharpshooters, the most famous of which was Berdan’s Sharpshooters. Colonel Hiram Berdan hand-selected marksmen after public tryouts. The men that he deemed as the finest shots to volunteer became part of the 1st and 2nd U.S. Sharpshooters. They were noted for their distinctive green uniforms, said to better blend in with their surroundings than the traditional dark blue coats and light blue trousers. Andrews’ Sharpshooters from Massachusetts and other designated units also received praise for their contributions to battlefield success at Gettysburg and elsewhere. Similarly, Blackford’s Sharpshooters and other Confederate skilled riflemen also became famous for their skills.
Martin Pegler’s Sharpshooting Rifles of the American Civil War: Colt, Sharps, Spencer, and Whitworth and Gary Yee’s Union Sharpshooter Versus Confederate Sharpshooter (Volume 41 of the Combat Series) nicely dovetail with one another. Together, they provide a complementary overview of the typical sharpshooter, his tactics, and his rifle of choice.