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Book Reviews - July 2012

Originally published by America's Civil War magazine. Published Online: May 09, 2012 
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The Global Lincoln by Richard Carwardine, Jay Sexton, eds. Oxford University Press 2011, $29.95

At the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth in 2009, a new area of Lincoln studies emerged: his legacy outside the United States after the Civil War era. It will surprise many Americans that the Great Emancipator is the best-known American president around the world and that this research began abroad. Have Americans outsourced one of their greatest political treasures?

The Global Lincoln, edited by Jay Sexton and Richard Carwardine, president of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, is the latest volume in international Lincoln studies and emerged from a 2009 conference held at the prestigious British university. The Global Lincoln has both a Western European and biographical orientation, as might be expected from Carwardine, a Lincoln biographer himself. In fact, one of the book's key features is found in the appendix by George Scratcherd on "Foreign Language Biographies of Lincoln," which clearly shows that biographies in Chinese, Japanese and Korean have come to dominate the field.

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In contrast, Carwardine's "Lincoln's Horizons: The Nationalist as Universalist" sets the right tone for the Great Emancipator by reminding readers that despite his lack of travel abroad, the perpetually curious Lincoln had two globes—celestial and planetary—in his Springfield, Ill., home. Nine of the book's other case studies deal with Western Europe: Harold Holzer on European prints; Eugenio F. Biagini on Germany and Italy during the Civil War; Michael Vorenberg on France; Lawrence Goldman on the British; Adam I.P. Smith on "English Imagination"; Kenneth O. Morgan on Wales; Kevin Kenny on the Irish; Carolyn P. Boyd on Spain and Jorg Nagler on Germany from 1871-1989. The rest of the world is covered in four case studies: Vinay Lal on India; Nicola Miller on Latin America; De-Min Tao on Japan and China; and Kevin Gaines on Africa. The volume has nothing on Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East or Australia, and as the editors state in their introduction, many more case studies are needed.

David W. Blight's contribution on the American South, while eloquent, seems out of place in this collection, and Jay Sexton's analysis of Lincoln as propaganda seems an ordinary warning about all propaganda. Nevertheless, all the contributions are readable and the volume serves as a useful addition to this fascinating new field. Americans need to know what the rest of the world thinks of its greatest president.

—Frank. J. Williams


Price's Lost Campaign: The 1864 Invasion of Missouri by Mark A. Lause
University of Missouri Press, 2011, $29.95

In September 1864, Maj. Gen. Sterling Price marched more than 12,000 Confederate soldiers into Missouri, intending to re-occupy the state that had voted against secession three years earlier. By seizing St. Louis and the state capital Jefferson City, Price hoped to reinstall a pro-Confederate government and influence the upcoming presidential election.

His offensive failed, however. Despite marching hundreds of miles, fighting more than a dozen battles, destroying hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of property and creating a panic that forced a Federal military response, Price could not wrest Missouri from Union control.

Considering the size of the campaign, it is surprising that few studies have yet been written about it. Fortunately, Mark A. Lause has filled the void. Price's Lost Campaign: The 1864 Invasion of Missouri traces the origins of the campaign and chronicles the failures of both the Union and Confederate high commands as events unfolded. Price, Lause maintains, was a reluctant commander more interested in preserving his reputation than securing victory. But his counterparts didn't fare much better. Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans, the commander of the Department of Missouri, had recently been transferred to the Trans-Mississippi after his embarrassing September 1863 debacle at Chickamauga, where, according to Lause, he "suffered something very like a nervous breakdown." Like his counterpart, Rosecrans was unwilling to act aggressively and allowed the Rebel army to escape. Price returned to Arkansas with approximately 3,000 men, one-fourth his invading force.

We can glean much from Lause's study. For those interested in guerrilla warfare in addition to strict military history, the book chronicles the brutal attacks and reprisals between Unionist and Confederate partisans in the Missouri–Kansas region during the campaign. Lause also incorporates politics into his work, interweaving Price's movements with the goals of the authorities in Richmond to influence Abraham Lincoln's re-election bid. Yet perhaps Lause's most provocative argument concerns the historical memory of the campaign. He argues that both sides eventually used the inaccurate term "raid" for self-serving purposes that truly diminished the offensive's strategic goals and the scope of the forces engaged. The rationale of Union officials in downplaying Price's campaign as a mere raid stemmed from their failed efforts to properly gauge and prepare for the size of the invading force. The Confederates simply complied with the Federals' narrative in order to downplay their own failures. "The lesser standards of success for a raid recast almost any stolen farm wagon as an achievement," Lause writes.

This is a thoroughly researched and well-written work. While the paucity of maps weakens such a fine study (only two, reprinted from the Official Records, are used), it should not detract from its importance in understanding the war beyond the Mississippi River.

—Alex Mendoza

 

A Generation at War: The Civil War Era in a Northern Community by Nicole Etcheson University Press of Kansas 2011, $39.95

Indiana was a major contributor to the Union war effort. But, consistent with other Western states, ridding the nation of slavery was not the major motive of Hoosier political leaders or the blue-clad soldiers putting their lives on the line. This is made abundantly clear in A Generation at War: The Civil War Era in a Northern Community, Nicole Etcheson's pain­stakingly researched micro-history of Putnam County, in the western-central part of the state, before, during and after the war.

Racism and abuse of the relatively small number of African Americans who migrated from the South to work primarily as farm laborers is a central theme in the book. Etcheson examines how returning black Union war veterans suffered at the hands of many whites—particularly the Southern-sympathizing Copper­heads. Etcheson also explores the lives and attitudes of women in the community, looking at how the war provided a measure of independence for many females, even though there were plenty who continued to abide by the standard male-dominated realities of 19th-century society.

Some of the detail in A Generation at War might seem plodding to the average Civil War buff, but Etcheson does include a few human interest
stories to make the book more accessible. The book's small text size might be daunting for older readers or those with vision trouble.

—James R. Hall

 

The Civil War Journal of Mary Greenhow Lee of Winchester, Virginia by Eloise C. Strader, ed. Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society 2011, $52.50

On March 11, 1862, Mary Green­how Lee began a personal journal and kept writing nearly every day for three years and six months. Her diligent pen produced a spectacularly significant record of life on Virginia's military frontier.

Lee was 36 and childless when her husband died in 1856, but extended family filled her Winchester home during the 1860s—including two sisters-in-law and assorted nieces and nephews. Until Philip Sheridan expelled her from Winchester in 1865 as casual, cruel punishment for her irreverent attitude, the smart and literate widow faithfully recorded the war at first hand.

Although this new volume does not mention them, two earlier publications brought Lee into public view: her journal entries for the crucial last week of May 1862, skillfully edited, in Maryland Historical Magazine in 1958; and a 2004 biography by Sheila Phipps, Genteel Rebel. The biography did not print much of Lee's own words. Instead of sharing Lee's observations with the reader, the author assumes what motivated the widow. A characteristically presumptuous analysis concludes that Lee's contemptuous reaction to Yankee invaders evicting citizens and stabling horses in their living rooms was "a defensive mechanism to protect herself from the shifting of social place."

Gary W. Gallagher's foreword to the full journal aptly styles Lee "observant, opinionated and often passionate." Her observations report, with painful frequency, the battle deaths of friends' sons, sometimes within sight of their homes; distaste for Yankees who "pervade every section like the locusts of Egypt"; and meeting Stonewall Jackson—always "Our General" to Lee.

Her entries for battles in nearby Shenandoah Valley latitudes—especially Kernstown, all three Winchesters and Cedar Creek—afford priceless eyewitness details. Many of the hundreds of soldiers who drew her attention have no other surviving descriptions. A typical vignette characterizes Colonel Trevanion D. Lewis of the 8th Louisiana as "a handsome little fellow, & a gentleman, though somewhat spoiled by the attention he has received."

A 41-page appendix of useful bio­graphical sketches (394 of them) con­stitutes by far the most important modern augmentation to Lee's primary narrative. It will serve students as an invaluable chapbook on Winchester people at war.

The rest of the editorial efforts do not do justice to Lee's superb manuscript. Most individuals appear in its pages without adequate background, or in some cases, even identification. They are indexed thoroughly, but far too sketchily. "Mr. Sherrard" appears on 52 pages, the index reveals—but it does not supply his given name. Apparently no copy editor polished the draft; bad and inconsistent spelling mars the book. Lee's famous sister-in-law, Rose O'Neal Greenhow of civilian-espionage renown, is "O'Neil" sometimes and sometimes not. The index refers to "Ulyses Grant."

Mary Lee's wonderful journal may be the best Virginia woman's Civil War narrative in print. The combination of Lee with Cornelia McDonald's Diary With Reminiscences (1934) and Margaretta Colt's book about the Barton family, Defend the Valley (1994), makes Winchester the most thoroughly documented village in Civil War Virginia.

—Robert K. Krick

 

Well at This Time: The Civil War Diaries & Army Convalescence Saga of Farmboy Ephraim Miner by Mark A. Miner Minerd.com Publishing 2011, $24.95

Author and researcher Mark A. Miner has taken the Civil War diaries of his ancestor Ephraim Miner and framed them with rich contextual primary source material to produce the story of one ordinary soldier who experienced or was close to many of the great events of his day. Ephraim Miner spent much of his soldier career in convalescence, but also traveled through or spent time in some of the war's most famous locales: Fredericks­burg, Va., Washington, D.C., Philadel­phia and Baltimore, to name just a few.

Miner does a solid job bringing to­gether diverse pieces of information to paint a picture of Ephraim as an ordinary farmboy. Eager for adventure, he soon misses home and finds the war taking an unexpected twist when he has to spend long periods recovering from lameness brought about by camp conditions. As with most soldiers, North and South, Miner's experience shaped the patterns that would frame the rest of his adult life.

Ephraim Miner's own words in his journal are sparse, clipped and predictable. Yet his voice does come through, in large part because Mark Miner has done his homework and walks readers through Ephraim's experience in an accompanying narrative. He has drawn on the experiences of other men in Ephraim's units, and keeps timelines adjusted for what Ephraim would have known and when he would likely have known it. As a result, Ephraim is real to the reader.

This Civil War book is a good example of the fruit that can come from extensive family research and attention to detail.

—Jack Trammell
 



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