Share This Article

Gateway to the Confederacy: New Perspectives on the Chickamauga and Chattanooga Campaigns, 1862-1863

Edited by Evan C. Jones and Wiley Sword, Louisiana State University Press

Although many publishers have concluded anthologies don’t sell, readers shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss them. Many worthwhile topics are better served by an essay than a book, and Gateway to the Confederacy is a good example, offering something for nearly everyone.

In “ ‘The Funnel of the Universe:’ The Chattanooga Country and the Civil War,” Russell Bonds provides as thorough an analysis of the importance of the region to both sides as ever written. Gerald Prokopowicz analyzes the first Union effort to secure Chattanooga and the ramifications of its failure. If only by default, his “Last Chance for a Short War” demonstrates the significance of General Braxton Bragg’s counteroffensive that quashed it. David Powell contributes two essays on vastly different topics. His piece on Nathan Bedford Forrest at Chickamauga, for example, leaves no doubt that the Confederate general still had much to learn after more than two years of warfare. Powell sees Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans, on the other hand, as a man ahead of his time. “Incubator of Innovation: The Army of the Cumberland and the Spirit of Invention in 1863” details many improvements for which he was responsible.

In “A Tale of Two Orders: Chickamauga, September 20, 1863,” William Glenn Robertson reexamines an instance of command and control failure on each side, the details of which show the legendary culprits, Confederate Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk and Union Brig. Gen. Thomas Wood, in a much more favorable light. Craig L. Symonds demonstrates in “War and Politics: Jefferson Davis Visits the Army of Tennessee” that the Confederate president mishandled the rift between Bragg and his senior subordinates in the worse possible way for everyone. Evan Jones exposes Grant’s petty jealousy in “A ‘Malignant Vindictiveness’: The Two-Decade Rivalry between Ulysses S. Grant and William S. Rosecrans,” an excellent example of how even the most prominent, usually successful general can find himself without a command. In his essay on the consequences of the campaign, Wiley Sword underscores its effects on Confederate manpower; Grant stopped the exchanging of prisoners, while Confederate Lt. Gen. William Hardee wanted conscription drastically expanded and Maj. Gen. Patrick Cleburne advocated arming the slaves.

Rounding out the collection are two essays that contribute to the memory school of historiography. Stephen Cushman’s “Am brose Bierce, Chickamauga, and Ways to Write History” reminds us of the importance of getting the facts correct before analyzing someone’s memory of them. And Caroline Janney details how the first national battlefield park, at Chattanooga/Chickamauga, became a reality.


Originally published in the December 2014 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.