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Roll Call to Destiny: The Soldier’s Eye View of Civil War Battles

by Brent Nosworthy, Basic Books

Tactics and weaponry specialist Brent Nosworthy, author of Bloody Crucible of Courage, relied on the memoirs of Federals as well as Confederates to uncover hidden aspects of the war in Roll Call to Destiny. Foremost among them is the experience of soldiers caught up in a period of warfare evolution.

When war broke out, new weapons such as revolvers were becoming standard, yet commanders remained obsessed with old tactics. Union generals, for example, were influenced by the writings of Antoine-Henri Jomini, who combined the tactics of Frederick the Great and Revolutionary France. Those tactics dominated the battlefields of the war’s first two years, with horrific results.

Nosworthy outlines units’ roles in a series of engagements ranging from minor to large-scale. He follows, for example, Colonel Ambrose Burnside’s brigade during the First Battle of Bull Run as well as the use of cavalry at Gettysburg. He also explains how the Rebel artillery’s decimation of Maj. Gen. Darius Couch’s II Corps at Fredericksburg was a prelude to action at the Somme in World War I.

Roll Call to Destiny is beautifully illustrated with maps, gravures and photographs courtesy of the Library of Congress. Nosworthy’s latest work is sure to be compelling reading for historians and military analysts. General readers interested in acquiring a better understanding of the Civil War era and combat will also find it interesting.


Originally published in the October 2008 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here