Book Reviews by Tim

 

       I’m currently reading Vicksburg 1863 by Winston Groom and so far it has been an excellent read. I also have a copy of Shrouds of Glory by the same author. Shrouds of Glory deals with the Nashville Campaign and is also a descent read although I’m not in total agreement. Groom seems to agree with Hood’s attack at Franklin. I can see Groom’s point as well as Hood’s reasoning behind the attack, but in hindsight one can’t help but admit it was a horrible mistake. 

       At one point in Vicksburg 1863, Groom mentioned a rumor that a local potter had made chamber pots with pictures of notorious Federal General Benjamin Butler in the bottom. He goes on to admit that he hasn’t found any evidence to support this. That is the reason I decided to post this blog. We’ll get to that part later. 


 

Benjamin “Beast” or “Spoons” Butler


       Next to Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Butler was possibly the most hated man in the Confederacy. When he arrived in New Orleans, a crippled veteran of the Mexican War named William Munford had torn the United States flag from the Federal mint. Butler charged Munford with treason and hanged him. Citizens who refused to sign the loyalty oath had their homes confiscated and used by his officers. His brother got rich off of steeling from the citizens of New Orleans which earned Butler the nickname “Spoons” for all the silverware he had stolen. 

       The most infamous thing Butler ever did was to issue an order that stated if any woman insulted or showed contempt toward a Union officer, she will be regarded as a woman of the town. Shock waves would be heard across the Atlantic from this proclamation. The way the order read, it sounded as if he was giving his men permission to rape southern women. Jefferson Davis branded Butler an outlaw and ordered if the man was captured to have him hanged on the spot. British prime minister Lord Palmerston declared that any Englishman should blush that Benjamin Butler was a member of the Anglo-Saxon race.


 

William Munford


       This brings us back to the statement Groom makes about the chamber pots. My wife noticed me smiling and asked me what I was reading. I told my wife I have actually seen these chamber pots. 


 

One of the chamber pots Mr. Groom can’t find any evidence of.

The Rashness of That Hour by Robert Wynstra

Book focuses on Iverson’s actions at Gettysburg

       I’ve just finished reading The Rashness of That Hour by Robert Wynstra and found it to be an excellent addition to my library. The book begins with the history of General Iverson and his brigade. It is quite interesting to note that the morale of the brigade had been suffering from an internal power struggle. Governor Vance of North Carolina didn’t improve things when he protested that a Georgia officer had been promoted to lead troops from his state. As I read the book, I almost began to feel sorry for Alfred Iverson.
       The further into the book I got, I soon switched back to thinking the man brought most of his suffering on himself. The more I read, the more the man reminded me of another general named Braxton Bragg. Once Iverson made an enemy, he immediately did everything in his power to rid himself of the man, no matter how useful that man might have been to the efficiency of his brigade.
Brigadier General Afred Iverson, Jr.

       By the time I read about Iverson in battle, I had the opinion the man might have had a streak of cowardice. He was far to the rear at Chancellorsville and in his official report claimed to have been rallying another brigade’s troops. His job should have been to supervise his own men in battle. At Gettysburg, he again remained in the rear, sending his men across a field against Federal infantry posted behind a stone wall. He didn’t have skirmishers posted to the front, simply telling his men to advance and give them hell. They were within eighty yards of the stone wall before they knew there were Federals anywhere near them. Out of his 1400 man brigade, 900 became casualty’s in a matter of minutes. They were trapped on the field in a gully under relenting fire.
This gully would later come to be known as Iverson’s Pits. 
It provided no shelter for the men trapped there.

       Iverson in his report failed to mention the brave action of his men, yet blamed them for surrendering when the Federals advanced into the gully and captured most of the survivors. Following the battle, Iverson was eventually sent back home to Georgia where he commanded a brigade of cavalry under Wheeler. He attempted to stop Sherman’s invasion of the state and his brigade was credited with capturing Union General George Stoneman’s raiders. They planned to ride deep into Georgia and free the prisoners at Andersonville. With a force of only six-hundred men, Iverson’s brigade managed to capture Stoneman and his troops. I had always read about Iverson redeeming himself over the fiasco at Gettysburg by this daring feat in Georgia. However, to my shock, Wynstra reports that again Iverson was far in the rear of his command. The actual credit for the capture belongs to Colonel Crews who was present and leading the brigade.
George Stoneman captured by Iverson’s brigade, but not Iverson

       The book is a great read and serves as not only a biography of Alfred Iverson, but also to his North Carolina brigade. Iverson survived the war, one wants to say “of course” here and died of old age in 1911 at the age of 82. He rests in Atlanta’s famous Oakland Cemetery. Wynstra does go into a good bit of detail about the commanders of every unit involved in the fighting around Gettysburg if you enjoy that type thing. I’m not one of those people. I can’t remember any of the captains names, especially when he lists the commanders of each artillery unit on the field at the time. Other than that, I found it a very interesting book that I found difficult to stop reading.
Iverson sometime around 1900

       The men of Iverson’s North Carolina brigade never forgave their general. Forty years after the battle, Captain Turner of Iverson’s command wrote, “Unwarned, unled as a brigade, went forward Iverson’s deserted band to its doom. Deep and long must the desolate homes and orphan children of North Carolina rue the rashness of that hour.” These are the most appropriate last sentences of Wynstra’s book.
Me at the grave of Iverson August, 2011.
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The Battle of Franklin by James R. Knight

The Battle of Franklin

       If your interested in the Battle of Franklin then I strongly suggest this book by James R. Knight. Mr. Knight is a volunteer at the Carter House Museum in Franklin, Tennessee. I purchased my book while there almost two years ago. Mr. Knight is very friendly and signed my book while I was there. He is a retired pilot who flew DC-10’s for Federal Express.
       I remember asking him if his book was as good as Eric Jacobson’s book on the Battle of Franklin and he very humbly replied that it wasn’t. The next time I was at the Carter House I saw James again. He didn’t remember me, but I walked up and told him I was upset with him because he had lied to me. I think he realized I was pulling his leg. He asked me what had he done. I reminded him of what he had told me about his book and informed him that his book was as good as Eric’s. He then thanked me.
       Truthfully, there is no book more informative on the Battle of Franklin than Eric Jacobson’s For Cause and Comrades. Eric is the historian at the Carnton Plantation which is also located in Franklin. That is not to say that James book isn’t also a great read. I found a few stories and anecdotes that weren’t in Eric’s book. I strongly recommend both books if your a big fan of the battle.
James R. Knight

       Mr. Knight’s book is written as part of a series, whereas Eric’s book is written from lifelong study. You would expect his book to be more in depth. If you don’t have the time to read a long book with lots of detail, I would recommend James’ book. If your like me and devour everything you can on the Civil War, then I would buy them both.
       He also has a book out on the Battle of Fort Donelson that I haven’t purchased yet. Next time  I’m in Franklin, I plan on stopping in and seeing James and have him autograph a copy for me.
*******

A Very Difficult Book To Read

       I’ll post a blog a little later, but at the moment I would like to talk about a book I am currently forcing myself to finish reading. Being a writer, I don’t normally like to bash another author’s book, but I would like to let everyone know to skip this one and save your money.
       The title is Ulysses S. Grant: A Victor, Not A Butcher by Edward Bonekemper. I’ve only read one hundred of the two hundred and sixty-six pages and maybe I can explain why. So far, Mr. Bonekemper has gone through  the campaigns in which General Grant was involved. I’ve made it to the Vicksburg Campaign. Mr. Bonekemper seems to be a little lax with facts.
       The back of the book says that the author “restores Grant’s heroic reputation and silences his critics”. Becoming frustrated with the book, I decided to skip ahead and see how far this following of Grant’s campaigns will go before he begins to convince me that Grant was a military genius. I’ve found the book acts as a biography of Grant’s career and nothing more. The cover of the book will tempt you to buy it, but you find nothing inside thats mentioned on the cover.
       It seems General Grant is a personal hero of Mr. Bonekemper and he has allowed his personal thoughts on his subject to interfere with writing the truth of the subject. I’ll give you one example and there are many more. He says that Grant had a grand plan for the destruction of Confederate General Price’s army at Iuka, Mississippi. According to Mr. Bonekemper, Grant’s subordinates failed him. He goes on to say that Rosecrans fought the battle, while Ord sat by idly doing nothing. This is true, but he fails to mention that Grant was with Ord and he was the ranking officer. The author then goes on to double the Confederate army’s casualties to show that Rosecrans had the battle won alone and failed to follow up the victory.
       I have over 400 books on the Civil War and rarely do I criticize an author, but I have to admit this guy has rewritten history in his own mind. Grant is not a hero of mine, but he also wasn’t an idiot. I thought this guy would publish facts to make his point, but I guess some of the facts he needed just weren’t there.
       Thanks for listening to my rant. I’ll get another story posted sometime today. Tim.

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