Streetwise Professor

November 30, 2022

Franklin Redux

Filed under: Civil War,History,Military — cpirrong @ 3:48 pm

Today is the 158th anniversary of the Battle of Franklin, one of the most brutal in the entire Civil War–which is saying something. It is hard to overstate the intensity of the fighting between two veteran armies, which resulted in an extended exchange of fire at point-blank range over earthworks lasting well into the night. The only thing comparable is the Bloody Angle at Spottsylvania on 12 May 1864.

Here’s my post from the sesquicentenary of the battle.

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  1. Well, I’ve started in some free minutes to get a bit of an overview of the US Civil War, in Europe one doesn’t know much about it generally…National Geographic education resource library says it ‘was a brutal war that lasted from 1861 to 1865. It left the South economically devastated, and resulted in the criminalization of slavery in the United States’. One does start wondering, what might happen, if the US continues decriminalizing some things…Can anybody incl. Prof. recommend a book about the Civil War (that is not too detailed and max 300 pages, more the big picture)? Thank you.

    Comment by Mikey — December 1, 2022 @ 2:45 am

  2. Sorry Mikey, I’m afraid you will be deafened by the silence. There is no Cliff’s Notes version of the Civil War and if there were, no one would admit to reading it. One would look like an idiot in the Prof’s. eyes. There is Bruce Catton’s 3 volumes on the war, kinda small, not taxing. There is Shelby Foote’s volumes. There is also James McPherson’s single volume “Battle Cry of Freedom” plus many, many others. For a good overview I can recommend Ken Burn’s series on the Civil War on dvd or some streaming service or other. You need to remember the U.S. even then was a big place, lots of different interests, regions, factions and personalities, not to mention the politics involved leading up to, during and after the war. There is also the international component and what those interests were.
    It’s fascinating in all of it’s complexity, but, thinking about it maybe the best place to start is Ken Burn’s series. It’s really well done in my opinion.

    Comment by Donald Wolfe — December 1, 2022 @ 9:18 am

  3. @Donald Wolfe: thank you very much. Yes, I’ve seen the titles you mention on the ‘best civil war book lists’. Actually, I’dont have a TV or DVD, nor watch movies on my Computer. I’m reading books on the train, in the bathtube, after waking up still in bed, in the restaurant, waiting on a bench…so need a paper book. But now found on Salon a recommended 600 pager for those ‘casually interested’ in the Civil War; also with a text by Bruce Catton: the 1960 edition of The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War. Even if I look like an Idiot, I don’t like to allocate more time to it now for several reasons.

    Comment by Mikey — December 1, 2022 @ 5:24 pm

  4. @Mikey–If I was going to recommend one Civil War source, it would be Shelby Foote’s 3 volume The Civil War. It is well-written (Foote was a novelist first), and encompasses the entire war. It is now a bit out of fashion. Academic historians snark at it, and its sympathy for Southerners (especially Nathan Bedford Forrest) has made Foote something of a bete noire–but I consider those both endorsements, if you know what I mean.

    I remember reading Foote in my junior and senior years in high school. I spent every free period in the library, going through it chapter by chapter.

    Another oldie but goodie is Bruce Catton’s This Hallowed Ground. Single volume, but pretty comprehensive.

    For a more politically-oriented (rather than military-oriented) history of the Civil War era, see Alan Nevins’ The War for the Union (4 volumes).

    More recent treatments include McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom and The War That Forged The Nation.

    Civil War reading is like a trip down the rabbit hole . . .

    Comment by cpirrong — December 12, 2022 @ 12:58 pm

  5. @Donald Wolfe: did not know CliffsNotes, heard it the first time in your comment. But yesterday, searching for a summary of Ruth Benedict’s ‘Patterns of Culture’ found ‘SuperSummary’ and they call themselves ‘A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes’, but do have book summaries. Well, I’ve checked out CliffsNotes and SparkNotes then and it turns out both do have a version of the US Civil War…and before and after…in US History 1…so there is a CliffsNotes version…

    @cpirrong: Thank you very much, Professor, for the Book recommendations and trust that also other readers can profit from them. But I had already ordered a 1960 version of The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War. Found it at a German antiquarian book shop in good condition and convinced him to sent it to my Non-EU country against advance payment. And it arrived a few days ago. It’s a version with 630 pages (including Index and Acknowledgements) divided in two volumes/books. It’s got a narrative by Bruce Catton and tons of pictures, sometimes a full page per picture, new colored landscapes and illustrations, many black-white old original drawings, paintings and photographs. Somewhere around 687 illustrations I’ve read on the internet and suppose the narrative may take roughly half of the pages. Had ordered it, because on ‘salon’ it was Nr. 12 in ‘The top 12 Civil War books ever’, but saying also:

    ‘If you are a Civil War enthusiast and you don’t own the 1960 edition, your library is woefully incomplete. If you are only casually interested in the Civil War, this is the one book you should read and own.’

    ’12. “The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War”: This coffee-table book, first published by the old American Heritage magazine company in 1960, offers lavish illustrations, including scores of photographs by Mathew Brady and other masterful war photographers, and a lively narrative by Bruce Catton, who was widely considered at the time to be the dean of Civil War historians. Although American Heritage tried to update the book for a new generation of readers by publishing a more dazzling edition in 2001 (mostly by adding illustrations, captions and sidebars while retaining Catton’s basic text), the original edition remains a classic; in many respects, the old outshines the new, which lacks editorial cohesion and seems almost slapdash in its presentation. If you are a Civil War enthusiast and you don’t own the 1960 edition, your library is woefully incomplete. If you are only casually interested in the Civil War, this is the one book you should read and own.’

    And I must say, I really like it, feels good (even though here currently published works would have been more easily available), and I’m looking forward to starting to read it on the coming weekend and then going bit-by-bit (aside of my reading list).

    Table of Contents:
    A House Divided
    The Opening Guns
    The Clash of Amateur Armies
    Real Warfare Begins
    The Navies
    Confederate High-Water Mark
    A Search for Allies
    Stalemate, East and West
    The South’s Last Opportunity
    The Armies
    Two Economies at War
    The Destruction of Slavery
    The Northern Vise Tightens
    The Politics of War
    Total Warfare
    The Forlorn Hope
    End and Beginning
    A Sound of Distant Drums
    Acknowledgements and Index.

    Comment by Mikey — December 23, 2022 @ 4:36 am

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