Tuesday, September 02, 2008

New and Forthcoming: Assasination Plot, R. E. Lee and the Collapse of His Country, And How the Generals Saw the Battlefields

The Baltimore Plot: The First Conspiracy to Assassinate Abraham Lincoln, Michael J. Kline, Westholme Publishing; 464 pages, $29.95. (October 30, 2008)

thoroughly enjoyed Stealing the General: The Great Locomotive Chase and the First Medal of Honor by Russell S. Bonds from Westholme, a newer publisher. The Baltimore conspiracy to assassinate Lincoln is an amazing story with strong characters; the episode has a few paragraphs in most surveys of the Civil War. This may be the first monograph on the topic.

Robert E. Lee and the Fall of the Confederacy, 1863-1865 (The American Crisis Series Books on the Civil War Era), Ethan Rafuse, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 304 pages, $34.95 (August 28, 2008).

CWL ranks Ethan Rafuse at the top of the list of those who have new things to say about Civil War generals. His work on George B. McClellan is original, outstanding and clarifies the elements of the McClellan myth, parts of which are true and parts of which are false. Rafuse set McClellan in the context of his times and the author developed a striking thesis about the general's quest for a moderate war. In a small volume, Rafuse also established George Gordon Meade in his times and his career with the Army of the Potomac; he fairly gave Meade credit where credit was due and criticism where criticism was due. Rafuse's work on Lee will be high of books to be read this year. Read the December 14, 2005 CWL review of Rafuse work on McClellan; in 2005 CWL was a month old. Rafuse also adequately explained how the North and South believed that the war would be fought with only one battle; the author's A Single Grand Victory: The First Campaign and Battle of Manassas is a clear and concise explanation of which European precepts West Point taught on the eve of the Civil War and how these ideas conditioned the expectations of the early war generals. CWL reviewed this book on August 4, 2006.

America's Civil War: The Operational Battlefield, 1861-1863, Brian Holden Reid,Prometheus Books504 pages, $34.95 (August 4, 2008), Brian Holden Reid is professor of American history and military institutions and head of the Department of War Studies at King's College, London. In 2004-2005, he was the first non-American to serve as a member of the Lincoln Prize jury panel, which awards the most important literary prize in the field of Civil War history. His many books include The Origins of the American Civil War, The Civil War and the Wars of the Nineteenth Century, and Robert E. Lee: Icon for a Nation. CWL enjoys an occasional book from across the pond; the British perspective is usually enlightening and Reid is a fine writer.

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