Reading Update

It’s been rather a slow week for reading, as I got a new computer delivered last week and have been working on it part of the time.

Bearss’ Vicksburg Campaign III – Unvexed to the Sea

This is just getting started. The city is invested, and the question of the day is if the Confederate army has any fight left in it. Pemberton did do one smart thing – he arranged his lines so that the most demoralized troops were isolated from the possible assault areas, instead using troops that hadn’t been present or were solid veterans.

The first hurried assault on the city was repulsed, but much of the Union army wasn’t really ready, so a second assault is being prepared. It did signal that the Confederates were not just going to fold.

Neptune’s Inferno

I’ve gotten up to the end of the first day of the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, or rather, the night as it was a night battle. The American fleet, a group of cruisers and destroyers met a Japanese fleet that also had two battleships. The American Admiral didn’t really trust his radar, and squally weather meant that the two fleets didn’t sight each other until they were virtually in contact. In fact, they actually interpenetrated each other during the action, forming a giant melee.

This somewhat favored the smaller American ships, as at this close range their lighter guns could savage even a battleship. Of course, the battleship could wreck them in return, and did.

The next day was what was called ‘The Battle of the Cripples’ as severely damaged ships took time out from keeping themselves from sinking to try to get a last shot at any nearby enemy derelict ship.

A Ship to Remember

The Maine has exploded and sunk in Havana harbor, now its time for the reaction and recriminations.  I am not sure if the book will follow the deteriorating political situation or the actual cause of the disaster, or both.

How Rome Fell – Adrian Goldsworthy

I just started this one. He does tip his hand by explaining his thesis from the start. He disagrees with Peter Heather and others that Rome at about 400 AD was ‘as strong as ever’ and thinks that it was weaker than in the Antonine period. He seems to going to argue that the relative change in power between the barbarians in 150 AD and 400 AD was mostly or all Rome weakening rather than the barbarians getting stronger.

If he ends up saying ‘mostly’ or ‘partly’ I think this is defendable, Saying ‘All’ is a lot less so. We shall see.

For myself, I am sure there is a qualitative difference between the barbarians in Caesar’s time versus 400 AD. The coalitions were larger, the rulership had a stronger hold on the nation. Historians think this was largely fueled by Rome itself – the wealth of spoils or the bribes to avoid raids gave the ‘government’ a way to strengthen itself at the expense of the ‘people’. (the analogy with modern terms is pretty weak – a German tribe was no Marxist class warfare state).

The question is if this evolution was complete or nearly so by 150 AD, or if the Germans had increased in power over those 250 years. I suspect that they had, and the actual situation was a combination of both – Rome weakening and the opposition getting more powerful in turn.

In the Queue

There’s some new books lined up – Guadalcanal – a major history of Guadalcanal by Frank, the Cambridge history of the Barbarossa Campaign, Prange’s Miracle at Midway book (I’ve read that years ago, I believe), Knight’s Cross – a life of Rommel, 1858 – on that year in Antebellum America. If it’s half as good as 1857 by Stampp, it will be worth the reading.  I also got The Secret War for the Union, about military intelligence during the Civil War.

History of Rome Podcasts

I also have been moving along with these and am sadly almost caught up. It is now the era after Diocletian and the wars that will end with Constantine coming to power are in full swing. I am not a big listener of podcasts, but these could change that. If you do like podcasts or audible books, you really should check these out. There’s a link in the sidebar if you are interested.


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