Searching for George Gordon Meade – Tom Huntington

The Forgotten Victor of Gettysburg

This is an interesting take on a standard biography.  The author travels to various key places in Meade’s life and gives a little travel review between the chapters that are a more conventional biography.  It is an interesting change of pace.

Meade is a general that doesn’t get a lot of credit for several reasons – for one thing he was good, but not good enough to win the war himself and so had to play second fiddle to Grant in the final year of the war.  But not only should Meade get credit for beating Lee at Gettysburg less than a week after taking over, but then in the fall he managed to sting him a few more times at Bristoe Station, Rappahannock Station and Kelly’s Ford.  These losses were as many as a major battle for Lee, with far fewer losses on the US side.

Meade wasn’t the sort to press Lee as hard as Grant did, and did not have the clout to accept the losses that this entailed.  But that doesn’t detract from the fact that Meade had had success at every level in the war and deserves a place on the victor’s podium along with Grant, Sherman, Sheridan and Thomas…and not the last place either.

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The Stones River and Tullahoma Campaigns – Christopher L. Kolakowski

The Civil War Sesquicentennial Series

This series of short books by the History Press detail a single battle or campaign in the Civil War in an inexpensive format.  Often these are the smaller or less covered actions that don’t take the hundreds of pages needed to break new ground in a massively covered action like Gettysburg.

Rosecrans vs Bragg

This book covers the actions of the Union Army of the Cumberland under General William Rosecrans versus the Confederate Army of the Tennessee under Braxton Bragg.  Bragg had turned the previous commander of the Cumberland Army, Buell, out of the state of Tennessee in the fall of 1862 and invaded Kentucky.  After the checking of that invasion, Bragg managed to move to a position at Murfreesboro threatening Nashville and Buell was sacked.

At the end of the year, Rosecrans advanced to attack Bragg at Stones River outside of Murfreesboro.  Bragg attacked first and pushed the Union Army back, but lost steam and after standing idle for a day, tried to take a hilltop position that was covered by a large battery of Union guns.  The resulting casualties led Bragg to fall back a short distance to Tullahoma, covering Chattanooga.

The battle was one of the most savage in the war, with the highest percentage of loss per man engaged in the war.  After the battle, the Army of the Cumberland sat in place for 6 months while the Administration in Washington lost patience with Rosecrans.

The Tullahoma Campaign

In late June, Rosecrans advanced again in an attempt to force the passes between his location and the Rebel Army.  In a well-planned offensive, he forced the passes with light losses and had Bragg reeling.back to Tullahoma while he concentrated on his flank.  Bragg then decided to fall back out of Tennessee without a battle to the city of Chattanooga.  The entire campaign cost about 350 casualties.

Aftermath

Having cleared the state of Tennessee, Rosecrans the n began a second flanking maneuver to take Chattanooga.  This again worked to perfection, but then he got too greedy.  He drove south towards Atlanta, while Bragg was being reinforced from all corners of the South including troops from Lee in Virginia.  After some scrambling he was cornered at the battle of Chickamauga and defeated,  Lincoln then sacked Rosecrans and put U.S. Grant in charge of restoring the situation.

This is a nice little book on a pair of campaigns that often get overlooked, with a surprising amount of detail for the size.

Roman Conquests: Egypt and Judaea – John D. Grainger

This Pen and Sword book has been in the queue to be written up for quite some time.  The Roman Conquests series collects the history of a sectio n of the Empire and summarizes it all in one place.  The strict chronological approach leads to gaps where Rome expanded into other sections and you lose focus.

In this book you stick in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea from 60 BC to after 70 AD, from Pompey’s first conquest of Jerusalem until the failure of the Great Jewish Revolt and the destruction of the city by the son of Emperor Vespasian.  There is a cast of characters from Pompey to Caesar to Cleopatra to Marc Antony to Augustus.  There is an interesting aside of an expedition deep into Arabia.  And then there is the Revolt.

The only missing element is the second revolt under Hadrian that led to the Diaspora.

These are excellent books and while brief, do give a good view of the historical evidence of some of the less well known aspects of Roman expansion.

1177 B.C. – The Year Civilization Collapsed – Eric H. Cline

Turning Points in Ancient History, Princeton Press

Shortly after 1200 B.C., most of the ancient empires in the Eastern Mediterranean and Near East collapsed at virtually the same moment.  The sole survivor, Egypt, itself retrenched and no longer was able to hold onto land in Asia.  The Hittites, the Mycenaeans, the Minoans in Crete all were no more, and many of their cities were burned down and never built again.  What happened?

This book is a short introduction to the late Bronze Age civilizations of the area and their surprisingly rich networks of communication and trade by land and sea.  We have found and translated many letters between the rulers of these empires as they played politics, traded and sometimes fought.  Recent evidence shows that the states were more interconnected culturally and economically than previously thought.

The book then looks at the causes of the disasters but doesn’t come to a firm conclusion about what happened.  It does debunk the theory that the “Sea Peoples” – several roaming nations that settled in the area later – were the main factor.  There are signs of major earthquakes, and of severe droughts.  And there are also signs of war as well.

The final best guess is a synthesis – that the interdependencies were so strong that the disruptions shook all the other states severely, making them susceptible to their own disruptions.  And once broken, the status quo could never be recovered and a new set of nations had to grow from the ashes – Greece, Israel, Persia, and Rome.

It is a short but good summary of current information about this time in history, with some interesting bits of palace backstabbings and dirty politics thrown in for spice.  I’ll be interested in the other books in the series.