Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Noteworthy---A Deep and Steady Thunder in Georgia

A Deep and Steady Thunder: The Battle of Chickamaugua, Steven E. Woodworth, McWhiney Foundation Press,134 pp., order of battle, bibliography, index, 1996 and 2006,$11.95.

Steven Woodworth does a fine job of explaining one of the Civil War's most tactically complex battles. The Battle of Chickamauga, which was fought September 18-20 1863 fought, northern Georgia's dark forests with few farm clearings, includes a multitude of intentional and unintentional flanking attacks ordered by confused commanders with limited tactical control. It was a battle fought largely by brigades, regimental and company commanders. Chickamauga, though as important as Gettysburg, has not generated the wealth of campaign and battle studies. Glenn Tucker's Chickamauga, published during the Civil War centennial and Peter Cozzen's 1992 This Terrible Sound are the only two notable campaign and battle studies.

Woodworth has nicely crafted a concise, clear narrative for readers who are approaching the battle for the first or second time. Containing 21 short biographical descriptions and 13 maps, A Deep Steady Thunder moves from general staff to regimental levels in a quick fashion. Woodworth is direct in his criticism of Confederate commanders resistance to Bragg's sound and appropriate plans and Rosercans exhaustion induced confusion that is reminiscent of Jackson's Seven Days on the Peninsula in 1862. Woodworth's description of Longstreet as being arrogant, self-promoting and envious of Bragg's position seems to be a bit over the top. Another book from the McWhiney Press offers a heavy handed demolition of Longstreet during the Chickamauga, Chattanooga and Knoxville campaigns of 1863.

The strength of Woodworth's effort is his handling of the command decisions which limited the Confederate's successes and brought about the Federals defeat. As divisions, brigades and regiments move back and forth through the wilderness and cornfields confusion sometimes reigns. Fortunately, Woodworth has sorted through a multitude of assaults, retreats, and counter-attacks to provide a clear and even suspenseful accounting of plans gone awry. Rosecran's movement of brigades that led to gaps in the Federal line on the 20th are clearly described. The important arrivals of Longstreet's Confederate corps and Granger's Federal reserve division are nicely described and their importance to the outcome of the battle is well developed by Woodworth.

Within the limits of 100 pages, Woodworth offers tight and thorough introduction to the Battle of Chickamauga; for those who are visiting for the first time the battlefield it is a fine place to start. For the armchair reader who is unfamiliar with the 'Gettysburg of the West' A Deep Steady Thunder offers good introduction.

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