Sunday, September 20, 2015

New and Noteworthy: Drilling For Battle and Drilling for Reenactments

Civil War Infantry Tactics: Training Combat, and Small-Unit Infantry Tactics, Earl J. Hess, Louisiana State University Press, 300pp., 34 black and white illustrations and diagrams, appendices, endnotes, bibliography, index $45.00.

From the Publisher: For decades, military historians have argued that the introduction of the rifle musket-with a range five times longer than that of the smoothbore musket-made the shoulder-to-shoulder formations of linear tactics obsolete.

Author Earl J. Hess challenges this deeply entrenched assumption. He contends that long-range rifle fire did not dominate Civil War battlefields or dramatically alter the course of the conflict because soldiers had neither the training nor the desire to take advantage of the musket rifle's increased range.

Drawing on the drill manuals available to officers and a close reading of battle reports, Civil War Infantry Tactics demonstrates that linear tactics provided the best formations and maneuvers to use with the single-shot musket, whether rifle or smoothbore musket.

The linear system was far from an outdated relic that led to higher casualties and prolonged the war. Indeed, regimental officers on both sides of the conflict found the formations and maneuvers in use since the era of the French Revolution to be indispensable to the survival of their units on the battlefield. The training soldiers received in this system, combined with their extensive experience in combat, allowed small units a high level of articulation and effectiveness.

Unlike much military history that focuses on grand strategies, Hess zeroes in on formations and maneuvers (or primary tactics), describing their purpose and usefulness in regimental case studies, and pinpointing which of them were favorites of unit commanders in the field. The Civil War was the last conflict in North America to see widespread use of the linear tactical system, and Hess convincingly argues that the war also saw the most effective tactical performance yet in America's short history.

Civil War Librarian: Chapters include: European Tactical Heritage, Nrother American Tactical Heritage, Tactical Manuals and the management of Men; Training; Moving Forward and the Art of Skirmishing; Multiple Lines, Echelons and Squares; Changing Front; Columns; Multiple Maneuvers; Large Formations; Tactical Developments After the Civil War; Comparison and Context; Tactical Summary of the Civil War; Tactical Glossary of the Civil War.

Hess offers not just a re-statement of tactical manuals but specific uses of the tactics in specific battles. For multiple maneuvers he discusses the 32nd Indiana at Shiloh, the 83rd Pennsylvania at Gaines' Mill, 61st and 64th New York at Antietam, 63rd New York at Fredericksburg,19th Ohio at Stones River, 23rd Tennessee at Chickamauga; 12th New Jersey at Burgess' Mill.  Diagrams show the movement of the units with the orders that were given.

This book will delight all who are in command of American Civil War reenactors and wish to replicate actual battlefield movements.

No comments: