Friday, January 04, 2019

New and Noteworthy: The Natural Environment and Soldiers on Campaign in the South

War Stuff: The Struggle for Human and Environmental Resources in the American Civil War, Joan E. Cashin, Cambridge University Press, 258 pages, 24 illustrations, bibliographic notes, bibliography, index, paperback, $24.99.

Civil War Librarian: Cashin's focus is upon Northern and Southern attitudes toward human and material resources needed by both civilians and soldiers. It appears that official polices had little impact on restraining armies which were on the march. Soldiers, once civilians before the war had generally experienced a rural lifestyles.They had in common, for the most part, the values of  community life and stewardship.

 Both sides exploited fully the South's human resources regarding work skills and both sides destroyed and wasted and the material resources of the South. On both sides contained some men who tried to protect civilians and conserve material resources of the region in which they campaigned.  Cashin's evidence shows that at the brogans on the ground level  neither side functioned very efficiently as it struggled to supply troops throughout the four seasons.

Cashin offers a brief but satisfying historiography of the recent studies of natural environment and material resources during the American Civil War. She reviews the several possible answers to the question 'Was the American Civil War a total war?' and 'What was John Popes' July 1862 orders and what were his expectations that they would be fully followed?'  Readers may conclude that the orders, for the most part, only described what the  soldiers were already doing in practice.

People, food, timber and habitat (farms and homes) are addressed in War Stuff as well as the natural resources and people in 1861 in the South. The final break down and losses which came during 1864 and 1865 in the South are adequately covered. Hunger, deforestation and destruction of urban and rural homes are interwoven to demonstrate the nearly complete exhaustion and desolation of the South at the end of the war.

Cashin's narrative is well organized and smoothly accessible for readers who are enrolled in advanced placement American History courses and college students. War Stuff should be read side by side of Robert Wystra's At the Forefront of Lee's Invasion: Retribution, Plunder and Clashing Cultures on Richard S. Ewell's Road to Gettysburg.  CWL would welcome Cashin's thesis being examined within with the context of the Army of Northern Virginia's invasions of Maryland and Pennsylvania. 

From the Publisher:
In this path-breaking work on the American Civil War, Joan E. Cashin explores the struggle between armies and civilians over the human and material resources necessary to wage war. This war 'stuff' included the skills of white Southern civilians, as well as such material resources as food, timber, and housing. At first, civilians were willing to help Confederate or Union forces, but the war took such a toll that all civilians, regardless of politics, began focusing on their own survival. Both armies took whatever they needed from human beings and the material world, which eventually destroyed the region's ability to wage war. In this fierce contest between civilians and armies, the civilian population lost. Cashin draws on a wide range of documents, as well as the perspectives of environmental history and material culture studies. This book provides an entirely new perspective on the war era.

From noted scholar in the field of environmental/military history:  "Expertly researched and beautifully written, War Stuff is a must-read for anyone interested in the Civil War and for all who wish to understand the fascinating, complex ways that war (any war) can fundamentally alter the manner in which humans interact with each other and with the natural world. Integrating material culture, environmental history, and war and society studies, Cashin’s book is a tour de force that will shape Civil War studies for years to come"                                                                                            Lisa M. Brady, author of War Upon the Land: Military Strategy and the Transformation of Southern Landscapes during the American Civil War

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