Congratulations to Ralph Peters on his achievement (under the pen name of Owen Parry) in Faded Coat of Blue. He can't write a bad sentence. The only atmosphere in another mystery this thick is Raymond Chandler's. I usually skim along, guessing (not always correctly) the end of sentences I've begun. I couldn't do that with Faded Coat of Blue, where there's usually an unusual turn of phrase in each sentence as Peters gives his narrator a unique voice. I enjoyed it very much and found it inspiring. Peters has a real gift for language.
Friday, October 16, 2015
I just finished reading William Marvel's and Mike Cavanaugh's "The Battle of the Crater: The Horrid Pit." It reads very well, with a lively stile that moves along briskly. The book covers all the bases of the Crater affair, not all of them very deeply, but at least it mentions them. I would like to have seen more about the relationship between the Vicksburg mines and the Petersburg mine. IX Corps, which dug the Petersburg mine, had been present at Vicksburg at the time of the mines there. How did General Burnside decide that his troops must push outward from the Crater to clear the trenches on either side before pushing forward to the crest beyond the Crater? Was that simply reasoning or was it based on observations made of the mine attacks at Vicksburg the previous year, where the advances bogged down as soldiers crowded into the craters and dug out buried foemen? And was there any communication at all on this subject between General Grant and Burnside? I would also have liked to see more about First Deep Bottom and its relationship to the Crater. The authors appear to think that Grant planned rather than merely improvised a one-two punch, advancing first north of James River, and then, after drawing a significant number of enemy troops there, pushing forward on the south side of the James. The only factual error of any significance I found was that a map has the Georgia Brigade of Mahone's Division on the left of the Virginia Brigade at the beginning of its charge, when the text (correctly) has part of the Georgia brigade on the right of the Virginia Brigade. I agree that Grant and General Meade bear much of the responsibility for the Crater fiasco for interfering with Burnside's arrangements. The authors go a little easy on Burnside, though. The use of lots to select which of Burnside's white divisions would lead the charge was an admission that Burnside did not care who was his best division commander. That was General Potter, who had performed so well on June 17 in the initial assaults on Petersburg. Burnside knew or ought to have known that the best division commander in IX Corps was Potter, and Potter's division ought to have led the way. I'll be reading some more recent and expansive books on the Crater and "The Battle of the Crater: The Horrid Pit" will furnish a standard for comparing them. This book remains an excellent introduction to the Crater disaster.
Thursday, October 8, 2015
Lately I have been reading the novels of Ralph Peters. They include "Cain at Gettysburg," "Valley of the Shadow," and "Hell or Richmond." Every one is difficult to set down. The writing is riveting. Peters brings the battles to life. The one I have read most recently is "Hell or Richmond," which covers the Overland Campaign of 1864 in as vivid a fashion as the first two mentioned above. Now he is about to publish another novel, "The Damned of Petersburg," which I can hardly wait to read. I'm taking with me on vacation one of the mysteries set in the Civil War that Peters has written under the pen name of Owen Parry, "Faded Coat of Blue."
Saturday, October 3, 2015
I had a very pleasant time at the Northern Illinois Civil War Round Table last night. I will be speaking at the Lincoln-Davis Civil War Round Table in Alsip, Illinois, November 16, 2016, and at the South Suburban Civil War Round Table in Frankfort, Illinois, November 18, 2016.