Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Civil War Technology

I recently asked my fellow members of the LinkedIn Civil War Sesquicential Network "Which of the following scientific/technological inventions had the greatest impact on the Civil War?"

The members selected the rifled gun (41%) as their first choice, followed by using trains to transport troops (28%),  telegraph communications (15%), battlefield sanitation and triage (10%), and ironclad ships (5%).  The results are based on a 5.8% participation.

Other websites came up with the following ideas:

* Railroads, medicine, rifled musket and the minie ball - Hackman-Adams
* Photography, submarines, railroads, rifles and the minie ball - Civil War Academy
* Rifled gun, railroads, telegraph, ironclads  - - videos
* Rifled musket, telegraph, railroads - Technology and the Civil War
* Telegraph and aerial reconnaisance, railroads, ambulance corps, long-range weapons and the minie ball, the Gatling gun, ironclads, naval mines & torpedoes - History Detectives

Based on these surveyed websites, I selected the most prominent technologies for my poll.

You might also want to check out these books.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Battle of Fort Donelson by James R. Knight

The Battle of Fort Donelson by James Knight is a well-done presentation of this key battle in the Western Theater.  James does a great job setting the scene including construction of Forts Henry and Donelson, commissioning the Union ironclads and gunboats, and the relationship between Generals Grant and Halleck.

Knight has skillfully blended information from the Official Records, personal memoirs, and other authors to produce a very readable and interesting work. The book makes good use of historic photographs and Hal Jespersen's maps to complement the well-written narrative. The chapter foot notes help document Knight's book and provide additional resources for further reading and analysis.

James Knight is a former pilot for Federal Express turned historical writer.  He is the author of Bonnie and Clyde: A 21st Century Update and Letters to Anna. Knight lives in Franklin, TN where he works a a part-time interpreter for the Battle of Franklin Trust. Hi first title in The History Press' Sesquicentennial Series, The Battle of Franklin, was published in 2009.

This compact (141 pages) presentation of the battle should be mandatory reading before visiting Fort Donelson.

I rate The Battle of Fort Donelson

Monday, January 9, 2012

Hal Jespersen's Civil War Maps

Good news for those of you who are fans of Hal Jespersen's Civil War maps on Wikipedia.  Hal has his own brand new web site at

For those of you not familiar with his work, Hal is a freelance cartographer who specializes in creating battle and campaign maps for the American Civil War. Since 2004 Hal has written hundreds of Wikipedia articles about the war and illustrated them with 200+ elaborate maps, which are available for free.

The site contains a table with his free maps.   Here's Hal's map of the Fort Henry Campaign.

Hal is now offering his services to the public and I am happy to report that he has agreed to prepare maps for my biography of Major General C. F. Smith.  Hal describes his services and fee structure on the services page of his site.

I might add that Civil War writers would do well to have Hal prepare maps for their efforts.  His clear, easy to read maps will enhance any manuscript. 

Please visit Hal's site for more information.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Sesquicentenial Events for 2012

Antietam, MD
The Civil War enterted its second year in 1862 with major victories in the West and devastating defeats in the East.  If we can judge by critical and strategic battles (class A), the year 1862 was the most significant of the war.

  • 1861 - 3 class A battles
  • 1862 - 14
  • 1863 - 8
  • 1864 - 13
  • 1865 - 7
Fort Donelson, TN
The year also marked the emergence of U.S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, Nathan Bedford Forrest, and William T. Sherman.  On the downside, Union generals McClellan, Pope, and Burnside fell from grace. 

Plan on celebrating the Sesquicentennial of these battles in 2012.