The Bonfire: The Siege and Burning of Atlanta

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The Bonfire: The Siege and Burning of Atlanta
Marc Wortman
ISBN 978-1-58648-482-8
Pub date: 08/11/09
Price: $28.95/36.50 Canada
6 1/8 x 9 1/4
464 pages

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The good folks at PublicAffairs Books sent me a review copy of Marc Wortman’s  The Bonfire: The Siege and Burning of Atlanta viewable on my virtual bookshelves here. I decided to create a shelf specific to “Civil War Sieges” because this book doesn’t quite fit in other categories. That uniqueness is part of its draw.

Full disclosure: This is my usual “pre-read” post where I’ll share some early impressions. Wortman had me before page one because he put six nicely done maps right up front. His poignant introduction left me with no recourse but to read on. A small excerpt:

War is cruelty. Its bloodshed and destruction – the “hard hand of war,” as Sherman really did call it – struck Atlanta with a greater ferocity than it has any American city in history. This is the story of how Atlanta and its people came to be in the direct line of the whirlwind, what one of the besieged city’s Confederate defenders called “a grand holocaust of death.” (Wortman, 2)

Having read the first chapter, I can say that Wortman has a talent for turning a phrase. His depiction of a devastated Atlanta on the morning of September 2, 1864 put me there.

A reeking sulfurous stew that stung the eyes had already settled over the town, filling the railroad cuts, hollows, and streets. Its tendrils wavered along the hillsides and ravines and sifted through the blackened skeletons of what once were houses and factories, railcars and machine shops. It was the silence, though, that shocked people most. Three predawn hours of gut-rattling, earsplitting, and window-shattering explosions and gunfire made the previous night feel like the announcement that the Apocalypse had finally come. But the infernal noise had ended shortly before morning’s light tipped into the eyes of those hunkered down within the earth. (Wortman, 5)

From reading just a few chapters of book, its TOC, and its index, I can add that Wortman’s work emphasizes the broader historical context of the war, covers the importance of railroads during the Civil War, provides insights into the conflict as seen from the perspectives of common soldiers and citizens, and draws upon a substantial amount of primary sources. All of these are pluses.

I look forward to a thorough reading.

Marc Wortman

Marc Wortman

Author Marc Wortman, see his website here,  is a freelance journalist of some acclaim. He received his doctorate in Comparative Literature from Princeton University.

An earlier book published by PublicAffairs Books in May of 2007, The Millionaires’ Unit: The Aristocratic Flyboys Who Fought the Great War and Invented American Air Power, also looks like a great read and I recently ordered a copy. Per the publisher, it is in development as a major motion picture. Of note, both of Wortman’s histories are available in Kindle versions which means you can begin reading them in about 40 seconds.

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This just in – Amazon Kindle for iPhone Application

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Amazon hit my mailbox with their announcement about the launch of a Kindle application for the iPhone and iPhone Touch. This effectively makes available to iPhone users the 240,000 books currently in the Kindle Store. I know my previous posts on my new Kindle 2 (see below) generated a lot of discussion so I’ll be interested in whether any of you iPhone users plan to give this a try. I have an iPhone Touch and will give it a go myself. I’ve heard some of you say that you have some challenges reading books on your iPhone so will be interested in your thoughts. I’m assuming the size factor is one of the key issues.

Of note, I’ve read posts around the net about rumors of a larger Kindle targeted toward the student market. I’ve heard it would be 81/2 by 11 inches and thus perfect for textbooks and  storing school documents or journal reading assignments. VERY COOL if it happens. The Kindle 2 missed some rumored launch dates so rumors are rumors.

The folks at Oxford University Press seem to be jumping on the Kindle bandwagon. As I mentioned in my post titled Copperheads: The Rise and Fall of Lincoln’s Opponents in the North, Weber’s book is available in a Kindle version. Also, their dictionary is preloaded on Kindle 2 and can provide word-by-word definitions at the bottom of the page as you read through a book if you so desire.

It will be interesting to see if Amazon will port their application to other phones and networks in the near future. Sprint’s Instinct, HTC Touch, and the upcoming Palm Pre (I want one) would seem to be excellent options.

What this does signal is another way to quickly download, carry, and read not only books in print but the myriad of “public domain” documents available, many being primary source material. See my previous post here on just a few of those titles already loaded on Amazon for download at either no charge or minimal charge that should be of interest to those into 19th century American and / or the American Civil War.

Here are quick links to the previous posts on Kindle 2. I recommend, if you are intrigued and considering a Kindle 2, that you read the comments.

My New Kindle 2
More on My New Kindle 2
WOW – This just In! Kindle Store has 7000 Public Domain Books including Civil War Memoirs
Free or Inexpensive American Civil War Titles for Kindle

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E. L. Doctorow's The March and The Whiskey Rebels: A Novel by David Liss

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Two new fiction works have made their way to my library. The March by E. L. Doctorow. This book was required reading for the Yale course by David W. Blight on the Civil War era which I mentioned here. I picked up a nice hardback used and am listening to it on my MP3 via download from the library.

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    • Author: E. L. Doctorow
    • Hardcover: 363 pages
    • Publisher: Random House (September 20, 2005)
    • Language: English
    • ISBN-10: 0375506713
    • 384 pages

    Second, I have The Whiskey Rebels: A Novel by David Liss which I ordered on my new Kindle 2 only. I may pick up a used copy at some point. As I mentioned in my post on the Kindle, I can also listen to The Whiskey Rebels: A Novel via text-to-speech capabilities on the Kindle.

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    • Author: David Liss
    • Format: Kindle Edition
    • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (September 30, 2008)
    • Language: English
    • ASIN: B0015DYJVW
    • File Size: 443 KB
    • Print Length: 544 pages
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    Finally! Tocqueville's Democracy in America

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    I have finally purchased my own copy of Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, as translated by Arthur Goldhammer. Tocqueville’s works rank near the top of the the most frequently quoted in a great many of the books I’ve been reading this term and in previous terms for that matter. I decided on The Library of America version because, as was the case with my purchase of Frederick Douglass Autobiographies (see post here), I like the look and feel.

    You can read some of Tocqueville’s work, including both volumes of Democracy in America at Project Gutenberg here.

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    Alexis De Tocqueville

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    IUP Civil War and Lincoln Book Sale – Dude!

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    If you hadn’t noticed, I am a hopeless book acquirer. But, like most folks, I am watching my book budget these days. That said, I found a sale going on this month over at Indiana University Press that has some awesome deals. To commemorate the Lincoln Bicentennial, they’ve put books on sale about both Lincoln and the Civil War.

    There are some serious deals over there. Example: One of my favorite books, The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare by Edward Hagerman – FIVE BUCKs. And FREE SHIPPING – if you buy $25 or more (I discovered). I couldn’t help myself and didn’t have any trouble making the $25 threshold.

    Note to self. Buy more bookshelves.

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    New Acquisition – Fredrerick Douglass Autobiographies

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    My study of Antebellum America this term has revealed a significant gap in my library. That has been filled with the arrival this week of Frederick Douglass: Autobiographies. I purchased The Library of America edition. I like the look and feel.

    It includes three works:

    douglass

    • Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave
    • My Bondage and My Freedom
    • Life and Times of Frederick Douglass

    From historian Bruce Levine,

    “Frederick Douglass’s magnificent autobiography, The Life and Time of Frederick Douglass is indispensable.”

    I look forward to getting to know this important American.

    Bruce Levine, Half Slave and Half Free: The Roots of Civil War, Revised (Hill and Wang: New York, 2005), 264.

    Abraham Lincoln: A Presidential Life

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    alaplYesterday, I was pleased to receive a review copy of James M. McPherson’s upcoming release, Abraham Lincoln: A Presidential Life from Oxford University Press. It is scheduled to be released on the date marking the 200th year since Lincoln’s birth. While I’ve yet to complete it, I was impressed by Dr. McPherson’s candor in the introduction about his own shift in opinion about Lincoln and his presidency. While initially critical of Lincoln, not unlike the abolitionists of the era of his presidency, McPherson’s years of study brought new appreciation for Lincoln’s skills as an adroit commander-in-chief tasked with challenges of incredible complexity.

    Hardcover: 96 pages
    Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (February 1, 2009)
    Language: English
    ISBN-10: 0195374525
    ISBN-13: 978-0195374520
    Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.1 x 0.7 inches

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    May Civil War and Military History Book Acquisitions – II

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    Continuing with my May book acquisitions which illustrate, as said by Civil War Interactive’s comments on my blog this week, why bank robbery may be needed to support my book-buying habits…

    How Abraham Lincoln Used the Telegraph to Win the Civil War
  • ISBN-10: 0061129801
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Collins; Reprint edition (January 22, 2008)   
  • This looks like a great read. Author Tom Wheeler, an accomplished man by any measure, has a terrific website here with more about his book and research. This has moved to the top of my list of reading for between terms.

    The Eastern Campaigns, 1861-1864 (Civil War America)
  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press (April 6, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807829315
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    Field Fortifications in the Overland Campaign (Civil War America)
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press (September 5, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807831549
  • I have DISCOVERED Dr. Hess and the growing list of terrific titles he has published on the Civil War. No doubt his other books will show up in my library before long. Dr. Hess, who has impressive academic credentials, has a website here. His book, Pickett’s Charge: The Last Attack at Gettysburg, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

    Union Military Policy toward Southern Civilians, 1861-1865
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; New edition (February 28, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521599415
  • I’ve been intending to pick this up. Authored by military history professor and fellow blogger Mark Grimsley, it too is at the top of my reading list. Dr. Grimsley’s OSU webpage is here. His blog is here.

    Confederate Strategy Reconsidered (American Crisis Series)
    Retreat to Victory?: Confederate Strategy Reconsidered (American Crisis Series)
    By Robert G. Tanner
  • Paperback: 162 pages
  • Publisher: SR Books (January 28, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 084202882X
  • My post, “Fabian Strategy and the American Civil War” here, lead me to this book. One of my readers recommended it and suggests that it proves that the Confederacy could not have used the Fabian strategy effectively. I’m looking forward to this one.

    The European Inheritance
  • Paperback: 284 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas; New Ed edition
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0700603794
  • Jav Luvaas is another prolific writer of military history and my collection of his books is growing. I first discovered his work while taking the course, Great Military Philosopers (see “The Courses” page here for details. I picked up his titles: Napoleon on the Art of War and Frederick the Great on the Art of War.

    I’ll be adding these authors to my “The Historians” page shortly.

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    This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War

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    Pamela Cortland at Alfred A. Knopf Publishing (an imprint of the Knopf Publishing Group at Random House) has given me the opportunity to review on Wig Wags what looks like a fascinating book. I should have it in hand by early next week but wanted to go ahead and make a quick comment.

    Death and the American Civil War

    Format: Hardcover, 368 pages
    On Sale: January 8, 2008
    Price: $27.95
    ISBN: 978-0-375-40404-7 (0-375-40404-X)

    This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War by Drew Gilpin Faust is a study of how the country came to terms with the 620,000 deaths that resulted from the Civil War. Given my recent posts on death and injury on the battlefield (see here and here), the topic is of considerable interest to me.

    It is almost inconceivable to think of losing that many of our countrymen and women today in the cause of any war. The impact at the personal level – among both those who died and those who loved them – is one measure of the war’s magnitude. Another is the enormity of the logistics of dealing with that much death.  Drew G. Faust

    The book’s author, Drew Gilpin Faust, holds the Lincoln Professorship of History at Harvard University and was, oh by the way, installed as its president a few months ago as well. You can read more about President Faust here.

    She authored five previous books, including Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War, which won the Francis Parkman Prize awarded by the Society of American Historians and the Avery Craven Prize. I’ll be adding President Faust to my “the historians” Page.

    More on the book later.

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    New Class Started Today – Historiography

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    The next term started today! The class is “Historiography.” I’ve been looking forward to this class in that it steps back anmodern-historiography.jpgd takes a look at the study of historical thought itself. I also consider it important for the development of solid historical research skills. From the course description, “it concentrates on how history has been interpreted, rather the facts of history themselves. The course contemplates the fundamental questions about the nature of history and investigates the relationships between theory and evidence in historical writing.”

    The assignments will actually offer opportunity for some focus on the Civil War but I’m very interested in the more general topic.historiography.jpg

    I posted the reading list on “the courses” page in case you are interested including the web-based readings. Primary texts include the following:

    Bentley, Michael. Modern Historiography: An Introduction. London: Routledge, 1999. 

    Breisach, Ernst. Historiography: Ancient, Medieval, and Modern, 2nd Edition. Chicago: University of Chicago PreThe Houses of Historyss, 1994.

    Green, Anna, and Kathleen Troup, eds. The Houses of History: A Critical Reader in Twentieth-Century History and Theory. New York: New York University Press, 1999.

    Marius, Richard. A Short Guide to Writing about History. NY: Longmans, 1999Short Guide

    Turabian, Kate L. Manual for Writers of Term Papers, 6th Edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996. 

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    Civil War books filling every nook and cranny

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    A couple of weeks ago, I had to purchase a new bookcase for all of the Civil War books I’ve purchased. This is troubling in that I’m only in my first graduate course on the topic. OK book purchasing is a serious addiction of mine and always has been. Ask anyone who knows me.

    Note on my “the courses” page the list of required books for my classes and then the very long list of “recommended” books. The latter are in the syllabus as…”in case you have extra time.” I DO try to make the time although I never have enough. But I manage to buy most of the recommended books just in case. I must be the “target market” of Civil War publishers.

    The encouragement to purchase the bookcase came from those who live in my household and became concerned by the stacks of books in walkways. Go figure. Unfortunately, the bookcase wasn’t big enough and it has four shelves!