Thursday, February 19, 2009

Review: Triumph & Defeat: The Vicksburg Campaign

Triumph & Defeat: The Vicksburg Campaign
By Terrence J. Winschel

Are you a Civil War enthusiast who would like to learn about the Vicksburg Campaign, but lack the time to read Edwin C. Bearss’ excellent three volume study? Do you find yourself conversing with people about the Siege of Vicksburg and its surrender and suddenly find you have nothing to say? Or all you a wallflower Civil War Roundtable meetings only listening to what other’s have to say about Grant, Pemberton and Grierson? Then “Triumph and Defeat: The Vicksburg Campaign” is just the book for you.

Written by Terrence J. Winschel, Chief Historian of Vicksburg National Military Park and the author and editor of several books and dozens of articles on the Civil War, “Triumph and Defeat: The Vicksburg Campaign” offers between its covers not one, not two, but ten, yes, that’s right ten essays covering every major aspect of the Vicksburg Campaign, the Siege of Vicksburg and its surrender to Union forces led by Ulysses S. Grant.

Each essay stands alone on its own right and therefore the book lends itself well to those readers who don’t have time to spend on a detail oriented, or multivolume history of the campaign. That said however, some of the introductory material in each essay does become a bit repetitive, especially if you are reading large chunks of this book in one sitting.

It is not, and was not meant to be, a book on the full Vicksburg Campaign. Though mentioned, Chickasaw Bayou, Raymond and Jackson are not discussed in detail. Winschel focuses on Grant’s southward movement along the west bank of the Mississippi River, Grierson’s Raid, the Battles of Port Gibson and Champion Hill, and of course the siege of Vicksburg.

Among the many informative essays in this book are:
  • “Unvexed to the Sea,” in which Mr. Winschel explains Grant’s options for capturing the fortress city on the bluffs of the Mississippi River, and why his previous attempts failed.

  • “Playing Smash with the Railroads” is an essay dealing with Union Colonel Benjamin Grierson's raid from La Grange, Mississippi to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, after which Grierson was appointed Brigadier General. If your only knowledge of Grierson’s Raid comes from watching “The Horse Soldiers,” directed by John Ford and staring John Wayne & William Holden, then this essay is for you.

  • “Spades are Trump” is a look at the siege operations around Vicksburg which foreshadows the fate to befall the Confederate Army at Petersburg, Virginia a year later.
And also…
  • “Shut Up as in a Trap,” a view of life inside the besieged city.
Well researched and simply written, Mr. Winschel’s slim volume on the Vicksburg Campaign with illustrations, photographs and maps throughout is easy to read and understand. This book is equally useful to the Civil War expert and novice alike. Get yours today!

ISBN 978-1882810314, Savas Publishing, © 1999, Hardcover, 220 pages, Maps, Photographs and Illustrations, End Notes, Bibliography & Index

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