Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Review: Stoneman's Raid 1865

By Chris J. Hartley

By the spring of 1865 General George Stoneman, had been labeled a failure.  During the Chancellorsville Campaign he led an ultimately fruitless raid toward Richmond.  He followed it up during the Atlanta Campaign by being captured by Joseph Wheeler’s Confederate Cavalry near Macon, Georgia, July 31, 1864, earning the dubious distinction of being the highest ranking Union prisoner of war.  Stoneman’s chance at redemption came in the spring of 1865 when he led approximately 4,000 cavalrymen on a raid into Virginia and North Carolina.

Set against the backdrop of the closing days of the Civil War, Stoneman’s raid occurs simultaneously with the collapse of the Army of Northern Virginia at Petersburg, its eventual surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, the southward fleeing government of the Confederate States, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the manhunt for his killer, John Wilkes Booth.  Given all of these events it is no wonder that Stoneman’s 1865 raid has been in the historical shadow for so many years.

Chris J. Hartley has pulled George Stoneman’s 1865 raid out of the shadows of history by highlighting the raid in his book, “Stoneman’s Raid 1865.”  Thoroughly researched and written in an easily read style, Mr. Hartley’s impressive tome leaves no historical stone unturned.  Beginning in March of 1865 with its planning, Mr. Hartley follows the raiders every day and everywhere they went for following two months of the raid.  He meticulously traces their route through six Confederate states, and tallies up the destruction Stoneman’s troopers left in their wake.

The amount of detail in Mr. Hartley’s book is nothing less than staggering, and it can truly be said that his account of the raid is the most detailed and complete account ever written; 403 pages of text are followed by 77 pages of notes and a 19 page bibliography.

Was the raid successful?  Mr. Hartley’s answer is ultimately no.  Though Stoneman’s raiders left a wide path of destruction and was successful of destroying much of the South’s remaining infrastructure, the raid was launched too late to have any effect on the outcome of the war.  Did the raid redeem George Stoneman’s reputation in the army?  Read the book to find out.

ISBN 978-0895873774, John F. Blair, Publisher, © 2010, Hardcover, 512 pages, Photographs, Maps, Appendices, Endnotes, Bibliography & Index. $27.95

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