A military history book focuses on the Civil War campaigns on the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers.
In his characteristically detailed style, Zimmerman (Guide to Civil War Nashville, 2nd Ed., 2019, etc.) provides a thorough battle history of Union Navy gunboats and Confederate gunners and cavalry in eastern Missouri, middle-to-western Tennessee, and western Kentucky. The unique geography of this region made the military campaigns there different from anywhere else during the Civil War. In one of the only places where the Union extensively deployed its “brown-water navy,” military tacticians on both sides had “no gameplan to consult” as the “rules were created as the battles were fought.” Virtually no other site in the war pitted Union gunboats against Confederate cavalry and field artillery. Adding to the lore of the Tennessee and Cumberland campaigns was that they featured some of the most famous figures of the Confederacy, including Kentucky’s John Hunt Morgan and Tennessee’s Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. In addition to their distinctiveness, the author argues that the conflicts along the Tennessee and Cumberland were critical to the ultimate success of the Union forces in the war. While most of the information in these pages has been covered by historians for a century, Zimmerman’s contribution is his ability to synthesize vast quantities of arcane military data into an accessible package. The book abounds with maps, fort schematics, charts, and photographs. It also features many well-placed insets with vignettes on particular weapons, people, and places. Civil War scholars may be perturbed by the lack of footnotes and references, though the volume does contain a bibliography that cites a number of academic books. General audiences and Civil War enthusiasts alike will be drawn to the work’s aesthetic appeal and ample use of visual aids. The volume concludes with a travel guide to the region’s battle sites that is particularly insightful, given the author’s active participation in numerous state and local Civil War preservation societies.
An engrossing, comprehensive examination of key Civil War river battles.