James R. Knight
The History Press, 2014, 205 pp., $19.99
Image courtesy of civilwartalk.com
When many people think about General John Bell Hood after the Gettysburg Campaign, there is this remembrance of the burning of Atlanta which brings about images of Gone With the Wind. In this work, however, James R. Knight reminds us that there was much more to the end of the war concerning John Bell Hood than we think. As the narrative moves on, there is not much hope for the Confederate army to begin with leading to the defeat and a long heartbreak all throughout Tennessee. Much in the style of The History Press, what is presented here is quite a bit of information unknown to some people, known to others, but presented in a fashion which renders the work as a great addition to Civil War academia.
James R. Knight is a graduate of Harding University from the Class of 1967 and spent five years as a pilot in the United States Air Force. Keeping with his skills as a pilot, he also worked for Federal Express for thirty-one years. This is Knight’s fourth book for The History Press Sesquicentennial Series with his other focus being on the Battles of Franklin, Fort Donelson and Pea Ridge. He now is a historical interpreter for the Battle of Franklin Trust and gives tours at the Carter House.
There is a lot to be said about Hood’s Tennessee Campaign as a whole but the endeavor is so massive it often makes historians exhausted. However, in this work, there is quite a bit of material which offers a unique insight into the psychology of the men and the actions of the men. As the subtitle states, there are many points in this work where the actions of the Confederate army seem quite desperate and useless. The nature of the campaign seemed to be that way at every turn and even with the help of the great cavalier, Nathan Bedford Forrest, there was little hope to be had. The book opens with a visit to the army from Jefferson Davis and it is an event which is well documented in history. While the discussion between Davis and Hood is not entirely known, what is presented is the conflict and friction between the high command of the Army of Tennessee. Throughout the text, there are also many well drawn maps to aid the reader in the understanding of the expanse of Tennessee. Often times, especially those who focus on the War in the East, there is a lack of understanding on how large Tennessee is. With these maps, even I had an understanding of what was going on as the men were maneuvering throughout the large expanses of the state. Knight, though he has already done extensive research on the battle, talks about Franklin and does so in such a way that the engagement is not bogged down in details. When writing a book on the entirety of a campaign, the lack of detail in a battle itself, I felt, was a positive decision.
There is a lot of information presented in this material. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the War in the West during the end of the conflict. Many feel that once Vicksburg falls, the War in the West was over. This work proves that is not quite the case. James R. Knight should be praised for the work he is bringing to this area of the war and I look forward to what he will be presenting next.