Benjamin Franklin Cooling
University of Nebraska Press, 2007, 355 pp., $24.95
Image courtesy of americancivilwar.com
Counter-Thrust, a work on the Peninsula Campaign through the Antietam Campaign, was part of the Great Campaigns of the Civil War series published by the University of Nebraska Press. Due to the nature of the series, this work is quite in depth and not only pays attention to the military details of the campaign, but looks into the realm of the political spectrum especially when it comes to the relationship between President Lincoln and General McClellan. What Cooling has presented is a great source into the deciding campaigns in the east and does so in a flowing narrative which rarely goes stale.
Benjamin Franklin Cooling is a professor of national security studies at Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security. He is also a Resource Strategist at the National Defense University in Washington. He has authored many works on the American Civil War including The Day Lincoln Was Almost Shot: The Fort Stevens Story. His most recent work is To the Battles of Franklin and Nashville and Beyond. The majority of his works have dealt with the American Civil War.
Cooling understands something about the eastern campaigns in 1862 that many other historians seem to ignore in their studies on these battles: politics. There have been many studies into the militaristic nature of the Peninsula Campaign and the Antietam Campaign but there are only a handful of studies which look into the political aspect of the fighting. In the more recent years, these studies have come about which makes Cooling one of the main proponents of this area of study. While there are those writings which have always looked into the politics of the campaigns, Cooling does so by combining both the politics and the military without having any trouble in the narrative. It is common knowledge that Lincoln and McClellan had a difficult relationship, but this account gives us a more in depth look into the inner workings of the Washington politics when “interfering” with the army. While the military analysis was interesting, the work shines through all the other aspects, the firsts being the political, the second being the intelligence gathering. One of the statements made in the work is that the Pinkertons sent to aid in the efforts during the Maryland Campaign would be for naught since many of the messages they attempted to get through the lines had failed. The ideals of military intelligence are often overlooked in Civil War academia and Cooling gives us that realm of study. Overall, the work never stifles due to the many different things which the author is giving us in the work and the research is quite good and formatted greatly.
This book, though stated to be a bit of an introduction to the campaigns, is an in depth look into what was going on during the late summer to the early fall of 1862 in the east. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants and all-encompassing look into the field of not only the military, but in the political and intelligence gathering world of the Civil War. Benjamin Franklin Cooling has done a great work in this book with impeccable citations and bibliography along with his flowing narrative. Highly recommended.