Earl J. Hess
The University of North Carolina Press, 2015, 272 pp. + 16 pp. introduction, $35.00
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The Battle of Ezra Church and the Struggle for Atlanta is another gem in the collection of works written by Earl J. Hess. As he has done in the past, Hess has been able to take a subject or a campaign and give it a whole new light. Just as he had accomplished with field fortifications during the Civil War, he brings the same academia and excellence to this battle in the Atlanta Campaign. Starting with the maneuvers of both armies all the way to the conclusion of the battle, The Battle of Ezra Church is one of the few accounts of the battle which presents the combat in a thrilling fashion.
Earl J. Hess is the Stewart W. McClelland Chair in History at Lincoln Memorial University. He has authored many works on the Civil War including Kennesaw Mountain: Sherman, Johnston, and the Atlanta Campaign and The Civil War in the West. He is also the author of the acclaimed fortification series on the war which includes Field Armies and Fortifications in the Civil War, Trench Warfare Under Grant and Lee, and In the Trenches at Petersburg. The Battle of Ezra Church is also part of the Civil War America series printed by The University of North Carolina Press.
As he has done with his previous works, Hess approaches this battle with the same academic excellence he has always done. Not knowing too much about the battle myself, I found the narrative easy to follow through his descriptions of the commanders both North and South. The chapters separate the battle by date and brigade which only added to the understanding of the combat element of the battle. It also gives the narrative a great amount of focus to know that in certain chapters, only certain brigades and dates will be spoken about. The book is also aided by photographs, portraits and maps of the battle giving the reader a better idea of what the area looked like. What amazed me the most was the overall even tempered writing style of the work. Never throughout the narrative did I feel as though Hess took preference of the Union or Confederate forces. Each side was given its due narrative. Hess was also fair in his descriptions sourcing many primary accounts allowing the reader to create their own opinion of the people involved. There have been too many books where the author ends up telling you what you should think about the people involved. Here, Hess writes professionally and leaves the judgment to the reader.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the American Civil War in the East and anyone who loves to read about the Atlanta Campaign. It is meticulously researched and sourced giving the narrative a nice flow. Earl Hess has succeeded in his style of presenting new material in conflicts and areas of the war which many feel no longer need to be covered. I believe I can safely say that The Battle of Ezra Church and the Struggle for Atlanta is the finest work on this engagement yet written.