Savas Beatie, 2017, 294 pp., $32.95
Image courtesy of amazon.com
I remember the first time I learned about Napoleon Bonaparte and his massive campaigns across Europe and Africa. I was fascinated by the stories which came from them and the imminent failure he received at Waterloo. It is no surprise, then, that many of the battles which occurred in the Civil War were also named with terms such as “Waterloo,” “Tragalger,” and “Austerlitz.” Michael J. McCarthy offers up one of those such battles. Confederate Waterloo deals with the Battle of Five Forks teetering on the edge of the end of the war, focusing not only on the downfall of a general, but the incipient end of the war on the horizon.
Michael J. McCarthy graduated from LeMoyne College with a degree in history and received his Masters in American History in 1971. He has spent a great deal of time working for the government and also received MPA degrees in Public Finance from the University of Albany, and in Public Management from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. His interest in the Battle of Five Forks occurred during a Capital District Civil War Round Table trip to the battlefield. This work before us is an edited version of his dissertation and is his first book on the market.
The Battle of Five Forks is, according to some who even fought in the conflict, a skirmish. However, that account continues to say that “no other fight of the entire four years’ struggle was followed by such important consequences.” When I begin to think about the ending of the Civil War in the East, the Battle of Five Forks comes to mind. Throughout the text, we see that though the Confederate force fought well, they knew what was coming. For those who know next to nothing about the Battle of Five Forks, this work is the place to start. McCarthy handles the narrative of the battle with grace and even shows the reader some of the mistakes which were made on both sides both during and after the battle. While the Union was successful, the clash between both Generals Sheridan and Warren would bring about a lifelong rivalry. This portion of the work was not only well handled, but some of the most interesting writing on military judicial cases I have read. When I first heard that there were chapters devoted to that, I was looking forward to it. The narrative on the battle is wonderful, but I thoroughly enjoyed the work on the judicial case towards the end of the book.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the final days of the Civil War in the East. The narrative on both the battles and the court case were fascinating to read. The research was top notch and McCarthy should take pride in the work which he has accomplished. While this was part of his dissertation, I was happy that the work was able to be published for the public in this form. A fine book indeed!