Savas Beatie, 2015, 170 pp. + 22 pp. introduction, $12.95
Image courtesy of amazon.com
The Emerging Civil War Series has been a pleasure to read since its inception and now, Chris Mackowski gives us the new installment Strike Them a Blow about the Battle along the North Anna River. While this book it not titled as a sequel, Strike Them a Blow follows the action of A Season of Slaughter which was about the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse. The period of May in 1864 for the armies in the eastern theater of the war was grueling and this book adds to the toll which both armies of Lee and Grant took during that infamous month.
Chris Mackowski is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Emerging Civil War. He is also the historian-in-reference at Stevenson Ridge which is part of the Spotsylvania battlefield. On top of all his work with the Emerging Civil War, he is a professor of journalism and mass communication at Saint Bonaventure University in western New York. Some of his other works in the Emerging Civil War Series are That Furious Struggle, Simply Murder, and The Last Days of Stonewall Jackson. He has also authored other books outside of the series: Chancellorsville’s Forgotten Front, The Dark, Close Wood and Seizing Destiny: The Army of the Potomac’s Valley Forge and the Civil War Winter that Saved the Union.
One of the best things about the Emerging Civil War Series is the way in which they can be used to help tour the battlefield. After the narrative in every chapter, there are touring tips and this is incredibly useful in a battlefield such as along the North Anna River. Not only do the chapters help with the tour by sectionalizing parts of the days from May 21-25, but they also provide photographs of the commanders and the locations themselves with some excellent battle maps. After the guide within the narrative is over, there are a great number of appendices, six to be exact, which explain more about the battle and other aspects of the combat not deeply covered in the narrative. The best part of the narratives written by Mackowski was the humanity which he brought to the commanders, soldiers and the people of the battle. One such occasion was a human interest story about a woman who was so staunch in her opinion of Sherman never taking the field. She claimed that she knew the country better than anyone else and stated that no army could ever take it. Those small bits of humanity is what makes not only this book, but the Emerging Civil War Series quite excellent.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the Battle along the North Anna River and anyone who is touring the battlefields of Virginia. This book is essential to understanding what happened there and offers many tips and stops while you tour the field. In the myriad of battle tour guides throughout the Civil War world, Strike Them a Blow will give you the best tour and descriptions about this combat more than any other. Mackowski should be praised for what he has accomplished here.