Bradley M. Gottfried
2018, 332 pages, $37.50
Image courtesy of amazon.com
If there is one collection of books that have been released in the past fifteen years that I consider essential, it is the Maps of… books by Bradley M. Gottfried. Not only has he supplied some of the most detailed and researched maps, his narratives that move along with the work are also astounding and can aid anyone who reads them to have a greater understanding of the battles they’re looking into. Today’s entry into the series is The Maps of Fredericksburg and Gottfried has entered yet another essential into his series.
Bradley M. Gottfried holds a Ph.D. in Zoology from Miami University and has served as a teacher for higher education for more than forty years. He is also a board member of the Central Virginia Battlefield Trust. Gottfried has authored other works on the American Civil War including Stopping Pickett: The History of the Philadelphia Brigade, Brigades at Gettysburg, and the aforementioned Maps of…series, part of the Savas Beatie Military Atlas titles.
When I talk about the Battle of Fredericksburg with other civil war aficionados, the conversation usually strays towards the leadership of Ambrose Burnside, and or Mayre’s Heights. But even though we continue telling those stories, I know there’s more to the battle than that. Gottfried helps with those tidbits of knowledge that I was unaware of. He details each and every movement that pushes itself towards the battle, and even parts of the aftermath. When one talks about Fredericksburg, they often forget about the participation of Jackson’s forces, and for that, Gottfried has plenty to offer. While the maps are something to behold, the narrative also offers a well written and cohesive study on the campaign as a whole, starting with the retreats from Maryland all the way to the beginning of the battle. He chronicles the replacement of McClellan and the assumption of command for Burnside. It was rather touching to hear the story about the review McClellan gave to the army before leaving, and how the regiments came to him as he made his departure. That is one of the places where Gottfried’s narrative shines; his ability to take human interest stories and still insert them into a series of maps is what makes this book come alive for many. Map sets eight through twelve talk about the attacks happening on the southern portion of the line when the battle first began, and is the lesser talked about aspect of the battle. It was rather refreshing to see that amount of attention set before that portion, and presented in such a way to garner interest. For those who are new to the battle, it should offer them a chance to reach out to other studies of the fight and gain deeper understanding. And that’s another gift that Gottfried gives us in these maps. The narrative is beautiful, yes, but he also gives us motivation to learn more about the campaigns through his extensive research.
Mayre’s Heights is presented here just as well as the attack to the south with Jackson and Meade. And while each map is different, it says something about the command leadership that most of them look fairly the same from page turn to page turn. That’s not a negative on Gottfried, but on Burnside. When you hear the horror stories about this battle, it’s right there in front for you to see. And the portion of the book dedicated to the aftermath of the fight, chronicling the infamous “Mud March” is even more haunting. There is no doubt for anyone to see as to why Burnside’s tenure as commander for the Army of the Potomac lasted as long as it did. I remember seeing the political cartoon with Lady Columbia pointing the finger to the high command and asking how it would answer for all Union dead at Fredericksburg. And as I read through the portions of Mayre’s Heights and the aftermath, it was one of the prevalent images flowing through my head.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the American Civil War as a whole, along with the rest of the excellent atlas series published by Savas Beatie. The maps are beautiful, giving not only a perfect picturesque representation on the battle, but a wonderful narrative as well. Not only should Gottfried be praised, but Savas Beatie for continuing to publish these materials. I look forward to the work of Gottfried, not only in his atlas series, but in his future endeavors as well. Highly recommended!