Eric J. Wittenberg
Savas Beatie, 2018, 288 Pgs., $29.95
Image Courtesy of amazon.com
When you’re looking for material on the cavalry for the American Civil War, look no further than Eric J. Wittenberg. His books covering the cavalry actions during the campaign of Gettysburg have become masterworks and some of them are already being called necessary studies. His book, Holding the Line on the River of Death chronicles cavalry operations on the first day of Chickamauga, and in usual Wittenberg style, he brings the depth to this research that unmatched when it comes to cavalry studies.
Eric J. Wittenberg is a prolific author on the American Civil War and, as was stated in the introduction, covers a great deal of material on cavalry operations during that conflict. His books include The Devil’s to Pay: John Buford at Gettysburg. A History and Walking Tour, of which he was awarded the Gettysburg Civil War Roundtable’s 2015 Book Award. Gettysburg’s Forgotten Cavalry Actions, The Battle of Brandy Station: North America’s Largest Cavalry Battle, and Protecting the Flank: the Battles for Brinkerhoff’s Ridge and East Cavalry Field. While he has written other works on the war, there are too many to name here. He also runs tours at numerous Civil War Battlefields and has worked in saving land at Trevilian Station and Brandy Station, Virginia.
While my main study throughout the years has been the Battle of Gettysburg, I have been reading quite a bit more on the western theater as of late. This book has helped me in that regard. Hold the Line on the River of Death is one of those books that I needed. In his usual narrative style, Wittenberg writes out the chain of events in a way that allows the reader to have a full comprehension about the material. This follows the first day at Chickamauga and the actions of the Union cavalry under Colonel Minty. It also follows Colonel Wilder’s “Lightning Brigade” which were mounted infantry. And here, we see that they were able to hold off the enemy with delaying actions. The narrative of the fight details the grand defense made by the Union, and the frustration of the enemy, including Bragg who was delayed heavily by this action. Wittenberg brings sufficient introduction to all of this, with the stepping stones of battle plotted out properly for the reader. The book is also accompanied by a few appendices and a driving tour. The appendices detail orders of battle and a section on tactics that are useful to any Civil War student.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the western theater of the war. Wittenberg always brings a significant amount of research to his material, and this book is no exception. As I am not well versed on the western theater, I’m not certain how this subject has been covered in the past, but I can say now that this book will satisfy any reader who wants to look deeper into Chickamauga or the west. And as far as more books on the cavalry are concerned, you can’t go wrong with this one. Highly recommended!