Field Armies and Fortifications in the Civil War: The Eastern Campaigns, 1861-1864 [NOOK Book]

Overview

Earl J. Hess provides a narrative history of the use of fortifications--particularly trenches and other semi-permanent earthworks--used by Confederate and Union field armies at all major battle sites in the eastern theater of the Civil War. Hess moves beyond the technical aspects of construction to demonstrate the crucial role these earthworks played in the success or failure of field armies. A comprehensive study which draws on research and fieldwork from 300 battle sites, Field Armies and Fortifications in the ...
See more details below
Field Armies and Fortifications in the Civil War: The Eastern Campaigns, 1861-1864

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$15.49
BN.com price
(Save 44%)$27.99 List Price

Overview

Earl J. Hess provides a narrative history of the use of fortifications--particularly trenches and other semi-permanent earthworks--used by Confederate and Union field armies at all major battle sites in the eastern theater of the Civil War. Hess moves beyond the technical aspects of construction to demonstrate the crucial role these earthworks played in the success or failure of field armies. A comprehensive study which draws on research and fieldwork from 300 battle sites, Field Armies and Fortifications in the Civil War is an indispensable reference for Civil War buffs and historians.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Hess's argument. . . Calls into question the historical importance of the rifle-muskets, thus becoming one of the most significant historiographical debates among currently practicing Civil War military historians. . . . A valuable contribution."
The North Carolina Historical Review

"A very readable, intelligent history of the Civil War in the east with emphases on fortifications."
OCWOC: A Civil War Blog

"This groundbreaking book should inspire other historians to take on similar difficult but important topics. . . . When completed, [this] remarkable study will be as original, as sophisticated, as significant, and as welcome as any Civil War military history yet published."
The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

"A visit to one of the sites covered in the work will profit from Hess' description of the terrain and the armies' fortifications."
Civil War News

"Recommended to anyone interested in the creation, use, and effectiveness of Civil War field fortifications."
On Point

"Field fortifications played a major role in the American Civil War, evolving from a widely despised expedient to a universally recognized necessity. It is a cause for astonishment that no one has attempted a scholarly look at that burgeoning military development—until now. Field Armies and Fortifications, by Earl J. Hess, ably takes on the important topic, and makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the war. (Robert K. Krick, author of Stonewall Jackson at Cedar Mountain and The Smoothbore Volley That Doomed the Confederacy)"

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807876398
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 4/25/2005
  • Series: Civil War America
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 1,304,163
  • File size: 6 MB

Meet the Author

Earl J. Hess is associate professor of history at Lincoln Memorial University. He is author of many books on the Civil War, including, most recently, The Civil War in the West: Victory and Defeat from the Appalachians to the Mississippi.
Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

Field Armies and Fortifications in the Civil War

The Eastern Campaigns, 1861-1864
By Earl J. Hess

The University of North Carolina Press

Copyright © 2005 The University of North Carolina Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-8078-2931-5


Chapter One

Engineering War

Responsibility for fortifications in the pre-Civil War army rested with the Corps of Engineers, the elite of the military establishment. Created initially by the Second Continental Congress in 1779 and renewed in different form by the Congress of the new government in 1794, the corps was institutionalized in its current form in 1802. A separate group of topographical engineers, responsible for mapmaking, was created in the War of 1812 and given its own institutional status in 1838 as the Corps of Topographical Engineers. The U.S. Engineer Department was created immediately after the War of 1812 to serve the administrative needs of the corps. It was headed by the chief engineer.

The Corps of Engineers owed its status to its role as keeper of a body of technical knowledge and its tight connection with the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Created in 1802, the academy had a curriculum that was heavily oriented toward engineering. Political support for it stemmed largely from the assumption that West Point could produce a number of well-trained engineers who would eventually return to civilian life with their technical skills. The Corps of Engineers controlled the academy. Only engineer officers were appointed as superintendents, and most of the faculty were former or current members of the corps. Beginning in 1842, the assistant professor of engineering was required to participate in postgraduate training in military engineering under the academy's most famous faculty member, Dennis Hart Mahan, the acknowledged expert on fortifications in the United States. Mahan put his students through a rigorous pace in this course, requiring each one to design a fortification for a particular site and plan an attack against it.

Cadets also were exposed to practical experience in field fortification. In his third year at the academy, Cyrus B. Comstock took a course called Practical Engineering. He and his classmates spent two hours every day making fascines, gabions, and sap rollers. The class regularly visited Washington Valley, where the only company of engineers in the army maintained a demonstration site. Here the cadets watched as saps and parallels were made, inspected "a small lunette with palisaded gorge," or looked at the effects of 10-inch Columbiad fire on "different materials for embrasures." They used sticks to profile the shape of a parapet and studied examples of several different types of obstructions, from abatis to chevaux-de-frise. Civil engineering was a large component of the academy curriculum as well. The top graduates of the academy, roughly 12 percent, were commissioned directly into the engineers, the topographical engineers, or as ordnance officers.

The prestige of the Corps of Engineers, as well as its connection to the academy, was the basis of its elevated status within the army, a status jealously guarded by the officers who headed the corps. The corps liked to throw its weight around during intramural conflicts, and it also was the most politically active branch of the army. Corps heads often fought with politicians over West Point and the other major aspect of the corps' existence, its responsibility for building and maintaining an ambitious and very expensive system of coastal forts. Approved in the wake of the army's dismal performance in the War of 1812, the Third System consisted of about twenty-five masonry forts of various sizes and designs strung out along the coastline of the United States. Costing millions of dollars and mostly complete by the time of the Civil War, it was "the centerpiece of national defense," in the words of historian William B. Skelton.

The emphasis on coastal forts helped to justify the maintenance of the Coast Survey, created in 1807 to map the long coastline of the country. It operated under a limited budget and relied heavily on navy and army engineers for survey duties. The Coast Survey also hired promising civilians and gave them valuable topographical engineering experience. It provided another pipeline, besides West Point, for the training of engineers experienced in government-sponsored projects.

As the primary repository of technical expertise in engineering, the corps had a heavy influence on the many U.S. military missions sent to observe European armies. American officers traveled to Europe more than 150 times from the end of the War of 1812 until the outbreak of the Civil War. While more than half of those trips were undertaken as private travel by officers on leave, the rest were officially financed observer missions. The Thayer-McRee Mission of 1815-17 was important in bringing to America the idea that all things French were the final word in military affairs.

But more important than the Thayer-McRee Mission was the Delafield Commission of 1855-56. Three officers took part: Maj. Richard Delafield of the engineers, Maj. Alfred Mordecai of the Ordnance Department, and Capt. George B. McClellan of the cavalry. All three had originally been commissioned into the Corps of Engineers upon their graduation from West Point. The object of the commission was to observe military operations in the Crimean War, but the three officers traveled all over Europe, observing the gamut of military matters. They left on April 11, 1855, and visited England, France, Prussia, Poland, Russia, Berlin, Vienna, and Constantinople. Diplomatic red tape and military suspicions on the part of the French delayed their arrival at the theater of war until the siege of Sebastopol was over. The Americans reached Sebastopol a month after the city fell to the combined French and English armies on September 8, 1855. After a month of observation, they returned to Vienna and then toured Italy, the Rhine Valley, Waterloo, Paris, and London. By the time the three officers returned to New York on April 28, 1856, they had traveled 20,000 miles.

The Delafield Commission was unique in that it was the first to survey several countries and the first to see the immediate aftermath of operations. Each commissioner wrote a separate, lengthy report. Delafield concentrated on engineering but did not complete his report until November 1860. Mordecai wrote on artillery and ordnance, while McClellan wrote on cavalry, to a degree, but mostly ranged widely across the whole spectrum of military matters.

The result of their labor was impressive; each man wrote with a fine degree of professionalism, detail, and evaluation. But none of them discerned very well how the early signs of technological innovation were beginning to change military operations. They noted a wide array of new developments, ranging from the use of processed foods and submarine torpedoes to the construction of a military railroad for the tactical support of the English army. But they failed to ponder the effect of the widespread use of rifles on tactical formations. The technological developments were eagerly described, often in minute detail, but there was no recognition that they might begin to challenge how armies traditionally fought.

Overall, the commissioners took away from their long tour of Europe an awareness that the scale of warfare had changed and that the mobilization of manpower and military resources had increased to create expanded field armies. But they also sensed a threat to American security from this and argued the need for strengthening the Third System of seacoast fortifications.

It was a rather self-serving performance, however, and much of it reinforced old ways of doing things in the American military, despite some minor technical recommendations. Also, the commissioners unsuccessfully tried to portray the French model as outdated and the Russians as the truly admirable belligerent in this conflict. Objectively, the Russian nation and its army were hardly suitable models for intelligent professionals of a modernizing nation; the suggestion fell on deaf ears.

Delafield's comments on matters relating to fortifications were interesting. He focused intently on seacoast forts everywhere he went and provided extraordinary maps, sketches, and diagrams of dozens of works in several countries. Delafield also was impressed by the European art of protecting fixed assets on land with scientifically designed permanent fortifications. He emphasized the success of the huge masonry forts built by the Russians to protect the entrance to the harbor at Sebastopol in repelling an Allied naval attack in October 1854.

But Delafield paid some attention to field fortifications as well. Both he and McClellan lauded the Russians for the tenacity with which they defended a line of hastily constructed fieldworks to cover the southern approaches to Sebastopol. The Russians held out for eleven months, even though they were heavily outnumbered in both infantry and artillery in the latter stages of the siege. "Such was the efficacy and power of temporary field fortifications, with inexhaustible supplies of the munitions of war," commented Delafield. The Russians were the first to use what came to be called rifle pits, small holes dug for one to twenty men forward of their defense line. Soldiers armed with rifles harassed Allied work parties on a daily basis from these pits, which were typically protected by gabions filled with stone or dirt. Delafield felt this tactic of harassment was "unusual." He also gathered a number of photographs of the Russian works at Sebastopol and included exquisite line drawings based on them to illustrate his report. Few other visual documents convey the squalor of a small fortification that has endured months of bombardment better than these remarkable illustrations.

All three reports of the Delafield Commission were widely distributed in the army and were well respected by officers and interested civilians alike. But these reports had limited impact on the thinking and doctrine of the American army. This was due in part to the onset of the Civil War soon after the reports were published, and to the fact that there were relatively few recommendations in the reports. Delafield's comments on the efficacy of field fortifications apparently had no influence on professional army officers, and the fact that the coming Civil War would be fought by an avalanche of volunteers who had never read the report made it even less influential. The significance of the Delafield Commission lies in the fact that the American army was obviously growing in its sense of professionalism and study. It still had a long way to go in terms of divining new trends that might affect how armies operated in the field and then moving aggressively toward meeting the challenges that change offered. McClellan sounded a plaintive note of despair in his report, which illustrated how far the army had to go to be a top-notch military force. He bemoaned the size of the American engineer establishment, calling it "ridiculously and shamefully small."

Theory and Doctrine

To the extent that the pre-Civil War army had a set of theories that could be called a doctrine, prevailing thoughts on the role of fortifications in the operations of field armies centered on whether they should be used for offensive or defensive purposes. Dennis Hart Mahan was the only influential American theorist in this regard. A graduate of the West Point class of 1824, Mahan studied at the French School of Application for Artillery and Engineering at Metz from 1825 to 1830. He returned to West Point soon after he came home to teach engineering, and he held the position until his death in 1871. Mahan had an extraordinary influence on the creation of professional standards of military engineering in the United States, both through his classes at West Point and through his book A Complete Treatise on Field Fortifications (1836). He later wrote six more books on warfare and engineering. Mahan also was primarily responsible for establishing standards of professionalism in civil engineering. The several reprintings of his Complete Treatise not only informed regular officers, but they were widely read by the pre-Civil War militia and by volunteer officers during the war.

Mahan revised prevailing French military thinking about the role of fortifications in field operations. Theorists of Napoleon's day had advocated maneuver and flanking, the indirect approach, to win battles quickly and decisively. This was largely rejected following Napoleon's defeat. Instead, theorists such as Antoine Henri Jomini favored the direct approach, or massing troops for frontal attacks. Napoleon himself had adopted such tactics on occasion during the later years of his career, most notably at the battle of Borodino during the invasion of Russia in 1812. Jomini and others even believed the spirited offensive could be successful against field fortifications. These post-Napoleonic writers were most influential until about 1840, during the period when Mahan was studying in France, and most American commentators adopted Jomini and his compatriots with enthusiasm.

One of these French theorists, Francis Gay de Vernon, a professor of fortification and the art of war at the Ecole Polytechnique also urged the use of field fortifications to protect the army. Vernon argued that fieldworks should even be used to facilitate offensive action, as long as they were designed so the attacking force had an opening in the works to debouch and mass in the open for the assault. Vernon's book on war and fortification was used at West Point from 1817 through 1830.

Mahan was dedicated to the direct approach, but he significantly revised how it should be conducted. He argued that the poorly trained volunteer force that the United States relied on to fight its wars could not conduct successful attacks on fortified positions unless the defending army was somehow damaged first. Even if U.S. volunteer troops were successful in attacking a well-fortified position defended by a fresh army, the losses would be prohibitive. Mahan believed the volunteers were more valuable to the country as permanent civilians than as temporary soldiers. Moreover, the small regular army was too valuable to waste in frontal attacks on strong positions.

Mahan instead advocated what he called an "active defense." First, use field fortifications to create a defensive position, entice the enemy to attack it, and damage him significantly. Then, follow up with a counterattack that would be sure to take the enemy position and scatter or decimate the opposing army. This was a smart adaptation of prevailing French theory to the peculiar conditions of the American military force. Whether it was practical in the field was another issue. The enemy would have to cooperate in developing such a scenario, and volunteers, who often were naively enthusiastic about attacking with little preparation, would have to be convinced of the need to dig in before the first shot was fired.

Continues...


Excerpted from Field Armies and Fortifications in the Civil War by Earl J. Hess Copyright © 2005 by The University of North Carolina Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

1 Engineering war 1
2 On to Richmond 28
3 Western Virginia and Eastern North Carolina 47
4 The Peninsula 67
5 From Seven Pines to the seven days 96
6 Second Manassas, Antietam, and the Maryland campaign 130
7 Fredericksburg 154
8 Chancellorsville 174
9 Goldsborough, New Bern, Washington, and Suffolk 200
10 Gettysburg and Lee's Pennsylvania campaign 215
11 Charleston 241
12 The reduction of Battery Wagner 259
13 From Bristoe Station to the fall of Plymouth 289
App. 1 The design and construction of field fortifications at Yorktown 315
App. 2 Preserving the field fortifications at Gettysburg 331
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2007

    A reviewer

    I was able to obtain a copy of this fine book, and I applaud Dr. Hess's well-researched efforts to write one that covers the military operations of fortifications. He presents a good case with his impressive range of primary accounts and secondary works. He uses the National Park Service resources along with conversations with NPS historians. Also he uses archeological studies to explain some information on the technical aspects of the structures. Dr Hess deserves all the credit for presenting this first installment of his most definitive work on fortifications. His military assertions on 19th century warfare challenges us to think over most carefully and consider for argument.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)