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Opposing the Union effort was Brig. Gen. Nathan “Shanks” Evans’ small Confederate...
Opposing the Union effort was Brig. Gen. Nathan “Shanks” Evans’ small Confederate command at Leesburg. Reacting to the news of Federals crossing at Ball’s Bluff and Edwards Ferry, Evans focused on the former and began moving troops to the point where Col. Edward D. Baker’s troops were gathering. The Northern troops were on largely open ground, poorly organized, and with their backs to the wide river when the Southern infantry attacked. The twelve fitful hours of fighting that followed ended in one of the worst defeats (proportionally speaking) either side would suffer during the entire Civil War, wrecked a prominent Union general’s career, and killed Baker—a sitting United States senator and one of President Abraham Lincoln’s good friends. The disaster rocked a Northern populace already reeling from the recent defeats of Bull Run and Wilson’s Creek.
A Little Short of Boats sets forth the strategy behind the “demonstration,” the fighting and the key command decisions that triggered it, and the many colorful personalities involved. The bloody result, coupled with the political fallout, held the nation’s attention for weeks. The battle’s most important impact was also the least predictable: the creation of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War. Ostensibly formed to seek out the causes of the string of defeats, the Joint Committee instead pushed the political agenda of the “Radical Republicans” and remained a thorn in Lincoln’s side for the rest of the war.
Gracefully written in a conversational style, Morgan’s study is based upon extensive firsthand research and a full appreciation of the battlefield terrain. This fully revised and expanded sesquicentennial edition of Morgan’s A Little Short of Boats includes numerous photos and original maps to make sense of the complicated early-war combat. Seven appendices offer an order of battle, discussions of key participants and controversies, and a complete walking tour of the battlefield at Ball’s Bluff. This special edition will please Civil War enthusiasts who love tactical battle studies and remind them once again that very often in history, smaller affairs have important and lasting consequences.
About the Author: Born in New Orleans, Jim Morgan grew up in Pensacola, Florida, and now lives in Lovettsville, Virginia. A former Marine, Jim is a past president of the Loudoun County Civil War Roundtable, a member of the Loudoun County Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee, and a volunteer guide at Ball’s Bluff for the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority.
Jim Morgan is a masterful writer and military historian. This revised and expanded edition is the definitive account of Ball’s Bluff. His excellent tactical analysis has been augmented with more firsthand accounts, many previously unpublished, that make a good work even better. Readers of the original edition will definitely want to read this updated version. Those who do not own Morgan’s battle study need to have it on their bookshelves. This is Civil War history at its best.
– Ted Alexander, Antietam National Battlefield
"Together with the many maps, photos, sketches, and the battlefield tour included, Morgan visually develops the elusive story of Ball’s Bluff and Edwards Ferry as an unfolding mystery that will surely lure the reader to the site to ponder its many questions."
– Rich Gillespie, Director of Education, Mosby Heritage Area
"Kudos to Savas Beatie for producing a physically beautiful book . . . A Little Short of Boats will appeal especially to readers interested in tactical battle studies. This reviewer recommends it enthusiastically." - Civil War News
"A Little Short of Boats examines the entire military engagement in meticulous, heavily researched detail, and is an excellent addition to Civil War military history shelves and college library collections." - Midwest Book Review
Author's Preface, Revised Edition x
Foreword (original edition) Edwin C. Bearss xv
New Foreword George E. Tabb, Jr. xix
Introduction: Then and Now xxi
Chapter 1 All Quiet Along the Potomac 1
Chapter 2 A Slight Demonstration 15
Chapter 3 At the First Symptom of Light 28
Chapter 4 None Too Good to Die In 44
Chapter 5 A Little Short of Boats 67
Chapter 6 With the Steady Tread of Veterans 106
Chapter 7 No Lizards Ever got Closer to the Ground Than we Did 137
Chapter 8 Where All was Lost Excepting Honor 172
Epilogue: Success to the Right 196
Appendix 1 Ball's Bluff and Edwards Ferry: Annotated Order Of Battle (October 21-22, 1861) 209
Appendix 2 Lieutenant Church Howe 214
Appendix 3 Lieutenant Francis G. Young 218
Appendix 4 The Death of Colonel Baker 223
Appendix 5 The Memorials 232
Appendix 6 Why was There a Battle at Ball's Bluff? 240
Appendix 7 A Walking Tour of the Ball's Bluff Battlefield 248
Posted March 5, 2015
Since its initial publication in 2004 by Ironclad Publishing, James A. Morgan's "A Little Short of Boats: The Fights at Ball Bluff and Edward Ferry, October 21-22, 1861" can be viewed as an important work on these little know battles that took place during the first year of the war. Savas-Beatie published a revised edition in 2011 that sheds new light on this story. The author has used original material and new interpretations from previously used primary and secondary sources that enhance the understanding of the demonstration by Federal Brigadier General Charles A. Stone against Confederate General Nathan "Shank" Evans small command.
Four Federal regiments were initially on open ground, unopposed, badly organized and with their backs to the Potomac River when Confederate infantry attacked. After twelve hours of heavy fighting, Union forces suffered one of the worst defeats proportionally either side would experience during the entire Civil War. This disaster crippled an important Northern general's career; Charles Stone, and killed Colonel Edward D. Baker, who was an United States Senator and President Abraham Lincoln's close friend.
The author's modern study tells the story behind the strategy and uncovers why and how the "demonstrations", attacks and important command decisions sparked the United States attention for weeks. The federal's blunders caused the Congressional Joint Committee on the Committee on the Conduct of the war to be created. This group of elected Representatives and senators touted the political agenda of the "Radical Republicans" and was an obstacle to President Lincoln until the end of the war. This Congressional Committee tried to influence the President on how the Civil war was fought and which general's commanded the armies or remained in their position of power.
This completely revised and expanded 281 page edition of Morgan's A Little Short of Boats recounts the troop movement and tactical disasters for the federal forces in this early fighting during the Civil war. Appendices #1-6 will permit the student to enhance their understanding of the battle and people involved in the combat by providing an order of battle, discussions of important participants and controversies.
The book shifts to "A Walking Tour of the Ball's Bluff Battlefield" in the final Appendix, #7. Eight modern photographs from the authors collection and numerous illustrations of significant landmarks and players in the fighting appear throughout the book for the convenience of the reader. There are twelve adequate maps that are not easy to follow that provide important details for the visitor walking the ground. Casual novices will appreciate this guides clear and precise directions however GPS coordinates would have been beneficial to the tramper or driver. For a newcomer to this battlefield, this step by step tour should be a welcome companion. For the more knowledgeable Civil War buffs, it has much to offer in all visited sites and a well thought out route. The detailed information provided at each stop is well written and not overwhelming.
In this engaging volume, Morgan has demonstrated that this review book and narrative is a fine representation of one of the Civil War's most overlooked battles. He has rescued from obscurity a key engagement that unfolded in the outskirts of Leesburg in Northern Virginia. It contains wonderful anecdotes and facts about Ball's Bluff and Edward's Ferry. This treatment is not only easy to read but exceptionally oriented to the places written about. This title merits reading by scholars and of the eastern theater and is recommended by this reviewer.
Posted August 17, 2011
A minor event can cause a series of events that make history. The specific event is quickly lost as the series of events come to life and the result occurs. The result is the important event that makes history. We may find mention of the minor event in a good history. If you wish to learn more, you will find few detailed studies.
The Battle of Ball's Bluff is a very minor event in the American Civil War. In terms of a "battle", about 3,500 are involved on both sides, hardly qualifying as major skirmish in four years. Depending on who is speaking, the "battle" is a slight demonstration, a reconnaissance in force or an attempt to occupy Leesburg. Whatever it was, it became a disaster for the Union force. They lost over half of the men involved, as once again a Union force fled the field of battle. Confederate losses were about ten percent of the Union's and they captured about 500 prisoners. Defeat at Ball's Bluff following defeats at Manassas and Wilson's Creek deepen the gloom in America. To make things worse, Senator Edward Dickinson Baker, a close friend of President Lincoln, is killed leading a regiment.
This poorly planned unintended battle suffers from a lack specific objectives. Everyone tries to evade responsibility in the aftermath. McClellan has evidence that the army is not ready to enter the field. Lincoln starts to question his officer's abilities as he mourns Baker. The congressional Radical Republicans are certain the West Point officers lack zeal. The Confederate's view of Yankee shopkeepers deepens as their moral climbs. The Union solider in the East suffers a second bad defeat in three months. The battle of Ball's Bluff brings the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War into being. What had been private mussing, discussions over dinner or dissatisfaction flares into a witch-hunt that bedevils the administration and the army for the length of the war.
What is the Battle of Ball's Bluff? What was the overall plan, if one existed? What happened on the field? This book answers our questions by providing an in-depth look at this operation. The author answers, to the extent possible, the questions that have existed for 150 years. The eight chapters cover the lack of planning, objectives, information and fighting in detail. With so few units and such a tight space, the action is easy to follow. The author writes in a direct descriptive prose that is clear, informative and very readable. Maps and illustrations are in the right places and easy to follow. An Epilogue follows the participants through life making them more than names that exist for a few hours. Seven Appendixes cover Order of Battle, provide in-depth answers to some questions, a look at the Memorials and the battlefield. Of great use is a walking tour of the park and a look at "why".
In 2004, Ironclad first published this book. Savas Beatie did not "reprint the Ironclad edition"! You will find two Forwards as these are two different books on the same subject. Since 2004, new material became available that is incorporated into this edition. Expanding the size of the book allows for more biographical information, anecdotes and illustrations. The walking tour is new reflecting the improvements made to the park. Having the 2004 edition on your shelf is not a reason to ignore this book.
Posted November 8, 2011
No text was provided for this review.