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Review by Edward M. Coffman
This book is an interesting addition to Civil War history. Originally published in a series of articles in an Army professional journal in the 1890s plus excerpts from an unpublished article, this collection expands our knowledge of the use of artillery in that war. Tidball commanded artillery units from battery to corps in most of the battles fought by the Army of the Potomac. Although this is not a memoir, it is particularly valuable because it is based on his observations during the war and his study of the use of artillery over his four decades of service. It is helpful to readers today that he wrote clear, very readable prose.
He introduces his subject with a description of the organization and armament of the artillery. Throughout the early part of the war, neither the North nor South used artillery properly, which hampered their effect. The problem was that there was no overall artillery commander and a single battery was assigned to an infantry brigade or division. This meant that there was no supervision by a senior artillery officer, nor an ability to concentrate fire by several batteries. Not surprisingly, Lee understood this and, in late 1862, assigned a battalion of artillery to an infantry unit and appointed a chief of artillery to supervise all of those battalions. This helps explain the heavy losses of the Army of the Potomac during the battle of Fredericksburg. Finally, the next summer, prior to the battle of Gettysburg, that army also began to concentrate its artillery.
In his accounts of battles, Tidball sets the scene with descriptions of the terrain and weather if they affected the use of artillery. After setting the scene, he surveys the battle with details about the deployment and tactics of the artillery units. He concludes with an analysis of the use and effectiveness of the artillery. At Gettysburg, the Union army made much more effective use of artillery because the firepower was combined. Bringing batteries to the front, hence concentrating their fire, was particularly crucial in confronting Pickett’s charge.
Although Tidball did not serve in the west, he does discuss in similar detail three battles in that theater—Stones River, Chickamauga and Shiloh. At Chickamauga, for example, the heavily wooded terrain meant that artillery could not keep up with the infantry units and hence did not have much effect. After that defeat, General Rosecrans realized that, rather than assign one battery to an infantry brigade, he should assign two to a division and a battalion of artillery to each corps. He also appointed a senior artillery officer to supervise the artillery.
Tidball concludes with a few comments which mention that there are few detailed battle reports from the artillery units. This book goes a long way in filling that gap with its descriptions and analysis of the major problems of the artillery during the Civil War.
Hardcover Book : 432 pages
Publisher: Westholme Publishing ( October 12, 2011 )
Item #: 13-484142
Product Dimensions: 6.0 x 9.25 x 1.08inches
Product Weight: 21.0 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
The author , John Tidball , has written a most interesting series of essays about the use of artillery in the War Between the States . While the artillery was a well-trained branch of the army , it was not as effective until used in concentration under artillery field officers like General Hunt .
The author describes the situation , commander , units involved and how artillery was used in the various battles. As he wrote this book after the war he also had access to the makeup of the Confederate forces. This resulted in a very interesting description of the action and comparison of artillery use.
This is a book to be read and studied many times .