It’s Always a Good Day When a New Book by Earl J. Hess is Released

A number of other bloggers have already announced the release of his new book, The Rifle Musket in Civil War Combat: Reality and Myth (University of Kansas Press, 2008), but when we are talking about Earl Hess my rule is the more talk the better.  Hess is quite simply one of my favorite historians.  I can best express my enthusiasm by admitting that when a new book of his is released everything else takes a side seat.  I’ve read just about all of his books, my favorites including Lee’s Tar Heels: The Pettigrew-Kirkland-MacRae Brigade and Liberty, Virtue, and Progress: Northerners and Their War for the Union.  Hess has tackled a broad range of topics within the sphere of military history, and readers can always count on a well written and analytically-driven interpretation that inevitably leads to a reassessment of basic assumptions concerning the subject at hand.  In that sense, both the scope and quality of his work remind me of George Rable’s scholarship.

I’ve never met Professor Hess, though I did spend a few weeks in the summer of 2003 mining the Richmond archives for sources that will be used in his final volume of field fortifications during the Petersburg Campaign.  Much of that source material became the foundation for my own work on the battle of the Crater.  By the way, Hess is finishing up (and may even be finished) with a book-length manuscript on the Crater.  [If I am not mistaken, UNC Press is going to publish it.]  We haven’t seen a decent book-length account of this battle since Cavanaugh and Marvel’s study, which was published back in 1989.

4 comments… add one
  • Kevin Levin Sep 15, 2008 @ 14:29

    Hi Tim, — I know, but at least you won’t find Troiani’s paintings on plates, beer mugs, cigarette lighters and everything else under the sun. He is by far my favorite of the current crop of Civil War artists. I even own somewhere around 10 framed prints which hang in my office at home and at school.

  • Tim Abbott Sep 15, 2008 @ 14:02

    Lord help me, I have long been a fan of Don Troiani’s art, but it is getting so I cannot pick up a new Civil War title without finding one of his paintings adorninging the cover. It has become almost the default marketing choice, and I believe represents a failure of publisher imagination that fails to distinguish one title from another on the shelves at Borders, though it also points to the phenomenal marketing success of Mr. Troiani and his agents.

  • Kevin Levin Sep 14, 2008 @ 15:17

    Hi Jim, — I’ve actually read that book. You are correct in pointing out that it is an excellent campaign study that is often overlooked owing to the predominance of the War in the East.

  • Jim McGhee Sep 14, 2008 @ 14:18

    I realize that the war in the Trans-Mississippi is not high on your interest list, or on those of most of your readers, but for people (like me) who are intrigued by operations in that theater, Hess and Shea’s study of the Pea Ridge Campaign is simply the ultimate read. In fact, I would go so far as to say it is one of the best campaign studies I have ever had the pleasure of reading, regardless of the theater, and I have read a ton of them.

    Jim McGhee

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