William Henry Harrison Clayton was one of nearly 75,000 soldiers from Iowa to join the Union ranks during the Civil War. Possessing a high school education and superior penmanship, Clayton served as a company clerk in the 19th Infantry, witnessing battles in the Trans-Mississippi theater. His diary and his correspondence with his family in Van Buren County form a unique narrative of the day-to-day soldier life as well as an eyewitness account of critical battles and a prisoner-of-war camp.
Clayton participated in the siege of Vicksburg and took part in operations against Mobile, but his writings are unique for the descriptions he gives of lesser-known but pivotal battles of the Civil War in the West. Fighting in the Battle of Prairie Grove, the 19th Infantry sustained the highest casualties of any federal regiment on the field. Clayton survived that battle with only minor injuries, but he was later captured at the Battle of Stirling's Plantation and served a period of ten months in captivity at Camp Ford, Texas.
Clayton's writing reveals the complicated sympathies and prejudices prevalent among Union soldiers and civilians of that period in the country's history. He observes with great sadness the brutal effects of war on the South, sympathizing with the plight of refugees and lamenting the destruction of property. He excoriates draft evaders and Copperheads back home, conveying the intra-sectional acrimony wrought by civil war. Finally, his racist views toward blacks demonstrate a common but ironic attitude among Union soldiers whose efforts helped lead to the abolition of slavery in the United States.
D-Day, the Allied invasion of northwestern France in June 1944, has remained in the forefront of American memories of the Second World War to this day. Depictions in books, news stories, documentaries, museums, monuments, memorial celebrations, speeches, games, and Hollywood spectaculars have overwhelmingly romanticized the assault as an event in which citizen-soldiers—the everyday heroes of democracy—engaged evil foes in a decisive clash fought for liberty, national redemption, and world salvation.
In D-Day Remembered, Michael R. Dolski explores the evolution of American D-Day tales over the course of the past seven decades. He shows the ways in which that particular episode came to overshadow so many others in portraying the twentieth century’s most devastating cataclysm as “the Good War.” With depth and insight, he analyzes how depictions in various media, such as the popular histories of Stephen Ambrose and films like The Longest Day and Saving Private Ryan, have time and again reaffirmed cherished American notions of democracy, fair play, moral order, and the militant, yet non-militaristic, use of power for divinely sanctioned purposes. Only during the Vietnam era, when Americans had to confront an especially stark challenge to their pietistic sense of nationhood, did memories of D-Day momentarily fade. They soon reemerged, however, as the country sought to move beyond the lamentable conflict in Southeast Asia.
Even as portrayals of D-Day have gone from sanitized early versions to more realistic acknowledgments of tactical mistakes and the horrific costs of the battle, the overarching story continues to be, for many, a powerful reminder of moral rectitude, military skill, and world mission. While the time to historicize this morality tale more fully and honestly has long since come, Dolski observes, the lingering positive connotations of D-Day indicate that the story is not yet finished.
A gripping account of what it was like to be in the midst of the Norman Invasion on D-Day and immediately afterward.
Silent parachutes dotting the night sky—that’s how one woman in Normandy in June 1944 learned that the D-Day invasion was underway. Though they yearned for liberation, the people of Normandy steeled themselves for further warfare, knowing that their homes, land, and fellow citizens would have to bear the brunt of the attack. In D-Day through French Eyes, Mary Louise Roberts resets our view of the usual stories of that momentous operation, taking readers across the Channel to view the invasion anew. Roberts builds her history from an impressive range of gripping first-person accounts from French citizens, reinvigorating a story we thought we knew. The result is a fresh perspective on the heroism, sacrifice, and achievement of D-Day.
Leland Duvall was a now-and-again farm worker with a grade-school education when he received his World War II draft notice at his father's farm near Moreland, Arkansas, in March of 1942. He departed for training in California, where he began to write to Letty Jones, a Pottsville girl he'd had a crush on for several years. From the first correspondence through the end of the war, Leland sent Letty a torrent of letters, hundreds of careful and undeniably heartfelt missives-utterly tender but never sentimental, reliably charming and gently humorous-written daily from desert sands, pup tents, hospital beds, armored cars, and bombed-out buildings. That Duvall's writing is a tour de force of wit, elegance, and erudition is all the more poignant because he was a man who was almost entirely self-taught. The letters, discovered by Duvall's daughter four years after his death in 2010, are here enriched by his longtime friend and colleague Ernie Dumas, who provides facts about where Duvall was and the perils he endured while penning his epistles, information that was often missing in dispatches that were necessarily censored and always guided by Duvall's effort not to bore or worry his "dearest Letty." Duvall's lively intelligence and obvious joy in writing come through on every page, joining with vividness the patina of the time and the bright shine of a timeless love affair.
The largest battle fought in Kentucky during the American Civil War occurred at a small, crossroads town named Perryville. As Gen. Braxton Bragg’s Confederate Heartland Offensive sputtered through Kentucky, Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell’s reformed Army of the Ohio pursued the Army of the Mississippi and clashed with its rearguard just outside Perryville. Believing that he faced only a part of Buell’s army, Bragg ordered an assault on the Union left flank which resulted in Confederate victory. However, that evening Bragg determined the Army of the Ohio outnumbered him three to one and quickly decided to retreat. Outmanned, outmaneuvered, and lacking supplies and reinforcements, Bragg retreated through the Cumberland Gap into East Tennessee, and Kentucky remained in Union control for the rest of the Civil War.
Decisions at Perryville explores the critical decisions made by Confederate and Union commanders during the battle and how these decisions shaped its outcome. Rather than offering a history of the battle, Larry Peterson hones in on a sequence of critical decisions made by commanders on both sides of the contest to provide a blueprint of the Battle of Perryville at its tactical core. Identifying and exploring the critical decisions in this way allows students of the battle to progress from a knowledge of what happened to a mature grasp of why events happened.
Complete with maps and a driving tour, Decisions at Perryville is an indispensable primer, and readers looking for a concise introduction to the battle can tour this sacred ground—or read about it at their leisure—with key insights into the campaign and a deeper understanding of the Civil War itself.
Decisions at Perryville is the twelfth in a series of books that will explore the critical decisions of major campaigns and battles of the Civil War.
The U.S.-led conquest and occupation of Iraq have kept that troubled country in international headlines since 2003. For America’s major Coalition ally, Great Britain, however, this latest incursion into the region played out against the dramatic backdrop of imperial history: Britain’s fateful invasion of Mesopotamia in 1914 and the creation of a new nation from the shards of war.
The objectives of the expedition sent by the British Government of India were primarily strategic: to protect the Raj, impress Britain’s military power upon Arabs chafing under Ottoman rule, and secure the Persian oil supply. But over the course of the Mesopotamian campaign, these goals expanded, and by the end of World War I Britain was committed to controlling the entire region from Suez to India. The conquest of Mesopotamia and the creation of Iraq were the central acts in this boldly opportunistic bid for supremacy. Charles Townshend provides a compelling account of the atrocious, unnecessary suffering inflicted on the expedition’s mostly Indian troops, which set the pattern for Britain’s follow-up campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan over the next seven years. He chronicles the overconfidence, incompetence, and dangerously vague policy that distorted the mission, and examines the steps by which an initially cautious strategic operation led to imperial expansion on a vast scale.
Desert Hell is a cautionary tale for makers of national policy. And for those with an interest in imperial history, it raises searching questions about Britain’s quest for global power and the indelible consequences of those actions for the Middle East and the world.