“In all, this book is a model micro-history of a forgotten Civil War battle.”
Robert Grandchamp Book Reviewer, The Civil War News, November 2018
It has been said that the Civil War was fought in 10,000 places from the coast of France to St. Albans, Vermont, from the Caribbean to the far West. Indeed, many of the military engagements that took place during the Civil War will never reach the history books. One of those engagements was the battle of Lewisburg, West Virginia, fought in the Kanawha Valley on May 23, 1862.
The battle of Lewisburg occurred as a result of maneuvering by several Union forces in western Virginia in the spring of 1862. Although often overshadowed by Jackson’s Valley Campaign, these forces worked in coordination to secure western Virginia for the Union. Moving his forces through the Kanawha Valley, Brig. Gen. Jacob D. Cox hoped to link up with a larger force under John C. Fremont near Princeton, Virginia. One of Cox’s brigades, however, under George Crook was sent towards Lewisburg. There on May 23, 1862, they were attacked by 2,200 Confederates under General Henry Heth. Crook and his brigade held their ground, sustaining eighty casualties, while inflicting over 200 casualties on the Rebels; the battle only lasted twenty-seven minutes. It was a decisive Union victory, but was overshadowed by Union losses in Jackson’s Valley Campaign.
In this book, Richard L. Armstrong has done a fantastic job of creating a micro-history of the engagement. It is evident that Armstrong knows West Virginia history and the history of the Lewisburg area. He begins with laying out the context of the campaign and its place in history. Many detailed maps highlight the approach of the armies to Lewisburg and how the battle unfolded. The maps are a very important part of the text and are some of the best this reviewer has ever seen. In addition, many illustrations of the participants in the fight at Lewisburg highlight the text. Furthermore, Armstrong has conducted significant research into the lives of the men who fought there, providing details of both Union and Confederate casualties, and photographs of them. A detailed battlefield tour guide concludes the text. The book was researched almost entirely from primary sources, and many manuscript sources grace Armstrong’s bibliography.
In all, this book is a model micro-history of a forgotten Civil War battle. Armstrong has done a highly commendable job of writing a detailed history of the battle of Lewisburg. The book is detailed, richly researched, and informative. The superb maps and detailed biographies of battle casualties add to the importance of this work. This book is highly recommended for those wanting to read about the importance of West Virginia to the Union cause, or those wanting to read a model battle history.
Book Reviewer, The Civil War News, November 2018
Being a big Civil War Buff with large Civil War Library I often hear reviewers of Civil War Books claiming that a particular book is “the definitive” book on the battle of Gettysburg, Antietam, the Franklin Campaign, etc. Which is why when a historian or author writes a book – particularly a good book – on a campaign or battle where no study existed at all previously let alone a definitive study I am particularly thrilled.
Richard Armstrong’s book on The Battle of Lewisburg is such an example. To my knowledge except for a chapter in a book on the Civil War History of Greenbrier County, WV no other book has been published on the Battle of Lewisburg.
The author’s treatment of the battle is a strategical and tactical study of the battle that is the kind usually reserved for larger campaigns and battles. The book has multiple maps making it easy to follow the flow of the approach to Lewsiburg, the battle, and retreat. Many illustrations and an extensive bibliography with many manuscripts and primary sources are included. Also covered are sections on the caring for the casualties of battle, tables and listings of the casualties and losses from the battle, civilian observations of the battle, and a chapter on a veterans reunion of the battle in 1904. There are also 6 Appendixes on Period Maps of the battle, the Confederate and Union Cemeteries, Heth’s Artillery strength and visiting Lewisburg. His book on the Battle of McDowell is also highly readable and again an excellent example of a strategical and tactical study of a relatively smaller battle.
Jackson’s Valley campaign is covered reasonably well in Civil War literature, but the supporting campaigns of Crook, Cox and Garfield through the Mountains of West Virginia aren’t covered nearly as well. Probably because of the smaller number of troops involved, the difficulty of the terrain, and the focus on Jackson’s more acclaimed battles in the Shenandoah Valley.
I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to get a better understanding of Crook’s columns victory over Heth and his column’s effort as part of the overall Virginia and West Virginia Valley Campaigns of 1862.