13 November 2006 by Published in: Civil War books and authors 11 comments

I know that I have discussed this here in the past, but my work on William H. Boyd in the Gettysburg Campaign has pointed out yet another gaping hole in the coverage of the Civil War.

One of the most important aspects of the Gettysburg Campaign was the capture of Winchester by troops of Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell’s Second Corps on June 14, 1863. Ewell captured most of Maj. Gen. Robert H. Milroy’s division, and took possession of the important town in only a single day. His well-designed and well-executed plan resembled the handiwork of the late Stonewall Jackson, and suggested that Ewell would be a worthy successor to the lamented Jackson. Ewell took only a few hundred casualties in capturing Winchester.

Unfortunately, there is a huge, gaping hole in the body of literature regarding Second Winchester. There have only been two monographs published that address the Second Battle of Winchester, and both were published by companies with reputations for publishing spotty work. The first, published in 1989, is Charles S. Grunder and Brandon H. Beck, The Second Battle of Winchester, June 12-15, 1863, published by the H. E. Howard Company of Lynchburg, Virginia. The second, Larry B. Maier’s Gateway to Gettysburg: The Second Battle of Winchester was published by White Mane’s imprint Burd Street Press in 2002.

The Howard company published two series of books. One was a series of histories–primarily rosters–of all Virginia units, and the other was its Virginia Civil War Battles and Leaders Series. These books are of extremely uneven quality. None of the regimental histories has a single footnote, which limits their value for the researcher. The books in the Battles and Leaders Series are especially hit and miss. Some of them are quite good. Some are simply atrocious. The book on Second Winchester is solid, but its battle narrative is only about 85 pages long, meaning that there’s not a great deal of depth there.

The Maier book is a classic White Mane book: no editing to speak of, poor production values, poor quality materials, and apparently no peer review. I have often said that if faced with the option of never publishing another word, or being published by White Mane, I would choose to never publish another word. I intend to do a detailed review of this book later this week, so I will limit my comments for now.

Suffice it to say that neither of these books provides the level of detail that this action deserves. With all of the books published on the Gettysburg Campaign, the Second Battle of Winchester remains a vast, gaping hole in the coverage of the Civil War and of the Gettysburg Campaign in particular.

This is just one of a number of similar gaping holes in the coverage of the war, but it provides an excellent illustration of the problem faced. Instead of yet another book on Pickett’s Charge, I would really prefer to see a talented historian tackle this action and give it the definitive treatment that it deserves. We would all benefit from such a study.

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  1. Art Bergeron
    Tue 14th Nov 2006 at 9:35 am

    Eric, your comments about Second Winchester and the need for a thorough battle study are right on target. Are you familiar with Mark Chance’s article in “Gettysburg Magazine”?

    There is also need for full studies (or better studies) of several of the battles fought during the Petersburg Campaign.


  2. Tue 14th Nov 2006 at 10:05 am


    I am familiar with the chance article, and think it’s excellent as far as it goes, but it is an article, with all of the limitations faced by an article.

    As for Petersburg, you’re absolutely correct–that’s a topic that I’ve explored at some length here in prior posts.


  3. Tue 14th Nov 2006 at 2:33 pm

    I thumbed through “Gateway to Gettysburg” at Powell’s earlier in the year. It didn’t look too promising. I’ll look forward to your review.

  4. Tue 14th Nov 2006 at 5:34 pm

    It’s indeed amazing that there remains so much yet to be comprehensively explored and written. Our book on Stuart’s ride was one example, and 2nd Winchester is another. That’s simply two examples on the Gettysburg Campaign. There are many, many others. Regarding the entire war, both theaters, it’s enough to keep historians and writers busy for eternity!

    Thank goodness… ๐Ÿ˜‰


  5. Tue 14th Nov 2006 at 6:20 pm

    “both theaters”… don’t you mean all three theaters? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. Mike Peters
    Tue 14th Nov 2006 at 8:48 pm


    I have seen them broken down into 5 different theaters of operation — Eastern, Western, Trans-Mississippi, Lower Seabord Theater and Gulf Appoach & Pacific Theater.

    To hear my high school teacher tell it, it was Eastern theater & everything else. ๐Ÿ™‚


  7. Tue 14th Nov 2006 at 9:20 pm

    Or as my good friend Bob Krick calls it, “The War Against Virginia and Her Allies.”

  8. Mike Peters
    Tue 14th Nov 2006 at 9:27 pm


    Richard McMurry does a good talk on that same subject.


  9. MarylandReb
    Tue 14th Nov 2006 at 9:58 pm

    Eric, one only needs to look at your excellent book on Monroe Crossroads to realize that there are many tales the civil war that still need to be told. As I said before on CWDG Online….I’m still waiting for somebody to handle the Jones-Imboden raid. I’ve read quite a bit on it through unit histories and find it more interesting than Morgan’s raid through Ohio.

  10. Tue 14th Nov 2006 at 10:02 pm

    Subtle, Mark. Very subtle. ๐Ÿ™‚

    The Morgan’s raid book is already under contract, so I’m committed. Sorry.


  11. Tue 14th Nov 2006 at 10:51 pm


    That sounds about right!

    Hell, I didn’t even know there was a Western Theatre until last… um… Wednesday…


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