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WAR IN THE MOUNTAINS
By J. L. Askew
WAR IN THE MOUNTAINS is a sprawling and comprehensive history of the battles fought in the latter period of the Civil War in North Carolina and Tennessee.
WAR IN THE MOUNTAINS ostensibly centers on the Macbeth Light Artillery, a rebel division from South Carolina sent to Asheville, North Carolina to defend against Union incursions into the region in 1864, but the book spends a lot of time on other aspects of the war in lower Appalachian region. There are surprises here for even the most learned Civil War buff, as readers learn of the battles in the area, the skirmishes in between and the men who fought them. We learn about Confederate Colonel John B. Palmer, head of the Western District of North Carolina and the Macbeth’s commanding officer, who brilliantly thwarted Union advances with his knowledge of the local topography; George W. Kirk, a daring Union captain who led several raids on the locals in North Carolina and was as ruthless and feared as British commander Banastre Tarleton had been in the American Revolution; Alvan C. Gillem, a Tennessee-born Union general who led his forces in the battle for control of the region, and: John H. Morgan, a Confederate general who led raids against Union positions as far north as Ohio and commanded rebel troops in southwestern Virginia and eastern Tennessee before being killed in a Union raid on Greenville, Tennessee. Commanders who are better known, such as Confederate General John C. Breckinridge (a former U.S. Vice President) and Union General George Stoneman, are shown to be much more important than they were thought to be in the final months of fighting; Stoneman’s campaigns in Virginia and North Carolina, for example, are as vital to understand as Grant’s and Sherman’s campaigns in those same states.
Askew’s chronicle of the war in the Appalachian region is a story of numerous battles in which the opposing armies pushed against each other for dominance in a battle of wits and endurance. The stories show great heroism but also villainy, such as the way Confederate deserters and draft dodgers were punished and the brutality of Union raiders against civilians, as well as daring tales of escape from the enemy. WAR IN THE MOUNTAINS reaches its apex in describing the battles of Saltville, fought for control of a salt mine, in which both Breckenridge and Stoneman were key players, as well as the Macbeth Light Artillery’s participation in the Battle of Morristown (Tennessee) and the defense of Asheville. The book concludes with a horrifying description of Union atrocities in North Carolina that occurred after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox.
Few people have a greater right to tell this story than Askew, the great-grandson of a Confederate veteran, and readers will finish this book thinking, “I didn’t know half this stuff.” But theyll also finish it dissatisfied with its epic length, its excessively minute details of battles, and a cast of historical figures so large they’ll have to turn back the pages once in awhile to refresh their memory of the names. Also, Askew suggests that the war was fought less over slavery than over the charge that the free states prospered at the slave states’ expense while the slave states paid more of the taxes collected by the federal government, an idea that’s bound to offend some readers.
Despite its epic length and overabundant details, WAR IN THE MOUNTAINS is a stunning eye-opener that illustrates and educates the reader of a forgotten theater of the Civil War.
~Steven Maginnis for IndieReader
WAR IN THE MOUNTAINS
By J. L. Askew
WAR IN THE MOUNTAINS is a compelling in-depth look at the MacBeth Light Artillery that served the Confederate States during the US Civil War. Author J. L. Askew relies on historical evidence to skillfully illustrate the company’s origins in 1861 through the height of hostilities in 1864-65 honing in on their deployment to the mountains of Western North Carolina in Spring 1864 and sheds light on another aspect of the Civil War that was previously given scant attention in the history books, primarily the treacherous fighting in the Mountain regions.