Monday, October 7, 2013

Book Review--Hidden History of Civil War Tennessee

Jones, James B. Jr. Hidden History of Civil War Tennessee. Charleston, The History Press, 2013. 126 pages, 100 pages of text, notes, bibliography, b/w photos, ISBN 9781609498993, $19.99.

Tennessee has an interesting history in the Civil War with the state being pretty well divided between Union and Confederate. Tennessee's Civil War Battlefields: A Guide to Their History and Preservation appears to adequately cover the battlefield portion of the war but other areas still need wider coverage as the role of the state continues to be under appreciated.

 Author James B. Jones, a public historian with the state of Tennessee, has put together an interesting little book dealing with lesser aspects of the war and the state. The chapters of the book appear to be either magazine articles or reworkings of prior articles based upon the "author's note."

The chapters include (not the exact chapter names): safety and vigilance committees in west and middle Tennessee 1860-1862, the battle against prostitution and V.D. in Nashville and Memphis, public health in middle Tennessee, Colonel John M. Hughes and the 25th TN Infantry, Negley's Raid May 31-June 9, 1862 and William T. Sherman and the occupation of Memphis.

In any book like this there will be portions that appeal to readers more than others. For me, I found the chapters dealing with health issues to be the most interesting. It is interesting to read that while the U.S. Army was responsible for much of the disease and pestilence that ran through Nashville they did work to correct the issues. Of course, they tried to fix things due to soldiers being stationed there not in order to protect the civilian population. Prostitution was a problem for officers to try and contain and when it could not be controlled in Nashville the army attempted to eradicate it by shipping the women away. Nobody would accept them however and when the ship returned to port the easiest thing to do was license the women.

A large collection of end-notes documents the chapters allowing those wanting more information an excellent starting point. A small bibliography is included but Jones suggests readers check the Tennessee Civil War Sourcebook for a more complete listing of resources (it is very large I promise).

For those with family history in Tennessee such as myself or those interested in smaller pieces of war history this is a book you will possibly want to take a look at. If you are searching for an in-depth work dealing with the state or perhaps on a certain regiment you would be advised to look elsewhere. That's not what this book is about. While not as thoroughly illustrated as many books from the History Press the text reads well and is overall worthy of consideration.

Thanks to The History Press for sending a complimentary copy.

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