Joyce Lagow's Reviews > The Maps of First Bull Run: An Atlas of the First Bull Run (Manassas) Campaign, including the Battle of Ball's Bluff, June-October 1861

The Maps of First Bull Run by Bradley Gottfried
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Jan 01, 11

bookshelves: us-civil-war
Read from November 25, 2010 to January 01, 2011

The battle of First Bull run (or First Manassas) was the first major engagement of the US Civil War. Compared to later battles, it was more like a skirmish; “only” 3000+ casualties. But it had a major psychological impact on both sides and was a harbinger of much that was to come. In its way, it was the first battle of modern warfare.

Gottfried has found his niche as a Civil War historian in a new format which he pioneered in Maps of Gettysburg. The book is laid out so that the left hand page contains text of a particular portion of the battle while the right hand page displays a map of the terrain and troop movements. The result is that it is incredibly easy to follow the course of the battle. What is truly wonderful for those of us who have the hankering, at times it is possible, thanks to the layout, to follow movements of individual companies, where relevant.

In The Maps of First Bull Run, Gottfried has improved these maps over his Gettysburg book by increased numbering of position of different regiments during time segments of the battle contained in a single map. It makes for fewer maps and a much more coherent rendering of that part of the engagement.

In addition, we meet for the first time many of those who would go on to be legends: "Stonewall Jackson" (he got his nickname at this battle), James Longstreet, William Sherman--as well as a few who would go down in notoriety, such as Ambrose Burnsides. There is an excellent summation of the battle, which gives what are the standard reasons for the Union defeat

Also included in the book is the relatively minor but important engagement at Ball’s Bluff three months later. And there I have my only quibble with the book. There is some confusion about the movements of the 8th VA, movements which were critical to the battle, and I had some trouble understanding what the Union plan for breaking out of the Confederate encirclement was because of it. However, it is decipherable and worth the effort. I was delighted with the inclusion of this engagement, because Ball’s Bluff was too small a battle to deserve a book of its own and yet it was not insignificant. For the first time, I understood the course of the battle,what the problems were, and why it turned out the way it did--another major Union defeat.

Excellent for those who want detailed understanding of an important battle. Highly recommended.
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