A Season of Slaughter


This is a book by Chris Mackowski and Kristopher White about the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House.  It’s part of the Emerging Civil War series.  You can read about the series and access their blog here.  You can also “Like” them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

It’s a short book that can be read in one sitting.  I read it on the bus trip down to Spotsylvania Court House for my Round Table’s field trip to the battlefield this past November 1.  I found it to be an accurate summary of the battle, very well illustrated with outstanding maps from Hal Jespersen, photos, and sketches, many of them from the period.  It also includes a driving tour as well as a guide for a walking tour of the battlefield.

If you’re looking for a deep, in-depth study, this isn’t the book to use.  For that, see Gordon Rhea’s book or William Matter’s book.  However, if you’re going to go to the battlefield, this is the book to read the night before and to bring with you.  It will enhance your experience and serve as a ready reference whenever you get to any particular spot on the battlefield.

The appendices include a summary of the Battle of Yellow tavern, a summary of the civilians who lived on the farms and houses that were on the battlefield, a history of the battlefield itself, and a summary of how the battle has been remembered.  There’s also an order of battle, though I do have a quibble with it.  They identify the Second Brigade of Robinson’s division of the Union Fifth Corps as belonging to Col. Samuel Leonard.  Col. Peter Lyle was senior, and it was his corps whenever he was present, and he was present many times during the battle, so more properly Lyle should be identified as the commander of the brigade.  Leonard did take over when Lyle was elsewhere, but in my opinion either both should be named or Lyle should be named rather than Leonard.

I’m really happy with this book, and I think any student of the war who is going to visit the battlefield should consider this book a must-have and must-read.  It’s outstanding.

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