Book Review: This Grand Spectacle: The Battle of Chattanooga

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by Steven Woodworth

Abilene, Texas: McWhiney Foundation, , 1999. Pp. 136. Illus., maps, biblio., index. $12.95 paper. ISBN:1-893114-04

A volume in the Civil War Campaigns and Commanders series, the quality of which has ranged from the very good to the positively awful, This Grand Spectacle is rather in the middle of this spectrum. It is a basic bare bones work on the battle of Chattanooga.

Woodworth begins by covering the campaign of maneuver between William Rosecrans and Braxton Bragg for Middle Tennessee for the ultimate prize of Chattanooga. He provides a brief description of the Battle of Chickamauga, and a slightly more detailed account of the aftermath of the battle than is normally to be found. Woodworth then goes into a somewhat more detailed narration of the opening of "Cracker Line," Joe Hooker's assault on Lookout Mountain, and the famous storming of Missionary Ridge by George H. Thomas' men.

As is true of any book, this one does reflect certain biases on the part of the author. While he does take some shots at James Longstreet's poor performance in the aftermath of Chickamauga, no mention is made of Bragg's decision to mount a cavalry raid into Middle Tennessee. While a reasonable course of action in itself, Bragg's decision to entrust the operation to the incompetent Joseph Wheeler was about as poor a choice as Bragg could have made. Woodworth's claim that Bragg's poorly laid out defensive line at Missionary Ridge was the result of inexperience also strikes me as somewhat lame, given that Bragg had been in the positions for almost two months.

Like all of Woodworth's books, This Grand Spectacle is a very pleasant and quick read. Aside from the main text, a number of useful biographical side bars are included. This book will not stand as the best work of this prolific author, nor was it intended to be. As a useful primer for the novice, it certainly succeeds.

Reviewer: R.L. DiNardo, USMC C&SC   


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