This book looks at three failed infantry attacks, starting with the Union attack at First Bull Run in 1861 that earned 'Stonewall' Jackson his nickname, then the attack on the Bloody Angle at Gettysburg (part of Pickett's Charge) and finally an attack on the Confederate lines at Chaffin's Farm/ New Market Heights in 1864 during the long sieges of Richmond and Petersburg in 1864-65.
The book is organised so that the accounts of the battles are presented first, followed by a general analysis of the way in which the fighting had changed during the war. Several areas do stand out here - in 1861 the Union army was so badly disordered by the failure of its attacks that the Confederates were able to win a major victory. In contract at Gettysburg and Chaffin's Farm the defeated attackers were still too well organised for their opponents to risk a counterattack. The attack at Chaffin's Farm is a valuable reminder that the Union army could still launch badly organised and led attacks even as late as 1864, showing that the increased professionalism of the armies wasn't at all universal. The increasing use of field fortifications also comes out, with the attacks of 1864 having to advance through bands of obstacles before they could even threat the Confederate lines, and failing to make any real impact.
The text is supported by a good use of eyewitness accounts of the fighting, with interesting material on the background and training of the troops involved. However the structure of the book means that we have three snapshots of the fighting rather than a more general analysis of the infantry war, inevitable given the space constraints here.
The Opposing Sides
First Bull Run/ Manassas, July 21 1861
The Bloody Angle, Gettysburg, 3 July 1863
Chaffin's Farm/ New Market Heights, September 29, 1864
Analysis and Conclusion
Orders of Battle
Author: Ron Field