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About the Book
Confederate cavalry has a storied and favorable relationship with the history of the Civil War. Tales of raids and daring exploits create a whiff of lingering romance about the horse soldiers of the Lost Cause. Sometimes, however, romance obscures history.
In August 1863, William Rosecrans’ Union Army of the Cumberland embarked on a campaign of maneuver to turn Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee out of Chattanooga, one of the most important industrial and logistical centers of the Confederacy. Despite the presence of two Southern cavalry corps (nearly 14,000 horsemen) under legendary commanders Nathan Bedford Forrest and Joe Wheeler, Union troops crossed the Tennessee River unopposed and unseen, slipped through the passes cutting across the knife-ridged mountains, moved into the narrow valleys, and turned Bragg’s left flank. Threatened with the loss of the railroad that fed his army, Bragg had no choice but to retreat. He lost Chattanooga without a fight.
After two more weeks of maneuvering, skirmishing, and botched attacks Bragg struck back at Chickamauga, where he was once again surprised by the position of the Union army and the manner in which the fighting unfolded. Although the combat ended with a stunning Southern victory, Federal counterblows that November reversed all that had been so dearly purchased.
David A. Powell’s Failure in the Saddle: Nathan Bedford Forrest, Joseph Wheeler, and the Confederate Cavalry in the Chickamauga Campaign is the first in-depth attempt to determine what role the Confederate cavalry played in both the loss of Chattanooga and the staggering number of miscues that followed up to, through, and beyond Chickamauga. Powell draws upon an array of primary accounts and his intimate knowledge of the battlefield to reach several startling conclusions: Bragg’s experienced cavalry generals routinely fed him misleading information, failed to screen important passes and river crossings, allowed petty command politics to routinely influence their decision-making, and on more than one occasion disobeyed specific and repeated orders that may have changed the course of the campaign.
Richly detailed and elegantly written, Failure in the Saddle offers new perspectives on the role of the Rebel horsemen in every combat large and small waged during this long and bloody campaign and, by default, a fresh assessment of the generalship of Braxton Bragg. This judiciously reasoned account includes a guided tour of the cavalry operations, several appendices of important information, and original cartography. It is essential reading for students of the Western Theater.
Next up: the first major review . . .