The Battle of Antietam – 17 September, 1862

Photo of the Antietam battlefield taken on the day of the battle by Alexander Gardner

The Battle of Antietam is interesting for several reasons the most important of which for me is that it is the single bloodiest day in American military history. There have been bloodier battles in American wars but no single day matches the blood spilled on those Maryland fields that early day in 1862. The Union victory at Antietam, if you can call it a victory, also provided Abe Lincoln with the opportunity to promulgate the Emancipation Proclamation. An executive act that was totally unconstitutional but that he did anyway for domestic and foreign political reasons. Antietam was the final battle of Lee’s first invasion of the North and while it … Read more…

Book Review: World War II: Cause and Effect by Bill Brady

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[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the author. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own] World War Two: Cause and Effect by Bill Brady is not so much a narrative history as a topical anthology of the war.  It is a collection of papers Mr Brady has presented over the years collected and published in one volume.  According to the jacket Mr. Brady is a lifelong history buff and is a member and President of the South African Military History Society of Kwa Zulu Natal in Durban, South Africa. The book itself is 341 pages in length.  The … Read more…

Book Review: Battle Tactics of the Western Front by Paddy Griffith

Battle Tactics of the Western Front: The British Army`s Art of Attack, 1916-18 by Paddy Griffith is a very interesting book. The premise is that despite what many historians have said about the inertia of the British Army in WWI and it’s resistance to tactical change, that is not true and the British were committed to innovation throughout the war in an effort to break the deadlock of the trenches. The book itself is not long, 219 pages of text including appendices. There are extensive endnotes and the bibliography is fairly extensive as well. The book is organized topically and though it purports to only deal with the developments of the … Read more…

What is Military History?

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The title of this piece is a very good question in my opinion. The question really came home to me recently when I was reading the Calls for Papers in the bi-annual newsletter of the Society of Military History of which I am a member. It strikes me more and more often that Military History, like other branches of history is increasingly splintered and Balkanized. Much as traditional history is now more concerned with what the average person did than with the trajectory of nations or kingdoms, modern military history seems to focus more and more on the experience of the average soldier instead of how and why wars were … Read more…

Historical Resources on the Web

Updated 24 June 2014 — Below the fold is a list of historical sources on the internet, this includes both primary and secondary source collections.   I am constantly updating this list when I run across useful sites.   Please point me at sites I miss in the comments section.

Book Review: The Color of War: How One Battle Broke Japan and the Other Changed America by James Campbell

[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the publisher for purposes of reviewing it. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own] The Color of War is one of those strange history books that seems both bipolar and unified at the same time.  It is the story of the invasion of Saipan and the Port Chicago naval disaster told mostly convergently.  At first the somewhat bi-polar nature of the way the story was told was off-putting but the more I read the book the more the method made sense.  The two different but temporally convergent narratives reinforce the separation … Read more…

Book Review: Road to Valor by Aili & Andres McConnon

[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the publisher for purposes of reviewing it. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own] Road to Valor is the story of one of the many unsung and unremembered heroes of World War II. Gino Bartali was a prewar Italian racing champion and winner of the Tour de France.  Just about everyone has heard of Oskar Schindler and his List due to the 1993 Spielberg movie or Anne Frank.  What is less known are the thousands of others across occupied Europe that worked trying to help Jews and others that the Nazi’s … Read more…

Documentary Storm

DocumentaryStorm, a website for documentary lovers has asked me to help them promote their site and help them celebrate their one year anniversary.  After checking it out I agreed, they have a pretty good collection of military themed documentaries.  I have highlighted some of the ones I think are the best below.  Fell free to check out their list at DS Military Videos. The Great War, This is the complete Great War series that was initially aired by PBS in the ’90s. The Survivors of Stalingrad:  A good series about the battle for Stalingrad and the subsequent fate of the German troops who were captured there. Ancient Warriors: This excellent series … Read more…

Honey or Salt?

There is an old adage that “you can catch more flies with honey than with salt.” The truth of that adage is being put to the test daily in Afghanistan and being to shown to be false under certain circumstances at least. ISAF is not winning currently, but they are not exactly losing either. At best from what I read, see, and hear ISAF is fighting a delaying action against the inevitable fall of the central government and rise of whatever Islamic extremist group bubbles up out of the morass of internal Afghan politics. I can almost guarantee it won´t be the Taliban, but probably someone very much like them. … Read more…

Bias in Academic History?

I got my latest copy of the SMH Journal of Military History a few weeks ago and am working my way through the articles.  The Journal always provides grist for at least one post, most of the time it is a thought provoking article that prompts me to post.  This time it is different.  There is a phrase in one of the articles that caused me to raise my eyebrows.  The article is:  Candice Shy Hooper, “The War That Made Hollywood: How the Spanish-American War Saved the U.S. Film Industry,” The Journal of Military History76 #1 (January 2012): 69-97.  The phrase is: “The newest form of mass entertainment in the … Read more…