Book Review: The Carnage was Fearful: The Battle of Cedar Mountain, August 9, 1862


by Michael Block

El Dorado Hills, Ca.: Savas Beatie, 2022. Pp. xii, 192. Illus., maps, appends., e-notes, biblio. $14.95 paper. ISBN: 1611214408

An Overlooked, Bloody, Battle

The Battle of Cedar Mountain has often been overlooked in the literature, but Michael Block has written an excellent introductory volume about it, one that also provides a wonderful tour of the battlefield for enthusiasts and trampers.

After some background material on how the battle came to be, Block's thirteen chapters offer looks at the main characters involved on both sides and gives us insights into the decision making by the Confederacy's Maj. Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson and the Union's Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Banks which shaped the battle, a ferocious three-hour clash that yielded more than 3,600 casualties. Block provides important details on the individual actions, supported by eyewitness accounts from both sides. His author’s analysis of the political, strategic, and tactical issues is clear and right on the money.

Unanticipated Federal aggressiveness almost gained a victory, but a clear mistake was Banks' failure to unite all forces in the Shenandoah Valley. Jackson's response turned the battle into a triumph, which increased his popularity and the widespread belief in his invincibility. Most notably, the Federal loss at Cedar Mountain prevented a Union movement into central Virginia and provided the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, Gen. Robert E. Lee, with an opening to take the combat away from Richmond and to Washington, D.C.

In addition to the driving tour of the battlefield, there are appendices covering the relationship between Jackson and A.P. Hill, the crossing at Crooked Run Ford, Pope’s General Orders, and preservation at Cedar Mountain, plus an order of battle.

Well written, not easy to put down, highly informative, deeply researched, accessible, The Carnage Was Fearful, the 45th volume in the excellent Savas-Beatie series "Emerging Civil War," is highly recommended.


Our Reviewer: David Marshall has been a high school American history teacher in the Miami-Dade School district for more than three decades. A life-long Civil War enthusiast, David is president of the Miami Civil War Round Table Book Club. In addition to numerous reviews in Civil War News and other publications, he has given presentations to Civil War Round Tables on Joshua Chamberlain, Ulysses S. Grant, Abraham Lincoln, the Battle of Gettysburg, and the common soldier. His most recent previous reviews here include Their Maryland, The Lion of Round Top, Rites of Retaliation, Animal Histories of the Civil War Era, Benjamin Franklin Butler, Dreams of Victory: General P. G. T. Beauregard, Bonds of War, Early Struggles for Vicksburg, True Blue, Civil War Witnesses and Their Books, Love and Duty, When Hell Came To Sharpsburg, Lost Causes, Six Miles From Charleston, Five Minutes to Hell, "If We Are Striking for Pennsylvania", James Montgomery: Abolitionist Warrior, Cedar Mountain to Antietam, Lieutenant General James Longstreet, Count the Dead, All Roads Led To Gettysburg, Unhappy Catastrophes, The Heart of Hell, The Whartons' War, Gettysburg’s Southern Front , Civil War Monuments and Memorials, The Tale Untwisted, The Confederate Military Forces in the Trans-Mississippi West, and The Civilian War.



Note: The Carnage Was Fearful is also available in e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium

Reviewer: David Marshall   

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