Book Review: A Little Short of Boats: The Civil War Battles of Ball's Bluff and Edwards Ferry, October 21 - 22, 1861


by James Morgan, III

New York: Savas Beatie, 2011. Pp. xxiv, 282. Illus., maps, appends., notes, biblio., index. $29.95. ISBN: 1611210666

A greatly revised and expanded edition of Morgan’s original 2004 work, A Little Short of Boats explores the widespread military and political consequences of a small action in northern Virginia.

Historian, preservationist, and reenactor Morgan examines in great detail the circumstances, events, and consequences of the first notable offensive action by the Union Army in northern Virginia following the debacle at Bull Run, exactly five months before.  Both casually conceived and hastily planned, the operation, essentially a reconnaissance-in-force, required both troops and commanders with far more experience than was the case, and was plagued by ill-luck on the Union side.  The Confederates, albeit not much better trained nor experienced, benefitted from good luck, favorable terrain, and some quick thinking on the part of their local
commander.  The result was a humiliating defeat for the Union forces, which had far-reaching political consequences, sparking the formation of the “Committee on the Conduct of the War,” which plagued Lincoln and his commanders until the end. 

A good read for anyone interested in the Civil War, and an important one for students of the war in Virginia.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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