​​Title:           America's Great Debate. Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise That Preserved the Union

Author:      Fergus M. Bordewich

Other:        Published by Simon & Schuster 2012. 480 pages

Reviewer:  Jay H. Ferris

I highly recommend this book. "America's Great Debate" examines the Compromise of 1850, the events leading up to it, the debates themselves which raged in Congress, and the results of the Compromise. Mr. Bordewich has done a great job in explaining the issues and events during this period, including the little known attempt by Texas to take over much of the eastern part of present day New Mexico.


Mr. Bordewich looks at the debate itself in great detail. He follows the political maneuvering as supporters try to pass the bill and opponents try to kill it. He describes the leading characters of this drama and the motives behind their actions. In doing so, he quotes from the speeches given by the titans of the day: Clay, Webster, Calhoun, Benton, Douglas, Seward and others. Well researched and well written, this book is a must read if anyone wants to learn more about this critical time in our history.

Title:           Senator Benton and the People: Master Race Democracy on the Early American Frontiers

Author:      Ken S. Mueller

Other:        Published by Northern Illinois University Press 2014. 320 pages

Reviewer:  Jay H. Ferris

Overall, I recommend this book. While reading "America's Great Debate" (reviewed above) I became very interested in Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton.  What a fascinating character! He was elected as Missouri's first senator in 1821 and spent over 30 years in Washington D.C. Benton killed one man in a duel, fought another with Andrew Jackson, and became a leading advocate for what he viewed as the common man and their interests on the new frontier of the United States. Thanks to USF History Professor Dr. John Belolavek (who spoke our group in 2019) for recommending this book to me.

​This book is not a standard biography in that it does not examine Benton's entire life in detail. It is more of a political biography. It takes a critical look at Benton's views on slavery and relations with Native Americans. It also looks at Benton's fight against John C. Calhoun and the theory of Nullification and, later, secession. Above all, Benton was a Nationalist and had a deep attachment to the Union. Benton realized that his efforts to support the Union in proslavery and pro-southern Missouri would ultimately cost him his Senate seat, but he continued to fight the good fight.

One negative about the book is the author sometimes seem to be looking for a reason to criticize Benton. For example, the author criticizes Benton for efforts early in his career to pass legislation that benefited his political backers in Missouri. But that is what politicians do, unless they want to become unemployed politicians rather quickly. Other than that, this is a very good book that sheds light on a giant of his day who is now largely forgotten.

Title:         "My Dear Molly--The Civil War Letters of Captain James Love" edited by Molly E. Kodner, archivist at the                                         Missouri History Museum.

Reviewer:  Steve Stuart

​James Love was the grandfather of my paternal grandfather, Lewis B. Stuart, Jr. of St. Louis, MO. Love wrote 160 letters to his fiance Molly Wilson between June 1861 and February of 1865--fortunately, Molly Wilson kept  his letters, passed them down to my grandad who had a stenographer type the letters  for the family and donated them to the Missouri History Museum of St. Louis in 1965. I was contacted in 2011 by archivist Molly Kodner of MHM  who had discovered the letters and asked for information and photographs about Captain Love. The letters  were serialized and released in chronological order of the dates written by Love for the sesquicentennial of the Civil War on the museum's website . "My Dear Molly" was so popular that the museum published them in book form in 2015, edited by Kodner.

Captain Love had an arduous military service record. He served with the Fifth U.S. Reserve Corps, Missouri Volunteers and later the Eighth Kansas Infantry. He fought in the battles of Lexington, Corinth, Louisville and Bardstown (among others)  and was wounded on September 19, 1863 at Chickamauga. He was imprisoned at Libby Prison hospital in Atlanta, escaped, recaptured and taken to prisons in Lynchburg, Macon and Charleston, SC. He ultimately escaped again and rejoined his regiment at Knoxville in 1865.
The letters are remarkable considering Love wrote them while in the field, a hospital or military prison for over four years. They represent original source material about conditions and operations in the Western Theatre of the Civil War.

And did Love and Molly Wilson meet after the war and get married? You'll have to read  "My Dear Molly" to find out.

​Title:          The Inner World of Abraham Lincoln

Author:     Michael Burlingame

Reviewer: Frank Crawford

Realizing that, in the South, another book regarding Abraham Lincoln may not be as applauded as another book on Jefferson Davis, I will submit that one of the best books I have read on President Lincoln is the above title.  

Burlingame, arguably, is the best author on the President and he has, in this effort, combined Lincoln’s history into nine chapters or categories which examine his entire life with those subjects in mind.  From his midlife crisis, his reasons for hating slavery and his questionable choices in the raising of his three sons to his life of depressions, attitude towards women and his often questioned anger and cruelty, Burlingame also covers Lincoln’s ambition as well as his marriage which he describes as a “Fountain of misery.”

I was most impressed with the coverage of the 1835 death of Miss Ann Rutledge and the numbers of people who gave “impressions” of the situations to old time authors that wrote about Lincoln in the late 1800s, just after Lincoln’s death.  Also well covered is the 1855 first meeting with my personal anti-hero, Edwin Stanton and Lincoln.  This discussion even further advanced my negative opinion of the future Secretary of War for the United States of America,

Regarding Lincoln’s anger and cruelty, I found it most interesting that yet another of my anti-heroes, or villains of the Civil War era is briefly discussed.  Charles Dana, Edwin Stanton’s special “secretary” comments that he never saw or heard President Lincoln speak negatively in regard to “anyone.”  If that is so, then Lincoln’s secretary, John Hay, has lied to the public and the future.  In his book concerning his service at the White House with President Lincoln, Hay specifically states that it was Charles Dana that quoted Lincoln as “wondering around like a wounded duck.”  Dana obviously, like Stanton, could and would say whatever he felt would improve his own agenda concerning whatever situation was being discussed. 

Mr. Burlingame’s work is an easy read and a very interesting and new approach, at least to me, in a complete study of President Abraham Lincoln.  It can be acquired at almost any book store, by order, or at a used book store such as ABEBOOKS.COM for a very reasonable price of under $5.00 with free shipping.  Good reading.

Title:           Marengo: The Battle that Placed the Crown of France on Napoleon's Head

Author:      T. E. Crowley
​Other:        Published by Pen & Sword Books, England 2018. 311 pages

Reviewer:  Jay H. Ferris

I highly recommend this book.  This book covers the Battle of Marengo on June 14, 1800 between French forces under Napoleon Bonaparte and Austrian forces under Michael Melas in northern Italy, north of Genoa. The author briefly covers events leading up to the start of the campaign, including the reconquest of northern Italy by the Austrians and Russians while Napoleon was away on his Egyptian adventure.

This reconquest wiped out the results of Napoleon's brilliant Italian Campaign of 1796-97. Mr. Crowley also briefly describes the November 1799 Coup of Brumaire, which in effect put Napoleon in charge of France as First Consul. The author points out the fact that since Napoleon's position was new and not yet cemented by a victory, a defeat in this campaign could well have been the end of General Bonaparte. 

The author summarizes the plans of both sides and the actions taken to put those plans into motion. Mr. Crowley does a good job in describing the leadership of the Ausrian army, their strengths and weaknesses, and the personal feuds which hindered the Austrian effort. 

He also points out the terrible staff work of the Austrian army. Even though the Austrians had been in the Marengo area for some time, nobody took the time to examine the ground over which they planned to fight. This negligence would have tragic results.

The author covers both the campaign and battle in just the right amount of detail for the general reader. He keeps the action moving without getting bogged down in every small detail of the battle. The maps of the Marengo area and of the battle itself are good. They are a little different from what most of us are accustomed to seeing in Civil War books, but it does not take long to get used to them. One area that could be improved are the maps that cover the entire campaign. There is a basic map of northern Italy, but it is not helpful. Also included is an Order of Battle which is very helpful.  The book is available on Amazon.

​Title:          Washington’s End: The Final Years and Forgotten Struggle

Author:     Jonathan Horn

​Other:       Publisher & publication date: Scribner, part of Simon & Schuster Publishing, February 2020. 331 pages.

Reviewer: Phill Greenwalt

Phill reviewed this book on the website Emerging Revolutionary War Era​.   Here is the link: 


Title:          Tullahoma: The Forgotten Campaign that Changed the Course of the Civil War, June 23-July 4, 1863
Authors:    David A. Powell and Eric J. Wittenberg
​Other:       Publisher & publication date: Savas Beatie 2020. 395 pages
Reviewer:  Jay H. Ferris

I highly recommend this book. The Tullahoma Campaign has been all but overlooked by Civil War historians. About the only time it is mentioned is in a paragraph or two setting up a history of the Chickamauga Campaign. David Powell and Eric Wittenberg finally give Tullahoma the attention it deserves.

David Powell is well known for his excellent 3 volume study of the Chickamauga Campaign. Eric Wittenberg is a leading authority on Union cavalry operations during the Civil War. Together, they cover the campaign in detail and analyze the decisions made by the generals of both sides.

William Rosecrans, the commander of the Union Army of the Cumberland, devised a plan that was truly Napoleonic in scale. Only unending, torrential rain prevented his plan from potentially trapping and destroying Braxton Bragg's Army of Tennessee. The operations of the Union cavalry are covered in detail in the book.

Powell and Wittenberg describe the repeated command failures of Braxton Bragg and his top generals. In particular, Joseph Wheeler and John Morgan are criticized for their very poor decisions which helped to lead to Bragg's defeat.