Society for Military History Annual Meeting

Originally posted to Civil Warriors.

The program for the 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History, which is being held on 14-16 March 2013, in New Orleans, LA, and sponsored by the Center for the Study of War and Society at The University of Southern Mississippi, with the National World War II Museum and Southeastern Louisiana University, has recently been posted.

Not much this year, unfortunately, to interest the Civil War enthusiast. I saw only one session dedicated to the subject, which is definitely odd considering this is the 150th anniversary of not a few events of note in the military history of the Civil War. No doubt this is in large part due to a program on the 150th at Gettysburg College that is running the same weekend. Still, there will once again be a decent contingent of Civil War historians in attendance, including George Rable, Susannah Ural, and Carol Reardon. As for me, I will be chairing a panel on “Alcohol and Drugs in Three Wars: The Great War, Korea , and Vietnam”.

Further information about the meeting, including the program and logistics, can be found here.

If you are in New Orleans in mid-March, definitely consider attending, as the program looks interesting.

A worthwhile investment

Part of being a historian is being active in the field and one of the ways to get active is to be a member of a professional association or society. I am currently a member of the Society for Military History and the Army Historical Foundation (sorry to the rest of the branches, but I am an Army Brat). I am also involved with H-Net, which is a consortium of list servers and discussion based online networks on a wide variety of Humanities and Social Science topics, mostly history related. I have also been a member of The Historical Society and the AHA, but left the former to use the funds that would go to it to pay for membership in other organizations closer related to my research. I left the AHA for personal reasons that I will not go into here.

I have been happy with my membership in the Society for Military History and Army Historical Foundation, but I decided that since I am getting a bit further along in my graduate education, I wanted to join a couple new groups. Therefore, a few weeks ago, I mailed in my application to join The Society of Civil War Historians and just last night, after consulting with my thesis adviser yesterday, I joined the Southern Historical Association. I am contemplating joining the Society of Historians of the Early American Republic (SHEAR), but will have to wait and see about my finances.

There are many advantages to being a member of a professional group, like the ones above. You get a subscription to a quality peer-reviewed publication that offers up the latest scholarly happenings in the field. This is important, as one should be up, as best as possible, on the latest trends in their research areas. Second, you often get discounts to attend the national meetings and conferences held by these groups. These meetings, which often include a conference, as well as other conferences offer the opportunity to share your research with other scholars, as well as network with other members, which can be great for future employment. In addition, some groups have job sessions, where preliminary interviews are held for various positions around the nation and world.

In short, there are very few reasons, except for having more money in your bank account and more shelf space in your home (which are bad reasons anyway), to not join a professional society. Graduate students are especially encouraged to join, as it looks great on the old CV and on applications for programs and fellowships, plus most groups offer discounted rates for students, since they realize most students, myself included, do not have as much discretionary income. I encourage you to check out the groups I mentioned and look for others that maybe closer to your interests.

Review of Sheridan’s Lieutenants

I wrote this review for the July 2006 issue of The Journal of Military History, which is put out by the Society for Military History.

book cover

Sheridan’s Lieutenants: Phil Sheridan, His Generals, and the Final Year of the Civil War. By David Coffey. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005. ISBN 0-7425-4306-4. Maps. Photographs. Notes. Bibliographical essay. Index. Pp. xxx, 173. $22.95.

In Sheridan’s Lieutenants, historian David Coffey tells the story of Phil Sheridan, commander of the Cavalry Corps under Ulysses S. Grant, and his subordinates during the final year of the Civil War. Coffey gives detailed biographical sketches of the generals who comprised Sheridan’s staff, men like George A. Custer, George Crook, and others, who aided Sheridan in his command greatly.

Coffey examines Sheridan’s command in a chronological as well as geographical manner. After devoting the first two chapters to the composition of the command itself as well as the disastrous battles of the Wilderness, Cold Harbor, and Spotsylvania Courthouse, he examines the formation of the Army of the Shenandoah, which Sheridan commands, and the ensuing Valley Campaign. Within this examination, Coffey focuses on the Battles of Winchester, Fisher’s Hill, and Cedar Creek and the scorched earth policy pursued by Sheridan in the valley. Coffey notes acts of brutality on both sides in addition to the destruction of barns, farm implements, livestock, and crops throughout the area.

The focus then shifts to central Virginia and Sheridan’s staff’’s involvement in the siege of Petersburg and attempting to defeat Lee‚’s army including the Appomattox Campaign. Coffey mentions the Battles of Five Forks and Sayler’s Creek, and, Sheridan’’s blocking of Lee’’s escape route at Appomattox. The epilogue deals with the post-war careers of Sheridan and his “lieutenants”, and how many went on to great fame. In addition, Coffey notes the future demise of one of Sheridan’s favorite subordinates, George A. Custer, who would later meet disaster at Little Big Horn in 1876.

Coffey‚’s scholarship is quite good, as he uses memoirs, biographies, and the 128 volumes of The War of the Rebellion, or ““OR“”. His use of good notes as well as a solid bibliographic essay lend to his work the credibility needed for academic use. In addition, the work is further aided by maps, both battlefield and regional, and photographs of Sheridan, Grant, Sheridan‚’s ‚“lieutenants‚”, and his Confederate opponents, which provide a more vivid picture of the command and campaigns discussed within Coffey’s work.

While not long on pagination, Coffey packs each page with detail allowing for great acquisition of knowledge of a man, his command, and the places they were. Sheridan’s Lieutenants is worth more in historical value than the actual price, as it provides great scholarship and information into a less known piece of Civil War history. Historians and general readers would be wise to consider placing this work on their reading list.