Saturday, November 6, 2021

Book Review: Under The Crescent Moon with the XI Corps

Under the Crescent Moon with the XI Corps in the Civil War: From the Defenses of Washington to Chancellorsville, 1862-1863
James S. Pula

James Pula's in-depth examination of the XI Corps of the Union Army of the Potomac is required reading for a clear understanding of the most famous moment of the Chancellorsville battle, Stonewall Jackson's flank attack. Pula demonstrates how these "German" troops were deliberately blamed for the loss of Joe Hooker's grand plan despite the fact that the XI Corps units had a better defensive response than is traditionally recounted. 

While not explicitly stated, Pula's analysis of the events reminds the reader of how easily historical fact can be swept away, even in the moment, with the result that 160 years later popular memory will still think of the XI Corps routed from the field in disgrace. To that point, Pula's work is an excellent defense to the common challenge that there is no wider historical value to micro-histories of battlefield maneuvers. Here we see how a detailed examination of the regimental movements, responding bravely and competently in the face of overwhelming adversity, dispels not only the assumption of the XI Corps' ineptitude, but highlights the ease with which cultural bias can alter the true historical record.

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