Bushwhacking on a Grand Scale: The Battle of Chickamauga, September 18-20, 1863. By William Lee White. Illustrated, photos, maps, orders of battle, 192 pp., 2013, Savas Beatie, www.savasbeatie.com, $12.95 softcover.
There has never been a better time to a Western theater enthusiast. There will always be more books on Gettysburg than on any other battle but in recent years the pure volume of books on Western theater battles has steadily increased. The latest offering in this theater comes from a Chickamauga park ranger, and local, William Lee White. This is an excellent book that walks the fine line between being a general overview but gives enough detail for a more knowledgeable audience.
The book’s format is that in each chapter White explains a phase of the battle then has a driving tour that takes you to that spot. Although many of the photos are small there are period and modern photos are on nearly every page to help show the terrain, monuments or the commanders involved. I read it from the comfort of my home a thousand miles from Chickamauga but felt that the directions were easy to follow. Also having been to Chickamauga many times the directions and modern photos helped jog my memory of what is at each tour stop. If you read the book while on the battlefield it would only enhance the experience.
I’m tempted to compare it to the other Chickamauga tour guide, the War College Version, Guide to the Battle of Chickamauga, written by Matt Spruill roughly 16 years ago. The main difference between the two is that Spruill’s version uses the primary sources, mainly the official reports from the commanders to explain the battle while White’s version is a narrative account he distilled from the primary and secondary sources. White’s book is probably an easier read but Spruill’s puts you in the commanders’ shoes more as they make their decisions. I don’t think I could pick owning just one. For someone just entering the study of Chickamauga though White’s book is a more accessible read.
I also enjoyed the appendices, especially the one of the civilians who lived on the battlefield at the time. They are always mentioned in battle histories but for some of them this was the most detail I’ve previously seen, at least in one short chapter.
The one complaint I do have with Bushwhacking on a Grand Scale is that the driving tour stays within the national park. There is a wealth of other sites outside the park but the book does not take you to those. For the times it discusses actions outside the park it would not have been difficult to take the visitor there. This is a relatively minor complaint though for an overall great book.