There are few more momentous years in American history than 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation. The Battle of Gettysburg, ending Robert E Lee’s invasion of the North. The Fall of Vicksburg, which effectively cut the Confederacy in half. More than 30,000 books have been written on the Battle of Gettysburg alone.
And there are few more actively maintained and managed Civil War web sites than Emerging Civil War. With 28 contributors and seven editors (all of whom also contribute), the site is updated daily and often several times a day.
Chris Mackowski serves as editor-in-chief, and Dan Welch is one of the site’s contributors. Together, they have edited some 40 articles about the Civil War summer of 1863, focusing ontwo major campaigns – Vicksburg in Mississippi and Tullahoma in Tennessee. Usually works about that momentous summer address the Battle of Gettysburg; The Summer of ’63: Vicksburg & Tullahoma are about the other two campaigns whose outcomes had as much to do with the defeat of the Confederacy as did Gettysburg. In fact, one might argue that Vicksburg had at least as great an impact on the war as Gettysburg did, and perhaps more.
The articles cover a broad array of topics. Included are an overview of the stakes of Vicksburg; the turning point for Ulysses S. Grant; photographing Vicksburg; Grierson’s Raid through central Mississippi; how Admiral David Porter ran gunboats past the batteries at Vicksburg; the role of William Tecumseh Sherman; the related Vicksburg battles of Champion Hill and Jackson; how civilians fared during the siege of the Mississippi town; an overview of the Battle of Tullahoma and the related actions at Liberty Gap and Shelbyville; and more.
And the book isn’t only about battles and military strategies. We read about Old Abe, the Eighth Wisconsin’s war eagle; the shooting of a Maine deserter; Abraham, the slave “blown” to freedom; a letter-writing campaign to the veterans of Vicksburg; the life of an officer as revealed by his letters; and other human-interest stories.
The result is a collective story of armies, strategy, generals, and civilians who fought and experienced two of the most significant campaigns of the American Civil War.
A professor at St. Bonaventure University, Mackowski has received B.A., M.A., M.F.A., and Ph.D. degrees in communication, English, and creative writing. The author of some nine books, he’s written extensively on the Civil War for a number of publications. He also worked for the National Park Service and gave tours of the Civil War battlefields at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Wilderness, and Spotsylvania.
Welch is an educator in a public school district in Ohio and serves as a seasonal park ranger at Gettysburg National Military Park and associate editor of Gettysburg Magazine. He’s written two books in the Emerging Civil War Series and co-edited several volumes.
Mackowski and Welch have done an excellent job in gathering and curating a wealth of material, putting in its context, and helping us make sense of that tumultuous and important summer. The Summer of ’63 is a story told well.
Top illustration: Admiral David Porter’s gunboats run the Vicksburg blockade, lithograph by Currier & Ives, 1863.