THE BATTLE OF RESACA by Philip L. Secrist Mercer University Press, 1998, 93 pages + notes, bibliography, and index Reviewed by Joe Childress Involving nearly 150,000 troops, commanders like Joseph Johnston, John Bell Hood, William T. Sherman, and George H. Thomas, and Confederate soldiers from Virginia and several other states, the Battle of Resaca marked the opening of Sherman's Atlanta Campaign. After two days of intense fighting and 11,000 dead, wounded and captured (including among the dead, one immortalized in a famous story by Ambrose Bierce), Johnston extracted his Army of Tennessee, leaving Sherman to claim an expensive and hollow victory. This short book presents the story of this battle. But it is more than the story of a battle; it is also the story of a battlefield. Part I, the story of the battle, is an enhanced version of a magazine article written for The Atlanta Historical Journal, while Part II tells how the battlefield was preserved, and profiles the individuals instrumental in its preservation. Philip Secrist, a history professor at Kennesaw State University and Chairman of the Georgia Civil War Commission, has studied the battle of Resaca and the battlefield for forty years, and his knowledge and love of this site are apparent in this work. Dr. Secrist's method is to sequentially tell the battle's story, beginning with a short overview of Sherman's plan for Georgia, plans thwarted by Johnston at Resaca. Using twenty(!) maps (including four beautiful color reproductions), the reader or battlefield visitor should be able to follow troop movements and battlefield developments during the two-day battle. The contemporary and modern battlefield photos are a valuable aid to visualizing the topography (which may be unfamiliar to Virginians). For those interested in the Atlanta Campaign, especially the battle of Resaca, this book (the only one devoted to Resaca) is essential. That is not to say it doesn't have its weaknesses. Some of the maps, especially those reprinted from the Official Records, are too small to be legible. There is no order of battle or detailed analysis of troop strength by command. The book would also be greatly improved by an expanded introduction to the Georgia Campaign. Dr. Secrist demonstrates that he has the knowledge and the ability to produce the full-length book that this battle needs and deserves. The summary beginning on page 64 demonstrates that his writing skills are up to the task. One is left wanting more, and hoping that Dr. Secrist will find the time to expand his work to three or four times its present scope.
Availability: New copies are currently available for $20 at most Civil War book dealers. New or used copies may also be purchased on-line. Currently available from Barnes & Noble for $20.00 - hardcover.
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