An Environmental History of the Civil War

Univ. of North Carolina. Apr. 2020. 272p. ISBN 9781469655383. $30. HIST
Browning and Silver (both, environmental history, Appalachian State Univ.) delve into the many environmental factors that helped shape the American Civil War. Inclement weather, such as the April 1862 snowstorm at the Battle of Shiloh, quickly unraveled military plans and often had an unpredictable effect on battle outcomes. Military readiness was severely compromised by lethal communicable disease, the cause and prevention of which were poorly understood at the time. Procurement and care of animals, vital to transporting supplies to the battlefields, presented other logistical challenges. The authors also explain how animals as battlefield participants, including officer mounts and artillery caisson haulers, added to the spread of disease among soldiers. Terrain, combined with weather vagaries, added yet another complication for military commanders. The marshy, boggy east coast often slowed Union westward advances into the Confederate heartland, while unusual rain events bogged down military advances in the arid west.
VERDICT For scholars of the Civil War, this book adds a fresh perspective, illustrating how ecology, nature, and weather had a striking and unpredictable effect upon military preparedness and the waging of war.

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