Moving crisply from Abraham Lincoln's inauguration in 1861 to the final Confederate surrenders in 1865, this smart collection of essays provides a neat history of the Civil War. With nearly two dozen noted historians contributing to the volume (it is an all-star roster that includes Thomas Fleming, Geoffrey Perret, and James McPherson), the approach is necessarily idiosyncratic. There's no essay on Pickett's charge, for instance, but there is an interesting discussion of Robert E. Lee's orders at Malvern Hill, which were arguably a forerunner to that fateful action at Gettysburg. The editor, Robert Cowley, has done an excellent job of piecing together a group of essays that stand well on their own.
Between these covers, however, they manage to become more than the sum of their parts--always a difficult goal for anthologies to achieve. Cowley himself is the founding editor of Military History Quarterly and the man behind the acclaimed What If? anthology. Each of the selections included in With My Face to the Enemy has appeared previously in MHQ, and many of them have appeared in book form as well. "Lincoln Takes Charge" by David Herbert Donald is drawn from Donald's biography Lincoln, for instance, and "The Ordeal of General Stone" by Stephen W. Sears appeared in Controversies and Commanders.
John Bowers writes one of the most interesting chapters, on Confederate hero Stonewall Jackson. "Jackson was not a natural leader," writes Bowers. "In fact, Jackson probably had what we now call a learning disability." Yet he became one of the most fearsomely effective generals in American history. "He personified the word indomitable. He would not accept defeat and had a way of coming back, prevailing no matter what was thrown at him.... When the Battle of Cedar Mountain was being lost, bluecoats storming over Stonewall's regiments in a clatter of musket fire, Jackson himself galloped into the maelstrom, drew his sword, and rallied his retreating troops back into the fight.... The tide turned, and Cedar Mountain was won." Filled with such compelling perspectives, With My Face to the Enemy is a worthy addition to any personal library on the Civil War. --John J. Miller [via]