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Seven Pines; or, Fair Oaks» Forums » General

Subject: Recommended reading rss

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Wayne Hansen
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With some games, such as one on the Battle of the Bulge or the Pacific Theater or Gettysburg, I can jump right in and feel at least some familiarity with the battle that I will be playing. With others, such as Hollandspiele's Seven Pines; or, Fair Oaks that simulate lesser known battles or conflicts, I find myself seeking out educational and entertaining reading on the conflict in question. Here are two (very) different books on this particular battle I found and enjoyed, and wanted to share:

The Battle of Seven Pines: The History of the First Major Battle of the 1862 Peninsula Campaign by Charles River Editors - (2015) - This would be the first book I would recommend specifically if you were looking for a concise, quick to read synopsis of the battle. While you won't gain any insider knowledge or special insight from this short book, I found that it does a decent job of covering the battle in 50 pages. If you know nothing of the battle of Seven Pines, this book will get you up to speed.

The Battle of Seven Pines by (Fmr Major-General, Confederate States Army) Gustavus W. Smith - (1891) - This is the definitive book to read on the conflict. Clocking in at 191 pages, G.W. Smith goes into incredible detail on not only the battle itself, but the strategic and tactical situation leading up to it. The book can be read as much as a reference book as anything, you do not need to start at page 1. In fact the first 30 pages are called the "Preliminary Chapter", and have less to do with the battle itself than G.W. Smith (who was the commander of the left wing of the Army of Northern Virginia during this battle) correcting what he feels are several mistaken beliefs about the battle, by laying out his case against General Longstreet and (CSA) President Davis. This personal and biased chapter aside, which can absolutely be skipped if you only want to focus on the battle, the rest of the book is fantastic. He provides information from the brigade level and up, with personal accounts, post-action reports, and post-war statements from different soldiers all throughout the battle and on both sides. There is a virtual action by action timeline of the battle, starting with General Johnston's conflicting orders to virtually every subordinate, to D.H. Hill's brigades routing and pushing back Casey's entire division, to the Confederate failure to turn the flank and solidify their gains. Some memorable quotes:

"They withstood for 3 hours the attack of an overwhelming force of the enemy." - Union General Casey writing of his division (they occupied a strong defensive position, they broke much more quickly than that, failed to regroup, and several hundred men fled the field of battle entirely)

"Casey's division, which was the first line, gave way unaccountably and discreditably... with the exception of Casey's division, our men behaved splendidly." - Union General McCellan in his initial telegram to Secretary Stanton on June 1st (he would later change his opinion of Casey's division in his official report on the battle. It should also be noted that Casey's division was made up almost entirely of raw recruits, and wasn't expected or prepared to face a well led and motivated Confederate force that refused to break despite taking 50% casualties)

"... and advancing found ourselves facing the foe... As soon as we reached the edge of the thicket, seeing the enemy in front, I ordered the fire... followed by a long, loud, and continued roll of musketry for full fifteen minutes without cessation. I had heard many a volley before, but never one so prolonged and continuous. We... struck them like an avalanche. Their shot and cannon balls came like hail into the bushes around us, but the men lay close to the ground and only rose up on the knee to fire. The enemy were in great force before us, at least ten to one." - Confederate Brigadier-General Gabriel J. Rains, attacking through the woods (it was nowhere close to "ten to one")

"My division had beaten Casey's division and all the re-enforcements brought him, and had driven him and his supports into the woods and swamps." - Confederate General D.H. Hill (the closest to a true statement you will read from the leaders in this battle, each of whom would try to save face in their after-action reports)

It's always interesting to read about a battle I had previously known very little about, and this was no exception. It has helped me to become immersed in the game as I have spent some time with it.
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bill corlett
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Battles and leaders f the Civil War is another great resource. here you will find Longstreet's commentary, almost a self protion advert and well as other first hand account.

You Tube has several videos about the battle, but highly recommended is the gettysburg lecture 2017, about Longstreet and Huger.
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