Sand, Science, and the Civil War
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Sand, Science, and the Civil War

Sedimentary Geology and Combat

Title Details

Pages: 360

Illustrations: 68 b&w images

Trim size: 6.000in x 9.000in

Formats

Paperback

Pub Date: 03/15/2023

ISBN: 9-780-8203-6353-0

List Price: $44.95

eBook

Pub Date: 03/15/2023

ISBN: 9-780-8203-6357-8

List Price: $44.95

eBook

Pub Date: 03/15/2023

ISBN: 9-780-8203-6354-7

List Price: $44.95

Hardcover

Pub Date: 03/15/2023

ISBN: 9-780-8203-6352-3

List Price: $114.95

Sand, Science, and the Civil War

Sedimentary Geology and Combat

How sedimentary geology affected the campaigns and battles of the Civil War

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  • Description
  • Reviews
  • Awards

The influence of sedimentary geology on the strategy, combat, and tactics of the American Civil War is a subject that has been neglected by military historians. Sedimentary geology influenced everything from the nature of the landscape (flat vs. rolling terrain) to the effectiveness of the weapons (a single grain of sand can render a rifle musket as useless as a club). Sand, Science, and the Civil War investigates the role of sedimentary geology on the campaigns and battles of the Civil War on multiple scales, with a special emphasis on the fighting along the coastlines.

At the start of the Civil War the massive brick citadels guarding key coastal harbors and shipyards were thought to be invincible to artillery attack. The Union bombardment of Savannah’s key defensive fortification, Fort Pulaski, demonstrated the vulnerability of this type of fortress to the new rifled artillery available to the Union; Fort Pulaski surrendered within a day. When the Union later tried to capture the temporary sand fortifications of Battery Wagner (protecting Charleston) and Fort Fisher (protecting Wilmington) they employed similar tactics but with disastrous results. The value of sand in defensive positions vastly minimized the Federal advantage in artillery, making these coastal strongpoints especially costly to capture. Through this geologically centered historic lens, Scott Hippensteel explores the way sediments and sedimentary rocks influenced the fighting in all theaters of war and how geologic resources were exploited by both sides during the five years of conflict.

Hippensteel illuminates the role of sand in the coastal battles, how specific rock formations influence important battles such as Gettysburg and Fredericksburg, and the way loess shaped the Mississippi River campaigns. He also examines the role of particular individuals such as Quincy Gillmore, who struggled to understand the interplay of sand, fortifications, and artillery during the war. An important addition to Civil War literature.

—John Majewski, author of A House Dividing: Economic Development in Pennsylvania and Virginia before the Civil War

Sand, Science, and the Civil War is a wholly original work. . . . As a Civil War historian I was often fascinated with his insights and conclusions. It’s the best thing I’ve read on coastal fortifications, and fascinating points crop up throughout.

—Kenneth W. Noe, author of The Howling Storm: Weather, Climate, and the American Civil War

It is always refreshing to see a novel approach to a topic as endlessly studied as the Civil War, and this is precisely what Scott Hippensteel has delivered. . . . When visiting a battlefield, students of the Civil War will inevitably consider the role terrain played in dictating the combat that took place there, but it is unlikely that they pay any attention to the types of soil beneath their feet. In Sand, Science, and the Civil War, Hippensteel makes an excellent case for why they should.

—Jeremy Knoll, The Civil War Monitor

Scott Hippensteel has emerged as one of the more interesting new authors in the field.

—Civil War Books and Authors

Military geoscience publications are relatively sparse and have made few inroads into mainstream history circles, particularly on the subject of the Civil War. Scott Hippensteel’s Sand, Science, and the Civil War steps into this fray, filling a critical gap in several different literatures on America’s Civil War. . . . I have never read a more insightful consideration of the relationship between building material, surrounding landscape, fortification design, commander choice, and battle outcome.

—Erin Stewart Mauldin, Civil War Book Review

Few previous studies have offered such an in-depth look at the significant role that geology played in the conflict and why it is so important to think about. Sand, Science, and the Civil War: Sedimentary Geology and Combat offers many new considerations on these subjects. Readers will likely not look at battlefields, literally or figuratively, quite the same way again.

—Joshua Lindamood, Emerging Civil War

Winner

Top Ten Year in Review, Civil War Books and Authors

Winner

An Abraham Lincoln Book Acquisition, David J. Kent

About the Author/Editor

SCOTT HIPPENSTEEL is associate professor of earth sciences at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He is the author of Rocks and Rifles: The Influence of Geology on Combat and Tactics during the American Civil War. He lives in Charlotte, North Carolina.