The Society of Civil War Historians and the Watson-Brown Foundation have awarded Lincoln Memorial University (LMU) professor Earl J. Hess the Tom Watson Brown Book Award for his latest book, “Civil War Infantry Tactics” published by LSU Press. The award will be presented at the Southern Historical Association annual meeting at the Trade Winds Island Resort in St. Pete Beach, Florida, in November.
The award is given annually to the best book published on the causes, conduct, and effects, broadly defined, of the Civil War. Jurors consider nominated works’ scholarly and literary merit as well as the extent to which they make original contributions to our understanding of the period.
In the book, Hess challenged deeply entrenched assumptions on civil war infantry tactics. Drawing on the drill manuals available to officers and a close reading of battle reports, “Civil War Infantry Tactics” demonstrates that linear tactics provided the best formations and maneuvers to use with the single-shot musket, whether rifle, or smoothbore. Unlike most military history that focuses on large strategies, Hess zeros in on formations and maneuvers (or primary tactics), describing the purpose and usefulness in regimental case studies.
Hess has published 21 books (18 on Civil War topics) and 32 articles. His Civil War work mostly focuses on military history, with nine campaign/battle studies, including “Kennesaw Mountain: Sherman, Johnston, and the Atlanta Campaign” (University of North Carolina Press, 2013). His “The Union Soldier in Battle: Enduring the Ordeal of Combat” (University Press of Kansas, 1997) pioneered in exploring the experience of battle. “Civil War Infantry Tactics” was also a finalist for the 2016 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize.
Hess has served on LMU’s faculty for 27 years. He is the Stewart W. McClelland Chair in History. Born in Missouri, Hess earned his Ph.D. in American Studies with an emphasis in History at Purdue University in 1986. He has taught at a number of institutions including the University of Georgia, Texas Tech University, and the University of Arkansas. He was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 2002.
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