Originally published in 2002.
As the title states, Clint Johnson has found 50 people from the Civil War (25 from each side) who played an important role, but are generally speaking, not big names. So, you won't find Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, William T. Sherman or Stonewall Jackson in this book, except in passing. All of those men would have admitted that they didn't win (or lose) the war by themselves. It was a big war and it involved literally millions of people inside and outside of the military and even outside of the government. Some of those were very helpful and are labeled as "bull's-eyes". Some people, though, got in the way more than they helped. They are the "misfires".
Some of the misfires and bull's-eyes that Johnson lists are clearly misfires or bull's-eyes. For example, the first person listed in the book is Union Major William F. Barry. He misidentified Confederate troops at a critical moment in the First Battle of Bull Run as Union troops and stopped Union artillery from potentially breaking the Confederate line and wiping out Stonewall Jackson's unit before they made the stand that gave Jackson his famous nickname.
|Captain Sally Tompkins (1833-1916)|
The story of Captain Sally Tompkins was an eye-opener to me. Sally Tompkins ran a hospital out of her own home in Richmond and had an incredible success rate - the lowest mortality rate in any hospital in the war on either side. Jefferson Davis made a rule that all hospitals had to be ran by a military officer (because there were some pretty bad private operators). But, Jefferson Davis wanted to make sure that Tompkins' hospital stayed open so he made her a captain in the Confederate Army - possibly the first female officer in any American army. For the record, she served without pay and refused a pension after the war. Personally, I was amazed that Jefferson Davis could be that flexible in his thinking - he was not known for that quality. I was also pleased to read that Tompkins treated all wounded equally in her hospital - Union or Confederate. She even treated African-American Union soldiers, which was enough of an oddity that people commented on it.
I am an avid reader of Civil War histories and I only knew and could identify about 20 of these people (meaning I could make a good guess as to why they were listed in this book) before reading this book.
I have only three complaints.
1) The book is heavily biased towards the Eastern Theater of War.
2) There is a slight anti-Lincoln bias present in the book. Not the biggest deal, since the book is about the smaller players in the war.
3) The biggest complaint I have is that there are times when a person was listed because they got into a professional squabble with another person and forgot the larger picture. Then, a few profiles later, the squabble was presented a second time because it was a profile of the other guy in the fight. For example, there were two discussions about the creation of the C.S.S. Virginia, the first Confederate ironclad ship. Two men were sure they were responsible (Porter and Brooke) and the reader gets to read the story twice, with a slightly different take the second time.
I rate this book 4 stars out of 5. It can be found on Amazon.com here: BULL'S-EYES and MISFIRES: 50 PEOPLE WHOSE OBSCURE EFFORTS SHAPED the AMERICAN CIVIL WAR by Clint Johnson.