The third volume of Russel Beatie's series, The Army of the Potomac, is shipping now and I wanted to say so many things about these books. This being a blog, constricted by format, let me say just a few brief things at a time.
The structure in which Beatie delivers his research and rethinking is that of a narrative. That is no accident, as you can see from this interview. Nevertheless, this is not you father's ACW narrative. It is leavened with analysis - sometimes to an extent that some Civil War readers would object to - and it contains all those bits left out of the traditional Centennial storyline. This makes Beatie's books the equivalent of a "director's cut" of the story of the war in the east.
"Director's cut" is a funny film industry term that means the opposite of what it signifies. It suggests a version where the director has been uncut - his vision is freed from external constraint.
Beatie's Army of the Potomac restores all the really interesting bits that pop historians removed to keep your pretty little head from worrying about confusing details. You'll recoginize the story framework (e.g. timeline and personalities) but you'll not be prepared for what you encounter on the way. The war in the east will be a new reading experience for you.
If you are a reader of the type, "wow, look at that," you're in for an excellent time. If your reaction tends to be, "this is not important or I would know it already," then forget these volumes. And please forget this blog.
In the days ahead, I'll post a few examples of this wow factor (without spoiling too much of the fun this book affords deep readers).