First, a couple notes: The author is my dad; I’m trying to be evenhanded in this review, but that bias is there. This book is self-published through CreateSpace, and my copy started coming apart on my first read-through. A couple pages popped out on their own, and many more are sticking and threatening to go. I’m not sure if I’m just unlucky, or if CreateSpace has trouble with 600+ page books (the theoretical maximum length is 800). Also, the electronic version of the book has trouble, and can’t be recommended; this is being worked on, and I’ll update when the problems are fixed.

Over the River is a chronological (day-by-day) reconstruction of the events in the American Civil War from March 23rd to May 22nd, 1863, which saw two nearly simultaneous Union offensives. It is effectively the first book of a series on the war in 1863 (which is a companion to Lowry’s 1864-5 series that was published in the early ’90s), but stands alone without any problems.

The actual narrative content is less than might be supposed, as the book fairly extensively quotes from various primary sources (generally noting the difference between reports at the time and recollections years later). These are critiqued at points where there are mistakes, or perhaps ‘spun’. And then every once in a while the book stops and takes time out to examine the larger meaning of events, which doesn’t happen as often as I’d like, though the afterword has in interesting analysis of the similarities between Grant’s and Hooker’s positions and opening moves, and how the two campaigns eventually ended up with very different results.

It is a particularly interesting period to cover in this format. Hooker’s movement across the Rapidan started within a day or so of Grant’s major movements to get his army across the Mississippi south of Vicksburg. The central third of the book is largely occupied with the Battle of Chancellorsville, and then Grant’s campaign in Mississippi gets exciting just as the Army of the Potomac withdraws back across the Rapidan.

Along the way, the structure makes other things fit together well, most notably the extreme delays in communication between Grant (in northern Mississippi, working south) and Banks (in Louisiana, trying to work north), since all messages had to go the long way through telegraph connections to the east coast, and by ship through the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.

In the end, it is probably too detailed for a reader new to the ACW wanting a more general history or overview, and not deep enough for someone well-versed in the war looking for new insights. But the chronological framework is a very interesting view for the Civil War buff used to more bite-sized chunks of the war, and plenty of basic explanations are given for those not well-versed in the military history of the time.