T. A. Heppenheimer, who wrote “Build-down,” recommends several books on the military in the wake of our wars. Makers of Naval Policy, 1798-1947 , by Robert Greenhalgh Albion (Naval Institute Press, 1980), is a thorough and highly knowledgeable treatment of the major trends in the growth of the U.S. Navy from the days of the Barbary pirates to the dawn of the atomic age. The Army in a lean time is the subject of Edward F. Coffman’s The Old Army (Oxford University Press, 1986), a lively and atmospheric anecdotal survey of the Regular Army between the two world wars. And, finally, there is the great flagship itself, Alfred Thayer Mahan’s immensely influential The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783 , reissued by Dover Publications in soft cover in 1987 and quite compelling with its grand and sonorous tribute to the Royal Navy: “Those far distant, storm-beaten ships, upon which the Grand Army never looked, stood between it and the dominion of the world.”
Gene Smith, whose series “American Characters” makes its debut in this issue, is the author most recently of American Gothic (Simon and Schuster), the grimly fascinating, headlong tale of the Booth family, which gave America its greatest acting dynasty- and its darkest crime.
The Wounded River: The Civil War Letters of John Vance Lauderdale, M.D. (Michigan State University Press, 241 pages) is an engrossing chronicle of that struggle told through a young surgeon’s letters. It is featured in this month’s “The Life and Times.”