America’s Buried History

Landmines in the Civil War

Kenneth R. Rutherford

Despite the thousands of books published on the American Civil War, one aspect that has never received the in-depth attention it deserves is the use of landmines and their effect on the war and beyond.
Date Published :
April 2020
Publisher :
Savas Beatie
Language:
English
Illustration :
17 images, 14 maps
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781611214536
Pages : 216
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : In stock
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$29.95
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Overview
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Despite all that has been published on the American Civil War, one aspect that has never received the in-depth attention it deserves is the widespread use of landmines across the Confederacy. These “infernal devices” dealt death and injury in nearly every Confederate state and influenced the course of the war. Kenneth R. Rutherford rectifies this oversight with America’s Buried History: Landmines in the Civil War, the first book devoted to a comprehensive analysis and history of the fascinating and important topic.

Modern landmines were used for the first time in history on a widespread basis during the Civil War when the Confederacy, in desperate need of an innovative technology to overcome significant deficits in materiel and manpower, employed them. The first American to die from a victim-activated landmine was on the Virginia Peninsula in early 1862 during the siege of Yorktown. Their use set off explosive debates inside the Confederate government and within the ranks of the army over the ethics of using “weapons that wait.” As Confederate fortunes dimmed, leveraging low-cost weapons like landmines became acceptable and even desirable.

The controversial weapon was the brainchild of Confederate General Gabriel J. Rains (who had experimented with explosive booby traps in Florida two decades earlier during the Seminole Wars, and other Confederates soldiers developed a sundry of landmine varieties, including command-controlled and victim-activated. The devices saw extensive use in Virginia, at Port Hudson in Louisiana, in Georgia, the Trans-Mississippi Theater, during the closing weeks of the war in the Carolinas, and in harbors and rivers in multiple states. Debates over the ethics of using mine warfare did not end in 1865, and are still being waged to this day.

Dr. Rutherford, who is known worldwide for his work in the landmine discipline, and who himself lost his legs to a mine in Africa, relies on a host of primary and secondary research to demonstrate how and why the mines were built, how and where they were deployed, the effects of their use, and the reactions of those who suffered from their deadly blasts. America’s Buried History is an important contribution to the literature on one of the most fundamental, contentious, and significant modern conventional weapons. According to some estimates, by the early 1990s landmines were responsible for more than 26,000 deaths each year worldwide.

Landmines, argues Dr. Rutherford, transitioned from “tools of cowards” and “offenses against democracy and civilized warfare” to an accepted form of warfare until the early 1990s. The genesis of this acceptance began during the American Civil War.

About The Author
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Kenneth R. Rutherford is known for his decades of work in the landmine discipline. He is cofounder of the Landmine Survivors Network and a prominent leader in the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which won the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize. A professor of political science at James Madison University, he directed the university’s Center for International Stabilization and Recovery for ten years, which for more than 21 years has been recognized as a global leader in international efforts to combat the effects of landmines and explosive remnants of war. He holds a Ph.D. in Government from Georgetown University, and B.A. and MBA degrees from the University of Colorado, where he lettered in football as a walk-on noseguard and inducted into its Hall for Distinguished alumni.

REVIEWS
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“Masterfully researched and eloquently written, Rutherford’s volume is destined to become a classic study of one of the most horrific weapons ever utilized during the Civil War—landmines. From technological discussions, to employment in combat, and examination of the physical and emotional toll land mines took on soldiers victimized by them, this book provides the most comprehensive analysis ever produced on the topic. Rutherford’s splendid study is critical reading for those seeking a deeper understanding of the manner in which technology impacted our nation’s most tumultuous moment and the men who fought in it.”

- Jonathan A. Noyalas, Director, Shenandoah University’s McCormick Civil War Institute

“Ken Rutherford…a professor, champion of human rights, and landmine survivor . . . explores an important subject for the first time. This book is a MUST for military history buffs! A thrilling and chilling read. I highly recommend it.”

- His Royal Highness Prince Mired Raad Al-Hussein, UN Special Envoy for Landmine Prohibition Treaty

America’s Buried History is a compelling and exhaustive exploration of a deadly weapon—the anti-personal landmine—introduced for the first time on a broad scale in the American Civil War. Landmines would eventually cost the lives and limbs of hundreds of thousands of people around the world, which ultimately resulted in the prohibition by most countries. This book is an absorbing eye-opening history that combines insightful political decisions, military history, technical details, and biographies.”

- Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate (1997) and Chair, Nobel Women’s Initiative

“By combining his love of learning, fascination with history, dedication to helping innocent victims of war, and near-death in Somalia from a landmine explosion that ultimately claimed both legs, Ken Rutherford has written a riveting account of the use of these indiscriminate weapons during our own Civil War. Like today, landmines were an inexpensive weapon used to terrorize the enemy and inflicted terrible injuries and death. Usually triggered by the victim, they can remain active long after a war ends, and today’s casualties are often civilians, like Ken. America’s Buried History: Landmines in the Civil War reminds us of the immeasurable sacrifice of those who fought a century and a half ago, and of how, despite all the technological advances, much of what made war hell back then remains true today.”

- U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy

"...meticulously documented and includes a useful glossary of terms associated with mine use together with a good bibliography. This unusual book added to my knowledge of the Civil War and undoubtedly will do so for other readers."

- Midwest Book Review

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