Wednesday, December 28, 2016

McClellan and the Union High Command, 1861-1863

Sometimes it is interesting to see what a Civil War 'outsider' can bring to the discussion of a well-worn topic. The author of the upcoming McClellan and the Union High Command, 1861-1863: Leadership Gaps That Cost A Timely Victory (McFarland, January 2017) is Jeffrey Green, a history professor who teaches in Australia and has previously published books on modern wars in the Far East and Pacific. Hopefully, in dipping his toes into unfamiliar waters, the author does not grasp at appallingly outdated cliches to the degree found in the recent A Savage War. Perhaps Hsieh & Murray's book immeasurably improves after the first 100 pages, which was all I could take before quitting on it. Neither author is a serially published Civil War specialist, but I mostly liked Hsieh's book about 19th Century West Point officers (a work that received mixed reviews from readers at large) and didn't recognize his stamp on any of the early parts of A Savage War that I read.

Anyway, getting back to Green ... the book description is very brief and shy about hinting at what directions it will take. I would reword the following passage from it — "McClellan's "On to Richmond" battle cry dominated strategic thinking in the high command." The last sentence is tantalizing and reads: "This re-examination of the high command and McClellan's war in the East provides a broader understanding of the Union's inability to achieve victory in the first two years, and takes the debate about the Union's leadership into new areas." I am curious as to what these "new areas" might be.

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