Tuesday, February 28, 2012


[ Military Strategy in the American Civil War edited by James I. Robertson, Jr. (Virginia Sesquicentennial of the ACW Commission, 2012). Hardcover, chronology, reading list, index. Pages main/total:110/158.  ISBN:978-0-9834012-1-6   $23.95 ]

The Virginia state commission charged with commemorating the Civil War Sesquicentennial has sponsored and will continue to sponsor a series of Signature Conferences featuring noted scholars. Each is accompanied by a later print publication and associated with the third event is Military Strategy in the Civil War. The volume is edited by James I. Robertson, Jr., who himself contributes a pair of chapters in addition to the book's introduction.  Other authors in this impressive lineup of historians include Dennis Frye, Richard Sommers, Gary Gallagher, Joseph Glatthaar, William Davis, Richard McMurry, Steven Woodworth, and J.M. Bowen.

With twelve essays distributed over only 110 pages of main text, the chapters are brief. The main eastern and western theaters are covered, of course, but dedicated assessments of the Trans-Mississippi theater and the naval, blockade, and combined operations aspects of the oceanic and riverine wars are absent. The final three chapters examine subjects less often included in discussions of Civil War strategy -- horses, weather, and water.

Primarily composed of operational histories covering one or two year periods of fighting on a given front (with fleeting glimpses of higher level strategic planning), the majority of articles interpret true strategy in the broadest of terms. Only Richard McMurry's essay on the Confederacy's 1863 western strategy actually enumerates and outlines specific strategic principles formulated at the top, and discusses the human, time, distance, and material factors behind their feasibilities and failures. In this reader's opinion, this chapter is by far the best of the bunch.

While readers most familiar with the military literature of the Civil War will not find much in the way of significant challenges to their assumptions, for a general audience or a newer student of Civil War military history, the book can serve as a useful introduction to the land war strategies employed by both sides.

1 comment:

  1. I guess the Trans-Mississippi is not important enough for great minds. Oh well.


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