Friday, January 26, 2018

Booknotes: The 10 Biggest Civil War Blunders

New Arrival:
The 10 Biggest Civil War Blunders by Edward H. Bonekemper III (Regnery History, 2018).

Discussing Civil War 'what-if' scenarios has always been a popular pastime, and many article and book authors have published their own personal lists of "moments when the outcome of the war (and therefore world history) hinged on a single small mistake or omission." The late Edward Bonekemper (he passed away during the production of this title) came up with his own set in The 10 Biggest Civil War Blunders. In it, he "shows how these ten blunders significantly affected the outcome of the war, and explores how history might easily have been very different if these blunders were avoided."

In numbers, the list is very weighted toward Union failures to destroy enemy armies and/or take key cities earlier than was achieved historically. Bonekemper criticizes Halleck for not capturing the Confederate army at Corinth in 1862 (and for dispersing his own forces after taking the town), McClellan for not destroying Lee at Antietam, the Union high command for not taking Mobile much earlier, Sherman (and presumably also McPherson) for flubbing the Snake Creek Gap opportunity, Grant and his crew for not seizing Petersburg in June '64, and finally Sherman for allowing enemy armies to escape his grasp at both Atlanta and Savannah.

The Confederates are damned on similar lines, with the author censuring Lee's conduct of the Gettysburg Campaign while also condemning the entire Confederate high command during the Chickamauga/Chattanooga campaign for not destroying the Army of the Cumberland and retaining control of Chattanooga. A pair of Confederate strategic mistakes—the cotton embargo and the unwillingness to enlist slaves in the army (hmm)—round out Bonekemper's list of ten.

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