Thursday, June 14, 2018

Booknotes: Challenges of Command in the Civil War, Volume 1

New Arrival:
Challenges of Command in the Civil War: Generalship, Leadership, and Strategy at Gettysburg, Petersburg, and Beyond - Volume I: Generals and Generalship by Richard J. Sommers (Savas Beatie, 2018).

As many of you already know, Richard Sommers is one of the foremost authorities on the 1864-65 Richmond-Petersburg Campaign, particularly Grant's Fifth Offensive. His study Richmond Redeemed: The Siege at Petersburg was published by Doubleday in 1981, back in the days when the big New York houses actually put out detailed Civil War battle histories. It was a truly groundbreaking contribution to Petersburg studies and became a true classic. Out of print for quite some time, but still easily available on the secondary market, a revised and expanded edition was recently released by Savas Beatie under the new title Richmond Redeemed: The Siege at Petersburg, The Battles of Chaffin’s Bluff and Poplar Spring Church, September 29 - October 2, 1864 (2014).

Now SB has come out with a volume of Sommers essays, to be followed at some future date by a companion work that "will explore “Civil War Strategy, Operations, and Organization.”" Challenges of Command in the Civil War, Volume 1 is a set of standalone essays largely drawn from the author's previous writings and various presentations. The chapters are accompanied by seven maps and extensive footnotes.

Part I consists of five chapters that explore the generalship of Grant and Lee, both in isolation and during the 1864-65 period when they faced off against each other in Virginia. Part II discusses Union senior subordinate generals during the Antietam, Gettysburg, and Petersburg campaigns. That section's final chapter looks at the Revolutionary War forebears of major Civil War officers and politicians.

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