Monday, November 30, 2020

Booknotes: The Impulse of Victory

New Arrival:
The Impulse of Victory: Ulysses S. Grant at Chattanooga by David A. Powell (SIU Press, 2020).

David Powell's The Impulse of Victory is a natural extension of his decades of research (and more recent flurry of publications) on the Chickamauga campaign and battle. However, in its focus on army command-level planning, decision-making, and execution, this book is more akin to the author's earlier work on a different campaign (the opening stages of the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864). In The Impulse of Victory, Powell's "sophisticated strategic and operational analysis of Grant’s command decisions and actions shows how his determined leadership relieved the siege and shattered the enemy, resulting in the creation of a new strategic base of Union operations and Grant’s elevation to commander of all the Federal armies the following year."

From the description: "Powell’s detailed exploration of the Union Army of the Cumberland’s six-week-long campaign for Chattanooga is complemented by his careful attention to the personal issues Grant faced at the time and his relationships with his superiors and subordinates. Though unfamiliar with the tactical situation, the army, and its officers, Grant delivered another resounding victory." The personal command traits that Powell cites as being major factors behind Grant's success at Chattanooga are common to most of Grant's Civil War campaigns. Grant's victory at Chattanooga, "explains Powell, was due to his tactical flexibility, communication with his superiors, perseverance despite setbacks, and dogged determination to win the campaign."

More: "Through attention to postwar accounts, Powell reconciles the differences between what happened and the participants’ memories of the events. He focuses throughout on Grant’s controversial decisions, showing how they were made and their impact on the campaign. As Powell shows, Grant’s choices demonstrate how he managed to be a thoughtful, deliberate commander despite the fog of war."

This is the second volume in SIU Press's World of Ulysses S. Grant series to examine the general's decision-making during a specific campaign, the first being Timothy Smith's The Decision Was Always My Own: Ulysses S. Grant and the Vicksburg Campaign (2018). Maybe they can rope in Gordon Rhea to author an Overland Campaign volume for the series and A. Wilson Greene to do Petersburg.

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