Thursday, March 23, 2023

Booknotes: More Than Just Grit

New Arrival:
More Than Just Grit: Civil War Leadership, Logistics and Teamwork in the West, 1862 by Richard J. Zimmermann (McFarland, 2023).

We all know that 1862 was a disastrous year for Confederate military fortunes in the West. Richard Zimmermann's More Than Just Grit: Civil War Leadership, Logistics and Teamwork in the West, 1862 attempts to explain why Union forces were so successful in winning battles and why the Confederate armies struggled so much during that critical year.

Zimmermann goes about his task in a bit of an unconventional manner, examining battles through what he sees as six key "elements of victory" (none of which are specifically tied to tactical-level battlefield generalship). From the description: "With increasing complexity on the battlefield and the enormous growth of American armies, winning or losing depended upon achieving as many of these six critical goals as possible: a clear objective; mobilization of effective lieutenants; a competent staff; seizing and holding initiative; deploying all available resources; and realizing a successful strategic outcome. The more goals achieved, the greater the victory."

The book applies this six-part framework to nine western and Trans-Mississippi battles from Mill Springs to Stones River, the sole clear Confederate victory in the bunch being Richmond, Kentucky. Each chapter is presented in three parts: "(a)n introduction that sets the stage for the contest," "(t)he battle narrative, and "(a)n analysis of the ways in which the six factors" [which are present in every case] "influenced the outcome of the action" (pg. 8). Accompanying the text are maps, a high command flow chart, and a table at the very end summarizing how each commander fared (through an "achieved" or "not achieved" rating) under the six elements of victory.

I like books like this, ones that take a different, systematic-style approach to revisiting well-trodden ground. This will definitely get reviewed on the site.

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