Friday, February 9, 2024

Booknotes: Decisions of the 1862 Shenandoah Valley Campaign

New Arrival:

Decisions of the 1862 Shenandoah Valley Campaign: The Sixteen Critical Decisions That Defined the Operation by Robert G. Tanner (U Tenn Press, 2023).

From the description: "The Shenandoah Valley Campaign, often referred to as Jackson’s Valley Campaign, saw Gen. Stonewall Jackson lead fewer than seventeen thousand Confederate soldiers on a 464-mile march that defeated three larger Union armies. Jackson’s men fought and skirmished for months to achieve their ultimate objective of preventing Union forces in the Valley from reinforcing the Federal assault on the Confederacy’s capital at Richmond. Jackson’s success in the Shenandoah Valley contributed greatly to his legend among Confederate soldiers and brass and to his permanent place in military history, yet Jackson was not the only leader of note during this pivotal episode of the Civil War."

The critical decisions associated with the Valley Campaign that interest me most are those with closest connection to the concurrent campaign fought on the Virginia Peninsula. The two 1862 operations were inextricably linked. It's cool that Decisions of the 1862 Shenandoah Valley Campaign is written by Robert Tanner, the author of one of the major works on the topic. A long time has passed since my last reading of his revised edition of Stonewall in the Valley, so I'm also looking forward to a refresher course on his perspectives of the campaign's most important features.

More from the description: Decisions of the 1862 Shenandoah Valley Campaign "explores the critical decisions made by Confederate and Union commanders during the battle and how these decisions shaped its outcome. Rather than offering a history of the battle, Robert G. Tanner hones in on a sequence of critical decisions made by commanders on both sides of the contest to provide a blueprint of Jackson’s Valley Campaign at its tactical core. Identifying and exploring the critical decisions in this way allows students of the battle to progress from a knowledge of what happened to a mature grasp of why events happened."

The sixteen decisions compiled in the book are organized into six chapters discussing events stretching from February to mid-June 1862. Together, they "examine decisions made at the campaign's outset, the Battle of Kernstown and a subsequent major reorganization of Union forces, Confederate plans and marches during April and early May 1862, Federal concentration outside the valley while Confederates concentrated and attacked in the Shenandoah during the pivotal second half of May, the Union's counterstrike against the Confederate offensive, and decisions to end the campaign." Finally, the volume "looks briefly at the aftermath of the fighting and offers conclusions" (pg. xiv). In support are 17 maps, ten assigned to the main text's decision analysis and seven to the driving tour linked to those critical decisions.

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