Books by Craig L. Symonds

WORLD WAR II AT SEA by Craig L. Symonds
Released: May 1, 2018

"No revisionist but a solid storyteller and naval scholar, Symonds mixes politics, strategy, sea battle fireworks, technical details, and personal anecdotes to deliver one of the better single-volume histories of the naval portion of WWII."
A veteran maritime historian delivers a satisfying one-volume history of "the impact of sea services from all nations on the overall trajectory and even the outcome" of World War II. Read full book review >
Released: March 2, 2015

"A thoughtful treat for the Lincoln and Civil War crowds."
Noted historians reflect on the life and presidency of Abraham Lincoln. Read full book review >
NEPTUNE by Craig L. Symonds
Released: May 2, 2014

"A work that manages to be both succinct and comprehensive in scope."
A fine D-Day study both technical and humanitarian. Read full book review >
THE BATTLE OF MIDWAY by Craig L. Symonds
Released: Oct. 1, 2011

"Essentially a history of the Pacific war from January to June 1942 (Midway does not enter the picture until 100 pages in), this is a lucid, intensely researched, mildly revisionist account of a significant moment in American military history."
A wholly satisfying history of America's most satisfying naval victory, won in June 1942 with vastly inferior forces. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2008

"For scholars and the general reader alike, an insightful and highly readable treatment of a neglected dimension of Lincoln's wartime leadership. See also James M. McPherson's forthcoming Tried By War (2008) for a broader portrait of Lincoln's role as commander in chief."
A former history professor at the Naval Academy examines Lincoln's growth as commander in chief through his relations with the United States Navy. Read full book review >
Released: April 8, 1997

The heroic story of an outstanding divisional commander for the Confederacy in the Army of Tennessee. Symonds (History/US Naval Academy; Joseph E. Johnson: A Civil War Biography, 1992) combines well researched narrative history and biography with a highly readable style in exploring the life of this exceptional man. Cleburne was, as the narrative demonstrates, reliable, cool, and reserved under extreme hardship but passionate in battle. Leaving his starving homeland, Ireland, in the bitter year of 1849 after service in the British Army, Cleburne emigrated to the US and became a hard-working member of the frontier community in Helena, Ark. When the Civil War started, this accidental Southerner joined the Confederate forces and soon distinguished himself as an inspirational leader, displaying both courage and judgment. Symonds describes his gallantry in such battles as Shiloh, Chickamauga, and Kenasaw Mountain. Even though Jefferson Davis called him ``the Stonewall of the West,'' and Robert E. Lee described him as a ``meteor shining from a clouded sky,'' Cleburne, being foreign-born and an outspoken critic of ineffective officers (including his own commander), was often passed over for promotion. He also stirred controversy when he proposed abolishing slavery and enlisting ex-slaves in the army. Despite his disappointments, he achieved a superb record as an innovative division commander and was faithful to the Southern cause. After the capture of Atlanta, though the war had clearly been lost, the army's new commander fought on, rashly expending lives. Cleburne, though aware of the likely outcome, stayed with his troops and was killed at the Battle of Franklin at the age of 36. A fine addition to Civil War literature and a deserved tribute to a remarkable career. (20 photos, 11 maps) (History Book Club main selection) Read full book review >
JOSEPH E. JOHNSTON by Craig L. Symonds
Released: March 30, 1992

In a significant contribution to interpretive Civil War scholarship, Symonds (History/US Naval Academy) paints an engrossing portrait of one of the most enigmatic and important figures of the war. Contemporaries regarded Joseph E. Johnston as one of the greatest military talents in the Confederacy, in some estimates outranking even Johnston's friend and West Point classmate Robert E. Lee. Nonetheless, posterity remembers him only for commanding Confederate armies in a few inconclusive battles, including some nominal Southern victories—First Manassas (1861), Seven Pines (1862), Kennesaw Mountain (1864), and Bentonville (1865)—and for his failure to stop Grant at Vicksburg and Sherman at Atlanta. Johnston lacked Lee's brilliance, and his victories were more the result of careful planning and diligence than of genius. Yet without endorsing Johnston's tactic of avoiding battle with superior Union forces, Symonds articulates the case for Johnston's strategy: Johnston's army suffered considerably fewer losses than Lee's, and but for Jefferson Davis's giving the aggressive but foolhardy John Bell Hood command of the western army after the fall of Atlanta (which caused disastrous Confederate defeats at Franklin and Nashville), Johnston's Army of Tennessee would have remained intact longer than Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. While Symonds shows that the intensely reserved Johnston enjoyed close friendships with his brother officers, he also recounts the general's tragic failure to work harmoniously with the prickly Davis, which resulted in open enmity by the end of the war. Symonds relates how Johnston entered into the unseemly ``Battle of the Books'' after the war, denouncing Hood and Davis (whom Southerners regarded as a martyr) in his memoir and suffering denunciations in turn. A stimulating and absorbing biography of an undeservedly neglected warrior. (Illustrations; maps.) Read full book review >