CIVIL WAR COMMAND AND STRATEGY: The Process of Victory and Defeat by Archer Jones

CIVIL WAR COMMAND AND STRATEGY: The Process of Victory and Defeat

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A skillfully argued if not always convincing explanation of how Union and Confederate political and military leaders executed their respective game plans for winning the Civil War. Here, Jones (History/North Dakota State Univ.; The Art of War in the Western World, 1987) expands on the major ideas in his essay in Gabor S. Boritt's Why the Confederacy Lost (p. 151). One reason why the war was so protracted, he says, was that the antagonists were so evenly matched: ""With sophisticated tactics, logistics, and strategy adapted to the industrial revolution and low population density, and political aims and strategic means usually well harmonized, the combatants conducted their war well."" At times, such conclusions leave the reader at a loss as to how the North ever won. More importantly, this eagle's-nest view is weakened by its sympathy for such oft-maligned figures as Jefferson Davis, timorous Union Chief of Staff Henry Halleck, and pompous Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard, as well as by its inadequate treatment of how evolving weaponry turned the conflict into a blood bath that generals could not begin to comprehend. Yet these deficiencies are more than offset by Jones's impressive erudition and clear explanations. At his best, in his description of such strategic concepts as the turning movement (used with varying degrees of success by both sides), concentration of force in space and time, and the raid (exploited by Grant and Sherman with devastating results), Jones masterfully illustrates how North and South adapted Napoleonic maneuvers to such recent inventions as the steamboat, the telegraph, and the railroad. Provocative and illuminating.

Pub Date: April 3rd, 1992
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan