WHY THE CONFEDERACY LOST by Gabor S.--Ed. Boritt

WHY THE CONFEDERACY LOST

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In this slender but sensibly argued group of essays edited by Boritt (Civil War Studies/Gettysburg College), five outstanding Civil War scholars offer their views of what led to Robert E. Lee's appointment with Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox. The authors emphasize military operations as opposed to industrial, demographic, psychological, or other factors--almost counterrevisionism, given recent trends in Civil War scholarship. In the linchpin essay, Battle Cry of Freedom author James M. McPherson provides a roundup of some of these chic theories (e.g., that states' rights doomed a coordinated Confederate war effort) before dispatching them with his usual cool, crisp authority. The other essays aim to counteract what they see as faulty logic that makes Union battlefield success the result rather than the cause of Confederate failure. Taking a more or less traditional view of the key generals, Gary W. Grallagher sees Grant and Sherman as the indispensable architects of Union victory, while defending Lee's much-criticized concentration on the eastern theater as the best strategic course for the rebels. Reid Mitchell contrasts the increasing cohesion of the Union rank-and-file with Johnny Reb's fears for the welfare of his family. Without exaggerating their importance, Joseph Glatthaar gives one of the most succinct yet magisterial explanations to date of how blacks tipped the balance to the Union as the two armies teetered on the brink of exhaustion. Even the least impressive essay--Archer Jones's on strategy--skillfully discusses tactics like raids and concentration of forces--although, by finding that neither side really got the better of the other, it begs the question of why the South lost. A stimulating, authoritative, and persuasive contribution to Civil War historiography.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0195085493
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press