SHADES OF BLUE AND GRAY by Herman Hattaway


An Introductory Military History of the Civil War
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 A succinct, clear, useful review of the battles and campaigns of the Civil War, and of the strategies that shaped them. Hattaway (History/Univ. of Missouri, Kansas City; How the North Won, 1982, etc.) is particularly concerned with the ways in which the war spurred an extraordinary range of developments in military technology (from repeating rifles to armored vessels) and with the often haphazard ways in which both sides struggled to adapt old military theories to new conditions and to the American landscape (most of the war's major battles were fought in terrain that obscured visibility, in conditions unknown to the European strategists much studied by both sides). Hovering over many of the war's bloodiest battles, he suggests, were recollections of the Mexican war in the 1840s, when direct assaults on enemy positions carried the day. Commanders on both sides repeatedly, disastrously, attempted to replicate those successes. Also shaping the nature of Civil War battles was the absence of a large professional officer corps. The outcome of the war, Hattaway suggests, is in part the history of commanders learning how to fight in a new way, to utilize technology, and to wage war on a far broader scale. While the conflict's most influential battles are judiciously, if swiftly, described, Hattaway repeatedly returns the narrative to this question of the evolution of strategy. His portraits of Grant and Lee, the war's most influential strategists, are terse, often critical, and convincing. Those looking for detailed studies of individual battles should turn elsewhere. (Hattaway provides very helpful annotated bibliographies of the best work on the war.) Those searching for a clear, persuasive introduction to the way in which battle shaped new strategies and a new idea of war could find no better or more compelling guide. (History Book Club selection)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-8262-1107-0
Page count: 296pp
Publisher: Univ. of Missouri
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1997