TWO GREAT REBEL ARMIES: An Essay in Confederate Military History by Richard M. McMurry

TWO GREAT REBEL ARMIES: An Essay in Confederate Military History

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An entirely competent comparative study of the strategy, tactics, and generalship of the two mightiest Confederate hosts--the Army of Tennessee and the Army of Northern Virginia--together with an account of the mel‚es concerning their fates. A biographer of the Rebel general, John Bell Hood, McMurry upholds the standard of the Army of Northern Virginia and of its leader, Robert E. Lee. McMurry had intended to describe only the Atlanta campaign of 1864, but he found himself forced backward in time to account for it fully. He ended, moreover, caught up in the historiographical straggle surrounding Lee's personality--a personality driven, according to arch-inconoclast Thomas Connelly, by fear of failure and riddled with self-doubt, both of which caused Lee to advocate murderous offensive tactics and fatally to neglect grand strategy--and which later led to neglect of the vaster and more crucial western war and to overconcentration on Virginia. Without throwing all of Connelly's (and others') arguments over the side, McMurry plumps for Lee. He shows the Army of Tennessee to have been led by all-but-criminal incompetents who lost nearly every time, even when, in contrast to Lee, they usually outnumbered their foes. Taking into account the full range of recent scholarship touching these matters, while offering precise distillations of the hotly fought issues started up by them, McMurry's work is, on the whole, fair to all and logical in its conclusions. A blend of 90-proof Civil War erudition and industrial-strength military history, this is worth the toil of its glacial pace. McMurry has done well, particularly by those who want to know why the Army of Tennessee did so poorly.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1989
Publisher: Univ. of North Carolina Press