CIVIL WAR GENERALS IN DEFEAT by Steven E. Woodworth

CIVIL WAR GENERALS IN DEFEAT

KIRKUS REVIEW

A wide-ranging look at various Civil War generals and their defeats, as well as their places in the accepted Civil War history, edited by Texas Christian University historian Woodworth (Six Armies in Tennessee: The Chickamauga and Chattanooga Campaigns, 1998). Woodworth’s contributors, academics from throughout the US, look at how and why a variety of Northern and Southern generals were defeated and what those defeats did to their military careers. The generals studied, including such notables as Albert Sidney Johnston, Joe Hooker, and George B. McClellan, are all considered “capable failures,” with excellent prewar reputations and whose defeats make them ripe for analytical study. Essays cover such ground as “In Defense of Joe Hooker,” “Misused Merit: The Tragedy of Joh Pemberton,” and “If Properly Led: Command Relationships at Gettysburg,” a look at both Northern and Southern commands. Throughout the volume, the guiding idea is to look at what exactly constituted failure and how hindsight has shaped our perceptions of them, notably in the case of Hooker. Stephen Sears looks at Hooker’s famous loss of nerve at the battle of Chancellorsville and debunks the myth of a post-battle confession by Hooker to Abner Doubleday that he lost faith in himself. Sears looks at the details of that reported conversation and determines that it could not have taken place, thus altering the historical record. Although it doesn—t change what took place at Chancellorsville, it certainly does change history’s perception of Hooker and casts him in a far better light. As in many edited volumes, writing quality and style vary from piece to piece, but overall, Woodworth offers a worthy look at Civil War command by looking at the losers. (History Book Club alternate selection)

Pub Date: April 8th, 1999
ISBN: 0-7006-0943-1
Page count: 248pp
Publisher: Univ. Press of Kansas
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1999




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