- Confederate Generals in the Western Theater, Volume 4: Essays on America's Civil Wareds. by Lawrence Lee Hewitt and Thomas E. Schott
Lawrence Lee Hewitt and Thomas E. Schott have compiled an impressive anthology examining ten Confederate generals who served in the western theater. This book is the fourth and final volume in a series that analyzes why these southern commanders contributed to the failure of the Confederacy. The editors maintain "that the fledgling nation lost on the battlefields of the Western Theater" and, accordingly, that "studying these men" will allow historians to "better understand how the Civil War ended as it did" (p. xv). Hewitt and Schott organize their volume with a different approach to each essay. Prominent commanders such as Robert E. Lee, Braxton Bragg, and Gideon J. Pillow are featured in the study, of course. Yet lesser-known generals who contributed to the Confederate cause also receive adequate treatment from a fine list of Civil War scholars.
Roger S. Durham's essay, "Robert E. Lee's Lost Campaign," tackles the Virginia general's service as commander of the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and East Florida during the first year of the war. The author concludes that Lee's service and organization along the Atlantic coast proved integral to solidifying the Confederacy' s southern coastline. At the same time, Lee learned a great deal about people and logistics that served him well in his later service. Nathaniel Cheairs Hughes Jr.'s essay on Gideon J. Pillow offers a different approach, analyzing the general' s life in a biographical tour de force that is critical yet sympathetic to the soldier-politician from Tennessee. Chris E. Fonvielle Jr.'s study of Braxton Bragg in North Carolina during the final year of [End Page 179]the war adds another layer of criticism to the former commander of the Army of Tennessee for his defense of Fort Fisher and Wilmington, North Carolina, whose loss late in the war sealed the fate of the rebels.
Additional essays from prominent historians provide useful accounts of Confederate leadership. Nathan Bedford Forrest's foremost biographer, Brian S. Wills, offers an insightful look at Abraham Buford, a native Kentuckian who remained ambivalent about joining the Confederacy until late 1862. Buford ably led cavalry and infantry units for the remainder of the war, but he committed suicide amid financial ruin in 1884. "Banner in the Dust: John Hunt Morgan's Last Kentucky Raid," by James M. Prichard, argues that the prominent Confederate raider had been outdueled in 1864 due in large part to hubris and to able opponents in Union blue. Stewart L. Bennett's study of William H. T. Walker, Stuart W. Sanders's essay on Benjamin Hardin Helm, Michael R. Bradley' s campaign study of Bushrod Rust Johnson, C. David Dalton's work on Felix Kirk Zollicoffer's Mill Springs campaign, and Keith S. Bohannon' s favorable biographical view of Edward C. Walthall round out the collection.
For years, historians of the Civil War have brought a greater scrutiny to the western theater, lending credence to the idea that the war was lost west of the Appalachian Mountains. Clearly, Volume 4 of Confederate Generals in the Western Theaterfalls in line with this trend. The editors have compiled a fine book. The essays, which range from broad biographical works to precise campaign studies, contribute to the scholarship of the battles that led to the South' s defeat. Importantly, the authors emphasize the notion that the fall of the Confederacy lay at the feet of the commanders who led the men in battle. The editors have also compiled a comprehensive appendix of all the departments that composed the western theater. In addition, fine maps—several of them reprinted from other works—complement each essay. Collectively, the essays are bolstered by extensive research into manuscripts, newspapers, official records, and secondary works...