Conflict and Command
Civil War History Readers, Volume 1
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: The Kent State University Press
Title Page, Copyright
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The Civil War was a vast military struggle, a fact worth restating from time to time. An anthology of articles on the military aspects of the war needs no apologia, but some introductory observations are in order. An entirely appropriate source of such articles is Civil War History, a journal devoted from its origins to a serious...
“We Should Grow Too Fond of It”: Why We Love the Civil War
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If war were not so terrible, Robert E. Lee observed as he watched the slaughter at Fredericksburg, “we should grow too fond of it.” Lee’s remark, uttered in the very midst of battle’s horror and chaos, may be his most quoted—and misquoted—statement. His exact words are in some dispute, and it seems unlikely we shall...
Was the Civil War a Total War?
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In a recent article, Charles Strozier, a Lincoln biographer and co-director of the Center on Violence and Human Survival, argues that the United States’ demand for unconditional surrender in World War II and ultimately, the use of two atomic bombs on Japan, found antecedents in President Lincoln’s surrender terms in...
A “Face of Battle” Needed: An Assessment of Motives and Men in Civil War Historiography
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In the years following 1945, at a time when nuclear “massive retaliation” was national policy, historians turned away from the “causes” of the Civil War and began to examine in greater detail the “consequences” of the mid-nineteenth century conflict. As the Vietnam debacle registered on the national consciousness, the...
The Confederacy’s First Shot
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Thirty years ago Charles W. Ramsdell charged that Abraham Lincoln, “having decided that there was no other way than war for the salvation of his administration, his party, and the Union, maneuvered the Confederates into firing the first shot in order that they, rather than he, should take the blame of beginning bloodshed...
The Professionalization of George B. McClellan and Early Civil War Field Command: An Institutional Perspective
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This essay is an analysis of the field command of General George B. McClellan in the context of an emerging professionalism in the United States Army as it coped with the origins of modern warfare. By the 1820’s professional subcultures, including the officers corps of the U.S. Army, had begun to exchange pre-industrial...
Pinkerton and McClellan: Who Deceived Whom?
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The best known intelligence failure of the Civil War is Allan Pinkerton’s severe overestimating of Confederate numbers. General belief holds his bungling calculations largely responsible for the extreme cautiousness that brought about the failures of his chief, General George Brinton McClellan—failures that..
McClellan and Halleck at War: The Struggle for the Union War Effort in the West, November 1861–March 1862
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On November 1, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln appointed thirty-four-year-old George Brinton McClellan general in chief of the United States Army. The move was not unexpected. McClellan had known for some time that Brevet Lt. Gen. Winfield Scott’s twenty-year tenure as commanding general was coming to an...
Jefferson Davis’s Pursuit of Ambition: The Attractive Features of Alternative Decisions
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Jefferson Davis was a man who slipped out of one role and into another with frequency, but his biographers give us no explanation for the twists and turns in his career. One explanation is that scholars have paid insufficient attention to the process by which Davis made decisions, although it is only because of his decisions...
“The Enemy at Richmond”: Joseph E. Johnston and the Confederate Government
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The confederacy, historians have long recognized, was torn by intramural quarrels among its leaders. Generals, congressmen, state officials, and members of President Jefferson Davis’s administration carried on bitter feuds that diverted attention from their real enemy, consumed inordinate amounts of their time and...
An Old-Fashioned General in a Modern War?: Robert E. Lee as Confederate General
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Much of the literature on the Civil War portrays Robert E. Lee as a grand anachronism. In a conflict often characterized, whether accurately or not, as the first great modern war, the Confederate commander frequently appears as a soldier of considerable martial gifts who harkened back to an earlier time. Lee is cast as a man...
Marse Robert and the Fevers: A Note on the General as Strategist and on Medical Ideas as a Factor in Civil War Decision Making
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In 1969, Thomas Lawrence Connelly launched an effort to reevaluate Robert E. Lee, his record as a field commander, and his role as a Confederate strategist. His objective was to depict Lee “as he actually was.”Over the past two decades Connelly—sometimes joined by other historians—has pursued what he has called “the real...
Everyman’s War: A Rich and Poor Man’s Fight in Lee’s Army
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Twenty-eight-year-old Benjamin Blackwell, a small-time tenant farmer from Washington County, Virginia, had had enough of war. A single man who lived with an uncle, he enlisted as a private back in June 1861 in the 48th Virginia Infantry, but prolonged service grew wearisome. In fall 1862, he went absent without...
Another Look at Grant’s Crossing of the James, 1864
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In his biography of Dwight Morrow, Sir Harold Nicolson, in an author’s “apology,” wrote that for an Englishman to write about an American “may seem a hazardous, and perhaps impertinent enterprise.” This is perhaps no less the case for a Scotsman. “With whatever modesty he may approach his task,” Nicolson continues...
Mars and the Reverend Longstreet: Or, Attacking and Dying in the Civil War
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During the early months of 1864 soldiers of the Confederate Army of Tennessee received copies of a pamphlet on military tactics written by an author whose last name was Longstreet. In spite of its subject, however, the pamphlet did not come from the pen of Lee’s “war horse,” Lieutenant General James Longstreet. Instead it was...
Who Whipped Whom? Confederate Defeat Reexamined
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More than 600,000 Americans died in the Civil War—a greater American mortality than in the two World Wars and the Korean Conflict combined. The charge of the British Light Brigade at Balaclava (almost 40 percent of its men were shot in the “Valley of Death”) has symbolized needless sacrifice, but heavier losses were...
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Publication Year: 2012
Series Editor Byline: Hubbell, John