- Days of Glory: The Army of the Cumberland, 1861–1865
The author of several first-rate studies of the western campaigns, Larry Daniel here offers a history of the Union's principal western army (initially named the Army of the Ohio but renamed the Army of the Cumberland in the fall of 1862) from the beginning of the war to the fall of Atlanta when the army ceased to exist as a unified field force. Daniel makes it clear that he intended this work to be a counterpart to Thomas Connelly's two-volume history of the Confederate Army of Tennessee (Army of the Heartland [End Page 237]  and Autumn of Glory ), and like Connelly, Daniel focuses particularly on the competence (or, more aptly, the incompetence) of the army commanders.
One of the great strengths of this book is Daniel's attention to the impact of logistics on command decision making. Daniel shows clearly and in detail how dependent army commanders were on the capacity of the railroads, river transport, and mule trains to keep their armies fed and supplied. But Daniel's main focus (like Connelly's) is on the army's leadership. If Connelly's principal interpretive thrust was his sympathy for the long-suffering men in the ranks who bore the consequences of the army's inept leadership, Daniel asserts that the men in the ranks of the Army of the Cumberland were equally burdened. From the psychologically-shattered Robert Anderson, who was in over his head from the beginning, to George H. Thomas, who Daniel claims has been vastly overrated by his admirers, Daniel asserts that the Army of the Cumberland suffered under a series of, at best, second-rate commanders who were too often frozen by inertia or confused by their responsibilities. Daniel is incisive and often scathing in his assessment of the Army's leaders. Don Carlos Buell was "a maneuverer not a fighter," (p. 167) and his inaction was based on "his inability to grasp more than a single issue at a time" (p. 47); William S. Rosecrans was both overconfident and negligent, as well as "boisterous, opinionated, and brusque" (p. 182). Daniel's treatment of George H. Thomas is more complex. He depicts Thomas as often petty and sulking, but also concludes that during the Atlanta campaign he was a victim of "Sherman's prejudice" (p. 415). Stalwart on defense, he was slow to move, and Daniel concludes that Thomas was "competent but not brilliant" (p. 362.) The second echelon commanders fare much worse. Alexander McCook was "blundering" and "inept" (pp. 265, 286). and Gordon Granger was "short-tempered, crude, and at times a sadist" (p. 333). Indeed, of all the generals, in or out of the Army of the Cumberland, only Grant emerges undiminished.
Moreover, "bickering and intrigue" (p. 126) within the army, which included the murder of one general by another, undermined its efficiency. Just as Braxton Bragg faced mutinous conspiracy among the officers in his army, Buell, too, endured a near mutiny when twenty-one officers signed a petition to the government asking for his removal.
Daniel's commitment to thoroughness is evident in his determination to include a lot of detail, especially concerning army organization, which is certainly valuable but which also occasionally gets in the way of his argument. On the whole, however, this book achieves exactly what Daniel hoped it would in providing a thoughtful, authoritative, and comprehensive portrait of the Union's principal western army and its commanders.