- The Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864
The Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864 is the ninth volume edited by Gary W. Gallagher in his widely acclaimed Military Campaigns of the Civil War Series. Once again Gallagher has recruited a highly talented cadre of established Civil War scholars and talented newcomers to the field. The eleven essays presented examine a wide range of topics and offer both breadth and depth of analysis.
In his own contribution to the book, Gallagher briefly analyzes the importance of the battles that occurred between May and October 1864 and offers a provocative assessment of Gen. Jubal Early's career. "In terms of ability in semi-independent operations," Gallagher concludes "only [Thomas Jonathan] Jackson excelled him among Lee's Lieutenants." Joseph T. Glatthaar puts the Union high command into perspective, offering a revisionist and critical analysis of Ulysses S. Grant's renowned command structure. Glatthaar asserts that Grant lost sight of his mission of protecting Washington, D.C., and did not recognize (or simply forgot) the political importance of battlefield victory and defeat to President Abraham Lincoln's administration. According to Glatthaar, Grant's command system broke down during the initial stages of the Valley campaign and only his critical decision to place Gen. Phillip Sheridan in charge of Union military organizations in the Shenandoah Valley brought a positive outcome.
Joan Waugh, Keith Bohannon, William Bergen, and Robert K. Krick each offer valuable essays that examine the lives and relationships of particular officers. Waugh's essay on Union colonel Charles Russell Lowell presents an informative assessment of a brilliant, ambitious, and talented Union cavalry commander; she offers special insight into why this Harvard-educated Boston [End Page 87] Brahmin fought. Bohannon's essay examines the controversy between Generals Jubal Early and John B. Gordon over who and what was truly at fault for the disastrous Confederate defeat at Cedar Creek in October 1864. Bohannon surmises that while Early's decision to halt did cost the Confederates a potential victory, Gordon's postwar shaping of the historical record prevented the truth about Confederate plundering from reaching a wider audience. While Bohannon focuses on the Confederate side of the Cedar Creek equation, William Bergen presents an enlightening revisionist essay on little-studied Union general Horatio G. Wright, the principal Union commander at the battle prior to Sheridan's return. Bergen convincingly argues that the steady Wright deserves far more credit for the Union victory at Cedar Creek than previously thought. Robert K. Krick's essay recovers the life of another officer, Col. George S. Patton. Patton, the grandfather of the famed World War II tank commander, was educated at the Virginia Military Institute and mortally wounded at Third Winchester. Krick presents the entire Valley campaign from the Patton perspective.
Gallagher's work also includes three important essays dealing with new military history and the social consequences of Union military policy in the Shenandoah Valley. Andre M. Fleche, Aaron Sheehan-Dean, and William G. Thomas each examine a different aspect of this topic. Fleche's article addresses how Democrats used Sheridan's harsher military policy in the Valley as a campaign issue to attack Lincoln and Republican candidates in the critical 1864 election. Sheehan-Dean looks at what Union military activity did to Confederate troops, arguing that it hardened their commitment to the war and Valley defense of their homes. Sheehan-Dean also contends that Richard Beringer and the other authors of Why the South Lost (1986) were incorrect when they claimed that desertion in the Confederate army spiked during the 1864 Valley campaign. Sheehan-Dean uses carefully culled data from three Virginia regiments to support his assertion that desertion declined after 1862. Thomas's essay on the treatment of civilians in the Valley may be the most perceptive one in the volume. Using detailed data from Rockingham County, Virginia, Thomas concludes that the Union military "inflicted limited and targeted damage that neither destroyed the entire Valley nor subjugated its population" (240).
Essays by William J. Miller and Robert E. L...