Civil War Generals in Defeat
Edited by Steven E. Woodworth
248 pages, 7 illustrations, 6 x 9; Modern War Studies; Cloth ISBN 978-0-7006-0943-7, $29.95 (t)
Commanders who serve on the losing side of a battle, campaign, or war are often harshly viewed by posterity. Labeled as mere “losers,” they go unrecognized for their very real abilities and achievements in other engagements. The writers in this volume challenge such simplistic notions.
By looking more closely at Civil War generals who have borne the stigma of failure, these authors reject the reductionist view that significant defeats were due simply to poor generalship. Analyzing men who might be considered “capable failures”–officers of high prewar reputation, some with distinguished records in the Civil War–they examine the various reasons these men suffered defeat, whether flaws of character, errors of judgment, lack of preparation, or circumstances beyond their control.
These seven case studies consider Confederate and Union generals evenhandedly. They show how Albert Sidney Johnston failed in the face of extreme conditions and inadequate support, how Joe Hooker and John C. Pemberton were outmatched in confrontations with Lee and Grant, how George B. McClellan in the Peninsula Campaign and Don Carlos Buell at Chattanooga faced political as well as military complications, and how Joseph E. Johnston failed to adapt to challenges in Virginia. An additional chapter looks at generals from both sides at the Battle of Gettysburg, showing how failure to adjust to circumstances can thwart even the most seasoned leader’s expectations.
“This book about Civil War generals that historians have called losers is clearly a winner. The authors persuasively argue that winning or losing a battle should not simplistically be attributed solely to a general’s talents or weaknesses. Will stimulate spirited discussion among professional historians and amateurs alike-as only good history can.”–John F. Marszalek, author of Sherman: A Soldier’s Passion for Order
“A needed corrective to the facile ‘what fools they were’ school of military history, this book examines why some of the most capable commanders of the war failed the ‘test of merit’-battlefield success. Sometimes controversial but unfailingly interesting.”–Mark Grimsley, author of The Hard Hand of War: Union Military Policy Toward Southern Civilians, 1861–1865
STEVEN E. WOODWORTH is an assistant professor of history at Texas Christian University. He is the author of While God Is Marching On: The Religious World of Civil War Soldiers, Grant’s Lieutenants: From Cairo to Vicksburg, and a two-time winner of the prestigious Fletcher Pratt Award, for his books Davis and Lee at War and Jefferson Davis and His Generals.
CONTRIBUTORS AND SUBJECTS
Steven E. Woodworth on Albert Sidney Johnston
Alan Downs on Joseph E. Johnston
Ethan S. Rafuse on George B. McClellan
Stephen D. Engle on Don Carlos Buell
Stephen W. Sears on Fighting Joe Hooker
Michael B. Ballard on John C. Pemberton
Brooks D. Simpson on the Gettysburg generals
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