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Journal of a graduate student in military history and the American Civil War

Archive for the ‘American Military History’ Category

New Acquisition – Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime

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I’ve made a number of new acquisitions over the past few weeks. I bought this book to assist with an assignment on the command skills of Abraham Lincoln. Author Eliot A. Cohen (left), also examines the records of Georges Clemenceau, Winston Churchill and David Ben-Gurion in an effort to synthesize why they stand above others as leaders in time of war. So far, after reading the first few chapters, I’m quite impressed. Full disclosure: I own the 2002 paperback version of this book published in the UK by The Free Press. I recently purchased the audio version from Audible.com published by Blackstone Audiobooks and narrated by Robert Whitfield (a.k.a. Simon Vance).


  • Author: Eliot A. Cohen
  • Published: 2003-09-09
  • Publisher: Anchor
  • ISBN13: 9781400034048
  • Binding: Paperback
  • 320 pages


WWII in HD – Recommend

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I’ve been catching the WWII in HD series running on The History Channel when I can today. Much of the footage has never been seen on television. Good study guide on History.com along with other supporting information.



National Geographic’s New Atlas of the Civil War

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  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: National Geographic (October 20, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1426203470
  • ISBN-13: 978-1426203473
  • Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 10.7 x 1.1 inches

The good folks at National Geographic sent me a review copy of their new Atlas of the Civil War: A Comprehensive Guide to the Tactics and the Terrain of Battle. I’m impressed. This is one of those books that as a kid I would spread out on the floor in front of the fire and lose myself in for hours. It’s FULL size means just that. Images that many of us have seen for years, and many we’ve never seen, are spread across pages over a foot high. So when looking at the bloated bodies of dead warriors near the Peach Orchard of Gettysburg’s Battlefield, it becomes immediately obvious that none have shoes, scavengers having carried them away.


Union and Confederate dead, Gettysburg Battlefield, Pa., July 1863. Photographed by Timothy H. O'Sullivan. 165-SB-36. National Archives

Plainly visible among the troops and civilians crowded inside the walls of Washington’s Old Penitentiary on July 7, 1865 (below) to witness the hanging of Lincoln assassination conspirators, is a young boy, apparently unable to turn away from the gallows.


Execution of the four persons condemned as co-conspirators in Lincoln's assassination, July 7,1865. Photographed by Alexander Gardner. 111-BA-203 National Archives

But even more impressive are the maps. There are 88 rare period maps, many published for the first time, and 34 new maps created by the staff of the National Geographic’s cartographers led by Carl Mehler. All are in a large format which makes them entirely readable. Almost a dozen orders of battle are also provided along with biographies and timelines.

Untitled 0 00 11-25

Editor Neil Kagan and historians Stephan G. Hyslop and Harris J. Andrews, who also collaborated on National Geographic’s Eyewitness to the Civil War, have provided excellent commentary and a rich story of the war from beginning to end. Carol Norton, as art director, led the creative vision for what is really a quite remarkable book of art.

I say BRAVO. Highly recommend.


Book Review: Jefferson Davis and His Generals – The Failure of Confederate Command in the West

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STEVEN E. WOODWORTH. Jefferson Davis and His Generals: The Failure of Confederate Command in the West. Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas. 1990. Pp. xv, 380. $16.95.


Much has been written about the political and military genius of Abraham Lincoln and the successful leader he grew to be while Commander in Chief of a fractured union.  But as the country divided and civil war became a reality, a new leader was called upon to assume the role of Commander in Chief for the Confederacy, the seasoned Jefferson Davis.  At the precipice of war, betting men looking at the comparative qualifications of the two presidents could easily have predicted that Davis would outshine Lincoln. What kind of leader did Davis prove to be and how did he recruit and manage those men who would become members of his high command? What kind of generals were they and how did their personalities and actions impact the outcome of the war?

Steven E. Woodworth’s monograph answers those questions and others through examination of Jefferson Davis’ handling of the generals who defended the newly formed Confederacy in the Western theater of the American Civil War. Against a chronology of key events, each commander is introduced with information essential to understanding the skills they brought to war. Woodworth gives us their respective birthplaces, education, military and political experience, and reasons for consideration as senior leaders. Their performances in command roles are examined along with their interactions with Davis. There is brilliance to be sure from both Davis and some of his generals. But there is also incompetence, jealousy, loss of nerve, and even a propensity toward sabotage of brother commanders. Varying degrees of analysis are given to among others: Leonidas Polk, Simon Bolivar Buckner, Albert Sidney Johnston, P.G.T. Beauregard, Braxton Bragg, Early Van Dorn, John C. Breckenridge, Edmund K. Smith, Nathan Bedford Forrest, Patrick R. Cleburne, Sterling Price, William J. Hardee, John C. Pemberton, Joseph E. Johnston, Benjamin F. Cheatham, James A. Seddon, Daniel H. Hill, James Longstreet, Gideon J. Pillow, David Twiggs, and John Bell Hood. Woodworth pulls no punches.

Woodworth concludes that Davis was highly trained, skilled from a breadth of experience in the militarily and in politics, and eminently qualified to assume the role of Commander in Chief of the Confederacy. He was also flawed. His imperfections are revealed as the war in the West is traced from beginning to end. Davis is shown to be incapable of judging objectively the performances of personal friends. He both trusts and delegates too much to his leaders. This trait worked to the detriment of some of the most exceptional men like Albert Sidney Johnston, who accomplished miracles in the defense of western borders despite unanswered requests to fill and equip his ranks. It also left incompetents like Leonidas Polk in power, impairing more talented men like Braxton Bragg. Davis becomes consumed by the war emotionally and physically. In the end, failure in the West is seen to have contributed significantly to the failure of the Confederacy. Woodworth posits that the faults of Davis himself, stemming from a deep-seated insecurity, are contributory to this failure.
Woodworth brings to the work the credentials of a seasoned historian. He holds history degrees from Southern Illinois University (B.A. 1982) and Rice University, where he received a Ph.D. in 1987. At the time of the book’s publication, he taught history at Toccoa Falls College in Georgia. He now teaches U.S. history, Civil War and Reconstruction, and the Old South at Texas Christian University. He also teaches military history at the American Military University. He is a prolific and award winning author.
Woodworth provides an insightful contribution to our understanding of the Civil War by revealing the best and the worst of the Confederacy’s senior military leadership in the West.
Particularly helpful to an understanding of the challenges faced by Davis’ high command is Woodworth’s campaign analysis. Also exemplary is the concise summary he provides of key points at the end of each chapter. This important study in leadership fills a gap and stands equal to and complementary of the T. Harry William classic,  Lincoln and His Generals. It is both highly readable and academically rich.


The War of 1812 in the Age of Napoleon by Jeremy Black

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The good folks at the University of Oklahoma Press forwarded a review copy of Jeremy Black’s new book, The War of 1812 in the Age of Napoleon. In my usual fashion, I am making an initial post about the book before a full reading.


ISBN: 978-0-8061-4078-0
288 pages
6″ x 9″ x 0″
1 B&W Illus., 3 Maps
Published: 2009, Oklahoma University Press

Jeremy Black

Jeremy Black (Photo: athens.edu)

The quick perusal reveals several compelling reasons for recommending the book. First, it is written from “an Atlantic vantage point, which accounts for its contribution to the academic coverage of the war as the latter tend to reflect national perspectives, mostly American, but also Canadian.” (Black, xiv) It goes without saying that any serious scholar of military history would seek out the work of historians and indeed primary sources providing insights from a variety of vantage points. Second, Black speaks to the impact of the war not only on America but also on Canada. Black speculates on how the history of the United States would have been very different had it expanded into Canada, “not the least because the slave states of the South would have been in a decided minority.” (Black, xii) Third, Black covers the naval operations so crucial to the war’s outcome. Fourth, the books addresses the consequences of the war. Black discusses the war’s “impact on America’s politics, public culture, economy, and territorial expansion” as being even more important than the military results. (Black, xiii) Finally, the book promises to explore the implications of unwanted expeditionary war, a topic with relevancy today.

Professor Black’s new book is Volume 21 in the Campaigns and Commanders Series. Black, a prolific writer, has authored more than seventy (70) books. He is Professor of History at the University of Exeter and a senior fellow at the Center for the Study of America and the West at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia. He has lectured extensively around the world.

The Campaigns and Commanders Series at the University of Oklahoma Press include the following:

Title Volume Author(s)
The War of 1812 in the Age of Napoleon 21 By Jeremy Black
A Dragon’s Head and a Serpent’s Tail 20 By Kenneth M. Swope
With Zeal and with Bayonets Only 19 Matthew H. Spring
Once Upon a Time in War 18 Robert E. Humphrey
Borrowed Soldiers 17 Mitchell A. Yockelson;
The Far Reaches of Empire 16 John Grenier
Napoleon’s Enfant Terrible 15 John G. Gallaher
Three Days in the Shenandoah 14 Gary Ecelbarger
George Thomas 13 Christopher J. Einolf
Volunteers on the Veld 12 Stephen M. Miller
The Black Hawk War of 1832 10 Patrick J. Jung
William Harding Carter and the American Army 9 Ronald G. Machoian
Blood in the Argonne 8 Alan D Gaff
Blue Water Creek and the First Sioux War, 1854-1856 6 R. Eli Paul
The Uncivil War 5 Robert R. Mackey
Bayonets in the Wilderness 4 Alan D Gaff
Washita 3 Jerome A. Greene
Morning Star Dawn 2 Jerome A. Greene
Napoleon and Berlin 1 Michael V. Leggiere


Class starts today! Civil War Command and Leadership

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Class starts today!

Civil War Command and Leadership

The book list changed a bit since my first post.  That’s ok. The books I picked up for the old book list are good ones.

Professor: Steven E. Woodworth

I’ve updated the courses page with the information below.

Required Texts:

Glatthaar, Joseph T. Partners in Command: The Relationships Between Leaders in the Civil War. New York: The Free Press, 1993.
McPherson, James M. Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Command-in-Chief. New York: Penguin, 2009
[Course professor] Woodworth, Steven E. Jefferson Davis and His Generals: The Failure of Confederate Command in the West. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1990.

JeffersonDavisandHisGenerals Partners in Commandtried-by-war

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Hargrett Library Rare Map Collection – The American Civil War

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The Map of the Battle of Bethel

The Battle of Bethel, Hargrett Library Rare Map Collection - The American Civil War


Check out the collection of rare American Civil War maps provided in the Hargrett Library collection digitized and online here. This excellent resources demonstrates the power of digitization of primary sources. Bravo!

Map of the Battle of Bethel

"The Only Correct and Reliable Map of the Battle of Bethel," Hargrett Library Rare Map Collection - The American Civil War



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