Archive for the ‘Civil War Books’ Category
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.
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.
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.
12 b&w illus., 1 map
The good folks at the University of Oklahoma Press sent me a review copy yesterday of Bryce Benedict’s Jayhawkers: The Civil War Brigade of James Henry Lane. In my usual fashion, I’m posting a few comments prior to a thorough reading.
I live on the borders of Missouri and Kansas so confess some considerable fascination with both Jim Lane and the evolution of war in the towns and farmlands of this part of the Western theater. Lane, a Kansas senator and strong advocate of Lincoln, was a player. Benedict identifies Lincoln himself as having given Lane authority “to raise and command two volunteer regiments.” Lane used them to harass Missourians with violence, theft, and destruction of property in a manner foreshadowing that of Sherman. Benedict posits that Lane thus embraced the notion of “total war” as a means of disabling the enemy’s war machine before it became more widely adopted as a strategy of the Union.
The photo of Lane on the cover (above) was a brilliant choice. After perusing the Library of Congress and finding his carte d’visite (left), it becomes clear that the look of the man fit his personality. In the words of Milton W. Reynolds, Lane was “weird, mysterious, partially insane, partially inspired, and poetic.” He described him as having lived a “…wayward, fitful life of passion and strife, of storm and sunshine a mysterious existence that now dwelt on the mountain-tops of expectation and the very summit of highest realization, and anon in the valley of despondency and deepest gloom.”  Lane committed suicide by shooting himself in the mouth with a pistol in 1866.
Author Bryce Benedict has produced a well researched work with notes for each chapter and three appendices including considerable information about fate of the casualties of Lane’s brigade, most of whom died from disease.
For further reading, check out these books digitized for online reading at the Library of Congress.
 Connelley, William Elsey, (1855-1930) James Henry Lane, the “Grim chieftain” of Kansas (Topeka: Crane, 1899). The Library of Congress Digitized Book. LOC Call number: 9594581, Digitizing sponsor: Sloan Foundation
I made a number of new acquisitions over the past month. The latest arrived in the mail today and has been added to my virtual bookshelves here. I’m actually pretty excited by this purchase.
and Steven Stanley (Maps and Photography) 62 photos and 70 full color maps
I’m exploring options for topics for an independent study course. This one is floating to the top of what I’d like to study. Any other books my readers might suggest are welcome.
Naval Operations of the American Civil War
Reading Pace: 1 book or equivalent primary sources per week or two weeks depending on length (max 16)
Course Evaluation: Book Review for each book read and Final essay
Beginning Reading List (Not complete and to be agreed on with professor):
Bennett, Michael J. Union Jacks: Yankee Sailors in the Civil War. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004.
Brooksher, William R. War Along the Bayou: The 1864 Red River Campaign in Louisiana. Washington: Brassey’s, 1998.
Chaffin, Tom The H. L. Hunley (Hill and Wang, 2008)
Forsyth, Michael J. The Red River Campiagn of 1864 and the Loss by the Confederacy of the Civil War, Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2002.
Friend, Jack. West Wind, Flood Tide: The Battle of Mobile Bay. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2004.
Joiner, Gary D. One Damn Blunder from Beginning to End: The Red River Campaign of 1864. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 2003.
Lewis, Charles Lee. David Glasgow Farragut: Our First Admirial. 2 vols. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1943.
Merli, Frank J. Great Britain and the Confederate Navy, 1861 – 1865 (Indiana University Press, 2004)
—-, The Alabama, British Neutrality, and the American Civil War (Indiana University Press, 2004)
Symonds, Craig L. Confederate Admiral: The Life and Wars of Franklin Buchanan. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1999.
—-,Lincoln and His Admirals (Oxford University Press, 2008)
Tucker, Spencer C. Andrew Foote: Cvivil War Admiral on Western Waters. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2000.
Valuska, David L. The African American in the Union Navy: 1861-1865. New York: Garland, 1993.
Weddle, Kevin. Lincoln’s Tragic Admiral: The Life of Samuel Francis Du Pont, Charlottesville: Universtiy of Virginia Press, 2005.
The good folks at PublicAffairs Books sent me a review copy of Marc Wortman’s The Bonfire: The Siege and Burning of Atlanta viewable on my virtual bookshelves here. I decided to create a shelf specific to “Civil War Sieges” because this book doesn’t quite fit in other categories. That uniqueness is part of its draw.
Full disclosure: This is my usual “pre-read” post where I’ll share some early impressions. Wortman had me before page one because he put six nicely done maps right up front. His poignant introduction left me with no recourse but to read on. A small excerpt:
War is cruelty. Its bloodshed and destruction – the “hard hand of war,” as Sherman really did call it – struck Atlanta with a greater ferocity than it has any American city in history. This is the story of how Atlanta and its people came to be in the direct line of the whirlwind, what one of the besieged city’s Confederate defenders called “a grand holocaust of death.” (Wortman, 2)
Having read the first chapter, I can say that Wortman has a talent for turning a phrase. His depiction of a devastated Atlanta on the morning of September 2, 1864 put me there.
A reeking sulfurous stew that stung the eyes had already settled over the town, filling the railroad cuts, hollows, and streets. Its tendrils wavered along the hillsides and ravines and sifted through the blackened skeletons of what once were houses and factories, railcars and machine shops. It was the silence, though, that shocked people most. Three predawn hours of gut-rattling, earsplitting, and window-shattering explosions and gunfire made the previous night feel like the announcement that the Apocalypse had finally come. But the infernal noise had ended shortly before morning’s light tipped into the eyes of those hunkered down within the earth. (Wortman, 5)
From reading just a few chapters of book, its TOC, and its index, I can add that Wortman’s work emphasizes the broader historical context of the war, covers the importance of railroads during the Civil War, provides insights into the conflict as seen from the perspectives of common soldiers and citizens, and draws upon a substantial amount of primary sources. All of these are pluses.
I look forward to a thorough reading.
An earlier book published by PublicAffairs Books in May of 2007, The Millionaires’ Unit: The Aristocratic Flyboys Who Fought the Great War and Invented American Air Power, also looks like a great read and I recently ordered a copy. Per the publisher, it is in development as a major motion picture. Of note, both of Wortman’s histories are available in Kindle versions which means you can begin reading them in about 40 seconds.
The good folks at Hachette Book Group USA sent me a review copy of Robert Hicks’ A Separate Country. A follow up to the bestseller, The Widow of the South, which hit the New York Times Best Seller List, this new title will be available in bookstores on September 23rd. Multiple versions will be available including electronic and audio (unabridged). You can preview the book here.
- Category: FICTION
- Format: HARDCOVER BOOK
- Publish Date: 9/23/2009
- Price: $25.99/$31.99
- ISBN: 9780446581646
- Pages: 432
- Size: 6″ x 9
It’s subject is the ever fascinating Confederate General John Bell Hood and his life after the war with wife, Anna Marie Hennen (see her obit here). You can read excerpts of Hood’s memoir, Advance and Retreat here.