From the Publisher
"There is no other one-volume history of the Civil War that is so up-to-date in its author's mastery of current scholarship on the war, that so succinctly yet completely summarizes the military history of the war. . . . Anything Herman Hattaway says on the Civil War has to be taken seriously." Russell Weigley
"A perceptive, well-crafted accountthe best clear, brief military history of the Civil War available. Good focus on themes of technology, strategy, tactics, and leadership with an emphasis on the West Point contribution. Wonderfully clear and concise accounts of campaigns and battles that never seem stale. Like all Hattaway's work it is characterized by great scholarship with a kind of charming quirkiness."George Rable
Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
In his preface, Hattaway (Why the South Lost the Civil War, How the North Won) notes that his goal was to focus on "certain military aspects of the American Civil War and to relate them more broadly to technological and managerial realities." He succeeds admirably, providing the reader with a clear, succinct background of changes in military strategy and armament proceeding from the Napoleonic wars, the Second Seminole War, the Mexican War and the Crimean War before dealing with the Civil War. Well organized and well-written, the parts and chapters move through those years with primary attention to each battle's strategic process and outcome while stressing the importance of technological developments and resultant changes in operational strategy. For example, the gradual adoption of entrenchment defense was necessitated by the longer range and accuracy of new rifles. Despite Hattaway's welcome brevity, the text offers asides that may surprise even seasoned Civil War buffs. For example, in his discussion of Gettysburg, he discusses General Richard S. Ewell's mental state: "Ewell may even have had severe mental problems_ legends persist that he sometimes hallucinated that he was a bird; for hours at a time he would sit in his tent softly chirping." Throughout his text, Hattaway traces the growth of military professionalism and concludes that wars are inevitable and that only a professional military can prepare for them effectively.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In his preface, Hattaway (Why the South Lost the Civil War, How the North Won) notes that his goal was to focus on "certain military aspects of the American Civil War and to relate them more broadly to technological and managerial realities." He succeeds admirably, providing the reader with a clear, succinct background of changes in military strategy and armament proceeding from the Napoleonic wars, the Second Seminole War, the Mexican War and the Crimean War before dealing with the Civil War. Well organized and well-written, the parts and chapters move through those years with primary attention to each battle's strategic process and outcome while stressing the importance of technological developments and resultant changes in operational strategy. For example, the gradual adoption of entrenchment defense was necessitated by the longer range and accuracy of new rifles. Despite Hattaway's welcome brevity, the text offers asides that may surprise even seasoned Civil War buffs. For example, in his discussion of Gettysburg, he discusses General Richard S. Ewell's mental state: "Ewell may even have had severe mental problems... legends persist that he sometimes hallucinated that he was a bird; for hours at a time he would sit in his tent softly chirping." Throughout his text, Hattaway traces the growth of military professionalism and concludes that wars are inevitable and that only a professional military can prepare for them effectively. Illustrations not seen by PW. History Book Club selection. (May)
Hattaway (Why the South Lost the Civil War, Univ. of Georgia, 1991) distills his immense knowledge of war and society into this compact volume. Here readers can sample recent scholarly thinking about the war and the ways management and technology decided the character and outcome of the conflict, all spiced by pithy sketches of major figures. Hattaway reckons that professionalism counted the most in the successful organization and conduct of wartime affairs, though an "amateur" like Lincoln could emerge as a great war leader. Hattaway also looks at the Indian wars, the Mexican War, the Crimean War, teaching at West Point, and political leadershipall to give a long view and a comparative perspective rare in such a short history. Only the hurried narrative and a sometimes quirky bibliography will keep readers from appreciating the complexity and subtlety of Hattaway's many insightful suggestions. A fine introduction to a huge subject.Randall M. Miller, St. Joseph's Univ., Philadelphia
An introduction to Civil War military history focusing on the
evolution of warfare from the Napoleonic wars, the Mexican War, and
Crimean War before dealing with specific Civil War technologies.
Hattaway (history, U. of Missouri-Kansas City) discusses the impact
of land and sea mines, minesweepers, hand grenades, automatic
weapons, the Confederate submarine, and balloons. Although the core
of the history is rooted in these discussions, the author uniquely
connects them with anecdotes about the period and military
leadership, reviewing recent scholarship and providing new insights
which enliven the thesis. Includes photographs.
Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
A succinct, clear, useful review of the battles and campaigns of the Civil War, and of the strategies that shaped them.
Hattaway (History/Univ. of Missouri, Kansas City; How the North Won, 1982, etc.) is particularly concerned with the ways in which the war spurred an extraordinary range of developments in military technology (from repeating rifles to armored vessels) and with the often haphazard ways in which both sides struggled to adapt old military theories to new conditions and to the American landscape (most of the war's major battles were fought in terrain that obscured visibility, in conditions unknown to the European strategists much studied by both sides). Hovering over many of the war's bloodiest battles, he suggests, were recollections of the Mexican war in the 1840s, when direct assaults on enemy positions carried the day. Commanders on both sides repeatedly, disastrously, attempted to replicate those successes. Also shaping the nature of Civil War battles was the absence of a large professional officer corps. The outcome of the war, Hattaway suggests, is in part the history of commanders learning how to fight in a new way, to utilize technology, and to wage war on a far broader scale. While the conflict's most influential battles are judiciously, if swiftly, described, Hattaway repeatedly returns the narrative to this question of the evolution of strategy. His portraits of Grant and Lee, the war's most influential strategists, are terse, often critical, and convincing.
Those looking for detailed studies of individual battles should turn elsewhere. (Hattaway provides very helpful annotated bibliographies of the best work on the war.) Those searching for a clear, persuasive introduction to the way in which battle shaped new strategies and a new idea of war could find no better or more compelling guide.
Read an Excerpt
Shades of Blue and Gray
An Introductory Military History of the Civil War
By Herman Hattaway
University of Missouri Press Copyright © 1997 The Curators of the University of Missouri
All rights reserved.
Transition to Civil War
Procurement of Officers
Scholars who study the history of the U.S. Military Academy call the two decades prior to the Civil War the "Golden Age" of West Point. It was the time when the officer corps of the army changed from being composed primarily of men who had been commissioned directly from civilian life or who had risen from the ranks to one wherein professionally trained men predominated. Not one of the thirty-seven men who became general officers between 1802 and 1861 was an alumnus of the Academy, but even as early as 1833 more than half of the active officers were graduates, and their numbers had increased to more than 75 percent by 1860 on the eve of the Civil War.
When the country divided, 9,103,332 persons among the nation's total population of 31,443,321 lived in seceded states. So, too, did the cadet corps and the officer corps divide into similarly proportionally sized groups. At the war's outset, seventy-four Southern cadets resigned their appointments or suffered dismissal for refusing to take a required oath of allegiance, and all of those subsequently served in the Confederate army. A few Northerners chose to side with the South; and a few Southerners remained loyal to the North. Of the 266 Southern-born West Point alumni who fought in the Civil War, 39 (14.7 percent) served the Union.
For a variety of reasons, the South had a keener appreciation of military professionalism than the North did. Early in the Civil War the South did a better job than the North in identifying its more able officers and getting them sooner into high levels of command. More to the point is that the South—from the outset—was much more welcoming to its military professionals and capitalized upon their talents. Among the Regular Army officers who went to fight for the South, 64 percent became generals, while less than 30 percent of those Regulars who stayed with the Union did so.
Virtually none of the nonbrevet general-grade officers in the rather small pre-Civil War army could be expected to take the field. Winfield Scott, the general in chief, a Regular Army major general and brevet lieutenant general, was seventy-five years of age and physically unfit. Brig. Gen. John E. Wool, who was seventy-seven years old, ably handled an administrative command for a time and was promoted to major general on May 17, 1862, but diminished vigor forced him to retire on August 1, 1863. Seventy-two-year-old Brig. Gen. David E. Twiggs sided with the Confederacy.
Huge numbers of general- and field-grade officers had to be appointed from sources other than West Point; the importance and role played by the volunteer officers cannot be discounted. To be sure it was politics—and not their military capacity—that motivated some of their appointments. But some volunteer officers possessed genuine merit, and many of them productively strove to improve. Too, West Point had some meaningful competition as a source of sound formal military education, most notably from the Virginia Military Institute and the military college in Charleston, South Carolina, known as the Citadel.
Nevertheless, West Pointers—many of them still very young—dominated the key positions; the Civil War was a "West Pointers War." Some of the Academy men performed poorly; only a very few proved adequate to the tasks of top command positions. It was in the lower-level commands and in staff positions that West Pointers—augmented by the best of the volunteer officers—truly excelled. Most significant, they succeeded in molding huge numbers of raw, unmilitary, young Americans into formidable soldiers, integrating them into well-functioning armies. The reality was demonstrated: modern wars can be conducted satisfactorily by armies that are largely nonprofessional if there exists an adequate professional core and if there is at least minimally sufficient time to mobilize and train.
Both sides started off with relative parity in administrative apparatus for command and control. Both had little technical information and few military maps. (A major western campaign in 1862 was conducted by a Confederate general who had bought his maps in a bookstore.) There was no staff school and no general-staff system. The Union had long used a regional military department system, and (with necessary modifications) this continued in existence throughout the Civil War. The Confederacy copied the idea; but, with the passage of time, the Confederate military department system came to have more impact on strategy than did the North's geographic arrangement, which remained more administrative in nature.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, the U.S. Army mustered just 16,367 men. On April 15, 1861, President Lincoln called up 75,000 militiamen for three months. Three weeks later by executive fiat he increased the Regular Army by 22,714 men and the navy by 18,000. Over the next four years, the Union ultimately mobilized 2.6 million men.
The Confederacy, meanwhile, also mobilizing, had even farther to go. (It was long believed, due to a misstatement by Emory Upton in his postwar writings, that only twenty-six enlisted men from the U.S. Army joined the Confederate forces. Actually, at least seventy enlisted individuals changed from North to South early in the war, and the full number of such deserters eventually approached four hundred.) The Confederate Congress had authorized the muster for a period of one year of as many volunteers as President Davis desired, and on March 6 he called for 100,000. The Confederacy ultimately mobilized close to 1 million men.
Initially, many recruits flocked to the training camps of both sides; but two particularly critical periods eventually rendered reenlistment a vital problem for both sides. First, early in the war, even before any real fighting had taken place, because many of the initial enlistments were for very short periods—usually for three months—the necessity arose to institute drastic change. Troops thereafter were typically enlisted for three years or for the war's duration, whichever came first. Thus, if the war was still dragging on, sometime in 1864 there would come a crucial period when vast numbers of soldiers' terms of service were due to expire. For example, of the 956 Union infantry regiments on duty at the outset of 1864, 455 were scheduled to disband during the spring and summer. But both sides proved able in 1864 to effect a significantly large, though not total, reenlistment of its veterans.
While every individual, to be sure, is unique, it is nevertheless possible to do some "collective personality profiling" of the Civil War soldiers. In such a process it becomes starkly evident that—at least in terms of human propensity—the people of the North and the South were much more alike than different. But if there existed any difference at all, what was the nature of this difference? The answer seems to be complicated. It well may be true, as the brilliant young scholar Reid Mitchell has concluded, that "the North had a superior will to fight the war it had to fight than the South had to fight its war"; and Yankees and Rebels were like mirror images—not truly different, yet quite thoroughly opposites.
But why did the Civil War soldiers fight, and why did they continue to do so? It is an intriguing question, one that Reid Mitchell and James McPherson, separately, have done good work in probing—and into which McPherson is continuing to inquire.
To fight, and to continue to fight, required some prodigious motivation, for the war became quite early a hard thing to endure. Mitchell found documentation that "a preacher's sermon on 'the dear ones at home' could start veterans crying." "I must say I have had enough of the glory of war," one trooper wrote in August 1862. "I am sick of seeing dead men and men's limbs torn from their bodies." Another would write in the following December, "I did not have to go into the battle because I am so near bare-footed ... [and] I can tell you I was glad that my shoes did not come, because I would rather lose a hundred dollars than go into battle."
Yet, save for a truly negligible proportion of slackers and deserters, the soldiers usually did go into battle. Soldiers cared what the folks back home thought of them and, more important, they wanted to be regarded as truly having done their duty. But Mitchell perceives a different quality of motivation, North and South—and ultimately over time the North's cohesion grew tighter while the South's gradually deteriorated. The reality was that the Confederate experiment was in trouble from the outset: quite simply and starkly Confederate nationalism was weak while Northern nationalism was strong. This issue has been thoroughly discussed by many scholars: most notable are Paul D. Escott in After Secession; Richard E. Beringer, Herman Hattaway, Archer Jones, and William Still in Why the South Lost the Civil War; and most recently (in a newly insightful context) Mark Grimsley in The Hard Hand of War.
Excerpted from Shades of Blue and Gray by Herman Hattaway. Copyright © 1997 The Curators of the University of Missouri. Excerpted by permission of University of Missouri Press.
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