West Pointers and the Civil War: The Old Army in War and Peace / Edition 1

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Most Civil War generals were graduates of West Point, and many of them helped transform the U.S. Army from what was little better than an armed mob that performed poorly during the War of 1812 into the competent fighting force that won the Mexican War. Hsieh demonstrates how the "old army" transformed itself into a professional military force after 1814, and, more important, how "old army" methods profoundly shaped the conduct of the Civil War.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Thought provoking."--Louisiana History

"West Pointers and the Civil War is a fine study that reminds readers that personality and leadership matter in understanding the conflict and those who participated in it."--The Historian

"A must read for anyone interested in the subject of why the war was fought the way it was."--The Past in Review

"This original and important book asks us to reconceptualize much of what we think about the Civil War."--The Journal of Southern History

"Judicious and well-researched. . . . Hsieh's project . . . is to explain the mentality of military professionals. . . . It is a task that he accomplishes with great skill."--Journal of American History

"CAMP members who are Civil War buffs will want to add West Pointers and the Civil War to their military libraries."--The Journal of America's Military Past

"Offers something for almost everyone. Those who revel in minutiae will enjoy Hsieh's detailed discussion of the tactical changes of the 1815-45 years and of the impact . . . of rifled weapons on the battlefield. Hsieh's discussions of some of the Civil War's major campaigns . . . will provide food for thought for those who prefer to study the war's larger military aspects."--Blue & Gray Magazine

"A truly original and interesting study that places the Civil War within the context of the development of the United States Army in the nineteenth century. . . . Concise and well written."--H-Net Reviews

"[A] closely reasoned, thoroughly researched, and provocative work. . . . Recommended."--Choice

"Students of the Civil War will find this analysis worth considering."--On Point
"A solid contribution to scholarship . . . [An] excellent treatment of antebellum debates over tactical doctrine and particular tactical events during the war."--The Journal of Military History

"Leaves few stones unturned in examining how the professional officer corps produced by the U.S. Military Academy in the 19th century influenced the evolution of battlefield tactics at this critical point in our nation's history. . . . [Adds] another perspective to the historiography of a complex topic."--Civil War Times

"Skillfully explores institutional efforts to develop and maintain the army's infantry, artillery, and mounted standards."--Civil War Book Review

"A scholarly, well-footnoted book. The author has many ideas that he supports with logical documented arguments. . . . The author writes well, having an excellent readable way of presenting that never makes reading this book a chore."--TOCWOC

"Trac[es] the evolution of military professionalism from the War of 1812 to the Civil War."--ARMY

"An excellent book that was thoroughly researched by Hsieh. It is technical in nature, perhaps geared more towards a serious student of the military, but written in such a style as to be a worthy read for anyone with an interest in the military, or the Civil War."--This Mighty Scourge

"Combining synthetic elements and solid research with the author's own (often subtle) interpretive slant, Wayne Wei-siang Hsieh's West Pointers and the Civil War is worthwhile reading for those interested in the transformational steps taken by the antebellum U.S. Army, and what they would ultimately mean for the conduct of the war fought between Union and Confederate forces. Recommended."--CWBA.blogspot

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807832783
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 11/15/2009
  • Series: Civil War America Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Wayne Wei-siang Hsieh is assistant professor of history at the United States Naval Academy and has served with the U.S. State Department on a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Iraq.
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 23, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    An Excellent Book!

    Building a million plus man army is a gut wrenching task. In 1861, two nations set out to do this while fighting a civil war. During the building process, any military experience becomes a critical asset. Veterans of the War with Mexico, members of the militia, and graduates of private military schools struggle with half-remembered, misunderstood or just plain wrong ideas. However bad they are better than no idea of what to do. At ground zero stand the graduates of West Point, the only fully trained professional military either side has. West Pointers set the professional standard for training and conduct during the American Civil War. Their efforts convert ill-trained armed mobs into veteran armies. Their military thinking controls the military direction and application of the armies they trained. What they considered right and proper conduct became the right and proper way to fight the war. West Pointers, for good or ill, controlled and conducted the American Civil War. While they have nothing to do with the political decisions that lead to war, they have everything to do with waging that war.
    Wayne Wei-siang Hsieh brings us a look at how West Point learned about war, trained the cadets and how these lessons applied during the Civil War. Starting with the armed semi-trained mobs during the War of 1812, the author covers the development of America's professional officers. The War with Mexico vindicated the changes after 1814 giving the army a solid foundation while determining the direction taken into the 1850s. West Pointers understanding of moral, leadership and logistics allowed armies to develop. The daunting paperwork requirement of these armies was second nature to these men. They, more than any group, stepped forward and brought order out of chaos.
    This is a scholarly, well-footnoted book. The author has many ideas that he supports with logical documented arguments. 40+ pages of footnotes with a 20 page Bibliography testify to the depth of research that went into this book. However, this is a very readable book. The author writes well, having an excellent readable way of presenting that never makes reading this book a chore.
    This excellent background book will increase the reader's ability to understand the decisions based on shared training and experiences that determined the direction taken. This book truly tells us how "the old army thus served both in war and in peace".

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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