The Grand Design: Strategy and the U.S. Civil War

The Grand Design: Strategy and the U.S. Civil War

by Donald Stoker
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The Grand Design: Strategy and the U.S. Civil War by Donald Stoker

Despite the abundance of books on the Civil War, not one has focused exclusively on what was in fact the determining factor in the outcome of the conflict: differences in Union and Southern strategy. In The Grand Design, Donald Stoker provides for the first time a comprehensive and often surprising account of strategy as it evolved between Fort Sumter and Appomattox. Reminding us that strategy is different from tactics (battlefield deployments) and operations (campaigns conducted in pursuit of a strategy), Stoker examines how Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis identified their political goals and worked with their generals to craft the military means to achieve them--or how they often failed to do so. Stoker shows that Davis, despite a West Point education and experience as Secretary of War, ultimately failed as a strategist by losing control of the political side of the war. Lincoln, in contrast, evolved a clear strategic vision, but he failed for years to make his generals implement it. And while Robert E. Lee was unerring in his ability to determine the Union's strategic heart--its center of gravity--he proved mistaken in his assessment of how to destroy it. Historians have often argued that the North's advantages in population and industry ensured certain victory. In The Grand Design, Stoker reasserts the centrality of the overarching plan on each side, arguing convincingly that it was strategy that determined the result of America's great national conflict.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780199752560
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 07/20/2010
Series: Strategy and the U.S. Civil War
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Sales rank: 731,446
File size: 5 MB

About the Author

Donald Stoker is Professor of Strategy and Policy for the U.S. Naval War College's program at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.

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Grand Design: Strategy and the U.S. Civil War 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
James_Durney More than 1 year ago
Nations often stumble into war. Miscalculations, expectations and preconceptions work together to blind one or both parties to reality. The result is a war that neither side particularly wanted but was unable or unwilling to avoid. Once started war requires planning. Each sides needs to determine its' objectives and a course of action that will attain them. Ideally, each campaign helps obtain the objective. In the Civil War, the objective of each side is very straightforward: The South wanted to become an independent nation and the North wanted to preserve the Union. Since the two objectives are mutually exclusive, victory in an exhausting war is the result. Donald Stoker takes a long and detailed look at how each side worked to accomplish their objective. This is a detailed look at conducting one of the most important wars in America's history. This is a combination of history, theory, observation and "might have been". The mix results in an absorbing and thought provoking read. This is not a basic history! This is an advanced intermediate level book. A background in the issues, coupled with an understanding of "Battles and Leaders", the major and some minor political figures and the campaigns is required. Without these, this is going to be a long long long book! With them, it is a lively read that can pull together several ideas giving "the reason why" to any number of questions. I alternated between enlightenment, enjoyment, agreement and disagreement. His handling of Halleck is excellent. I feel he is to hard on Meade. At times, he is inconsistent on J. E. Johnston. Overall, the author's position is mainstream current history. Each reader will find something to disagree with but will agree on most items. The book opens with a discussion of strategy, as we understand it and as understood 150 years ago. In this section, the author defines terms and outlines his argument. The book proceeds from 1861 to 1865, covering the planning or lack of planning and direction of the war. Much of the history is of political control and political problems with generals. We watch Lincoln grow into his role as commander, even as we see Davis mired in details. Each campaign season, produces a new set of opportunities and dangers. Political considerations, for Lincoln East Tennessee, influence campaigns while producing problems with generals. The South constantly is trying to balance limited resources, reward success and retrieve lost areas. The author maintains a firm grip on the major areas of the war, outlining how they contribute or fail in each year. Neither President has an easy time with his generals nor have generals an easy time with their President. The development of the path to victory is a complex story that the author tells well. This is a book every student of the war will want to read. This is an understandable explanation of why the war came to be fought as it was. It is an intelligently written book full of good ideas that will challenge you, while increasing your understanding of the war.
glauver More than 1 year ago
Many Civil War historians have followed in the narrative tradition of Bruce Catton and Shelby Foote. Less common are writers like T. Harry Williams, Thomas Connelly, Steven Woodworth, Herman Hattaway, and Archer Jones, scholars who analyze the processes behind the decisions that shaped the conflict. Donald Stoker is one of the latter. If you buy this book looking for detailed battle accounts, you will be disappointed. This is a history of the strategies that won and lost the war. I found it to be very interesting and thought provoking. Stoker is unsparing but fair in his criticism, not even exempting Lincoln and Lee. He even credits McClellan with strategic and planning skills while pointing out his indecision and tactical lapses. Don’t make this your first Civil War history purchase; read some of the Catton and Foote type of history before attempting to read The Grand Design.
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