Shades of Blue and Gray: An Introductory Military History of the Civil War

Shades of Blue and Gray: An Introductory Military History of the Civil War

by Herman Hattaway


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An introductory military history of the American Civil War, Shades of Blue and Gray places the 1861-1865 conflict within the broad context of evolving warfare. Emphasizing technology and its significant impact, Hattaway includes valuable material on land and sea mines, minesweepers, hand grenades, automatic weapons, the Confederate submarine, and balloons. The evolution of professionalism in the American military serves as an important connective theme throughout. Hattaway extrapolates from recent works by revisionists William Skelton and Roy Roberts to illustrate convincingly that the development of military professionalism is not entirely a post-Civil War phenomenon.

The author also incorporates into his work important new findings of recent scholars such as Albert Castel (on the Atlanta Campaign), Reid Mitchell (on soldiers' motivation), Mark Grimsley (on "hard war"), Brooks D. Simpson (on Ulysses S. Grant), and Lauren Cook Burgess (on women who served as soldiers, disguised as men). In addition, Hattaway comments on some of the best fiction and nonfiction available in his recommended reading lists, which will both enlighten and motivate readers.

Informative and clearly written, enhanced by graceful prose and colorful anecdotes, Shades of Blue and Gray will appeal to all general readers.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780826211071
Publisher: University of Missouri Press
Publication date: 05/28/1997
Series: Shades of Blue and Gray Series , #1
Pages: 296
Product dimensions: 6.13(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Herman Hattaway is Professor of History at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He is the author or coauthor of numerous books, including Why the South Lost the Civil War, How the North Won, and General Stephen D. Lee, all past selections of the History Book Club.

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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.
ISBN: 978-0-8262-6073-4


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.

Enlisted Personnel

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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Table of Contents


Prologue The Dawn of Military Professionalism and an Era of Great Technological Change,
PART I Background and Opening Phases of the American Civil War,
Chapter 1 Transition to Civil War,
Chapter 2 The Fighting Begins,
Chapter 3 The War in the West: Henry W. Halleck and Ulysses S. Grant,
PART II The War in Apparent Stalemate,
Chapter 4 The Peninsula Campaign,
Chapter 5 A Rival Displaces McClellan; and a Second Chance,
Chapter 6 The Abortive 1862 Confederate Invasion: Kentucky and Middle Tennessee,
Chapter 7 The Fredericksburg Campaign: A Study in Generalship,
Chapter 8 The Chancellorsville Campaign,
PART III The Great Turning Points,
Chapter 9 The Confederate "Jewels" on the Mississippi: Vicksburg and Port Hudson,
Chapter 10 The Gettysburg Campaign,
Chapter 11 The "Long Pull" of the War,
Chapter 12 Continuing Confederate Viability,
PART IV Endgame Phases,
Chapter 13 No End in Sight: Late 1863–Early 1864,
Chapter 14 Grant and Sherman in Grand Simultaneous Advance,
Chapter 15 The War Draws to a Conclusion,
Epilogue The Full Embodiment of Military Professionalism,

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