The American Civil War: A Handbook of Literature and Research

By Robin Higham; Steven E. Woodworth | Go to book overview
Save to active project

21 Western Theater

Mark Grimsley

Until recently the cis- Mississippi west--the sprawling expanse between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River--was something of a poor relation in Civil War historiography. Despite its obvious importance to the military struggle, the West never attracted the wealth of finely detailed studies lavished upon the campaigns in Virginia. The skewed perspective reflected the unbalanced attention the two theaters received during the war itself. With both national capitals located in the eastern theater, politicians, diplomats, and opinionmakers tended to follow operations in that region most closely. Most of the North's population, and much of the South's, was located east of the Appalachians and that reinforced the focus on the Virginia theater. By contrast, the struggle in the West tended to be perceived in more broadbrush fashion.

In addition to geography, one historian has also blamed "the ' Lee tradition' in historical writing," which "deified" the Virginia army and its generals as the epitome of how Southerners saw themselves: "knightly manners, gentleness, planter society." Southern focus on such Virginians as Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jeb Stuart helped fix Northern attention on their exploits as well. Even Ulysses S. Grant, the western general par excellence, is known chiefly for his climactic duel with Lee. If the Civil War was an American Iliad, then Virginia has long been its principal Troy.

The past thirty-five years, however, have seen a significant shift in focus. The eastern theater retains its fascination, but historians have been drawn increasingly to the West, believing that the military struggle was decided there. The Union victories at Fort Donelson, Shiloh, and Island Number Ten placed the South at a disadvantage from which it never recovered. The capture of Vicks

-270-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The American Civil War: A Handbook of Literature and Research
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 756

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?