The American Civil War: A Handbook of Literature and Research

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

achieved the same organizational or operational sophistication that the Union attained. Joseph Jenkins Cornish III provides a view of aeronauts in gray in The Air Arm of the Confederacy ( 1963), including accounts of the legendary "silk dress" balloons that saw service in Virginia and South Carolina.


INTELLIGENCE AND COMMAND

Resourceful officers sometimes had access to multiple sources of information for use in making command decisions. Quite often, however, the intelligence reports they received were wrong or contradictory, or both. Even with multiple sources, a consistent problem remained: reaping the truth from a whirlwind of rumors, hearsay, and sketchy reports.

Some recent literature examines this process and shows how commanders analyzed and utilized the information at their disposal. Instead of dwelling on collection methods and sources, these works stress the impact of information on command decisions and, by extension, on battles and campaigns. Fishel's 1964 article constitutes the clarion call advocating this approach to Civil War intelligence studies, and his own work attests to the benefits.

Jay Luvaas and William B. Feis examine the impact of intelligence--or lack thereof--on important campaigns. Luvaas discusses "Lee at Gettysburg: A General without Intelligence" ( 1990) and "The Role of Intelligence in the Chancellorsville Campaign, April-May, 1863" ( 1990). Feis investigates how faulty intelligence led Ulysses S. Grant astray in "A Union Military Intelligence Failure: Jubal Early's Raid, June 12-July 14, 1864" ( 1990). The intelligence collaboration between Grant and General Philip H. Sheridan that aided in the Union victory over Confederate forces in the Shenandoah is covered in Feis "Neutralizing the Valley: The Role of Military Intelligence in the Defeat of Jubal Early's Army of the Valley, 1864-1865" ( 1993).

Although not an exhaustive list, the literature described in this chapter illustrates the scope of intelligence activities during the war and the diversity of the writings on the topic. A flood of new works on the Civil War inundates the reading public annually, but only a few droplets pertain to intelligence. This aspect of the war cries for more scholarly attention in order to reduce the influence of the myths and the anecdotal accounts that have thus far dominated Civil War intelligence history and to paint a more accurate picture of what Phil Sheridan referred to as a "great essential of success" in warfare: the acquisition and use of information to defeat the enemy.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Andrews J. Cutler. The North Reports the Civil War Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1955.

-----. The South Reports the Civil War. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970.

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