The Art of Command in the Civil War

The Art of Command in the Civil War

The Art of Command in the Civil War

The Art of Command in the Civil War

Synopsis

The military history of the Civil War has tended to focus on such issues as tactics, courage under fire, and which leader was capable of the bold stroke (Lee) and which one wasn't (McClellan). Overlooked in these important issues is the matter of command itself: mastery of the resources required for successful military action. In this work seven experts examine particular instances of command problems - such as supply, military discipline, and effective relations with subordinate commanders - and show how a general's handling of the problem illustrates an important feature of Civil War leadership.

Excerpt

"Everything is very simple in war," wrote nineteenth-century German philosopher Carl von Clausewitz, "but the simplest thing is difficult." the basic solution to many a strategic or tactical problem may be, in an academic sense, fairly obvious. Yet as this sage veteran of the Napoleonic Wars pointed out, actually making things happen in such a way as to bring about victory is a difficult matter indeed.

A constant temptation for those who study war--and particularly the exercise of command--is to fall into the error of thinking that the problems confronting a historical commander were really easy ones. "Monday- morning quarterbacks" have their academic counterparts in next-century historians, who, if they are not careful, can begin to think that the solutions to a Civil War general's problems lay close at hand and were to be had for the grasping. Such misconceptions are particularly hard to avoid if latter- day scholars allow themselves to conceive of the war as a sort of chess game--neat, orderly, quiet, and rational. Calm, comfortable, and unhurried, chess players study the situation at length and without disturbance. They then make their moves carefully, based solely on their own calculations of how best to win. Pieces may be moved with precision and complete predictability over a neat grid of right angles and perfect squares. a very small amount of reflection should be adequate to convince us that the game of chess bears only the vaguest theoretical resemblance to the hard business of war. a little more reflection should assure us that military command is not solely, perhaps not even mostly, a matter of strategy and tactics either.

To be successful, an army commander must manage to relate well to his nation's commander in chief and such other political powers as may affect his operations and the conduct of the war. This may very well include the newspapers and public opinion. He must select loyal and efficient subordinates, secure their appointment, inspire their cooperation and that of such . . .

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