Academic journal article Military Review

Corps Commanders in Blue: Union Major Generals in the Civil War

Academic journal article Military Review

Corps Commanders in Blue: Union Major Generals in the Civil War

Article excerpt

CORPS COMMANDERS IN BLUE: Union Major Generals in the Civil War

Ethan S. Rafuse, Ed., Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 2014, 320 pages

Until recently, the corps level of command in the American Civil War has been somewhat neglected in scholarly writing on the war. This anthology--edited by Ethan Rafuse, a noted Civil War author and professor at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, and supported by a team of distinguished academic and public Civil War historians--remedies this deficiency with a work providing case studies of the actions of eight Union Army major generals while in corps command.

The choices of personalities are diverse: Meade, a future successful army commander; Hooker, a failed army commander; Gilbert, an accidental and relatively obscure corps commander with only an acting rank; Porter, a cashiered general; McPherson, who was killed as an army commander; Franklin, a staunch McClellan supporter; Mansfield, an aged commander who was killed on his first day of command; and Hancock, the Civil War's most highly regarded Union corps commander.

Rafuse introduces the anthology with an essay on corps command, which provides a short but useful overview. He recognizes the importance of the corps and that battles were often won, not at the army level, but through the actions of corps commanders and their ability to direct those of their subordinates. The most significant of the following essays is that on Winfield Hancock by Arizona State Professor Brooks Simpson. Hancock is usually considered the best corps commander in the Union Army during the war, although his performance is often only superficially analyzed except for his actions at Gettysburg, where his performance, like everything to do with that battle, has been scrutinized many times. …

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