Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Civil War Generals in Defeat

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Civil War Generals in Defeat

Article excerpt

Civil War Generals in Defeat. Edited by Steven E. Woodworth. Modern War Studies. (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, c. 1999, Pp. viii, 240. $29.95, ISBN 0-7006-0943-1.)

The purpose of this collection of seven articles is to determine why field commanders who were "intelligent, trained, experienced, and capable of making good tactical and strategic decisions on a number of occasions" failed at crucial moments "to shape events and achieve success" (p. 3). Generals the contributors hold up for scrutiny include Albert Sydney Johnston by Steven Woodworth, Joseph E. Johnston by Alan Downs, George B. McClellan by Ethan S. Refuse, Don Carlos Buell by Stephen D. Engle, Joseph Hooker by Stephen W. Sears, and John C. Pemberton by Michael B. Ballard. Brooks D. Simpson looks at command relationships at Gettysburg. These studies provide useful historiographical summaries for the novice unfamiliar with the issues and for the more knowledgeable in search of a refresher, but the expert will find little that is new. The reasons for battlefield failure--separately or in some combination--are variously found to be: disadvantageous or changing circumstances beyond a general's control; quality of the opposition; inheritance of incompetent subordinates who possess the political clout to get away with being insubordinate; failure to provide the hands-on leadership necessary t0 minimize the damage of incompetent and difficult-to-control subordinates; failure to appreciate the limitations both of subordinates and of green troops; bringing the wrong skills to bear in the wrong place; political ineptitude; and, bad luck.

The authors--with limited exceptions--fail to get beyond the increasingly diminishing returns in the wealth of biographical leadership studies restricted to the central themes they discuss. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.