Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

No Band of Brothers: Problems in the Rebel High Command

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

No Band of Brothers: Problems in the Rebel High Command

Article excerpt

No Band of Brothers: Problems in the Rebel High Command. By Steven B. Woodworth. Shades of Blue and Gray Series. (Columbia, Mo., and London: University of Missouri Press, c. 1999. Pp. xxii, 182. $29.95, ISBN 0-8262-1255-7.)

The author of this small but excellent book employs a line from "The Bonnie Blue Flag," the Confederate fighting song, as the foil to his theme. The song asserted that "we are a band of brothers," but the bulk of the present work convincingly suggests the need for a marked revision of that assertion. One might speculate with more than a modicum of confidence that if the high political and military command of the Confederacy had actually been as cohesive as the line suggested, the southern bid for independence might well have become a reality.

Nine of the ten chapters in No Band of Brothers comprise essays (all of which were previously published or delivered as discrete articles) on the strategic, operational, and tactical disagreements and misunderstandings of Confederate leaders, and the consequences thereof. Among the examples author Steven B. Woodworth examines are: the fumbling and discord that immediately followed the first battle of Manassas; General Leonidas Polk's violation of Kentucky's declared neutrality by seizing Columbus, Kentucky, in 1861; the contrariness of General Joseph E. Johnston and the abdication of leadership by General James Longstreet on the Virginia peninsula; and the dithering and erratic actions of General P. G. T. Beauregard at Bermuda Hundred in 1864. Woodworth also critiques various actions or decisions of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, such as his insistence on treating the trans-Mississippi region as a separate department, his unwillingness to moderate General Robert E. Lee's urge for strategic offensives, his failure to curb the clashing egos within the Army of Tennessee, and his choice of commanders for that same army--particularly the ill-stared General John Bell Hood--after the removal of General Braxton Bragg. …

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