Civil War Leadership and Mexican War Experience

Article excerpt

CIVIL WAR LEADERSHIP AND MEXICAN WAR EXPERIENCE, Kevin Dougherty, University Press of Mississippi, Jackson, 2007, 193 pages, $50.00.

Kevin Dougherty's Civil War Leadership and Mexican War Experience analyzes several of the Civil War's controversial command decisions by framing them within the Mexican-American War experiences of the men who made them. A balanced work, the book provides brief snapshots of 26 leaders divided evenly between Confederate and Union officers at all levels of command. Along the way, it reprises many well-known anecdotes about the experiences and educations of such officers as Pope, Kearny, Halleck, Beauregard, Bragg, and Armistead, but it does so in stylish, engaging prose.

As a scholarly analysis of command decisions, however, Dougherty's work is dubious at best. While he provides abundant source citations for his anecdotes, they are almost entirely derived from secondary works that do not cite their own sources. For example, Dougherty relies heavily on Bruce Catton's popular histories and the Time-Life Civil War series, neither of which cites primary sources. A critic would be perfectly correct in asking why a historian doesn't go to primary sources when he quotes officers' observations. It's not just the scholarship that's questionable: the book contains some errors and inconsistencies. Dougherty, for instance, incorrectly states that Lincoln placed John Pope in field command of the Army of the Potomac for the second battle of Bull Run (p. 54), and yet in a later chapter correctly designates Pope's command as the Army of Virginia.

These criticisms, however, pale in comparison to the book's greatest fault. …

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