Academic journal article Military Review

THE GRAND DESIGN: Strategy and the U.S. Civil War

Academic journal article Military Review

THE GRAND DESIGN: Strategy and the U.S. Civil War

Article excerpt

THE GRAND DESIGN: Strategy and the U.S. Civil War, Donald Stoker, Oxford University Press, New York, 2010, 512 pages, $27.95.

Donald Stoker insists that too many studies of how the Civil War was won and lost focus on battlefield campaigns and tactics. Stoker argues the North won because it destroyed the Confederates' ability to maintain effective resistance, and the South lost because it failed to keep its armies intact long enough to gain independence. While battles are important, strategy ultimately determines the outcome.

In The Grand Design: Strategy and the U.S. Civil War, Stoker defines strategy as different from policy, operations, and tactics. Strategy, he explains, is the overall plan of action for defeating the opposing belligerent. Policy is the political outcome desired by the war, and tactics and operations are the battle and campaign level of warfare.

Both the North and South attempted to develop a winning strategy early in the war, but neither succeeded. Northern generals confused themselves by trying to accomplish too much at once. Their objective was to capture the Confederate capital in Richmond. General McClellan tried to end the war in one campaign. The Confederates, on the other hand, struggled to defend their territory with an inadequate amount of men. They defended cities and tactical objectives, but their armies sustained irreplaceable casualties. They stretched their resources beyond their capacity and failed to sustain a strategy that would have allowed them to win. …

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