Academic journal article The Arkansas Historical Quarterly

The Grand Design: Strategy and the U.S. Civil War

Academic journal article The Arkansas Historical Quarterly

The Grand Design: Strategy and the U.S. Civil War

Article excerpt

The Grand Design: Strategy and the U.S. Civil War. By Donald Stoker. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. Pp. viii, 498. Acknowledgments, maps, notes, index. $27.95.)

This monograph by Donald Stoker, professor of strategy and policy at the U.S. Naval War College, won the Fletcher Pratt award for the best nonfiction book on the Civil War. The honor is well deserved. This study attempts to explain, from a strategic sense, the reasons why the Union defeated the Confederacy. The conclusion is quite simple-the Union had a better strategist in Abraham Lincoln than the Confederates did in Jefferson Davis.

According to Stoker, the political objectives of each side determined military strategy. Although these strategies would evolve throughout the conflict, The Grand Design argues that if the Union could have prosecuted the plan of controversial general George B. Mc- Clellan effectively, the war would have ended as early as 1862. His plan called for defeating the Rebel armies, capturing and holding key locations, and demonstrating the dominance of the Federal government and its forces over the rebellious South.

At the onset of the war, Confederate president Jefferson Davis called for defending the entire Confederacy, much to the delight of the often discordant southern state governors. Surely, this was more of a political move than a strategic one. Later, his strategy changed to a plan of "concentration," one that would locate supplies and troops in only a few of the most important locations, instead of strewn across the South in smaller numbers. Stoker contends that the choice of these "important" locations was sometimes faulty and that vital places were often left unprotected. …

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