Academic journal article Military Review

Over Lincoln's Shoulder: The Committee on the Conduct of the War

Academic journal article Military Review

Over Lincoln's Shoulder: The Committee on the Conduct of the War

Article excerpt

OVER LINCOLN'S SHOULDER: The Committee on the Conduct of the War by Bruce Tap. 319 pages. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, KS. 1998. $39.95.

Students of the American Civil War should welcome this well-researched study of the US Congress' Joint Select Committee on the Conduct of the War. While the committee is cited numerous times in general Civil War works, it has been left to Bruce Tap to present an authoritative work on the subject. Tap integrates the two major aspects of the committee's work-the attempt to find scapegoats for military failure and the desire to further the members' political agendas.

At the outset of the war, the North expected a quick victory after a single battle. Instead, the Union Army was beaten at Bull Run in July 1861 and Ball's Bluff in October. In December, the committee began its work. However, it was handicapped by a membership that had no military experience and, thus, no understanding of the difficulties commanders faced on the scene. The committee's reports of military disasters, alleged contract irregularities, ineptness in military departments, Confederate atrocities and the surrender terms Sherman proposed eventually filled eight volumes. …

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