Academic journal article Military Review

How America Fought Its Wars: Military Strategy from the American Revolution to the Civil War

Academic journal article Military Review

How America Fought Its Wars: Military Strategy from the American Revolution to the Civil War

Article excerpt

HOW AMERICA FOUGHT ITS WARS: Military Strategy from the American Revolution to the Civil War by Victor Brooks and Robert Hohwald. 496 pages. Combined Publishing, Consohocken, PA. 1999. $29.95.

In How America Fought Its Wars, Victor Brooks and Robert Hohwald announce their intention to produce a "unique combination of battle narratives, campaign analysis and speculative discussion concerning possible alternatives to the events that actually occurred from 1765 to 1865." Since many previous scholars, historians and military analysts have applied all three of these approaches often and at length, it is difficult to fmd a "unique combination."

Regrettably Brooks and Hohwald fail to do so. They devote 216 pages of a 496-page book to the American Civil War, surely the most analyzed and discussed single conflict in US history and the subject of thousands of earlier treatments. So, it is no surprise their "narratives, campaign analysis and speculative discussion" of this conflict have been covered elsewhere.

In their "alternative strategies and outcomes" for the War of 1812, the authors argue that President James Madison's government could and should have adopted Robert Fulton's scheme to build 20 steam frigates and exploit "a technological breakthrough similar to the introduction of airplanes." The authors are apparently aware, although they never mention it, of the launching of the first US steam frigate, the Demologas, late in the war. What they ignore is the doubtful ability of US shipyards to quickly produce numbers of such vessels. Furthermore, despite Fulton's understandable enthusiasm, the Demologas proved underpowered and poorly designed as a warship. Not until the development of better engines and the screw propeller were practical steam-propelled fighting ships built.

Other parts of the authors' analyses are similarly shallow. In discussing the American Revolution, they suggest that the "terrible experience" of the Continental Army at Valley Forge was "mythology" since, although "food and clothing were in short supply, temperatures were in the high 30s and low 40s" with "slightly below normal snowfall. …

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