Civil War Generalship: The Art of Command

Front Cover
Greenwood Publishing Group, 1997 - History - 269 pages


This study challenges both the accepted convention that the American Civil War was the first modern war and the myth that Civil War leaders were guided by foreign and American military thought in fighting their war. Wood's work takes an innovative approach by selecting three typical higher level commanders on each side, Union and Confederate, and then pairing them off in the campaigns and battles in which they actually confronted each other. While readers gain insight into the nature and character of a commander, they can, at the same time, observe how each put his art of command into practice. Civil War commanders at the operational level had to confront not only their opponents on campaign and in battle, they also had to develop--even create--their own method of command through their personal on-the-job training, while actually engaged in combat operations.

This is the first study of Civil War command since Douglas Southall Freeman's Lee's Lieutenants (1944) that has focused solely and directly with the problems and methods of operational command; in so doing, the author has dealt with the tactical and strategical problems that threatened to overwhelm untried Civil War generals at the very onset of hostilities. The failure of antebellum American military thought to come to grips with outdated linear tactics and inapplicable strategical principles resulted in commanders on both sides in the Civil War having to lead mass armies of untried civilian soldiers into a war for which neither the led nor the leader had been prepared to fight. Higher level commanders on both sides were forced to create and develop a personal art of command while actually putting it into practice on campaign and on the battlefield. In so doing--however well or badly managed--the typical commanders under observation developed a pragmatic art that has left a legacy that still provides paradigms for military leaders in the late 20th century.

This book presents the author's themes in five progressive parts. Part One provides the reader with the background necessary to appreciate the problems confronted by commanders on both sides in the Civil War and maps the terrain for the exploration of the art of command each leader had to create. Part Two begins by showing how Stonewall Jackson planned and conducted operations that led to the engagement at Cedar Mountain, providing insight into his character. The focus then shifts to Nathaniel Banks, the Union commander at Cedar Mountain. Part Two concludes with a critical review of the two leaders' performance. Part Three examines the campaign that led to the battle of Chickamauga, focusing first on the Union commander, William Rosecrans, then on his opponent, the Confederate Army commander Braxton Bragg. The battle is described in detail, followed by a critical review. Part Four follows the same pattern, this time focusing on the Confederate Army commander John Bell Hood, then on his opponent, the Union Army commander George H. Thomas. The progress of the battle of Nashville is then observed, followed by a critique of the commanders' actions and reactions. Part Five, Reflections, reviews the character of each of the six commanders as it affected the development of his art of command. The book ends with conclusions regarding the legacy left by the founders of a pragmatic art.

From inside the book

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.

Contents

The American Civil War in Western History
3
PreCivil War American Military Thought
9
Lessons from Napoleonic Warfare
15
Defining an Art of Command
21
Cedar Mountain Meeting Engagement
29
Stonewall Jackson Plans and Conducts His Campaign
31
Nathaniel Banks and the Advance to Cedar Mountain
43
The Battle of Cedar Mountain
55
The Two Perspectives of Chickamauga
177
Nashville The Last Great Adventure
189
John B Hood and Certain Differences in Confederate Strategy
191
The Rock of Chickamauga Prepares a New Kind of Battle
207
The Battle of Nashville
217
Why Thomas Won More than a Victory
227
Reflections
233
Reflections
235

What Happened at Cedar Mountain?
73
Chickamauga Lost Command Lost Victory
83
Rosecrans and His Chickamauga Campaign
85
Braxton Bragg Confederate Strategy and the Tactical Offensive
111
The Battle of Chickamauga
139
Notes
247
Selected Bibliography
253
Index
265
Copyright

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

Popular passages

Page 210 - If Hood is permitted to remain quietly about Nashville, you will lose all the road back to Chattanooga and possibly have to abandon the line of the Tennessee. Should he attack you it is all well, but if he does not you should attack him before he fortifies.
Page 173 - I soon after received a dispatch from General Rosecrans, directing me to assume command of all the forces, and, with Crittenden and McCook, take a strong position and assume a threatening attitude at Rossville, sending the unorganized forces to Chattanooga for reorganization, stating that he would examine the ground at Chattanooga, and then join me; also that he had sent out rations and ammunition to meet me at Rossville.
Page 168 - ... hearing the enemy's advancing musketry and cheers, I became doubtful whether the left had held its ground, and started for Rossville. On consultation and further reflection, however, I determined to send General Garfield there, while I went to Chattanooga, to give orders for the security of the pontoon bridges at Battle Creek and Bridgeport, and to make preliminary dispositions either to forward ammunition and supplies, should we hold our ground, or to withdraw the troops into good position.
Page 23 - The men dropped here and there like bundles. The captain of the youth's company had been killed in an early part of the action. His body lay stretched out in the position of a tired man resting, but upon his face there was an astonished and sorrowful look, as if he thought some friend had done him an ill turn. The babbling man was grazed by a shot that made the blood stream widely down his face. He clapped both hands to his head. "Oh!
Page 210 - The President feels solicitous about the disposition of Thomas to lay in fortifications for an indefinite period, "until Wilson gets his equipments." This looks like the McClellan and Rosecrans strategy of do nothing and let the enemy raid the country. The President wishes you to consider the matter.
Page 24 - Oh!" he said, and ran. Another grunted suddenly as if he had been struck by a club in the stomach. He sat down and gazed ruefully. In his eyes there was mute, indefinite reproach. Farther up the line a man, standing behind a tree, had had his knee joint splintered by a ball. Immediately he had dropped his rifle and gripped the tree with both arms. And there he remained, clinging desperately and crying for assistance that he might withdraw his hold upon the tree.
Page 206 - In truth, our Army was in that condition which rendered it more judicious the men should face a decisive issue rather than retreat — in other words, rather than renounce the honor of their cause, without having made a last and manful effort to lift up the sinking fortunes of the Confederacy.
Page 23 - His mouth was still a little ways open. He got the one glance at the foe-swarming field in front of him, and instantly ceased to debate the question of his piece being loaded.
Page 23 - ... the obedient, well-balanced rifle into position and fired a first wild shot. Directly he was working at his weapon like an automatic affair. He suddenly lost concern for himself, and forgot to look at a menacing fate.

About the author (1997)

W. J. WOOD is a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel whose capabilities have included not only professional authorship but also combat experience in World War II and the Korean War, a decade spent in professional war gaming for weapons systems analysis at the Army Materiel Command, as well as a lifetime study of military history. The combination of these qualifications have made him well-suited to study the art of command. He is the author of Battles of the Revolutionary War (1990) and Leaders and Battles (1984).

Bibliographic information