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Civil War Battlefield Orders Gone Awry: The Written Word and Its Consequences in 13 Engagements Paperback – April 23, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-0786469499 ISBN-10: 0786469498

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: McFarland (April 23, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786469498
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786469499
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 7 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,270,919 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"The author has done the Civil War community a real service. Recommended." --North & South

"An immensely valuable, ground-breaking look." --The NYMAS Review

"A unique look at the strategy and tactics of the Civil War battlefield...provides a fresh look at Civil War history from a new perspective." --Reference & Research Book News.

About the Author

Captain Donald R. Jermann served more than 32 years on active duty in the Navy covering World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. He also served as a senior executive in the Department of Defense and lives in Laurel, Maryland.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A. A. Nofi on May 5, 2013
Format: Paperback
A Summary of the review on

'Many works on the Civil War have mention carelessness in issuing orders as the
cause of various disasters. In this work, Jermann, the author of such works as Fitz-John Porter, Scapegoat of Second Manassas and Antietam: The Lost Order, gives us the first more or less comprehensive look at this problem. He examines how poorly written orders affected thirteen notable Civil War actions (e.g., Ball's Bluff, the Maryland Campaign, Perryville, Vicksburg, Gettysburg, Chickamauga, Five Forks, etc.), with Custer's "Last Stand" added as a bonus. Jermann notes that some officers, such as Grant, wrote quite precise orders, often in their own hand, while others, among them Lee, were frequently careless, he goes on to give us an analysis of the orders involved in each operation. Jermann points out the strong and weak points of the orders. A lack of precision was most often the problem. Many of the orders omitted stating an objective or mention of the urgency of the instructions. At other times the problem was excessive delegation of authority or discretion to subordinates, a particular failing of Confederate generals. Jermann goes on to examine how these faulty orders affected each operation, a process helped by some simple but clear maps, and ends with a revised version of the order that might have led to a different outcome. A very valuable book for anyone interested in why things happen in war, not just in the American Civil War.'

For the full review, see StrategyPage.Com:
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Format: Paperback

The careers of Robert E. Lee, U.S. Grant, and a number of other well-known Civil War generals were dramatically affected by their orders either being misunderstood and/or not being properly disseminated. Complicating the above was the failure of many officers not being properly trained in writing orders and understanding the importance of up-to-date intelligence in their decision making.

To understand why orders went awry and played an important role in Civil War engagements, it is helpful to know even in this day and age of computers and cell phones the need in knowing how to write in clear and concise English so that anyone will be able to understand you and the point you are trying to make.

During the Civil War, having a direct view of all parts of a battlefield wasn't always possible. The battlefields stretched for miles, over wooded and hilly terrain as well as the constantly changing and fluid movements on the battlefield, and the movements of thousands of soldiers only complicated matters. So the question was how any officers were to obtain information about the disposition of his forces and those of the enemy. Another question was when the decision was made, how was the information to be transmitted to all parts of the army.

First, it was by direct vision but this also meant that he had to expose himself to danger to see as much as possible. Second, was through the use of binoculars. Third, the use of younger aides who had better eyesight then himself.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By GCR on July 16, 2012
Format: Paperback
This is a fascinating work of history that also offers profound insight into leadership and business management.

The focus for the most part is on civil war battles and the role that communication played in the outcome of those battles. This represents, to my knowledge, a new perspective on how success or failure can hinge on more than the usual factors (brilliant strategies, geography, superior numbers, etc.). The 13 battles selected range from the momentous and endlessly dissected, such as Gettysburg and Vicksburg, to the lesser known, such as Ball's Bluff and Spring Hill.

The background of the major players and the events leading up to the battles are provided, often with colorful details. Captain Jermann is adept at making the players come to life and concisely and expertly summarizing their place in the pantheon of civil war history. His style is conversational and even playful at times; but his underlying serious scholarship always comes through.

As written and oral communication skills continue to decline, this book is a timely resource to document the impact in real situations of poorly communicated directions and plans. The point is repeatedly illustrated that it is not just the craft of communicating but also an awareness and understanding of how best to communicate to different personalities. The importance of the ability to modify one's communication to effectively drive the recipient to perform the necessary actions and exercise the necessary judgment is made clear.

Whether as civil war history or as an examination of effective leadership and communication this book is highly recommended to dig below the surface to gain perspective on the forces that can cause success or failure.
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