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Civil War Command And Strategy: The Process Of Victory And Defeat Hardcover – March 16, 1992

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

In this masterful reappraisal of the Civil War commanders and the effectiveness of their strategies for attaining victory, Jones forcefully develops the revisionist concepts about Civil War leadership initially advanced in his and Herman Hattaway's How the North Won (Univ. of Illinois Pr., 1983). Informed readers conversant with Jones's sources will be challenged by his persuasive reevaluation of the performance of Halleck and Beauregard, among others. Likewise, those holding conventional notions about the military conduct of the Civil War will be startled or provoked by his singularly unconventional analysis of the strategies employed. Highly recommended for college and university libraries supporting military studies. History Book Club main selection.
- Lawrence E. Ellis, Broward Community Coll. Lib., Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

A skillfully argued if not always convincing explanation of how Union and Confederate political and military leaders executed their respective game plans for winning the Civil War. Here, Jones (History/North Dakota State Univ.; The Art of War in the Western World, 1987) expands on the major ideas in his essay in Gabor S. Boritt's Why the Confederacy Lost (p. 151). One reason why the war was so protracted, he says, was that the antagonists were so evenly matched: ``With sophisticated tactics, logistics, and strategy adapted to the industrial revolution and low population density, and political aims and strategic means usually well harmonized, the combatants conducted their war well.'' At times, such conclusions leave the reader at a loss as to how the North ever won. More importantly, this eagle's-nest view is weakened by its sympathy for such oft-maligned figures as Jefferson Davis, timorous Union Chief of Staff Henry Halleck, and pompous Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard, as well as by its inadequate treatment of how evolving weaponry turned the conflict into a blood bath that generals could not begin to comprehend. Yet these deficiencies are more than offset by Jones's impressive erudition and clear explanations. At his best, in his description of such strategic concepts as the turning movement (used with varying degrees of success by both sides), concentration of force in space and time, and the raid (exploited by Grant and Sherman with devastating results), Jones masterfully illustrates how North and South adapted Napoleonic maneuvers to such recent inventions as the steamboat, the telegraph, and the railroad. Provocative and illuminating. (Twenty pages of maps.) -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 338 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; First Edition edition (March 16, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0029166357
  • ISBN-13: 978-0029166352
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #372,701 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By John Sweet on January 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Archer Jones's book Civil War Command and Strategy breaks the war down into its elemental strategic pieces and analyzes and explains the how and why the Civil War was fought the way it was. By breaking the process of victory and defeat down into several important themes Jones destroys many common misguided beliefs and puts the war into a proper perspective that is not clouded by anachronism.

When I teach the Civil War to my 8th grade students I find that I am guilty of unjustly criticizing many union and confederate generals for being too cautious, stupid, ignorant, or foolhardy. That is because I did not look at their situation from their perspective. I was guilty of applying modern standards of war to their actions. By following Jones's contention that "by grounding [my] understanding of the war in the art of war as the participants knew it, this work of military history adopts a good vantage point for understanding and evaluating their performance." Through this boo I have developed a new found respect and understanding for many civil war commanders who previously earned by contempt. In addition, Jones's book addressed many of the common civil war clichés found in textbooks and narratives that fail to address the reality of the war: the effect of the blockade, the impact of the extended range of the rifles, the poor supply of the confederate troops, the damage of states rights, and the general incompetence of the generals all seem to need a thorough reworking.

Jones reworks these beliefs throughout his book by addressing the war in a chronological manner and assigning each phase of it a different theme. A dominate theme of Jones throughout the book is the relative equality of both sides.
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Format: Hardcover
The title of my review is a quote (or close approximation of) from the great German strategist General Helmuth von Moltke (the elder) as his description and dismissal of the American Civil War. Military history and military history gaming being my main hobbies, I often run into folks who have the same opinion, as did I from what little I learned about the war from highschool and college "history" courses. Once I later started serious reading of the topic I came to change my mind, and when I read "Civil War Command And Strategy" some years ago the pieces fell into place for me. Yes, individual leaders were incompetent (and even the best made mistakes at times, as even the best generals throughout history have done), and the early war armies were largely composed of barely trained enlistees, but from the start there were people in place, both leaders and a core of veterans from prior wars, with experience and the right "plans". They only lacked the material to carry them out and also needed to learn to adapt to the new technologies available in 1861. Not all did, but by 1864 both sides were largely composed of well lead, well trained and well equipped armies using operational and strategic methods that any of the "great captains" of history would have approved of.

My only real complaints are about the author's writing style as he tends to restate himself often and that the illustrations provided are very lacking. He is also not writing for a general audience -- his target audience is folks with a knowledge of military history in general.
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Format: Hardcover
Detail information on the reasons why the battles were fought the way they were in this time. How the North had an upper hand over the South with weaponry but how the South had a better strategic plan and better Generals. I enjoyed it.
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19 of 32 people found the following review helpful By J R Thompson on April 30, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book has some good points in it, most notably that it was really much more difficult for the north to win the war, and that overall the sides were basically evenly-matched, which is a rare but relatively valid assessment. The books judgment of the generals and some of the other leaders, mostly Davis and Lincoln, are more puzzling. He states that Davis recognized that Bragg was inadequate, but did not know who to replace him with. Perhaps this is true, but the author does not document anything, and it runs contrary to everything else I have read.

The author also contradicts himself in the book, saying that Lincoln did not believe that the northern armies had to attack and destroy the other armies to win the war, but then the author provides evidence to the contrary, justifying his conclusion by saying that Lincoln never gave orders to other commanders. One could just as easily argue several other points, especially if no sourcing is required, only conjecture. Even if the authors assertion is true, it ignores the fact that Lincoln did in fact set the ANV as the main objective in the east.

The author also falsely assumes that the destruction of an army was impossible. This most probably comes due to a further false assumption of why the Battle of Second Mannasas was lost. The author contends that Longstreet's (very delayed) flank attack failed to result in a decisive victory because "Pope, exploiting the excellent articulation and responsiveness of his now-veteran troops, succeeded in bending his line into an arc." This is, of course, ridiculous to anyone who has studied the campaign in detail. The only reason Pope was not totally annihilated was because darkness fell, and the Confederate advance stopped. It had very little to do with anything on Pope's part.
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