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Nothing but Victory: The Army of the Tennessee, 1861-1865 Paperback – October 17, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The Union's military effort in the first half of the Civil War remains essentially defined by the Army of the Potomac: earnest and willing, but consistently outfought and outgeneraled. A similar image accompanies the Army of the Cumberland, the second most familiar Union field army. But in the Mississippi Valley, the North developed an army that defeated all comers from Shiloh to Savannah, participated in the war's decisive battles from Fort Donelson through Vicksburg to Atlanta, and raised some of the war's finest generals. Until now, the Army of the Tennessee has been relatively neglected—perhaps because it fails to fit the Union stereotype of triumphing by force rather than finesse. Woodworth, a historian at Texas Christian University who has written several books on the Civil War (Beneath a Northern Sky; A Scythe of Fire; etc.), corrects this oversight in what is arguably the best one-volume history written to date of a Civil War field army. Combining impeccable scholarship and comfortable style, Woodworth describes a force whose tone was set by volunteer regiments from the farms and small towns of the Mississippi Valley: Iowa, Illinois, Missouri. Already accustomed to hard work and rough living, these men readily learned how to march and fight. Though Woodworth credits the army's unique combination of steadiness and aggressiveness to its first commander, Ulysses S. Grant, he details how the Army of the Tennessee learned war from other masters as well: West Point graduates, like William Sherman and James McPherson; civilian corps commanders, like "Black Jack" Logan and Frank Blair; and hundreds of field and company officers who learned their craft on the job and who led by example rather than by order. They made the Army of the Tennessee the Union's whiplash in the West and one of the three or four most formidable large formations in America's military history. (Oct. 28)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

A veteran Civil War military historian, Woodworth specializes in the western campaigns, in which the Union's premier force was the Army of the Tennessee. Raised from Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin, its commanders over time were Grant, Halleck, Sherman, and McPherson, and Woodworth's narrative duly oscillates between the headquarters tent and the soldiers' campfire. Typical of Civil War armies, this one was affected at the top by political machinations, whose negative effects on field operations Woodworth astutely analyzes; Grant's eventual surmounting of these obstacles earns the author's unqualified respect. For to the extent any military unit possesses a personality, this army had Grant's. Woodworth concludes that, besides strategic acumen exhibited in the Vicksburg campaign, Grant imparted to his officers the principle of relentless advance, which kept morale high and Confederate forces off balance. As to the soldiers' thoughts, which were of home and victory, Woodworth ably crafts them into his account of the army's battles, from Shiloh to Chattanooga to Georgia. Balanced and readable, Woodworth's work is an exemplary army-level unit history. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 800 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (October 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375726608
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375726606
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,046,171 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Steven E. Woodworth is a professor of history at Texas Christian University, and an acknowledged expert on the Civil War. He has written a number of well-received books on the topic, including Nothing But Victory. He lives in Fort Worth, Texas.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 29, 2006
Format: Hardcover
"Nothing But Victory" is one of the finest and most ambitious books on the Civil War to be published in recent memory. The book is a comprehensive, one-volume operational history of the Army of the Tennessee, the Union army which operated in the the Mississipi valley and was, amazingly enough, successful in almost all of its battles. Woodworth covers campaign material, the experience of soldiering, of the army's day to day life, and the inner workings of the army's leadership as well, striking a balance between the army's commanders and the stories of individual field soldiers. Woodworth's central thesis is that the success of the army came from its cohesiveness - soldiers that trusted their commanders, commanders that aggressively used their command, and leaders that trusted each other and the abilities of the Army. The Army of the Tennessee's coherence and confidence were powerful force multipliers.

Woodworth argues convincingly that the AotT was a standout force due to its aggressive commanders, notably Grant and Sherman, working within in an atmosphere of mutual trust. Woodworth highlights a counterexample -- General McClernand and his scheming and politicking -- to illustrate internal conflicts that were far more prevelant in the Army of the Potomac. McClernand was the exception in the AotT, though. The other aspect of the Army's success was that Grant's strategy was built to take advantage of success. In other words, Grant's military options assumed that his forces were capable veterans, and that used aggressively they would unbalance their opponent. After initial Union victories and Confederate defeats, the cycle become self-fulfilling, as Confederate morale plummeted and Grant kept pressing this advantage.
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47 of 60 people found the following review helpful By David Kelly on November 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Reading the publication hype one gets the impression that you are getting a formal organizational history of the Army of the Tennessee. It's pretty apparent that's not the thrust of the book once you start reading. This is a memorial narrative of campaigning as seen through the eyes of the participants. Most of the book is a litany of battles. The larger perspective of Grand Operational affairs is scarcely bridged.

My first impulse is to disagree with this approach. It oversimplifies the reality of the period. For example. I get annoyed with the statement that western armies were smaller than the Army of the Potomac. Do all readers know that the Army of the Potomac was the only free standing field army built by the Union? Typically Military Departments were created to manage theaters of war and troops were allocated to the Departments. It was up to the Department Commander to determine the size of his field force consonant with risks and means he had on hand.

The Army of the Tennessee was an adjunct of the Department of the Tennessee and often contained less than half the troops that were in the Department, which extended over parts of five states.

There are some rather serious constraints imposed on this book as to its scope. Whether that was the authors choice or driven by the publisher I can't say. If you are willing to take what is offered at face value there is some very good writing and intersting perspectives to be had here. Regards graphics. The scope of the book makes such impracticable for a single volume work. And Steven Woodworth should be given credit for a woodcraft that overcomes the absence of such.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By James F. Epperson on April 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an excellent and needed book in Civil War literature. Too

many folks seem to think the war was entirely in Virginia, between

the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac. In

fact, much of importance took place in the Western Theatre, where

one of the principal Union armies was the Army of the Tennessee.

It is almost shocking to consider that, until this book, no one

had written a history of the Army of the Tennessee. The army is

mostly associated with U.S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman;

it was formed from the force that Grant used to seize Paducah,

Kentucky, in the early days of the war and grew to the force

that took Forts Henry and Donelson, fought the savage action of

Shiloh, took Vicksburg, fought the Battle of Atlanta, and then

marched to the sea. The men came from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa,

Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri, and Kentucky.

(There was even a regiment from Nebraska!)

The book starts out very well. Woodworth describes the war

fever in the Midwest which led so many men into the ranks and

provided the army with many of its leaders. He then progresses

into the narrative of campaigns, first under Grant, then under

Sherman. As a summary story of the western theatre of the war,

the book is outstanding.

Alas, the book is not perfect. Many have commented on the lack

of maps, a criticism I share. Woodworth's focus is also uneven.
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