From Publishers Weekly
This massive study of Civil War weaponry, tactics and combat practices covers so much so well that it's indispensable; it's also so densely written that even series students of the conflict may find it slow going. The author, a distinguished independent scholar, has written similar studies of the 18th century's wars (The Anatomy of Victory) and Napoleonic ground combat (With Musket, Sword and Cannon), and here, as in those books, is politely revisionist. Civil War generals were not ignoramuses who mindlessly pitted mass infantry formations against rifled muskets, but men who had studied the revolution in both tactics and weaponry in more detail than is usually allowed in conventional Civil War historiography, of which the author has no high opinion. (It also neglects the prewar roots of the ironclad ship, which Nosworthy does not.) The need for a revolution had not been proven in 1861, and the outstanding merit of the book is the way it pulls into a single narrative how that revolution was completed-or in some cases not completed. Competent officers soon learned that the rifle was potent but not invincible, until it became a repeater (which it should have been in the Union Army by 1863) and the riflemen were snug behind field fortifications, supported by rifled artillery. But the smoothbore Napoleon (for Napoleon III, be it noted) saw out the war because of its greater mobility, and the much derided bayonet retained a psychological impact and the cavalry saber a physical one, both at close quarters. With its first-hand accounts, diagrams and all-in-all exhaustive coverage, this volume is an exceptional reference.
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