- Series: Great Campaigns of the Civil War
- Paperback: 236 pages
- Publisher: Bison Books; First Edition edition (September 1, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0803282788
- ISBN-13: 978-0803282780
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 22 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,286,751 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Atlanta 1864: Last Chance for the Confederacy (Great Campaigns of the Civil War) Paperback – September 1, 2001
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Recounting the story of the chess game played by William T Sherman and Joseph E Johnston between Chattanooga and Atlanta, McMurry's deft touch insures that all the significant moves, and many of the more subtle feints as well, receive their just due. Given the tremendous impact of this particular campaign on the history of the Civil War, and on Lincoln's re-election bid, and on the fate of slavery and of the United States, too often these particular stories are given short-shrift elsewhere. McMurry corrects that oversight in this concise yet detail-packed slender volume.
McMurry successfully holds at bay the legends and myths of the men involved, devoting considerable time to their foibles, personal limitations, and strategic and tactical errors and outright blunders. No more is this more evident than in his treatment of both Sherman's and Johnston's behaviors and choices during the campaign. But there is no sign that McMurry has a personal axe to grind. He is more interested in divesting the myth to reveal the raw and dirty facts of the fight than he is to advance the agenda of either side over the other.
Often in books of Civil War campaigns we are told merely what happened, which direction some army or other elected to travel on a map. McMurry refreshingly always provides insight as to what informed these often pivotal decisions: for this reason alone this book is superior to about ninety percent of its competition in the genre, and all writers in this arena would do well to seriously consider emulating the model presented here.
Also worthy of mention is McMurry's consideration of the influence of politics and personal foibles that significantly impacted these events. For example, Sherman later claimed he launched the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain because he was concerned about his army becoming rusty from not fighting. McMurry shows that Sherman was also feeling political pressure to have a fight even if he doubted he could win it, and one is reminded of similar actions by Sherman at Chickasaw Bayou and in the early fruitless attacks on the stronghold of Vicksburg. Also, I'd long been mystified by the strange Federal failures at Utoy Creek, and McMurry illuminates the scandal of John Palmer's dereliction of duty on the field which led to a crisis here and subsequent loss of life.
This isn't a difficult book to read, but that doesn't mean it's easy to breeze through, either. This is a book that requires some degree of concentration, but it rewards that attention in abundance. Rarely would I give a book like this such a high rating, but McMurry has done a superb job with his subject, and his book deserves the highest praise and recommendation.
The chapter “In other fields”, he slap happy or jerks this wild ideal that Grants army was used up, tired and at a loss, just about ready to pull back to the shadows of Washington…again. His number only tell of Grants losses during the Overland Campaign and then he suggest Grants has lost more men than Lee even had. Not from the official records, those do not support his wild claim. The fact he does not bring forth is the losses Lee’s army had taken in fact the officials records from Lee himself states his total losses were around 33,646 or 53.4% of his total strength. Grant’s losses were high at 54,926 but at a lower rate of 48.2 % of his total strength. Thus when Mr. McMurry writes when around Petersburg, Grants was used up, he somehow forgot to mention Lee was used up as well.
It seems Mr. McMurry tends to think that Johnston was in control of everything up until the day he was relieve of command. That his falling back was some great defensive maneuver to outwit a very dumb and clumsy Sherman. I really find it to be that Sherman was a very lucky general in command and that without the stars above he (Sherman) could not fight his way out of a wet paper bag.
I really thought more of Mr. McMurry than this, he has written and studied the Atlanta Campaign as much as anyone but I guess he needed something more to write about than what he already has to include such bogus nonsense in this book.
This is what a campaign overview should be. Intelligently written, directly to the point with enough detail to sustain the story without slowing the narration. Mr. McMurry has an excellent in-depth understanding of the subject. This allows him to combine information and insight that informs and entertains at the same time. He easily places the campaign within the context of the war and the people within their inter-personal histories. The personalities and how they relate or fail to relate is the heart of the CSA's problem and the seeds of the questions we still ask. The Confederate Army of Tennessee is a study in management failure; McMurry gives these problems a national perspective by linking them to Davis' personality. This provides an answer to the South's inability to find new generals that was crippling her by 1864.
The maps are campaign level and linked to the chapter. They were detailed enough to meet the needs of movement but do not provide a campaign level picture. There are no battle maps, this is a campaign overview and battle maps, while nice, are not required. I found the author to be to hard on Grant in saying that his 1864 strategy failed. Few would consider it a resounding success but total failure is overly harsh. The North is winning because they fond at least two good fighting generals. The South is losing because they cannot find more than one.
If you require a well written, intelligent and fun to read overview of the Atlanta Campaign, this is it.