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Confederate Tide Rising: Robert E. Lee and the Making of Southern Strategy, 1861-1862 Hardcover – January 1, 1998

4.3 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

In this reexamination of Confederate war aims, Joseph L. Harsh analyzes the military policy and grand strategy adopted by Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis in the first two years of the Civil War. Recent critics of Lee have depicted him as a general of tactical brilliance, but one who lacked strategic vision. Critics of Davis claim he went too far in adopting a "perimeter" policy which attempted to defend every square mile of Southern territory, scattering Confederate resources too thinly. Harsh argues, to the contrary, that Davis and Lee's policies allowed the Confederacy to survive longer than it otherwise could have and were the policies best designed to win Southern independence. The Confederacy needed to retain the resources of the upper South, and wanted to include the border states, so its aims were offensive rather than defensive. For the most part, Davis encouraged his field commanders to undertake aggressive operations, but it was not until Lee took command of the Army of Northern Virginia that Davis found a general with the intelligence and courage to invent and then execute a cogent strategy which gave the South a chance to win the war.

About the Author

Joseph L. Harsh is a professor and former chair of history at George Mason University in Virginia. He is founding president of the Northern Virginia Association of Historians.

Joseph L. Harsh is a professor and former chair of history at George Mason University. He is founding president of the Northern Virginia Association of Historians and was editor from 1980--90 of Courier of Historical Events. His articles have appeared in Civil War History and Military Affairs.

Joseph L. Harsh is a professor and former chair of history at George Mason University. He is founding president of the Northern Virginia Association of Historians and was editor from 1980--90 of Courier of Historical Events. His articles have appeared in Civil War History and Military Affairs.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Kent State University Press; First edition (January 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0873385802
  • ISBN-13: 978-0873385800
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #994,663 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E. E Pofahl on June 10, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Joseph Harsh, the author, analyzes Confederate war strategy from Fort Sumter through the Battle of Second Manassas stating that it was not true that the all the South wanted was "to be left alone." Declaring independence did not guarantee independence, and the author states the South thus "pursued three closely related but distinct war aims: independence, territorial integrity and the union of all the slave states."
The text notes that statistically the South could not win. To overcome the odds, the Confederacy needed to conserve its resources while inflicting unacceptable casualties on the North. The text explains the doctrines of the Swiss military theorist Jomini, the probable basis for Jefferson Davis's doctrine of the "offensive-defense." Davis's doctrine provided a firm strategic framework within which Confederate generals in the field could work. By October 1861, pursuing the offensive-defense considerable progress toward achieving Confederate war aims was made; followed next by reversals of Southern fortunes resulting in part from the failure to continue the policies/strategies that yielded early successes.
On June 1, 1862 Robert E. Lee took command of the Army of Northern Virginia, when Joseph Johnson was wounded. The offensive-defensive policy was already in practice and was not initiated by Lee as some contend. By "late May 1862, the South had nearly lost the war. Lee knew that Jefferson Davis expected him to go on the offensive to save Richmond and to reclaim Virginia. Harsh also notes "Lee chose the offensive because he wanted to win the war, and he thought it offered the only chance. He believed the defensive was the sure path to defeat.
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By A Customer on September 22, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I had the pleasure of taking Dr. Harsh's Civil War History course at George Mason University. Much of his basis for lectures for that course was the same material used to write this book and its sequel - Taken at the Flood. Dr. Harsh is nothing if not a thorough researcher - with the help of his industrious graduate students of course, serving their terms of indenture in the tombs of the National Archives and the Center of Military History and other suitable manuscript repositories. He has truly wiped the slate clean and started from the point of "What did they know and when did they know it?" He often refers to Lincoln's standard wire to his generals in the field "How does it look now?" He applies that method to analyzing Civil War principals - how did the situation present itself, what information was known or guessed at and when and how did they react to it? You may not agree with all of his conclusions - I certainly do not agree with all of the high praise that he heaps on Jefferson Davis and George McClellan. However, you will have to take his statements under serious consideration, since they are based on solid, academic application of the historical method. He succeeds in stimulating the student to think. He has a special interest in historiography and he makes every effort to avoid preconceptions which are not supported by available facts. This book is certainly a key contribution to understanding the first year of the war from the Confederate strategic perspective. His Taken at the Flood will rapidly become the standard for future studies of the Maryland Campaign of '62. The goods news is that Dr. Harsh will next turn his attention to the Federal side and we will be offered his insight on Lincoln, McClellan et al.
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Format: Hardcover
What a fine book. Dr. Harsh proceeds clearly and logically through Lee's early war service, using the general's letters and statements to reveal the development of his strategic thinking. Well written and intelligent, this really is scholarship at at its best. A welcome antidote to the slew of shallowly researched recent titles attacking Lee as overrated. Superb.
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Format: Hardcover
I've had the pleasure of knowing Dr. Harsh for several years after taking a class on the Civil War with him at George Mason University.
This book came out of the seperation into three books of a manuscript he wrote on Gen. Lee and the campaign just prior to the Maryland campaign and then the Maryland campaign itself. This book is immensely readable and quite detailed. Dr. Harsh is quite blunt when there is a lack of clear evidence on a subject and the reasons for his judgment are well reasoned and sound. My opinion of Confederate strategy and the role of Jefferson Davis in the formation of that strategy changed a great deal after reading Confederate Tide Rising. While he is not the subject of this book, my view of Gen. Jackson also changed as the result of reading this book. Due to his performance in many of the battles and lead up to the battles discussed in this book, it's obvious to me that Jackson has been overrated by historians and could have been much more criticized by Gen. Lee than he was. That he did not do so postwar and only midly criticized Jackson in the action discussed in this book says a lot about Gen. Lee the man.
There are only a few drawbacks to this book. The first is that Dr. Harsh sometimes I think assumes knowledge of minor engagements and also political developments which were important but not directly germaine to his discussion that the reader may not possess. He would have been better served to not just mention these engagements and political developments and leave the reader wondering but to further discuss these developments and their importance, such as the Trent affair which he mentions twice before discussing what it was.
My second gripe with this book has been noted by a previous reviewer.
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