This book is a collection of essays about command relations in the Civil War – between generals and the political commanders, or about commanders and their subordinates. I’ll take them one at a time…
The author labels this as the closest most effective partnership on the Southern side. It wasn’t even the closest in the Army of Northern Virginia.
A good part of the text describes the early days of the war. While nobody can disparage Jackson’s efforts at 1st Bull Run or the Valley Campaign, at this point Lee was not his commander. Joseph Johnston was. So this is hardly convincing me that their command relationship was close or effective.
When first operating with Lee, Jackson was given a large fraction of the ANV to work with in attacking McClellan in the Seven Days. He failed badly, and in the subsequent reorganization his troops were pared back to something closer to what he had shown able to handle. James Longstreet was given about two-thirds of the army, and Jackson a third.
This had to reflect that Lee’s confidence in Jackson was reduced, and rightly so. Jackson performed well, but Longstreet just as well in the subsequent 2nd Bull Run and Antietam campaigns. Lee continued to rely on Jackson as a fixing force and Longstreet as the hammer. He also pitched his tent with Longstreet’s HQ when in the field. At Chancellorsville alone was Jackson relied upon wholly, because Longstreet was not there.
After the war, Longstreet did not side with the post-war “Lost Cause” enthusiasts and thus has been marginalized to an extent. It is disappointing to see it perpetuated here. There was enough room to describe the three-man team that was the true reason for the effectiveness of the ANV during its golden age from Cedar Mountain to Chancellorsville.
McClellan and Lincoln
I don’t have a lot of problems with this chapter, which is a good overview of Little Mac’s problems with being a good subordinate and Lincoln’s problems in trying to get him to move. There is an appendix which tries to assert that Mac had some mental illness to explain how he was.
I just figure Mac was a jerk and leave it at that.
Jefferson Davis and Joseph Johnston
Another good chapter. These two prickly personalities never got on well, and the tragic flaw of the West was that Davis used it as a dumping ground for anyone that annoyed him in the East. Thus when these generals (Beauregard and Johnston) complained about the overemphasis on Virginia, it had a personal and political tinge that poisoned the source in Davis’ eyes.
Much of what Davis wanted was extremely difficult. The command he gave Johnston was vague and contradictory. But a Napoleon would have used this wedge to act, whereas Johnston used it as an excuse to act less. The combination worked worse than the parts alone might have.
Grant and Sherman and Porter
This is actually two chapters – one on Grant and Sherman and the other on the Army/Navy cooperation and the part it played. This is a real key element as these were the three forces that divided and conquered the West in the war. Anywhere the Navy and Army could go together, the South could not stand. The close ties that the army in the riverlands formed internally and with the Navy were the key to overcoming the formidable natural and military obstacles in the way.
The Final Call
This is a good book, if not really breaking a lot of new ground to the expert.