Sunday, July 31, 2011

Companion Volumes Finished

Upon receiving my pre-ordered copy of Brooks Simpson's new book The Civil War in the East: Struggle, Stalemate, and Victory I decided to read it and it's companion volume Decision in the Heartland: The Civil War in the West by Steven Woodworth. I have just finished reading both and I am very impressed with them. I think it was definitely a good idea to read them back-to-back.
Each author makes a case for their respective theater being the deciding theater of the war, and both make convincing arguments. Both authors take very definite stands on various issues of debate in Civil War historiography. For instance, though many folks will argue that the Civil War was won (or lost) in the western theater, Simpson very adeptly argues that the East was for political/public reasons the primary theater and that the war was won in that theater. He is also very critical in his evaluation of almost every Union military officer not named Grant, and reserves a special disdain for McClellan. Woodworth is very clearly not a fan of Joseph E. Johnston, but is also very aware of the flaws of Jefferson Davis and all of the Confederate generals in the West. If anything, he gives Braxton Bragg more credit than most historians, while realizing his limitations. Like Simpson, he is also critical of the Union command save for Grant, Sherman, and a few other lesser generals.
Taken together, these two books are very good, brief overviews of each theater. Neither is longer than 140 pages, making them easy to finish in a rather short period of time. Each provides a solid view of the war without getting bogged down in details about each major battle or campaign. These books would be a good starting point for anyone wanting a quick and dirty explanation of the war.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am not very knowledgeable about the subject but it actually sounds like a great colelction of essays!

W.U Hstry