Partners in Command Essay - Critical Essays

Joseph T. Glatthaar

Partners in Command

Often called “the first of the modern wars,” the American Civil War marked a definite break in the way conflicts are conducted. Nowhere were these profound changes more marked than in the relationships among military commanders, and between those commanders and their civilian superiors. The Civil War was most modern where it was most political—and it was a political war from start to end.

PARTNERS IN COMMAND is Joseph Glatthaar’s brief, incisive study of these relationships that developed, or failed to evolve, as Union and Confederate generals, admirals, and presidents grappled with unprecedented military issues and situations. Some true partnerships were forged—Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson; Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman, Lincoln and Grant— but they were the exceptions, rather than the rule. More often, miscommunications and misunderstandings prevailed; such situations soured the relationship between Confederate president Jefferson Davis and his high commander, Joseph Johnston. A similar, but much more serious, problem destroyed Union general George McClellan’s strategy for victory against the South and brought an end to his military career.

There are many reasons given why the North won the Civil War. In PARTNERS IN COMMAND, Glatthaar advances a new one. It is entirely possible, he suggests, that the North won because it had generals who could fight together better and because it had generals who could get along with their president. In his hands, the evidence is compelling, the argument convincing.

How armies fight is a subject that naturally consumes the attention of historians, but Glatthaar’s book goes beyond one limited field. Those who are interested in motivation, leadership, strategic planning—or those who are simply intrigued by some of America’s most fascinating individuals—will find PARTNERS IN COMMAND a valuable and rewarding work.

Sources for Further Study

Arizona Republic. January 2, 1994, p. H6.

Houston Post. April 17, 1994, p. C5.

Kirkus Reviews. LXI, October 15, 1993, p. 1307.

Library Journal. CXVIII, December, 1993, p. 144.

The New York Times Book Review. XCIX, June 12, 1994, p. 15.

Publishers Weekly. CCXL, November 15, 1993, p. 65.

Reviews in American History. XXII, December, 1994, p. 596.