Civil War Command and Strategy Analysis

Archer Jones

Civil War Command and Strategy

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

CIVIL WAR COMMAND AND STRATEGY is a work which will appeal to a variety of publics: students of military matters, devotees of the conflict, and general readers interested primarily in history or in the operations of large, complex organizations, whether they be Civil War armies or modern corporations. There is much to learn from this volume, and Jones presents his material in brisk, lucid chapters which both examine and explain the facts.

Those facts have continued to fascinate; indeed the most enduring questions of our national history revolve about the Civil War. Why was it fought? Why did the North win? Under the circumstances, could the South have won? To these questions, Archer Jones has added, and answered, another: What were the commanders, North and South, doing when they fought the war?

To a large degree they were trying to do the same things. Both presidents, Lincoln for the Union, and Jefferson Davis for the Confederacy, proved adroit and generally effective commanders in chief. Both were plagued by a variety of political concerns which sometimes interfered with or even undermined the conduct of the war, but both displayed a remarkable consistency of purpose. The interaction of political and military leadership was a fascinating aspect of our Civil War, and one which Jones handles relatively briefly, but well.

There was considerable uniformity as well in Union and Confederate military thinking, as generals of both armies recognized the inherent power of the defensive, and sought to force retreats by threatening lines of communication and supply. This could work because Civil War armies were highly dependent upon those lines of supply. After all, as Jones points out, most Civil War armies were larger than many American cities of the time; it was no wonder that war came down, in William T. Sherman’s blunt words, “to grub and mules.”

Grub and mules may seem hardly the stuff of heroic legends, but they formed an essential part of the Civil War. It’s Archer Jones achievement in this work to have placed such mundane realities, as well as strategy and tactics, in proper relation to the heroic legends, and so helped us understand more of the total picture.

Sources for Further Study

Bookwatch. XIII, June, 1992, p. 2.

Kirkus Reviews. LX, February 15, 1992, p. 234.

Library Journal. CXVII, March 15, 1992, p. 100.