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Partners in Command, American Civil War Book Review

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JOSEPH T. GLATTHAAR. Partners In Command: The Relationships Between Leaders in the Civil War New York: The Free Press . 1994. Pp. xi, 286. $16.95.

Warriors are at their core human beings who succeed or fail in their endeavors in some part because of the their ability to relate with others, whether peers, subordinates, or superiors. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in the interplay between commanders during the American Civil War. The forging of successful working relationships is foundational to success on the battlefield and signals compatibility on some level between the personalities or natures of respective commanders. What does “compatibility” mean when applied to military commanders? What evidence is there that this really matters? What happens when commanders, civilian or military, lack compatibility at senior levels?

Joseph Glatthaar tackles these questions in an insightful and important addition to the study of the American Civil War that focuses on the relationships between several senior commanders. Foundational to his monogram is research conducted from primary sources and used to develop course lectures. Glatthaar  first examines Lee and Jackson and their brilliant performance in the eastern theater. He then explores the complicated interplay between McClellan and Lincoln that ultimately resulted in failures at both strategic and tactical execution in the East. Thirdly, Glatthaar examines the relationship between Joseph E. Johnson and Jefferson Davis set against the struggles of the Confederate defense of the West. In a chapter on Grant and Sherman Glatthaar explores how two very different personalities can complement one another and still work together superbly. A chapter dedicated to army-navy collaborations reveals the special bond  (soul-mates is used to describe it) that developed between Sherman and Admiral David Dixon Porter. The mutual respect between the two extends to Grant and results in unprecedented cooperation between the army and navy. The book’s final chapter is excellent overview of the command relationships on both sides of the war and his conclusion could inform organizational leaders both inside and outside the military. Compatibility and intimacy are not required. Professional attitudes are key.

Glatthaar provides a solid academic notes section and index as well as a bibliographic essay that is quite informative. Most interesting in the “after“ sections of the book, however, is an appendix in which the author argues that George McClellan’s interpersonal relationships were handicapped by a condition known in today’s psychiatric parlance as  “paranoid personality disorder.” He makes a strong case that the disorder undermined McClellan’s ability to successfully lead and manage men in wartime and that the only person with whom he could interact effectively was his wife.

JOSEPH T. GLATTHAAR

JOSEPH T. GLATTHAAR

Glatthaar brings to the work the credentials of a historian who has paid his dues. He received his Ph.D. in 1983 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, specializing in American Military History. He received his B.A. from Ohio Wesleyan University and M.A. in history from Rice University. At the time of the book’s publication in 1994, he taught history at the University of Houston. Glatthaar is now the Stephenson Distinguished Professor of history at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill where he specializes in the American Civil War and American military history. Glatthaar has twice taught at the nation’s military colleges, once in 1984-85 as a visiting professor at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and again in 1991-1992 as the Harold K. Johnson Distinguished Visiting Professor, U.S. Army Military History Institute. He has published extensively with some considerable emphasis on the experience of black soldiers during the Civil War. His has won numerous awards for his work most notably for the 1989 work, Forged in Battle and an earlier work, The March to the Sea and Beyond.

Partners In Command stands out among studies of command and leadership during the Civil War because of a focus not on the tactical execution on the battlefield but rather in the interplay among senior commanders. It complements major General J. F. C. Fuller’s 1982 monograph, Grant and Lee: A Study in Personality (Indiana University Press). Glatthaar’s work is both highly readable and academically rich. Of note, the publishers have made the book available in digital format on the Amazon Kindle platform as well as traditional print.

See more Civil War book reviews here.

This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War

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Pamela Cortland at Alfred A. Knopf Publishing (an imprint of the Knopf Publishing Group at Random House) has given me the opportunity to review on Wig Wags what looks like a fascinating book. I should have it in hand by early next week but wanted to go ahead and make a quick comment.

Death and the American Civil War

Format: Hardcover, 368 pages
On Sale: January 8, 2008
Price: $27.95
ISBN: 978-0-375-40404-7 (0-375-40404-X)

This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War by Drew Gilpin Faust is a study of how the country came to terms with the 620,000 deaths that resulted from the Civil War. Given my recent posts on death and injury on the battlefield (see here and here), the topic is of considerable interest to me.

It is almost inconceivable to think of losing that many of our countrymen and women today in the cause of any war. The impact at the personal level – among both those who died and those who loved them – is one measure of the war’s magnitude. Another is the enormity of the logistics of dealing with that much death.  Drew G. Faust

The book’s author, Drew Gilpin Faust, holds the Lincoln Professorship of History at Harvard University and was, oh by the way, installed as its president a few months ago as well. You can read more about President Faust here.

She authored five previous books, including Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War, which won the Francis Parkman Prize awarded by the Society of American Historians and the Avery Craven Prize. I’ll be adding President Faust to my “the historians” Page.

More on the book later.

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HOW THE SOUTH Could Have Won the Civil War

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Today I received for review a copy of HOW THE SOUTH Could Have Won the Civil War: The Fatal Errors That Led to Confereate Defeat. Author Bevin Alexander claims to destroy the myth of the inevitability of a Union victory. I plan to read it with open mind.

I haven’t yet determined where to place this book on my virtual bookshelves so for now, it’s filed on shelf three of “Civil War Era and Commentary.”

More to come. 

 The Fatal Errors That Led to Confederate Defeat

ISBN 978-0-307-34599-8

  • Published on: 2007-12-31
  • Released on: 2007-12-31
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • 352 pages
  • The Crown Publishering Group (a division of Random House)

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