Monday, February 20, 2017

A Savage War

Chris Townsend,

image from article

Review of A Savage War: A Military History of the Civil War. Williamson Murray and Wayne Wei-Sieng Hsieh. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University, 2016.

The authors, both veterans of the teaching corps at the military academies, draw on their extensive knowledge of Thucydides and Clausewitz to paint a picture of the military events of the Civil War, from Fort Sumter to Appomattox, as the natural outgrowth of changes from the Industrial and French Revolutions. In doing so they demonstrate for scholars of modern wars how technology and social factors force evolution in the way wars are fought. Perhaps more importantly  they demonstrate how the study of past conflicts can be used to illuminate subsequent conflicts. ... 
The generals of the war receive harsh treatment in the book for their amateurism and continued failure to exploit successes, though Grant and Lee are largely exonerated in large part because of their ability to gather intelligence and act on it. The role of the press in leaking operational intelligence is offset by the author against the importance of the press in communicating strategic purpose and successes to a largely literate population in an early exercise of public diplomacy. The importance of public diplomacy is further illustrated by Sherman’s brutal campaigns with the still-relevant assertion that only a war waged against the very idea of a confederate nation could avert the potential for an extended insurgency at war’s end. ...

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