master historian gives readers a fresh new picture of the Civil War as it really was. Buell examines three pairs of commanders from the North and South, who met each other in battle. Following each pair through the entire war, the author reveals the human dimensions of the drama and brings the battles to life. 38 b&w photos.
From the Hardcover edition.
“One of the greatest difficulties in understanding how the generals functioned is that much of the war’s history is biased and distorted. Upon scholarly inquiry, truisms about popular historical events and personalities are often discovered to be entirely misleading or wrong. It was something that Samuel Johnson knew about. “Many things which are false,” he once said, ” are transmitted from book to book, and gain credit in the world.” So it has been with much of Civil War history. The misconceptions are pervasive and widespread, even among those who are in a position to know better. A few years ago I accompanied a party of Army War College students on a staff ride across Virginia Civil War battlefields. These senior army officers, steeped in the principles of their profession, expressed the view that the Confederacy’s generals were the superior leaders in terms of competency and experience, and that the Federal generals ultimately prevailed not because of their leadership skills, but the abundance of northern manpower and material. This prevailing but mistaken view of the Civil War generals is considered common knowledge from grammar school to the senior service colleges. While it does not bear up to scrutiny, rarely is it challenged The importance of the western and eastern theaters is similarly distorted. The popular PBS Civil War documentary, like most works on the war, emphasized the eastern campaigns. Gettysburg received nearly an entire episode, Franklin and Nashville but a few moments of passing commentary, yet the Tennessee campaign was the more decisive on the outcome of the war. Under these circumstances, Civil War history and the roles of its generals cry for clarification and revision. Through my researching primary sources to the extent possible, facts have come to light that have cleared away layers of mythology and folklore. What follows in the book is a fresh assessment of what happened and why.” –Thomas B. Buell