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American Civil War

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1Ammianus
Sep 6, 2008, 7:22am Top

Good morning mates, as I logged in this morning in pre-Hannah Maryland, I saw this little note from Amazon, a new ACW title for pre-order: Confederate Struggle For Command: General James Longstreet and the First Corps in the West (Texas A&M University Military History Series). In this election year I'm sorry to admit that I am a flip-flopper, I go back & forth in my opinion of Longstreet. I imagine I'll eventually settle, as I've done for Stonewall, on a middle of the road "Neither as wonderful, nor as bad" as reported. I've just started "Shenandoah 1862" by Peter Cozzens (untouchstoneable at the moment I guess). Cozzens busy in this book pointing out Jackson's imperfections. Luckily for us, as research and analysis continue, new sources are discovered (or rediscovered), the hope is that we come away with a more complete balanced view of all the ACW commanders. We rarely find in a single human nothing but perfection. I do know that the Texas A&M books are generally pretty darned good, so I'll be picking up this volume. Well, off for a second cup of coffee (stay dry Eastcoasters!). Cheers, A

2jcbrunner
Sep 6, 2008, 9:34am Top

Quite unexpectedly Amazon already delivered my Cozzens yesterday. Happy dance! Unfortunately, Amazon shipped an obviously defective copy with s one inch tear in the back binding (in an undamaged package). Sending the duds to Europe, great customer service, thanks Amazon (at least, they agreed to a small rebate, which they, given the sorry state of the book, expected to pay anyway. The chance of a return across the pond being much smaller.).

To the book proper: Having read just the first three chapters, I would not consider Cozzens' to be too critical of Jackson. He basically follows Robertson's impression of Jackson as a holy warrior. No instance of lemon-sucking and hand-stretching yet. In my view, considering that the book's marketing is on including the Northern view, it is still very Southern-centric with its Shire-like Shenandoah valley and its happy slaves. The Northerners finally enter in chapter four, but it returns to the South in chapter five.

Cozzens relies (too) heavily on secondary sources. Why the new book, if he constantly quotes Robertson and Tanner? The maps are also not well done (usually a Cozzens forte). The Google Maps terrain view inspired relief and the lack of contrast make the maps hard to read (woods are barely visible). The Shenandoah operational map does not include the major roads connecting the valley with the rest of Virginia. What is the use of all those gaps without roads?

Longstreet has a very distinct skill-set: He is an excellent, methodical defender (Northern counterpart: Thomas). In independent command and on the attack, he is average, quickly losing control over his forces (2nd Bull Run, Gettysburg, Chickamauga), or below average (Lookout Mountain, Suffolk, Ft. Sanders). I look forward to the book too.

3Ammianus
Sep 6, 2008, 10:19am Top

Ugh, I concur on Cozzen's map problem. The publisher missed out on some strategic level good maps highlighting Jackson's ability to shuttle his little army around. I didn't mean Cozen was a critic, it looks like he'll cover some ground we've seen before, such as Jackson deficiencies as a tactician vice strategist, and his legendary talent for keeping his subordinates uninformed. I'm just at the Romney campaign. And for those who missed, a tip off the hat to Donogh for pointing out this interesting ACW books site:
http://cwba.blogspot.com/

4ThePam
Sep 6, 2008, 6:04pm Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

5Ammianus
Sep 7, 2008, 8:01am Top

Good morning mates fm a damp Maryland, I finished Shenandoah 1862: Stonewall Jackson's Valley Campaign (Civil War America) last night, I agree with most of Brunner's comments. In my opinion not up to his western trilogy quality (Stones River, Chickamauga, Chattanooga). For those interested in the Valley campaign, I might have some titles of interest: http://www.librarything.com/catalog/Ammianus&tag=the%2BValley

If nothing else, Cozzen's forcing me to reread Stonewall in the Valley; and I strongly recommend the handsome Mapping for Stonewall: The Civil War Service of Jed Hotchkiss, relating the roles of Jackson's famous topographer. Hotchkiss' diary is also very interesting, Make Me a Map of the Valley.

Based on my own military service in the 70s & 80s, when I'm not busy criticizing ACW generalship, I'm very impressed with how men like Grant, Jackson and others were able to do ANYTHING with their forces early in the war. To take a thousand soldiers somewhere, not get lost, keep'em fed and supplied, healthy, and together sometimes requires a supreme effort. (I've seen modern units that could hardly get out of their motorpool in a day!). In 1862, think about how green everyone was and if you've ever dealt with teenage boys! LOL.

Well, happy reading, off to brunch with inlaws and then the traditional Sunday cutting of the grass and laundry. Regards, A

6jcbrunner
Sep 7, 2008, 1:15pm Top

Wow. As it will take years for the next Cozzens title to appear, I take my time reading it. I left a comment at the CWBA blog regarding the map quality. I am interested in hearing his view why Cozzens changed the winning formula.

Up to Romney: Contrary to you, Ammianus, I was rather shocked (or better re-shocked) about the tale of Jackson's incompetence: As a West Point educated engineer, he should have easily seen that a dam (essentially a submerged fortification) can not be destroyed by a bombardment of mere six-pounders. As an artillery instructor and valley resident, neglecting to check whether horseshoes were roughened is approaching the negligence of Japanese tourists scaling the Alps in sneakers. Planning (and calculating) a march should not be beyond a West Point educated officer. Remember: This is the age of the German General Staff with multiple armies converging according to timetables.

7jcbrunner
Sep 9, 2008, 5:38am Top

Up to Kernstown: Cozzens' approach is very people-centric (if only energetic Lander had lived). He does not discuss the Northern strategic position nor their failure of clarifying their goals. While McClellan is quite clear in assigning the valley only low priority, the goals he (and Lincoln) give their generals are multiple and mixed:

Defend
1. Defend the approaches to Washington
2. Defend Baltimore & Ohio RR and Canal

Attack
1. Destroy Jackson's forces
2. Occupy the valley

The forces allocated (1 Div in the valley itself) are too few for the attack missions. Shields/Kimball should have stayed on the defensive in the encounter battle of Kernstown. Their one division force was too small to crush Jackson. While they defeated him, their losses destroyed their operational effectiveness.

I also see much greater continuity between Jackson's generalship in the valley and his mediocre leadership during the Seven Days - with only small bursts of genial activity.

8Donogh
Sep 12, 2008, 6:47am Top

Quick question on this so guys:
Where's the best place to start reading up on the Shenandoah Campaign (of '62)?

9Ammianus
Sep 12, 2008, 3:11pm Top

Hi pal,
see my collection below; fastest first book:
Jackson's Valley Campaign: November 1861-June 1862 (Great Campaigns Series)
The old standby:
Stonewall in the Valley:
The newest volume: Shenandoah 1862 by Cozzens.
My fav: Mapping for Stonewall
see also:

http://www.librarything.com/catalog/Ammianus&tag=the%2BValley

10jcbrunner
Sep 13, 2008, 9:01am Top

>8 Donogh:+9: Personally, I do not like the Great Campaign Series books ("ACW for Dummies"). Currently, I would recommend Tanner's Stonewall in the Valley, as it does what it promises - the campaign seen through Jackson's eyes. The Robertson biography of Old Testament Jackson is also a good starting point, even if its fundamentalist coloring will not age well.

Cozzens' book is marketed as including the Northern viewpoint (which it does, but only on a cursory level). As the ACW is very familiar to you, Donogh, I can also recommend Cozzens for his writing and the vignettes of the Northern generals.

I find frustrating that Cozzens does not note or discuss his differences with and updates of Tanner - a novelistic not a scholarly approach. You also need a good map of the valley to understand Cozzens' writing, because quite a number of important locations do not appear on his (tiny) maps. The absence of good theater and operational maps make it a no-go for newbies.

I hoped that Cozzens would include more of the big picture, combining DS Freeman's Lee's Lieutenants Southern view with RH Beatie's (unfortunately methodically flawed) Northern view presented in McClellan Takes Command and McClellan's First Campaign. The early war history of the valley and West Virginia, its role in the First Battle of Bull Run, its change from a maker of generals (McClellan, Rosecrans) to a dustbin for mavericks (Banks, Fremont, Sigel) as well as the Northern foolish persistence in sacrificing garrison after garrison in the valley (1862, 1863, 1864) would be included in my ideal campaign study of the valley. Having only read a good hundred pages, Cozzens' book feels more like an updated Tanner than a complete study.

11jcbrunner
Oct 11, 2008, 7:44am Top

Having finished the book, I am disappointed. It is clearly Cozzens' worst:

Shoddy maps. As mentioned above, not only is the number and size of the maps insufficient, some of them directly contradict the text, eg "Milroy's right-most regiment, the 25 OH lined up opposite Steuart's 1 MD" (p. 469) - Map 10 shows the 25 OH opposite 1 VA, six hundred yards away. In stark contrast to Cozzens' earlier books, the maps lack time stamps (eg 4 pm), showing events spaced in time on the same map without color-coding. The maps mistakenly show order and alignment which on earlier maps such as the OR atlas does not exist; successive attacks appear as joint attacks.

Only partial presentation of the Northern view. The book does improve the northern perspective but does not present the full picture. Instead of being full actors, the northerners appear to complete the Southern actions. What were Fremont, Banks, Shields doing off-stage? Lincoln's and McClellan's overall strategy is not developed fully.

What the book does well, is show that the old image difference between the stellar Jackson in the Valley and the dismal Jackson in the Peninsula did not exist. Jackson's victories were mostly due to psychological mastery over his opponents. Jackson's secrecy and lack of direction left his generals to improvisation. At multiple times, the Northerners could (and should) have wrecked Jackson. A lucky general indeed.

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