A reader took me to task for my harsh verdict on Russell Weigley, posted after his recent death. Let me amend with some public praise, linked below.
His book "A Great Civil War: A Military and Political History, 1861-1865" (2000) won the Lincoln Prize, endowed by philanthropists Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman and administered by Gettysburg College. The prize jury called the book "the crowning achievement of one of America's most distinguished military historians."
Dr. Weigley's other books included "Quartermaster General of the Union Army: A Biography of M.C. Meigs" (1959), "Towards an American Army: Military Thought from Washington to Marshall" (1962), "History of the United States Army" (1967), "The American Way of War: A History of United States Military Strategy and Policy" (1973) and "The Age of Battles: The Quest for Decisive Warfare from Breitenfeld to Waterloo" (1991).
"The Age of Battles" received the Society for Military History's distinguished book award. He previously had received the society's Samuel Eliot Morison Prize for his overall contribution to military history. (Link)
Weigley's passing came as a shock to his friends and colleagues, as well as his many current and former students. Despite the fact that he retired in 1998, he remained active as both a historian and a public servant. He taught a graduate course in military history each semester at Temple and was guiding the last of his doctoral students through their dissertations.
A mere recitation of Weigley's many achievements impressive though they were hardly begins to take the measure of the man. The History of the United States Army, a monumental institutional history in Macmillan's Wars of the United States series, was Weigley's breakout book, advancing him to the front rank of American military historians just eleven years after he received his doctorate. The American Way of War: A History of United States Military Strategy and Policy, which reflected Weigley's outrage over his country's strategic blundering in Vietnam, turned him into an international figure. It has stayed in print for more than three decades and ranks as his most influential book. Eisenhower's Lieutenants: The Campaign of France and Germany, 1944-1945 was one of five finalists for the American Book Award in history in 1983.
In addition to meticulous research, compelling arguments, and crisp, graceful prose, Weigley's writings were permeated by a strong moral element. Though fascinated by all aspects of soldiering, he did not romanticize war. "Armies," he once told a classroom full of shocked undergraduates, "are simply state-organized instruments of mass murder." He evoked the tragedy of war with heartfelt eloquence in the introduction to A Great Civil War: "The battleground of Gettysburg offers the bright face of a vacation destination at warm noontime, but there is always a chill in the air nevertheless, and at dawn or dusk the emanations from too much violence, suffering, and killing become palpable. I have been surprised alone by an abrupt November nightfall at the Devil's Den; I know the ghosts." (Link)
A memorial service on Temple’s campus [in Philadelphia] is being planned for later this spring. Donations may be made to Temple University, directed to the Center for the Study of Force and Diplomacy. (Link)