Donald B. Connelly is associate professor of joint and multinational operations at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. A retired U.S. Army military intelligence officer, he has also served as historian at U.S. Special Operations Command, MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.The general run of people writing history for military instruction is awful, recapping insights swiped from the worst kind of pop history. It was a disgusting brew of sentiment and instinct served to me way back when and it is still laughable now. (See here.)
I have mentioned previously that Connelly, in this new book about John Schofield, ruptured the divide between political and military history in Civil War literature and established a new paradigm for this branch of nonfiction. A couple of more good deeds are worth mentioning.
Connelly is not only aware of Archer Jones' conclusion that you cannot destroy a Civil War army, he raises the issue repeatedly in dealing with the aftermath of Thomas vs. Hood at Nashville.
For the majority of readers locked into the concept of battles of annihilation, for those of the "lost opportunities" school of blame and anger, debunking annihilation hurts. It strikes at the very root of reading enjoyment.
I would occasionally, in days past, present the Jones view to a Civil War forum where the objection would be raised, "But what about Hood at Nashville." Connelly uses Hood at Nashville as that very example that tests and proves Jones' idea.
Are we through with this idea yet? Not as long as there are talespinners getting book contracts, but thanks to Connelly for bringing this essential point to a larger audience.
Connely is also on the job in identifying the source of the annihilation error. It is a Napoleonic idea, then current among newspapermen, Jomini readers, and politicians. It was a case of fighting the last war or even the one before that. He commends those generals, like Halleck, who (based on experience) abandoned it early on. He seems to regret that Schofield is not one of these.
Kin to the annihilation error is the less extravagant "decisive battle" doctrine. Connelly tags this as out-of-date as well and unusable in the Civil War context. Bravo. He deserves praise for gently chiding those generals who, in pursuit of the phantasmic "decisive battle" make the enemy army their object, an unlikely objective in 1861-1865 and a mark of professional innocence and inexperience.
Schofield was down on McClellan for what he perceived to be McClellan's Richmond fixation. In fact, McClellan was selecting sore bunions - like Richmond - to step on such that the foe had to stand and fight offensively against a superior Union defense ... quite the radical modification of Schofield's (and Lincoln's) quaint Bonapartism.
This last (Mac) point was beyond the scope of Connelly's analysis but is worth mentioning.
Even two years ago I despaired of Civil War authors assimilating Jones' analysis. Times are changing so fast.
*I mean by "military professional" an historian who teaches history to the military, not necessarily one wearing the uniform.