Towards a new Civil War history

We have reached a point in time where the discrete rebuttals of individual points of doctrine within Centennial history can now be pulled together into a virtual "answer" to the kid stuff that has plagued advanced Civil War readers for 50 years.

The writers named below do not agree with each other, nor do they necessarily win their arguments, nor are they in each case necessarily more virtuous in their handling of sources or criticism than the consensus mongers. But at least we have here the beginnings of a composite picture of a different Civil War.

Warning: if we enter the mighty promotional engine of the Sesquicentennial with the usual talking heads disgorging the usual pap we will see another 20 years of pop history piled onto the 50 we have just suffered through. The Sesquicentennial may end up having the effect of a hit movie or novel in flooding bookstores with ignorant nonfiction readers holding onto profoundly antihistory values (narrative bias, detail aversion, love of archtype, emotional connection to "characters," and a taste for cheap literary tricks).


(1) The war was not inevitable. It was caused by blundering and/or conniving. (Ayers, Marvel, Detzer, Lankford.)

(2) Party strife hurt the Union war effort, it did not help it. (Neely.)

(3) In terms of weapons and technique, this was not a modern war. (Nosworthy, Neely, Boydian 4GW theory.)

(4) It was the world's last major musket war and did not widen the battle space. (Nosworthy.)

(5) There could never have been a battle of annihilation between Civil War armies. (Hattaway and Jones, Jones)

(6) Historians persistently magnify and distort achievments of ACW soldiers and leaders due to a lack of military history context. (Nosworthy.)

(7) Napoleonic references saturating contemporary literature usually refer to Louis Napoleon. (Nosworthy.)

(8) "Political generals" were tremendously useful. (Goss.)

(9) There is no such thing as a non-political general. (Goss, Connelly.)

(10) Grant was profoundly political. (Simpson.)

(11) Any Rebel "invasion" of the North was a temporary raid operation, not an invasion. (Hattaway and Jones, Jones.)

(12) Judged as raids, the Rebel win/loss calculus changes entirely. (Hattaway and Jones, Jones, Masterson.)

(13) If Gettysburg was a raid, the Rebels won big. (Masterson.)

(14) The Union public put more stock in the small successes of McClellan, Lyons, and Butler than in the big loss at Bull Run. (Phillips.)

(15) Modern readers and the ACW public both falsely analyze the war on a tactical win/loss basis. (Hattaway and Jones.)

(16) Battles may not have mattered. (Hattaway and Jones.)

(17) Lee commanded in Western Virginia against McClellan in '61. (Newell.)

(18) McClellan was the first to understand "theatre" and was the only leader who could plan at that level. (Newell, Reed.)

(19) Combined operations campaign planning died with McClellan's relief. (Reed)

(20) Lincoln and Grant struggled - there was no free rein. (Simpson, Simon)

(21) The British military build-up in Canada continued throughout the war, preserving a war option long after the Maryland Campaign and Emancipation Proclamation. (Reese.)

(22) Meigs presided over nationalized war industries on a massive scale. (Wilson.)

(23) Union ironclad procurement was a failure and represented an abandoned model until taken up in recent times. (Roberts.)

(24) The economic effect of the war was to retard U.S. development. (Thornton and Ekelund)

(25) The blockade was effective and its secondary effects were devastating. (Surdam.)

(26) Sheridan was not whom you think he was. (Wittenberg.)

(27) McClellan was not whom you think he was. (Rowland, Beatie, Rafuse, Newell, Reese)

(28) Joe Johnston was not whom you think he was. (Newton.)

(29) Schofield was not whom you think he was. (Connelly.)

(30) Franklin was not whom you think he was. (Snell.)

(40) Rosecrans was not whom you think he was. (Lamers.)

(41) Patterson was not whom you think he was. (Detzer.)

(42) The Peninsula Campaign was not what you think it was. (Beatie.)

(43) The Maryland Campaign was not what you think it was. (Harsh, Reeese.)

(44) Grant's Richmond campaign was not what you think it was. (Grimsley.)

(45) Gettysburg was not a decisive battle. (Goss.)

(46) After Sherman reaches the coast of Georgia, no northeastern battle matters. (McMurry.)

(47) The election of 1864 could not change the outcome of the war, regardless of candidates. (McMurry.)

(48) Lincoln was an error-prone, problematic military superior (Beatie.)

(49) No one is integrating the findings of microhistories. (Nosworthy.)

(50) See next posting. (Rotov)

(Shown top right: what ACW history could become in the Sesquicentennial .)