This concentration in space could be overcome only if the Union employed … concentration in time. - James M. McPherson: Tried by War, p 70
Another hallmark of Lincoln's conception of military strategy and operations… concentration in time by simultaneous advances… - James M. McPherson: Tried by War, p 269
These extracts (above) from James M. McPherson's new book Tried by War hover dangerously close to plagiarism. However, this post will not be an exploration of any plagiarism of phrases but rather the appropriation of ideas.
In writing of "concentration in time by simultaneous advances," McPherson bypasses entirely the secondary literature exploring that subject (see below). He does not cite it; there is no bibliography showing it; and none of the authors' names appear in the text or index.
Instead, he makes general reference (not cited in the end notes) to Lincoln's correspondence with Halleck and Buell, which the secondary literature of the 1980s and 1990s also used in developing the same insights. By making "concentration in time" a "hallmark" of Lincoln's strategic thought, McPherson makes emphatic claim both to its importance and to his own observation of its importance.
The relevant war communications were couched in the idiom of the day. They spoke of "simultaneous advances." There is no reference to "concentration in time" from Halleck or Buell because that phrase emerges after the war from translations of Clausewitz, who was not published in English stateside before or during the war.
Nor is McPherson quoting ACW sources when he uses quote marks around neologisms, as he does on page 70:
Lincoln grasped sooner than many of his generals the strategic concept of "concentration in time.""Concentration in time" did not exist as a phrase or notion in the Civil War; it is part of a more elaborate postwar Clausewitzian construct that would become known later in the U.S. military. (Clausewitz's name does not appear in McPherson's new book either.)
Civil War strategists thought in terms of simultaneous advances and used that expression. To attribute to them "concentration" is an anachronism; and this phrase being such an oddity, it gives us a marker.
In 1983, Herman Hattaway and Archer Jones presented their How the North Won the War. There, they advocated the importance of Lincoln's championing simultaneous advances. I count seven discussions of this topic, none of which substitute "concentration in time" for "simultaneous advances" – it's all in the correct idiom. For example: "Halleck and the staff effectively implemented Lincoln's plan of simultaneous advances, especially in the well synchronized offensives of December, 1862." (p 689)
I have not found an earlier development of this idea, of Lincoln's special insight into simultaneity and making it a core component of his strategic thinking. I believe Hattaway and Jones own it.
In 1986, they repeated and strengthened their argument teaming with other authors:
In the spring of 1862 the Union armies of Halleck and McClellan had made simultaneous advances (concentrations of forces in time, Clausewitz had called them). […] Lincoln and Halleck again wisely applied the principle of concentration in time, that is simultaneous advances, in the fall of 1862. - Beringer, Hattaway, Jones, and Still: Why the South Lost the Civil War, 1986, p 287This fragment is taken from a chapter titled "Union Concentration in Time and Space." For the first time (to my knowledge) Clausewitz is injected (with attribution) into analysis of this bit of Union strategy. After a few uses, "concentration"- the term - is retired as the authors return to the more natural "simultaneous advances" to explain Lincoln's true framework.
Hagerman's ACW appeared in 1988, justly crediting Hattaway and Jones and their idea of Lincoln as advocate for simultaneous advances. Hagerman does not use the word "concentration" and he offers his own view of the effect of this strategy:
In adopting a strategy of simultaneous advances east and west, Halleck and Lincoln redefined the role of the Army of the Potomac to hold Lee's army in place so that it could not send reinforcements to the West. - Edward Hagerman: The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare, 1988, p 68It is not until 1992, when Archer Jones' Civil War Command and Strategy appears that the repeated, wholesale, anachronistic application of "concentration" (attributed to Clausewitz) displaces "simultaneous." Jones again stresses Lincoln's centrality to simultaneous operations and he is relentless in calling simultaneity "concentration in time." "Concentration" is Jones' signature and stamp on Lincoln's involvement in synchronous operations:
"… the Union planned and successfully executed its first concentration in time…" (p 101); "A comparison of the two forms of concentration" (p 101); "…concentration in time had the disadvantage…" (p 101).We haven't even left page 101 and the concentration is overwhelming.
If the term "concentration in time" does not appear in the primary sources, if the application of this Clausewitzian expression to Lincoln's strategy is unusual and a hallmark of Jones (also Hattaway plus Jones), has not James M. McPherson transgressed? Has he not also transgressed in taking the theme of Lincoln's "hallmark" as his own?