Saturday, December 29, 2007

Richard McMurry's book continued

I am still going through Richard McMurry's book Two Great Rebel Armies. Chapter three had some interesting additions to Chapter two. McMurry points out that Union generals in the eastern theatre sucked until General George G. Meade was put in command of the Army of the Potomac. I think we can all say that Burnside, Hooker, McDowell and John Pope were some of the worst generals to ever command an army. I think that this factor is overplayed in some circles who do not want to give R.E. Lee and his army proper credit but nevertheless they did make things a bit easier for the Virgina theatre. In the west the Army of Tennessee combination of A.S. Johnston, J.E. Johnston, Braxton Bragg, L. Polk and others pale in comparision to Union generals Grant, Sherman, Sheridan and Thomas. So McMurry's point carries some weight and I don't disagree with him but Lee's army still deserves the credit.

His second and third points make Chapter three very interesting. First off he states that southerners in the east had more confidence than the Yankees in the east. He points out that soldiers from Wisconson and Ohio fought harder than their eastern counterparts because they came from farms, were used to failure and had a different defination of manhood. He also states that the Union armies in the west were mostly made up of men from the western states of the Union and this made them an unstoppable fighting force. I am not arguing against this but I do have to state that he fails to point out the fact that the Confederates from western Confederate states tended to be the same way as their western Northern counterparts. Therefore their ability to fight was the same if not as strong as the Army of Northern Virginia and the Union Army of the Tennessee. Again, another great point by McMurry but he fails to bring this point to light. Therefore, I do not feel that this was a major reason for Sourthern failure in the Western Theater.

The final point of Chapter three is simple and direct. Henry Helleck who a high ranking Union general saw the west as the most important theater of the war. Both he and General Winfield Scott felt agreed that the capture of the Mississippi and Confederate railroad depots in this region would end the war. I have to agree with McMurry's assessment of this point. I do have to say that the North still promoted Richmond and Lee's army as the main problem in the war. I will also say that Northern victories in the west kept Northern morale high as Lee's army defeated McCellen, Pope and other inept Union generals. He goes on to say that the Army of the Potomac in 1864 was used as a standoff action as the rest of the Union armed forces tampled all over the Confederacy. To further his point, McMurry uses Bruce Catton's own words to justify this agument. Catton wrote "The unhappy Army of the Potomac, which was to do the worst of the fighting, suffer the heaviest casualties, was not, in the end, actually required to do anything more than hold the line in front of Washington." In a sense this is true but I still have to repeat myself and say that the North wanted Richmond more than any other rebel city. I'm not saying that the Virginia theatre was more important but I am saying that it was AS important as the west. As long as Lee's army was in the field the rebels had a chance.

So far Richard McMurry's book is excellent. I'll keep posting more interesting information as I read it. Thanks for reading "Throwing Down the Gauntlet". Just thirteen more blogs to post and I reach 100 blogs! A special thanks goes out to all my loyal readers.


Anonymous said...

Hi Mike,
Really like reading your blog!
I especially like the "Forgotten Generals" & "Forgotten Battles" sections.
Just wanted to clear up the name of the author of "Two Great Rebel Armies" as being Richard McMurry, not Grady.
Hope you have a great New Year's Day!
All the best as you forge ahead to your 100th posting!!
Paul Martini

Mike said...


I'm glad that you like the blog. It's like a child because it is growing up so fast that even I can't keep up. Stay tuned I am going to post a book review for Two Great Rebel Armies shortly. Also, another Forgotten General will be posted soon as well. Thanks for the comments!