Campaigns Of The Civil War: From Fort Henry To Corinth, by M.F. Force,
This book is part of the series of old books that I like to read from time to time , a work written within a few decades after the Civil War, when some of the people in the war themselves were still alive. The book itself cites a few of its sources, including the papers of Gen. Johnston, collected by his son (who was also a Confederate officer), as well as some papers released by former President Rutherford Hayes, who was himself a Civil War officer, like so many other successful leaders of the Guilded Age. This book in many ways resembles the accounts of other writers of Civil War history in focusing a great deal of attention upon the units which are fighting, in officers as well as the dispositions of troops along the battlefield, described without maps but with descriptive text .
The title of the book says that the book covers the material between Fort Henry and Corinth, but this is not strictly the case, as it covers several campaigns in its eight chapters. The first chapter covers the battles in Missouri that secured that state for the Union, with special attention paid to Pea Ridge and significant attention also to Wilson’s Creek. The book then spends a chapter on the Fort Henry & Fort Donelson Campaigns, a chapter on the New Madrid/Island Number 10 Campaign, and two chapters on the gathering of forces for the battle of Shiloh, which briefly mentioned a few other battles. There are two chapters devoted to the Battle of Shiloh in a lot of detail, and then one fairly short final chapter that covers the approach to Corinth which led to its capture by the Union. The book ends on an optimistic note, showing how the Union army had become a much more disciplined force as a result of the campaigns of late 1861 and early 1862, but given the size of the book and the small amount of progress, one could easily imagine that the author would have to take at least another five or six volumes just to handle the major campaigns of the West.
As far as it goes, the book is a bit dry, but it also shows the humane side of various soldiers, including their errors of judgment, and the way in which faulty communication and a lack of trust (the book is particularly harsh on Halleck’s lack of trust in Grant) played a major role in the progress of campaigns. The author tries to explain the reasons for the failure of Grant’s army to build field fortifications in Shiloh, the slow progress of Buell from Nashville, and he is also at pains to free Gen. Smith from any sort of blame for his short taking command of the Shiloh Campaign (before his untimely death from an accident) from Grant on Halleck’s command. Likewise, the Confederates show themselves to have greatly underestimated the resolve of the Union as well as the strength of their own initial defenses on the boundaries of rebellious territory, which led them to lose a lot of men as prisoners in places like Island Number 10 and Fort Donelson, which were men they could not easily replace, given their far weaker military position with regards to men and material to the North. Strikingly, though, this book focuses on history from a biographical perspective, rather than a logistical one, even though it does feature a few notes about matters of strategic and logistical importance, as well as the tactical matters of refusing flanks and having flanks that are in the air. Suffice it to say, this book should be read by those who already know a fair amount about military history, but for such readers this is an excellent, albeit old, secondary source.
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