Non-Book Review: My Greatest Quarrel With Fortune

My Greatest Quarrel With Fortune: Major General Lew Wallace In The West, 1861-1862

Being a fond reader of the Civil War, I found it immensely worthwhile to request for my next book to read and review for the Michigan War Studies Review [1] a book on the Civil War that explores one of the more obscure but notable political generals on the Union side. If Lew Wallace is remembered at all in the larger public, it is as the author of the Christian novel Ben Hur, which was later made into an epic movie starring Charlton Heston. Within the Civil War, he is known largely for his brave defensive efforts at Monocacy in 1864 that delayed Early long enough to ensure the safety of Washington, DC, as well as for being sent on a wild goose chase that made sure that his division of troops was unable to help in the Union defense on the first day of Shiloh, and for which he was later made the scapegoat. This book concerns the latter incident, mainly, presumably by setting up the context between the avowedly political general Lew Wallace, competent but particularly prickly, and the West Coast clique of professional soldiers like Grant, Halleck, Sherman, and others, who eventually became the notable leaders of Union victory.

From flipping through the book so far, I have seen that the author considers Wallace to have been his own worst enemy in that he did not work well with others, a fatal flaw when one is engaged in a war that depended on successfully building up support groups and coalitions. It seems grimly ironic that a political general would have as a fatal flaw an inability to successfully play politics, a fault that seemed to afflict at least a few so-called political generals, like Samuel Curtis [2], some of whom were very competent at warfare despite the absence of a West Point education, but whose inability to ingratiate themselves with the inner circle of West Point-educated officers made it difficult for them to overcome being blamed and scapegoated for defeats when the professionals closed ranks with each other. This is an interesting book, and from what I can see, meticulously endnoted with plenty of sources and references. Anytime one can get an unusual and distinctive Civil War book to review, it’s a good idea to review it.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/11/25/scholarly-book-reviews/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/07/10/non-book-review-the-throne-of-adulis/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2015/05/20/non-book-review-defender-of-canada/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2015/07/15/non-book-review-to-live-and-die-in-dixie/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/06/13/non-book-review-ways-of-war/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/08/20/non-book-review-the-ashgate-companion-to-the-thirty-years-war/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2015/01/17/non-book-review-war-and-independence-in-south-america/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2015/10/14/non-book-review-the-wars-of-german-unification/

[2] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/09/24/civil-war-fantasy-roster-samuel-curtis/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in American Civil War, American History, Book Reviews, History, Military History and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Non-Book Review: My Greatest Quarrel With Fortune

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