Sherman Invades Georgia: Planning The North Georgia Campaign Using A Modern Perspective, by John R. Scales
When I picked up this book from the library I was a bit surprised to find that it had been published by the Naval Institute Press about a decade ago or so. As a prolific book reviewer for the Naval Historical Institute, I have even been loosely associated with them in a couple of events, and perhaps more in the future. Now, I am a particular partisan of Sherman, to the point where I have started online flame wars by praising Sherman’s logistical approach to defeating Southern morale on several occasions . Now, it should be noted that this book does not deal with the March to the Sea, and in fact does not deal with as much of Sherman’s invasion as I thought it would, but even so, I found this book a deeply enjoyable read and even if the author felt the need to be apologetic to his Confederate ancestors, he has a lot of worthwhile and well-deserved praise to give to Sherman concerning the planning and execution of his invasion of Georgia in 1864. Even more worthwhile, the approach taken by the author can be very useful for those seeking to give fair judgment to other military operations, which gives this work an appreciated level of depth compared to its competitors in its genre.
From the beginning, this particular book offered quite a few surprises, at least to this reader. The author opens with a reasonably sizable set of introductory material that introduces the reader to his narrow purpose and his focus on the behavior of Sherman, Grant, and their subordinates given their preponderance of force and greater freedom of action. After that, the author discusses the somewhat rudimentary and chaotic nature of organization and operations in the US Army during the Civil War. The next chapter discusses various combat functions: intelligence, mobility, logistics, communications, and staff. The third chapter provides a discussion of military classics and their advice, military decisions, campaign planning, and the styles of warfare that were possible at the time. All of this introductory material precedes the author setting the stage for the summary of the Union situation in early 1864 in the Western Theater. The second part of the book consists of an estimate of the situation, and consists of chapters that discuss Sherman’s mission, Sherman’s capabilities and analysis of his position and his enemy, enemy capabilities, Sherman’s possible courses of action, an analysis of these courses of action, a comparison of the courses of action in a decision table, and a decision and concept of the operation. The third part of the book discusses “the rest of the story,” looking at the ground truth for the Confederacy, what actually happened, and a conclusion. There are two appendices that deal with organizing a staff ride and some military symbols for the book’s materials, as well as a glossary, references, and an index. The total material ends up around two hundred satisfying pages.
There are at least a few qualities that make this book remarkable in its approach. The author’s presentation is not without its risks–as the frank admission that he had a lot of Confederate ancestors is not normally a point of favor to me as a reader. Even so, despite that initial suspicion, the author managed to win me over as a reader through his contextually rich discussion of Sherman’s strategy, his avoidance of Monday morning quarterbacking, his frank admission that Sherman chose an option that he would not have chosen but that the option worked, and his concern for matters of logistics and communication and his sensible breakdown of advantages on both sides, showing a significant Union advantage even when one considers both forces equal in terms of their morale and leadership, which seems generous to the Confederacy. This is not to say that everyone will enjoy this highly cerebral and somewhat technical analysis, but those who do enjoy operational art and have an interest in matters of logistics will find a great deal to appreciate here and also to appropriate for their own research of military campaigns.
 See, for example: