Catalogue

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West Pointers and the Civil War : the old army in war and peace /
Wayne Wei-siang Hsieh.
imprint
Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, c2009.
description
xiii, 285 p.
ISBN
0807832782 (cloth : alk. paper), 9780807832783 (cloth : alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
series title
imprint
Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, c2009.
isbn
0807832782 (cloth : alk. paper)
9780807832783 (cloth : alk. paper)
contents note
Colonials, continentals, and federals : the origins of American military professionalism -- Tactical expertise and the U.S. Army before the war with Mexico -- The old army's vindication : the Mexican war -- Tactical continuity in the decade before the Civil War -- The beginning of the end : the old army on the precipice -- War in earnest : the first battles of 1861 -- The Peninsula : Lee and McClellan leave their legacies -- Morale, cohesion, and competence from Second Bull Run to Missionary Ridge -- Decisions east and west : the end of the Civil War.
catalogue key
6995335
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
Excerpts
Flap Copy
Most Civil War generals were graduates of West Point, and many of them helped transform the U.S. Army from what was little better than an armed mob that performed poorly during the War of 1812 into the competent fighting force that won the Mexican War. Hsieh demonstrates how the "old army" transformed itself into a professional military force after 1814, and, more important, how "old army" methods profoundly shaped the conduct of the Civil War.
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2010-09-01:
Although this work covers far more ground than is indicated by the title, it is essentially a study of the professionalization of the US Army from 1815 through the Civil War. Leading the movement were the officers schooled at the US Military Academy. Among the themes Hsieh (US Naval Academy) explores are foreign influences, tactical manuals, fieldworks, training, policing civil disturbances, and the change of tactics required by new weaponry. Opposing the efforts of the professionals of the "old army" were the press, politicians, and amateur officers who scorned drill, strict discipline, entrenchments, and planning. They argued that the elan of the citizen-soldier would bring success on the battlefield. The professionals were usually vindicated, but their presence on both sides during the Civil War, the author contends, prolonged the conflict by endowing both armies with equally matched competence at the top. Yet in this closely reasoned, thoroughly researched, and provocative work, scarcely any generals, even the best of them, escape the author's criticism. Hsieh also takes issue with many prominent historians. Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students, faculty, professionals. M. J. Brodhead U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Reviews
Review Quotes
"[A] closely reasoned, thoroughly researched, and provocative work. . . . Recommended." - Choice
"A must read for anyone interested in the subject of why the war was fought the way it was." - The Past in Review
"[An] excellent new study. . . . [Hsieh's] broad military-historical treatment allows him to make an intelligent answer to the question which every Civil War historian has to answer: Why did it grind on for so long?" - Weekly Standard
"[An] excellent new study. . . . [Hsieh's] broad military-historical treatment allows him to make an intelligent answer to the question which every Civil War historian has to answer: Why did it grind on for so long?" -Weekly Standard
"A scholarly, well-footnoted book. The author has many ideas that he supports with logical documented arguments. . . . The author writes well, having an excellent readable way of presenting that never makes reading this book a chore." -TOCWOC
"A solid contribution to scholarship . . . [An] excellent treatment of antebellum debates over tactical doctrine and particular tactical events during the war." - The Journal of Military History
"A solid contribution to scholarship . . . [An] excellent treatment of antebellum debates over tactical doctrine and particular tactical events during the war." --The Journal of Military History
"A truly original and interesting study that places the Civil War within the context of the development of the United States Army in the nineteenth century. . . . Concise and well written." -H-Net Reviews
"CAMP members who are Civil War buffs will want to add West Pointers and the Civil War to their military libraries." - The Journal of America's Military Past
"Hsieh challenges studies that have argued that field fortifications and rifles gave the advantage to defenders, insisting instead that other factors, such as leadership, morale, and troop strength were more influential in success or failure. Smart and genuinely stimulating, West Pointers and the Civil War will be controversial in the best sense of the word." -Joseph T. Glatthaar, author of General Lee's Army: From Victory to Collapse
"Hsieh challenges studies that have argued that field fortifications and rifles gave the advantage to defenders, insisting instead that other factors, such as leadership, morale, and troop strength were more influential in success or failure. Smart and genuinely stimulating,West Pointers and the Civil Warwill be controversial in the best sense of the word."--Joseph T. Glatthaar, author ofGeneral Lee's Army: From Victory to Collapse
"Judicious and well-researched. . . . Hsieh's project . . . is to explain the mentality of military professionals. . . . It is a task that he accomplishes with great skill." - Journal of American History
"Leaves few stones unturned in examining how the professional officer corps produced by the U.S. Military Academy in the 19th century influenced the evolution of battlefield tactics at this critical point in our nation's history. . . . [Adds] another perspective to the historiography of a complex topic." - Civil War Times
"Leaves few stones unturned in examining how the professional officer corps produced by the U.S. Military Academy in the 19th century influenced the evolution of battlefield tactics at this critical point in our nation's history. . . . [Adds] another perspective to the historiography of a complex topic." --Civil War Times
"Offers something for almost everyone. Those who revel in minutiae will enjoy Hsieh's detailed discussion of the tactical changes of the 1815-45 years and of the impact . . . of rifled weapons on the battlefield. Hsieh's discussions of some of the Civil War's major campaigns . . . will provide food for thought for those who prefer to study the war's larger military aspects." - Blue & Gray Magazine
"Skillfully explores institutional efforts to develop and maintain the army's infantry, artillery, and mounted standards." - Civil War Book Review
"Skillfully explores institutional efforts to develop and maintain the army's infantry, artillery, and mounted standards." --Civil War Book Review
"Students of the Civil War will find this analysis worth considering." - On Point
"The originality and importance of this book are indisputable--both scholars and amateurs will find much that is new in Hsieh's scholarship. West Pointers and the Civil War will challenge all readers to take Civil War officers on their terms, to understand their collective and individualized histories, and to see the contingency of war on the front lines of the Civil War." -Peter S. Carmichael, author of The Last Generation: Young Virginians in Peace, War, and Reunion
"The originality and importance of this book are indisputable--both scholars and amateurs will find much that is new in Hsieh's scholarship.West Pointers and the Civil Warwill challenge all readers to take Civil War officers on their terms, to understand their collective and individualized histories, and to see the contingency of war on the front lines of the Civil War."--Peter S. Carmichael, author ofThe Last Generation: Young Virginians in Peace, War, and Reunion
"This original and important book asks us to reconceptualize much of what we think about the Civil War." - The Journal of Southern History
"Thought provoking." - Louisiana History
"Trac[es] the evolution of military professionalism from the War of 1812 to the Civil War." - ARMY
"Trac[es] the evolution of military professionalism from the War of 1812 to the Civil War." -ARMY
" West Pointers and the Civil War is a fine study that reminds readers that personality and leadership matter in understanding the conflict and those who participated in it." - The Historian
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, September 2010
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Main Description
Most Civil War generals were graduates of West Point, and many of them helped transform the U.S. Army from what was little better than an armed mob that performed poorly during the War of 1812 into the competent fighting force that won the Mexican War. Wayne Wei-siang Hsieh offers an insightful and original portrait of the American army from 1814 to the end of the Civil War. Hsieh demonstrates how the "old army" transformed itself into a professional military force after 1814, and, more important, how "old army" methods profoundly shaped the conduct of the Civil War. The dominance of both armies by West Point-trained generals prevented either side from gaining a marked superiority in military competence. Moreover, the long, grinding war, with heavy casualties on both sides, had unforeseen political implications--for instance, the war's great length strengthened the hand of the abolitionists, which would not have been the case if the North had won a quick and decisive victory. The first book to show how the antebellum U.S. Army, and especially West Point graduates, affected the course of the Civil War, this volume makes a unique contribution to the history of America's greatest cataclysm.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introductionp. 1
Colonials, Continentals, and Federals the Origins of American Military Professionalismp. 11
Tactical Expertise and the U.S. Army before the War with Mexicop. 54
The Old Army's Vindication The Mexican Warp. 54
Tactical Continuity in the Decade before the Civil Warp. 75
The Beginning of the End The Old Army on the Precipicep. 91
War in Earnest The First Battles of 1861p. 112
The Peninsula Lee and McClellan Leave Their Legaciesp. 134
Morale, Cohesion, and Competence from Second Bull Run to Missionary Ridgep. 158
Decisions East and West The End of the Civil Warp. 177
Epiloguep. 196
Notesp. 199
Bibliographyp. 245
Indexp. 267
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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