Why the Confederacy Lost (Gettysburg Civil War Institute Books)

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9780195074055: Why the Confederacy Lost (Gettysburg Civil War Institute Books)

After the Civil War, someone asked General Pickett why the Battle of Gettysburg had been lost: Was it Lee's error in taking the offensive, the tardiness of Ewell and Early, or Longstreet's hesitation in attacking? Pickett scratched his head and replied, "I've always thought the Yankees had something to do with it." This simple fact, writes James McPherson, has escaped a generation of historians who have looked to faulty morale, population, economics, and dissent as the causes of Confederate failure. These were all factors, he writes, but the Civil War was still a war--won by the Union army through key victories at key moments.
With this brilliant review of how historians have explained the Southern defeat, McPherson opens a fascinating account by several leading historians of how the Union broke the Confederate rebellion. In every chapter, the military struggle takes center stage, as the authors reveal how battlefield decisions shaped the very forces that many scholars (putting the cart before the horse) claim determined the outcome of the war. Archer Jones examines the strategy of the two sides, showing how each had to match its military planning to political necessity. Lee raided north of the Potomac with one eye on European recognition and the other on Northern puplic opinion--but his inevitable retreats looked like failure to the Southern public. The North, however, developed a strategy of deep raids that was extremely effective because it served a valuable political as well as military purpose, shattering Southern morale by tearing up the interior. Gary Gallagher takes a hard look at the role of generals, narrowing his focus to the crucial triumvirate of Lee, Grant, and Sherman, who towered above the others. Lee's aggressiveness may have been costly, but he well knew the political impact of his spectacular victories; Grant and Sherman, meanwhile, were the first Union generals to fully harness Northern resources and carry out coordinated campaigns. Reid Mitchell shows how the Union's advantage in numbers was enhanced by a dedication and perseverance of federal troops that was not matched by the Confederates after their home front began to collapse. And Joseph Glatthaar examines black troops, whose role is entering the realm of national myth.
In 1960, there appeared a collection of essays by major historians, entitled Why the North Won the Civil War, edited by David Donald; it is now in its twenty-sixth printing, having sold well over 100,000 copies. Why the Confederacy Lost provides a parallel volume, written by today's leading authorities. Provocatively argued and engagingly written, this work reminds us that the hard-won triumph of the North was far from inevitable.

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About the Author:


About the Editor:
Gabor Boritt is Robert C. Fluhrer Professor of Civil War Studies and Director of the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College. His more recent books are The Historian's Lincoln and The Confederate Image.

Review:

"Eye-opening....Solid scholarship combined with nonacademic prose make this collection essential reading for serious students of the War between the States."--Publishers Weekly

"If this collection of essays by historians of varied interests asks why the Confederacy lost, it may just as reasonably be thought to ask why the Union won, for the interlocking politics, public reactions, and military strategies of both sides are equally considered and present striking
similarities....A promising source of argument."--The Atlantic

"A stimulating, authoritative, and persuasive contribution to Civil War historiography."--Kirkus Reviews

"Why the Confederacy Lost reminds us anew why the Civil War never ceases to be a rich source of developing national self-definition; yet with this compelling collection of essays we move farther away from the debilitating myth and treacle which too often has served our 'history' in the past.
I commend Dr. Boritt and his colleagues for their fascinating and balanced work."--Ken Burns

"These expert, sharply focused essays, examining the role of military success and failure in bringing about the defeat of the Confederacy, show how much new light fresh thinking can cast even on an old subject. This book will be indispensable for all students and teachers of the Civil War
era."--David Herbert Donald, Harvard University

"Outstanding. A perfect choice for supplemental reading."--Professor Richard Frucht, Northwest Missouri St. University

"Excellent complement to earlier, similar work by David Donald - Why the North Won the Civil War."--Professor Richard Lowe, University of North Texas

"The essays in this collection are original, concise and provocative. They pull together the latest research on a variety of themes. Together, they serve as an excellent introduction to a complex historiographic question."--James R. Smither, Grand Valley State University

"Such a timely work. Contents became fodder for lecture immediately. mcPherson's piece is a refreshing contribution to an overabundance of 'victim' interpretations."--Lamont D. Thomas, University of Bridgeport

"A welcome addition to the reading list on the Civil War. I plan to add it to my required reading list when I offer my Civil War course."--Gregory B. Padgett, Eckerel College

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