Civil War Goats & Scapegoats

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9781581826319: Civil War Goats & Scapegoats

Civil War Goats and Scapegoats looks at the good, the bad, and the ugly among the politicians and generals in the Civil War, North and South. Organized into three parts - the eastern theater, the western theater, and Andersonville - the book describes major blunders made by generals in 17 battles.

The Civil War had its share of goats and scapegoats. The tone was set early in the war when both sides anticipated quick resolution to the conflict. When that did not happen, the press and politicians pointed fingers and searched out commanders whose loyalty they questioned. In the North, the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War demanded explanations for failure; and careers were wrecked and initiatives were lost in the process. In the South, such political pressure was not as pointed, given the early successes of Confederate armies, but newspapers nevertheless questioned the performance of commanders when failures occurred. After the war, controversies swirled as the survivors refought the battles with explanations and accusations, assigning blame to goats and scapegoats alike.

H. Donald Winkler looks at the politicians and generals who failed miserably on the battlefield and at those who were blamed for those failures. In some cases the verdicts of historians have changed over the years, as with Jeb Stuart and his missing "presence" at Gettysburg. Yet others are heroes in one battle and goats in another; witness U. S. Grant's terrible mistakes at Shiloh and Cold Harbor and his greatness in other battles. Similarly, Robert E. Lee started off badly in western Virginia and erred in ordering Picket's Charge at Gettysburg, but no one questioned his greatness as a general.

As in all wars, the truth was obscured at the time and later, when some felt compelled to justify why and how decisions were made. Civil War Goats and Scapegoats employs the latest scholarship to clarify the fault-finding and exoneration of some of the most glaring disasters of the war. Winkler spares no punches in examining all of these issues and the men responsible for bad decisions that cost thousands of lives in battle and ruined the lives of good men falsely accused.

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About the Author:

H. Donald Winkler is a journalist, historian, and political scientist who headed public affairs programs for major universities over a period of 38 years. A longtime member of the National Press Club, he has received 84 national awards as a writer and editor. He is the author of Lincoln's Ladies and Lincoln and Booth. He lives in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

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