The American Civil War was won and lost on its western battlefields, but accounts of triumphant Union generals such as Grant and Sherman leave half of the story untold. In the third volume of Confederate Generals in the Western Theater, editors Lawrence Hewitt and Arthur Bergeron bring together ten more never-before-published essays filled with new, penetrating insights into the key question of why the Rebel high command in the West could not match the performance of Robert E. Lee in the East.
Showcasing the work of such gifted historians as Wiley Sword, Timothy B. Smith, Rory T. Cornish, and M. Jane Johansson, this book is a compelling addition to an ongoing, collective portrait of generals who occasionally displayed brilliance but were more often handicapped by both geography and their own shortcomings. While the vast, varied terrain of the Western Theater slowed communications and troop transfers and led to the creation of too many military departments that hampered cooperation among commands, even more damaging were the personal qualities of many of the generals. All too frequently, incompetence, egotism, and insubordination were the rule rather than the exception. Some of these men were undone by alcoholism and womanizing, others by politics and nepotism. A few outlived their usefulness; others were killed before they could demonstrate their potential. Together, they destroyed what chance the Confederacy had of winning its independence.
Whether adding fresh fuel to the debate over the respective roles of Albert Sidney Johnston and P. G. T. Beauregard at Shiloh or bringing to light such lesser known figures as Joseph Finegan and Hiram Bronson Granbury, this volume, like the ones preceding it, is an exemplary contribution to Civil War scholarship.
Lawrence Lee Hewitt is professor of history emeritus at Southeastern Louisiana University. A recipient of SLU’s President’s Award for Excellence in Research and the Charles L. Dufour Award for “outstanding achievements in preserving the heritage of the American Civil War,” he is a former managing editor of North & South. His publications include Port Hudson: Confederate Bastion on the Mississippi.
The late Arthur W. Bergeron Jr. was a reference historian with the United States Army Military History Institute and a past president of the Louisiana Historical Association. Among his earlier books were Confederate Mobile and A Thrilling Narrative: The Memoir of a Southern Unionist.