Read Jefferson Davis and His Generals: The Failure of Confederate Command in the West by Steven E. Woodworth Online


"Brings alive the whole landscape of the Confederate war in the west in a clear and persuasive fashion. Exceptionally well written". -- Journal of Military History.Jefferson Davis is a historical figure who provokes strong passions among scholars. Through the years historians have placed him at both ends of the spectrum: some have portrayed him as a hero, others have judge"Brings alive the whole landscape of the Confederate war in the west in a clear and persuasive fashion. Exceptionally well written". -- Journal of Military History.Jefferson Davis is a historical figure who provokes strong passions among scholars. Through the years historians have placed him at both ends of the spectrum: some have portrayed him as a hero, others have judged him incompetent.In Jefferson Davis and His Generals, Steven Woodworth shows that both extremes are accurate--Davis was both heroic and incompetent. Yet neither viewpoint reveals the whole truth about this complicated figure. Woodworth's portrait of Davis reveals an experienced, talented, and courageous leader who, nevertheless, undermined the Confederacy's cause in the trans-Appalachian west, where the South lost the war.At the war's outbreak, few Southerners seemed better qualified for the post of commander-in-chief. Davis had graduated from West Point, commanded a combat regiment in the Mexican War (which neither Lee nor Grant could boast), and performed admirably as U.S. Senator and Secretary of War. Despite his credentials, Woodworth argues, Davis proved too indecisive and inconsistent as commander-in-chief to lead his new nation to victory.As Woodworth shows, however, Davis does not bear the sole responsibility for the South's defeat. A substantial part of that burden rests with Davis's western generals. Bragg, Beauregard, Van Dorn, Pemberton, Polk, Buckner, Hood, Forrest, Morgan, and the Johnstons (Albert and Joseph) were a proud, contentious, and uneven lot. Few could be classed with the likes of a Lee or a Jackson in the east. Woodworth assesses their relations with Davis, as well as their leadership on and off the battlefields at Donelson, Shiloh, Vicksburg, Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, and Atlanta, to demonstrate their complicity in the Confederacy's demise.Extensive research in the marvelously rich holdings of the Jefferson Davis Association at Rice University enriches Woodworth's study. He provides superb analyses of western military operations, as well as some stranger-than-fiction tales: Van Dorn's shocking death, John Hood and Sally Preston's bizarre romance, Gideon Pillow's undignified antics, and Franklin Cheatham's drunken battlefield behavior. Most important, he has avoided the twin temptations to glorify or castigate Davis and thus restored balance to the evaluation of his leadership during the Civil War.This book is part of the Modern War Studies series....

Title : Jefferson Davis and His Generals: The Failure of Confederate Command in the West
Author :
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ISBN : 9780700604616
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 400 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Jefferson Davis and His Generals: The Failure of Confederate Command in the West Reviews

  • 'Aussie Rick'
    2019-02-11 20:07

    After reading Davis & Lee at War by the same author I decided to order this book from my local book shop and I loved it, more so than the first book. The author explains the relationships between Davis and his Generals who were trusted with the Confederacy's command in the West. That so much damage could be done to the Southern cause by these men in petty infighting is amazing. Beside analysising the Command/Leadership relationships it provides an overview of the battles and fighting in that theatre of operations. I highly recommend this book, it's a great read.

  • Andrew
    2019-01-26 18:28

    Woodworth's Jefferson Davis and his Generals is a little bit like a classic melodrama, it's populated with some distinct heroes and villains. The heroes of Woodworths narrative are Davis himself, Braxton Bragg, Pat Cleburne, and to a lesser extent A. P. Stewart. The villainous scoundrels are many, and consist of many of the other generals to hold higher commands in the Confederate armies of the western theater.Some of the villains that Woodworth chooses are undoubtedly scoundrels. Gideon Pillow and Leonidas Polk were both incompetent generals and inveterate political schemers. Other generals that suffer Woodworth's vilification are more complicated. Woodworth seems to have a particular problem with Joseph E. Johnston, who while definitely not perfect, was probably one of the better generals on the Confederate side. While recounting in detail Johnston's problematic relationship with Davis, and excoriating his often cautious nature, Woodworth also discounts the legitimate reasons that often colored Johnston's decisions. Besides Woodworth's seeming vendetta against Joseph Johnston, his choices of heroes is also problematic. While his analysis of Davis is for the most part pretty balanced and honest, his treatment of his other heroes isn't. While Braxton Bragg may generally be saddled with more than his fair share of blame for the failures of his campaigns, he does still deserve a pretty big share of the blame. Bragg was probably more intelligent, able, and willing to compromise and work with his subordinates than usually acknowledged, and he did achieve success on some notable occasions, but these were overshadowed by his glaring failings and errors. Bragg was a martinet, and although he exercised admirable restraint at times, he was equally capable of unreasonable prejudice and holding grudges. While Bragg sometimes made bold moves, he also suffered from a crippling lack of confidence and decisiveness at critical junctures. Woodworth tends to glaze over Bragg's many shortcomings and just concentrated on his strengths, concentrating on the narrative of Bragg as a victim of the scheming and incompetence of his subordinates (which, to be fair, he often was).Woodworth's other main hero general, Pat Cleburne also benefits from a willful ignorance of his weaknesses. While in Cleburne's case, this is a lot more common, and his abilities as one of the best brigade and divisional commanders in the Confederate armies are widely acknowledged, he did seem to have trouble handling larger numbers of troops in the brief instance he was given a chance. He may have grown into the job, but he was never given the opportunity (unlike A. P. Stewart, who was, but much later than he should have been), so he remains an unknown quantity as a corps or army commander. Woodworth spills far too much ink bemoaning the supposed under-utilization of Cleburne, which compared with Davis' many other command decisions is definitely one of his lesser errors (if indeed it was one).Given all of this, his analysis of Davis' decisions is pretty sound. Particularly in the earlier chapters of the book, Woodworth sheds light on many important events and provides a good accounting of where Davis and his generals went right and wrong. As the books narrative approaches Vicksburg, Woodworth's prejudices seem to take over, and it kind of goes downhill from there. The vendetta against Johnston, the glorifying of Bragg, and occasional narrative distractions such as recounting John B. Hood's failed courtship of Buck Preston or his lingering over the missed promise of Pat Cleburne all detract from what is otherwise an insightful look at the Confederate high command.Despite said distractions, Woodworth's narrative is not difficult to follow and his prose is pleasing. The author concludes each chapter with a summary revisiting the important points of its content and helping to tie the narrative together, and ends the book with a similar summary chapter that covers the whole of the material. There's some good stuff here, and if you're interested in the Civil War in the western theater, or in Jefferson Davis and the Confederate high command and government, I would recommend this book. If you're not already at least a little familiar with the people and events covered in this book, though, I wouldn't recommend it as a starting place. I don't think you will acquire the most fair or accurate picture of some of the important generals covered in this volume, if it's your only source.

  • Theo Logos
    2019-01-25 20:32

    Seemingly endless Civil War books are written rehashing every minute move of Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia. There are far fewer that cover the situation of the Confederacy's western armies and generals, despite, or perhaps because of the fact that it was in the west that the Confederacy lost the war. With Jefferson Davis and His Generals: The Failure of Confederate Command in the West, Steven E. Woodworth steps up to fill this gap with a first rate book that every serious student of the Civil War should read. He presents a clear and reasoned argument that the failure of the Confederacy in the west was not due to the quality or quantity of its armies or even of its supplies, but a direct result of a monumental failure in its high command.Woodworth writes of Jefferson Davis as a man who seemed to be eminently and uniquely qualified to become commander in chief of the Confederacy. He was a West Point graduate, a Mexican War hero, had served as a particularly effective secretary of war under President Franklin Pierce, and had been a United States senator. He understood politics, and he clearly understood war. His resolve for his cause, like his loyalty to his friends, was unshakable. Contained within these impressive qualifications and traits, however, were flaws and blind spots that would severely hinder Davis' management of the war in the west, where he had no Lee to take charge. Foremost of these faults was a lack of judgement when appointing friends as generals, and unreasonable loyalty to them thereafter. Compounding these problems was a fierce pride in his own military judgement that left him unable to acknowledge and correct mistakes. Finally, his pride led him into bitter personal feuds with key generals that hindered his ability to utilize them to the fullest.Woodworth follows Davis' moves in the west, from his initial organization of the Western theater, through the high stakes game played and eventually lost to gain Kentucky for the Confederacy, to the crisis at Shiloh, where with the death of General Albert Sidney Johnston, the Western Confederacy lost its best hope for competent command. The catastrophe of the loss of Vicksburg, the disastrous infighting among the generals under Bragg in the Army of Tennessee, the loss of Tennessee, the Atlanta Campaign, and Hood's final failed campaign are all covered. In each instance, Woodworth notes the command decisions that Davis made, or failed to make, in the crisis. At the end of each chapter, he summarizes and critiques Davis' performance, highlighting areas where Davis was at least partly responsible for the problems, as well as pointing out where he performed as well as could have been expected.Woodworth clearly has a strongly opinionated point of view. He is nearly unique among the Civil War historians that I have read in his spirited defense of General Braxton Bragg as a competent commander, and lays all of the blame for the failure of Bragg's campaigns on incompetent and insubordinate generals under his command, chiefly Davis' personal friend General Leonidas Polk. He also repeatedly accused General Joseph Johnston of lacking a will to win, and of never believing that the Confederacy could win the war. While many will disagree with these positions, his boldness in stating them is characteristic of the bold approach that is evident throughout his book.Jefferson Davis and His Generals is a bold, original work, that addresses a theme that is too often neglected in Civil War studies. It is consistently engaging, insightful, and controversial. It is clearly written, well researched, and a pleasure to read. I consider it to be among the very best books that I have read on the Civil War, and would recommend it highly, especially to those with a specific interest in the war in the west.

  • Josh Liller
    2019-02-03 23:07

    Steven Woodworth looks at the troubled command relationship between Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his top generals between the Mississippi and Appalachians during the Civil War. This mostly means Albert Sidney Johnston, Braxton Bragg, Joe Johnston, John Pemberton, and John Bell Hood - with Leonidas Polk perpetually casting a shadow on the situation and other generals making appearances.This is a good book, albeit a bit flawed. The topic is real interesting and covered pretty well. Jeff Davis seems to get a very balanced treatment, pointing out his strengths and weaknesses as commander-in-chief. In short, Davis made a number of good decisions, but his unhealthy loyalty to old friends, stubbornness, and periodic indecisiveness severely hampered the Confederate war effort.A nagging flaw throughout is some repetitiveness and Woodworth's habit of telling an anecdote without ever naming the participants, not even in the endnote. The Transmississippi seems to awkwardly loom in and out of the narrative. While technically outside of the main topic, it would probably have been worth the dozen or so extra pages to flesh out a little more. Davis' relationship with some of those more distant commanders would have been an interesting and relevant comparison. (In contrast, Davis and Lee intentionally and successfully stays pretty much out of the picture.)The author's opinions on certain Confederate generals are certainly strong in the book. When it comes to the two Johnstons, his pro-Albert anti-Joseph views are fairly classic, but seem so strong as to be a little dated. More notably, Woodworth is one of the few Braxton Bragg apologists alive today (William Glenn Robertson is the only other one I know of). Unsurprisingly, he is also probably the most anti-Polk authors I have encountered, although that general probably has fewer defenders than Bragg. It seems a bit odd that someone who treats Jeff Davis so evenly pulls no punches with everyone else.Criticisms aside, this is still well worth the read.

  • Sean Chick
    2019-01-23 22:22

    Readable and incisive, even if Woodworth's obsessive love affair with Bragg stretches reality.

  • Avis Black
    2019-01-25 00:08

    Suffers from being much too defensive about Jefferson Davis.

  • Bob H
    2019-02-11 16:34

    A well-written and well-researched look into the Confederate leadership in the Western (Appalachians to the Mississippi River) theater. Davis' interventions in this theater, often in person, were often and, ultimately, futile. This book certainly punctures any notion that Rebel generalship was superior; the Army of Tennessee's generals, in this telling, seem to be a quarrelsome, mediocre, sometimes-drunken bunch. It's amazing that Davis, a West Pointer himself, tolerated this kind of behavior -- especially, the author tells us, given the presence of more-junior but promising commanders like Patrick Cleburne, A.P. Stewart, S.D. Lee, and Nathan Bedford Forrest, among many others languishing at brigade and division level.

  • Tammy
    2019-02-19 16:20

    Very enlightening book. It is an opportunity to have all the Western generals talked about in one source and learn about their accomplishments as well as shortcomings. Lincoln was faced with incompetent generals in the East and Davis was faced with them in the West. It is often said that the Civil War was to be won or lost in the West; and this book by Dr. Woodworth gives the reader a glimpse as to how true that was for the South. For the South to win and keep the West, they really needed to cooperate. This book shows that there might not have been the cooperation needed. Well-written and easy to follow for the Civil War follower.

  • Straw
    2019-01-31 17:11

    I was really enjoying Mr Woodworth's books until I read his personal webpage and his version of history surrounding contentious topics such as abortion. How to divorce an author from his politics? This book was entertaining and I do love the short bios on all the major players; however, the end was rushed and left me feeling cheated.

  • Phill
    2019-02-11 17:17

    Great anaylsis, interesting read, gives a decent portrayal of the leadership of Jeff Davis in the Western theatre of operations. Probably the only book that can paint Bragg as an effective leader and support the claim with factual evidence and persuasion....

  • David Elkin
    2019-01-23 18:07

    the author knew his stuff. his overwhelming spin in favor of Bragg a d Davis is very evident. However, hedoes know his western Generals and it is worth the effort by Civil War readers. I give it a four but woujd have rated a 3.5 if able to.