Sunday, April 22, 2012

Someone has to Manage the Ash and Trash

I've finished The Artillery of Gettysburg (http://bparkinson.blogspot.com/2012/03/artillery-of-gettysburg-and-antietam.html) which was great. So now I'm on to (thank you Kim!) R. Steven Jones The Right Hand of Command - Use and Disuse of Personal Staffs in the Civil War (the American civil war).

American civil war staff officers, standing around. Probably McClellan's staff

Robert E. Lee
The premise for the book is in this paragraph, at the end of the preface:

In the end, when a general sought personal staff improvements, three factors usually encouraged him to do so. The first factor was army size: Simply, the larger the force under his command, the more a general might seek staff help controlling it. The second factor was cooperative operations--separate columns or armies working toward a mutual objective......The last, and most important factor, was the commander's willingness to improve staff work. If a general saw no real benefit in staff work, then neither the presence of a large army, nor a plan calling for cooperative operations could encourage him to improve it.
US Grant


William Tecumsah Sherman
This seems reasonable to me, but I know little about how the generals profiled in this book (McClellan, Lee, Grant, and Sherman) organized and used their staffs, because nothing much has been written about that. We know that Lee often divided his army, and did that in the face of numerically superior forces. Sherman did the same during his first independent command, the infamous "march to the sea" through Georgia (though he was in frequent contact with Grant during that independent command). I'm frankly uninterested in McClellan's staff work, because all that should demonstrate is how to misuse a large army through timidity and inaction. I think the meat of this book will be how Grant, the winningest general of the civil war, used his staff to manage the huge Army of the Potomac. I also expect, from what I know, that Lee's use of staff will be found wanting by Jones, and I think that may well be a fair complaint. While it is awfully hard to argue with Lee's successes he did tend to keep to himself.

I've been looking forward to reading this book, a lot.

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