Yes, I have read it and confess I enjoyed reading it. I probably learned a lot, but it is hard to know if what I read is totally correct because the book lacks the usual bibliography and references that occupy so much space in most scholarly works on the Civil War.
It reminded me of "Manhunt" another book that was an enjoyable read and seemed well researched but didn't include the exhaustive notes and bibiliography in the back that one expects from most history books.
Groom paints a good "word picture" of the events leading up to and culminating in the seige at Vicksburg. Some scholars, while maintaining strict attention to carefully researched detail, lose the reader when their writing becomes so dry. The overall picture is lost in so many details.
That said, I do appreciate Orders of Battle, appendixes, bibiliographies with notes and comments added. They enrich a book for me. I like to see what extra the author adds in the biblioraphy (if he does add because some don't.) I always read footnotes.
I think this is a good book for people who have an interest in the Civil War but aren't interested in reading books that resemble doctoral dissertations in history. I do like Groom's writing style. I hadn't read any of his other work, but I may someday.
Naim, I wrote this before I read your comments so I wouldn't be influenced. Now I'm going to read what you say. I hope I don't get my fanny kicked on this.
OK, now I have read your review. I so agree with you that Groom did an excellent job of describing the riverine navy and its contribution to Grant's Vicksburg campaign. I've read a lot of Civil War books, but they have all dealt with land campaigns and battles.
I keep promising myself to start learning about the river and ocean battles and naval actions of the war, plus the great men who took part, but somehow just haven't found the time.
I also agree that Groom brought to life the principle participants in the Vicksburg campaign in a way some other writers do not unless they are writing a biography.
I enjoyed your review by the way and think it is a good description of the book's strengths and its few shortcomings.
Thanks for the comment. I think the one glaring shortcoming was his whole speculation at the end about the South suing for peace after Vicksburg. I think secession by itself meant crossing the Rubicon. The South could simply not turn back after it took that fateful step and I'm sure Davis and the others knew that.
I admire Cleburne too. He was a truly forward-thinking person. His monograph on emancipation really might have made a difference had it been adopted.
I too was struck with how forthcoming Groom was in saying that the South should have seen the situation for what it was and throw in the towel after Vicksburg. Doing so would have spared the many lives that were lost in maintaining the forlorn hope of a victory. I have read scholars who say that Vicksburg, even Champion Hill, was the true "turning point" of the war, but I hadn't read before that the high command of the Confederacy should have actually ended the war after Vicksburg fell.
Groom makes a very interesting point to consider though. It is a great "what if" topic for speculation. One thing is for sure, many lives would have been saved.
One aspect he does not mention is at the time Vicksburg and Gettysburg fell, there could have been a considerable mood in the north to try as traitors and hang some of the top Confederate leadership for treason. That consideration alone would have been ample motivation to keep on fighting until the bitter end.
As an aside, I am always pleased to come across another Cleburne admirer. (I just wish he had fought for the north.) I do know he felt loyal to his close friends in Arkansas and also related to the idea of declaring freedom from a government that was seen as unfair and overbearing, just as England had been to Cleburne's home country.
Count me among the Pat Cleburne admirers. Imagine what more he could have accomplished had he been freed from Braxton Bragg.
One thing I remember Professor Foner stressing often is that while things are clear to us in hindsight, the people of the time had no idea. European recognition of the Confederacy, for example. We know now that it was never going to happen. For the people of the time, however, it was a real concern.
Vicksburg may be in a similar vein. We can see now that the writing was on the wall, but it may not have been clear in 1863.
Last edited on Thu Jun 25th, 2009 04:16 am by barrydancer
I think loyalty to friends and neighbors was a large factor in Southerners choosing to fight for the Confederacy. We need to remember that people felt greater attachment to their state. Lee felt that he couldn't take up arms against the people of Virginia despite his decades in the U.S. Army.
Obviously, that was a big factor in Cleburne's opting for the South.
I think Jefferson Davis was a large factor in Bragg's reign of incompetance. Davis was very loyal to his friends. That is an admirable quality in an ordinary person but a handicap as a head of state. Lincoln changed generals as swiftly as menus if he felt they weren't achieving results.