“In one volume, Earl Hess has given readers as complete a study as can be found of this theater of battle. The Civil War in the West: Victory and Defeat would have been even stronger with more maps to guide readers new to the author’s take on these aspects of the Civil War conflict.”
In The Civil War in the West: Victory and Defeat from the Appalachians to the Mississippi Mr. Hess presents the reader with a thorough narrative of his toipic. He concludes his study by stating:
“The Union won and the Confederacy lost the Civil War largely due to what each did, or failed to do, in West.”
He further concludes, “. . . the destiny of the nation was initially worked out in the Mississippi Valley, and then extended to the eastern Confederacy. Victory and defeat played itself out in the Western climes and on Western topography. . . .”
To support this point, Dr. Hess points out that an impressive string of battles were won and a large hostile territory was brought under Union control in the West, well before the first major military victory in the East.
From the beginning of hostilities, it was clear to Lincoln that control of the Mississippi River and its tributaries was essential to the primary goal of the war: reuniting the country. Besides, he was under great pressure from governors in the Great Lake states to gain control of this area.
With over two million tons of goods shipped to New Orleans in 1860 from the watershed of the Mississippi, they considered control a primary military objective.
General Sherman stated that the river and its branches made separation of North and South impossible.
Thus control of the Ohio, Cumberland, and Tennessee Rivers was critical. Toward that end, Union forces captured Paducah, Forts Donelson and Henry, Columbus, Memphis and Island Number 10 early in the conflict. In the lower Mississippi, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Port Hudson were also conquered in 1862. The prize remained Vicksburg. That fell to General Grant’s forces in early 1863.
Dr. Hess has determined that the Confederates contributed to their own defeat in the West because of poor use of their resources, poor management, poor decisionmaking at high levels and the “bad luck of having generals who could not learn how to effectively command.”
For any Civil War enthusiast whose attention has been focused on the war in the East, Dr. Hess’ work can bring clearer understanding.
In one volume, Earl Hess has given readers as complete a study as can be found of this theater of battle. The Civil War in the West: Victory and Defeat would have been even stronger with more maps to guide readers new to the author’s take on these aspects of the Civil War conflict.