Controversies and Commanders of the Civil War: Dispatches from the Army of the Potomac

Stephen W. Sears, Author, Steven W. Sears, Author
Stephen W. Sears, Author, Steven W. Sears, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $26 (320p) ISBN 978-0-395-86760-0
Reviewed on: 02/01/1999
Release date: 02/01/1999
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The Army of the Potomac, the Union force that defended Washington and fought against Robert E. Lee, was often entwined in crisis throughout the Civil War. Sears (Chancellorsville) has taken the most important controversies and has crafted an intelligent, well-researched volume that brings order out of the chaos that surrounded the generals of this army. Seven of the 10 chapters are new; the remaining three are revisions of earlier articles. Sears examines the controversial George B. McClellan, creator of the army, beloved by soldiers but singularly unsuccessful on the battlefield. He argues convincingly that Charles P. Stone, arrested and imprisoned for alleged disloyalty, was a victim of a cabal of his subordinates. Fitz John Porter, too, fell victim to those who wished to rid the army of its ""McClellanism."" Sears follows the rising discontent of many of the army's generals, which culminated in outright revolt following Ambrose Burnside's debacle at Fredericksburg. Joe Hooker, who took a prominent part in the trouble, fell victim to the same sort of backbiting after he criticized his generals for defeat at Chancellorsville. Astute readers may well find that some of Sears's conclusions are controversial in themselves, but this book provides much-needed fresh insight into the operations of the North's primary field army. Photos. (Feb.)
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