Book Review: Confederate Tide Rising: Robert E. Lee and the Making of Southern Strategy, 1861-1862


by Joseph L. Harsh

Kent, Oh.: Kent State University Press, 1998. Pp. xviii, 278. Illus, maps, append., notes, biblio., index. $35.00. ISBN:0-87338-580-2

This prize-winning work was written, as Prof. Harsh recently noted, in preparation for his Taken at the Flood : Robert E. Lee and Confederate Strategy in the Maryland Campaign of 1862.

Confederate Tide Rising is indeed a ground-breaking work, taking a critical look at the shaping of Confederate strategy in the first year of the Civil War. Harsh starts by taking a fresh look at the traditional view - promoted by Jefferson Davis and others - that the South pursued an "offensive-defensive" strategy, concluding that in fact an offensive strategy was adopted, at least in the first 18-months of the war, in order to incorporate additional territories into the Confederacy.

The work is the first to focus on Robert E. Lee's role in shaping Confederate strategy, a complex matter, given that Jefferson Davis insisted on running the war himself. But Davis comes in for some praise as well, in the form of an unusually positive look at his grasp of the strategic situation.

There's more, of course, such as the essentially Jominian character of Robert E. Lee's style of warfare, the influence of luck on operations, a refreshingly unbiased look at Lee's relationship with James Longstreet, and so forth, including six excellent appendices which delve into matters such as mobilization and numbers (though he starts both sides off with "0" troops in April of 1861, when the Confederacy already had about 45,000 volunteers under arms, against the Union's 14,000 or so regulars), the many high level war councils and strategy conferences in which Lee took part, and so forth. The book is honest, critical of Lee, and anyone else, when criticism seems warranted, but equally complimentary as appropriate. An important book. rc=http://www.banner8

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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