Sunday, February 12, 2006

Shades of Blue and Gray: An Introductory Military History of the Civil War by Herman Hattaway

The entire war in 281 pages makes for a quick and sometimes enjoyable read, but I sometimes felt at a loss to explain why this was a military history. Some stuff at the beginning about the advancing weaponry and the tactics that lagged behind, and some stuff at the end about the establishment of a professional military class, but in between it seemed more like a quick tour of all the battlefields. One point that sticks with me is how early in the war it was considered cowardly to entrench, and how by late in the war the contest had become one of who could out-entrench the other. There were no trenches at Shiloh, for example, but the men who held and those who tried to take the sunken road began to see how important entrenchments could be. Maybe the best part of the book is the extensive list of suggested reading, with brief comments offered on each title. Maybe someday I’ll go back and try to read every one.

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