Thursday, October 15, 2009

West Pointers and the Civil War: The Old Army in War and Peace

Wayne Wei-siang Hsieh

From the publisher:
Most Civil War generals were graduates of West Point, and many of them helped transform the U.S. Army from what was little better than an armed mob that performed poorly during the War of 1812 into the competent fighting force that won the Mexican War. Wayne Wei-siang Hsieh offers an insightful and original portrait of the American army from 1814 to the end of the Civil War.

Hsieh demonstrates how the "old army" transformed itself into a professional military force after 1814, and, more important, how "old army" methods profoundly shaped the conduct of the Civil War. The dominance of both armies by West Point-trained generals prevented either side from gaining a marked superiority in military competence. Moreover, the long, grinding war, with heavy casualties on both sides, had unforeseen political implications--for instance, the war's great length strengthened the hand of the abolitionists, which would not have been the case if the North had won a quick and decisive victory.

The first book to show how the antebellum U.S. Army, and especially West Point graduates, affected the course of the Civil War, this volume makes a unique contribution to the history of America's greatest cataclysm.