The Grand Design: Strategy and the U.S. Civil War.

Author:O'Sullivan, Curtis H.
Position:Book review

The Grand Design: Strategy and the U.S. Civil War. By Donald Stoker. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. Maps. Notes. Index. Pp. xi, 498. $27.95 ISBN: 978-0-19-537305-9

Stoker claims that none of the thousands of books about the U.S. Civil War is dedicated to the strategy--the larger use of military power to achieve the political aims of the government. I've read only a fraction of those works but certainly don't think that the matter was neglected, although no book may have used the exact title. Much depends on the definition accepted and adapted. There is continuing confusion about the meaning of grand strategy, strategy, operational art, and tactics. As there is no sharp line between these, much may depend on the war college from which doctrine was learned. I had the benefit of the Army, Navy, and Air Force colleges, so I know of the wide range of approaches.

At the time of the Civil War, the theories of Clausewitz and Jomini were most influential among American officers, though Caesar, Napoleon, and even Sun Tsu may have entered the picture. This book is not intended to be a complete history of this conflict as a blow-by-blow account of the battles. The battles discussed are used to illustrate the principles employed and lessons learned (pro and con) in connection with the use of armed force to reach national objectives. Military action, of course, cannot be separated from other determining factors such as those in the political, economic, cultural, and social realms.

Stoker tends to over-simplify the gospel that the center of gravity is the Army alone. This is misleading in that geography, weather, logistics, and comparative training and equipment all have a major impact on outcomes. He...

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