Monday, June 15, 2015

Book Review: Partners in Command by Joseph Glatthaar


Partners in Command: The Relationships Between Leaders in the Civil War
copyright 1994.
The Free Press

Partners in Command,  by Joseph Glatthaar, the author of fine works such as Forged in Battle and The March to the Sea and Beyond is the latest book I have read, and it is a good one. 

This book is both enjoyable and informative. Glatthaar has a nice writing style and his analysis throughout the book is impressive. The book details how various personalities and egos worked well or poorly with each other and also demonstrates how the military philosophies of the individuals did or did not mesh. Often these were clashes or accords of both personalities and military styles. Glatthaar's understandable way of telling and analyzing these stories makes this a pleasant book to read.

The relationships he chose to discuss in this book, giving each its own chapter, were those between Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson; Abraham Lincoln and George McClellan; Jefferson Davis and Joseph Johnston; Ulysses S. Grant and Wiliam Sherman; Grant, Sherman and David Dixon Porter; and Lincoln and Grant.

All were fine choices and made for entertaining and insightful reading, but I wish he had found room for even more. To his credit, the author mentioned in the preface that he also wished he had additional
 space and he suggested partnerships between Davis and Lee, Davis and Braxton Bragg and Grant and Henry Halleck among others worth discussing. Each one he mentioned would have been a great addition to this book, though I think analysis involving Bragg would have been especially fascinating.

Of the relationships he examined, I especially enjoyed the chapter on Davis and Johnston. His description of the difference between each one's preferred military strategies (Davis the politician wanted to protect as much territory as possible while Johnston the soldier preferred concentrating forces even if it meant leaving territory undefended) while showing how they shared similar personality flaws, especially their struggles to handle criticism, was excellent. It was not just a "personality clash" between these two. I also thought the chapter concerning Grant, Sherman and Porter stood out, explaining how the army generals cooperated with the admiral and how all three benefitted from and contributed to the effectiveness of their relationships, with Grant and Porter being business-like  professionals while Sherman and Porter had a more personal relationship.

This last point was one of this book's strengths, as the author pointed out that not all of these relationships were the same - some, like the one between Lee and Jackson were pure military partnerships existing only because of and for their military positions while others became more personal friendships, such as the one between Grant and Sherman.

Another part of this book was the appendix discussing McClellan and modern psychology, describing a couple of possible diagnoseses of Liitle Mac to try to explain the general's failure to be a more effective leader.

Overall, even though this book is now more than twenty years old, I enjoyed it and found it to be a good approach to an interesting topic. I would very much enjoy a "part 2" with explorations of even more such partnerships and I do recommend this book to anyone interested in the Civil War.

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