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PRINTED FROM the OXFORD RESEARCH ENCYCLOPEDIA, AMERICAN HISTORY (oxfordre.com/americanhistory). (c) Oxford University Press USA, 2019. All Rights Reserved. Personal use only; commercial use is strictly prohibited (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 18 October 2019

Summary and Keywords

Despite the absence of a robust and well-articulated conception of strategy, American military and political leaders during the Civil War had an intuitive sense of how military operations should be coordinated with larger political ends. They also shared a general adherence to the straightforward strategic ideas of Antoine-Henri de Jomini, who emphasized the importance of concentrating one’s own military forces in opposition to dispersed opponents. In the case of the Union, however, victory would require not only a more sophisticated conception of strategy that superseded Jomini and coordinated military operations in geographically disconnected fronts but also the practical implementation of such ideas through well-selected subordinate commanders. It would take Ulysses S. Grant until the end of the war to complete all these tasks. In the case of the Confederacy, secessionist leaders faced the challenge of prioritizing different theaters in the face of their material inferiority to the Union. Robert E. Lee chose the plausible strategy of striking directly at Northern public opinion with aggressive operations waged by his own Army of Northern Virginia, but the final failure of the Confederate war effort raises fair questions about whether the Confederacy should have paid more attention to its western theater.

Keywords: strategy, Carl von Clausewitz, Antoine Henri de Jomini, Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, concentration, Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis

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