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Rebel Brass

The Confederate Command System

by Frank E. Vandiver

143 pages / 5.50 x 8.25 inches / no illustrations

Civil War

  Paperback / 9780807118627 / August 1993

“This dispassionate study of the inherent weaknesses of the Confederate command system must rank among the books essential to an understanding of America’s years of bloody trial.”— Earl S. Miers

Throughout the years of its existence the Confederacy was caught up in a massive war effort that finally touched all elements of life in the South. In the way it was fought the Civil War was unlike any wars that had preceded it and thus presented special strategic challenges to military leaders. In Rebel Brass, Frank E. Vandiver discusses the nature and effectiveness of the Confederacy’s high command—the men who composed it, the decisions they made, and the influences that shaped their policies.

Vandiver presents not only a concise description of the machinery of the Confederate high command but also sharp analyses of the figures who dominated the system. His portraits of Jefferson Davis, George W. Randolph, James A. Seddon, and Stephen R. Mallory are among the best sketches we have of these Confederate leaders. Vandiver contends that the South’s strong adherence to the principle of states’ rights had a profound impact on the war effort, affecting the strategic thinking of its leaders and impeding efforts of form an efficient, centralized command system. Nowhere was the lack of a strong central command more evident than in logistics, the complicated process of moving, provisioning, and quartering troops. Throughout the war the South’s management of logistical operations was often confused and inept.

In the end, Vandiver finds, it was the nature of the southern character and southern culture that spelled doom for the Confederate cause.

Frank E. Vandiver is director of the Mosher Institute for Defense Studies at Texas A & M University, College Station, Texas.

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