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Upton and the Army

by Stephen E. Ambrose

216 pages / 5.50 x 8.50 inches / 9 Halftones

Civil War

  Paperback / 9780807118504 / August 1993

On March 15, 1881, Emory Upton shot himself at the age of 41. He had been an outstanding soldier but had never received the recognition he thought was due him. This book is a sensitive and scholarly account of the career and contributions of this man who is now considered a pivotal figure in American military theory.

As a commander in all three branches of the army–the infantry, artillery, and the cavalry–Upton had few equals. In the Civil War he was made a brevet major general before his 26th year. He distinguished himself at Spotsylvania, Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, in Sheridan’s Shenandoah Valley campaign, and Wilson’s celebrated cavalry raid through Alabama and Georgia which ended the war.

Subsequently Upton traveled abroad as an observer for the army (the result was his The Armies of Asia and Europe), and served as commandant of cadets at West Point and finally as commander of the Presidio at San Francisco. Honors enough, perhaps, but he felt advancement too slow for one with his abilities and brilliant war record. Prior to his death Upton began to experience severe headaches accompanied by equally sever (and unaccountable) doubts concerning the effectiveness of his major proposals.

It is with Upton the military theorist that Ambrose is primarily concerned. Although his book Infantry Tactics was studied at West Point and in fact provided him a good income, his writings were largely ignored during his lifetime. Recognition came only after the Spanish-American War when Elihu Root saw to the editing and publication of Upton’s The Military Policy of the United States and used it himself as a basis for a major reorganization of the army. This book has had a lasting influence, and changes based upon its precepts had a great deal to do with the army’s performance in the two world wars.

With his many contributions to the army in peace as well as in war, Emory Upton stands as on of the half-dozen major figures in the development of the American military system. 

Stephen E. Ambrose (1936-2002), was Boyd Professor of History at the University of New Orleans and author of many biographies and histories, including D-day, June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II and Upton and the Army.

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