In This Review

The Grand Design: Strategy and the U.S. Civil War
The Grand Design: Strategy and the U.S. Civil War
By Donald Stoker
Oxford University Press, USA, 2010, 512 pp

It is increasingly difficult to say anything new about the Civil War, given its treatment at the hands of so many historians with so many different points of view. Yet Stoker’s book on the changing strategies of the military and civilian leaders in the North and South during the conflict casts a fresh light on what remains the most decisive and harrowing war in U.S. history. Stoker presents us with a picture of what Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis and their respective generals thought they should be doing, and with the advantage of hindsight, he evaluates the strategic concepts on both sides of the divide. Not surprisingly, he gives high marks to Lincoln, whose ability to understand both the military and political elements of the conflict contributed greatly to the Union’s ultimate victory. Students of the Confederacy will find it interesting that he criticizes both Davis and General Joseph Johnston. The study of grand strategy is undergoing a much-needed revival at American universities; this clear and incisive book is a useful addition to the syllabus.