Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Book Review: The Shenandoah in Flames

Lewis, Thomas A. The Shenandoah in Flames: The Valley Campaign of 1864. The Civil War. Alexandria, VA; Time-Life, Inc., 1987.

It seems my knowledge of the Civil War is sorely lacking towards the end. The late war march on Washington by Jubal Early? I had no idea that happened. I had a relatively good grasp of what went on early in the war, but my grasp of end was limited to: Grant goes east. Big bloody battle. The end. I knew that the Shenadoah fared badly in the Civil War, though that's probably just the impression I got from the Jimmy Stewart movie.

As a student of counter-insurgency, what most grabbed my attention in this book was the effect on the irregulars in the valley. The scorched earth policy did nothing. If there's enough for a civilian to survive, there's enough for irregulars to survive. Unless you want to reduce the civilians to starvation (and even that may not be enough), no amount of sacking and burning will do the job. What the scorched earth did do, however, was make the valley impassible for bodies of regular troops, which served the purpose and allowed Sheridan to march to join Grant anyway.

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