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Joint Operations in the American Civil War

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Research paper

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The American Civil War has almost certainly been the subject of more books than any other event in U.S. history. These books run the gamut from supermarket novels of the John Jakes ilk to microscopic examinations of a single action or day like Harry Pfanzs Gettysburg The Second Day. At the same time, the United States military has embraced the doctrines of joint and combined operations with a fervor never before seen. Prodded by the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986, the regret of Vietnam, and the embarrassment of affairs like Grenada, joint operations now permeate official U.S. strategy, and are taught to officers at all levels of professional military education. Interestingly, however, the flood of Civil War monographs and the official frenzy over jointness seem to have remained almost totally separate phenomena. There is, to my knowledge, only one book that purports to treat Civil War joint operations as an integrated whole. This is Rowena Reeds Combined Operations in the Civil War, which, while provocative, draws some very dubious conclusions and is over 15 years old. The author proposes to examine two major joint operations in the Civil War -- the Henry-Donelson campaign and the Fort Fisher operations -- to determine whether any conclusions may be drawn from them as to such operations in their infancy. Did, as Reed claims, the Union have a coherent joint strategy in 1861-1862 that was thrown away with McClellans demotion from general-in-chief Were joint operations simply ad hoc affairs that depended upon the personal chemistry between Army and Navy commanders What part did politics and the Clausewitzian fog of war play in such operations Did they have any lasting effect upon interservice cooperation Before examining the above operations, it is essential to examine the state of thought on joint warfare at the time war broke out, as well as previous American experience with it.

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  • Humanities and History
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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