- Hardcover: 754 pages
- Publisher: Avalon Publishing Group; 1st Carroll & Graf Ed edition (23 Jun. 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0786711477
- ISBN-13: 978-0786711475
- Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 5.7 x 26 cm
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,226,453 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Bloody Crucible of Courage: Fighting Methods and Combat Experience of the Civil War Hardcover – 23 Jun 2003
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A good investment and essential background reading for the war.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Nosworthy's biggest contribution is in explaining the importance of sword and bayonet on the Civil War battlefield. Too many modern analysts look at the handful of deaths caused by cold steel, and dismiss those weapons. Which victory-enriched commanders such as Stonewall Jackson would regard as folly. Nosworthy explains that a bayonet or saber charge rarely resulted in crossed blades, but frequently produced a retreat - sometimes a rout. And the effects of this could be decisive.
This is a book that the study of the Civil War has long awaited. Yet, its acceptence may be hard for many devotees to accept. The American Civil War has cherished many myths and ideas, which, when taken out of their isolaoted context and compared with other conflicts of the time may seem less significant. This will be hard for many Civil War fans to swallow at first, but if they are to emerge with a greater understanding of this conflict, they must allow their beloved topic to be studied out of its box. This is something which the subject has long demanded, and which many the so-called experts in the field have been unable to do. Here Mr. Nosworthy has carefully studied the Civil War in comparison with contemporary wars of the day to provide a comparative analysis. We learn how the military studies of Jomini actually distorted how Americans perceived true Napoleanic tactics. Jomini was a conservetive French military writer who drew upon aspects of Napoleanic tactics to support his own views. The results across the Atlantic in America was a bizarre hybrid of columnar and linear tactics which would make the Civil War so difficult to compare to other conflicts. In fact if we look at the grand tactical elements of many of the Civil War battles we might be surprised to learn how un-Napoleanic they actually were. Jomini was more an advocate of 18th century linear warfare, where control of the entire line of battle was essential. This satisfied his conservetive ideas well, while to appear modern he threw in a few columns of the Napoleanic Wars just for good measure! we tend to look on civil war battles as more or less linear engagements, or heavy skirmish lines where prolonged firefights dragged on for hours. Nosworthy shows us that columns were indeed used, though not the flexible smaller ones of the Napoleanic period. Civil war troops were frequently deployed into columns of regimental width, arrayed along successive lines. Many battles saw this employment, yet this is something which has gone over the heads of most Civil War historians. American officers, following more or less the Jomini principles, added their own variations by tending to deploy early in most engagements. Civil War troops might march into battle in column, but they were generally formed into line. Still, these tactical distinctions so long ignored by many, are brought to the fore here for the first time.
Nosworthy is also careful to interlace primary accounts within his text to provide first hand accounts of how formations were used. This goes to show that such information was always there, but was never examined in this light before. Many contemporary journals are also used to show how current debates of the time discussed the issues at hand. These have long been ignored by most historians of the conflict. Instead, most secondary works have concentrated on troop movements, commanders decisions, and some general descriptions of how bloody some of the battles were. Our fuller understanding of how grand tactics played themselves out on the battlefiled have been largely ignored by these historians. Nosworthy further explains that in order to understand the nature of Civil War combat we must see how military matters stood abroad. This is something most have been unwiulling or unable to do. We learn for example how many American historians have wrongly attributed Napoleanic tactics to Napolean I, instead of to his grandson Napolean III who was a contemporary of the Civil War. References to Napoleanic tactics at the time were intended to mean this, but over the years Americans became confused over which Napolean was actually concerned! This subtle, but vitally important difference has been lost on generations of Civil War historians. We must remember that French military doctrine and style were vital until the eclispe of the Second Empire by the Prussians in 1870. The wars of Napolean III in Moracco, Italy and the Crimea had profound influences on American military thought. This has largely been forgotten in most studies today. In their desire to make the Civil War a purely "American" expereince, many American historians simpy overlooked these important facts. They have continued to do so today.
Nosworthy attempts to break the Civil War down into various parts so that we can see the variations that existed. He creates for us an anatomy of Civil War combat. This has not been done before to this extent here. We learn how combat differed in the Eastern and Western threaters of the war, we also see developments in ironclad technology, artillery, cavalry and infantry. We even see how ilregulars like Forest and Moseby conducted their hit and run battles. All of these aspects are discussed clearly, in one single volume, without bias, and without the legends and lore of the Civil War distorting matters. This book also dispels many myths about combat in the Civil War. Infantry firefights generally took place at much shorter ranges than we have been lead to believe. We learn that rifled muskets might not have been the sole reason for increased casaulty rates. Most Americans, unlike their European counterparts, were more familar with firearms because of the frontier style of life many had adopted in the Southern and Western parts of the country. In combat this translated into more accurate fire whether with rifled or smoothbore muskets. The stresses of combat often profoundly influenced how weapons performed as oppsed to the testing ground. Few studies have taken this into account. The bayonet, so often lauded as the decisive weapon of the war, was in fact more a pyschological threat than a physical one. There is a big difference between a bayonet fight and a bayonet charge. Many Civil War memoirs often don't make the difference. The former was very rare, while the latter more commonplace and almost never resulted in actual combat between opposing troops in open ground. Such careful reading into these accounts enables us to perceive details that were never considered before.
The final summation shows us that Europeans did not discount the Civil War, but simply saw it as one of many conflcits of the period. Many of the so-called firsts of the war which American historians are so proud to point out had in fact taken place already in earlier conflicts. The use of Ironclad technology, rifled muskets, railroads, etc had already occured by the time of the Civil War. The subsequent development of Prussian tactics employing skirmish lines supported by small mobile columns would revolutionize future tactics and provided a tactical flexibility that was unknown on the Civil War battlefield.
The final conclusion of this book is that the American Civil War needs to be studied outside of its own little box if it is to have any significant place in the evolution of warfare. Some readers may find this hard to swallow, but it is so. This book should take its place along side the lenghty tomes of Mcpherson, Sears, Foote et al. By reading this book you will get a better understanding of the Civil war than has yet been provided to date on the nuts and bolts of the conflict. Highly recommended for serious Civil War buffs, re-enactors, wargamers, and all who want to get a better understanding of how the Civil War was really fought.