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Civil War Logistics: A Study of Military Transportation, by Earl J. Hess

Baton Rougue: Louisiana State University Press, 2017. Pp. xxii, 342. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $45.95. ISBN: 0807167509.

Moving the Battalions, the Bullets, and the Beans

Prof. Hess (Lincoln Memorial) examines the transportation side of logistics during the Civil War; the movement of men and matériel which was managed by the Army Quartermaster. While he tries to cover the work of the quartermasters of both sides, Hess notes that there’s a serious lack of documentation on Confederate Quartermaster activities, record keeping being rather slipshod and much material deliberately destroyed at the end of the war.

After an introduction offering some background on Quartermaster operations in earlier wars, Hess devotes a chapter to the men who actually did the work. These were a combination of a relatively small number of Regular Army veterans and many more volunteer officers, frequently drawn from business or finance.

Hess then gives us chapters discussing, in considerable detail, the organization and workings of the several modes of transport in the period. So we get close looks as the ways in which equipment, arms, rations, and other matériel were moved by river and other inland waterways, railroad, coastal shipping, wagon trains, pack and mule trains, as well as cattle herding and the use of human bearers.

Hess then discusses the workings of troop movements by various modes, marching, water, and rail. Two final chapters explore military operations intended to impede the transport of enemy troops and matériel. Hess concludes with a reminder that the Union’s superior mastery of the movement of men and supplies was a critical factor in securing victory.

Civil War Logistics which received the 2018 Eugene Feit Award for Excellence in Civil War Studies from the New York Military Affairs Symposium, is an important read for anyone interested in the war or ninteenth century military practice, underscoring the validity of the old saying, “Amateurs study tactics, professionals study logistics”.

Note: Civil War Logistics is also available in several e-editions.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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