Book Review: Civil War Supply and Strategy: Feeding Men and Moving Armies


by Earl J. Hess

Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 2020. Pp. xvi, 432. Illus., maps, tables, notes, biblio., index. $50.00. ISBN: 0807173320

Keeping the Armies in the Field

Prof. Hess (Lincoln Memorial University) is the author of Civil War Logistics: A Study of Military Transportation, which received the NYMAS Eugene Feit Award for Excellence in Civil War Studies for 2017. In this new, very impressively researched work, he expands upon his earlier work to explore the evolution of the Union’s abilities to use the available means of transportation – rail, river, maritime, animal, foot – to move men and matériel within the quite varied geographic environments encountered during the war, and how this influenced the development of a war winning strategy.

Follow an introduction, Hess makes his case by devoting a chapter or two to each of several major campaigns: the war in the Upper South, the Vicksburg Campaign, the war in Appalachia, the Atlanta Campaign, Hood’s invasion of Tennessee, Union raids into the Confederate, and the Trans-Mississippi. These offer some interesting insights into the ways in which these campaigns unfolded, such as the Confederate efforts to stockpile supplies in Vicksburg as a siege appeared increasingly likely, or the interrelationship of rail and river transport needed to conduct operations in the Trans-Mississippi. Hess then devotes a chapter each to the logistics of the Army of the Potomac and those of Northern Virginia.

In concluding, Hess argues, cogently, that by war’s end the Union’s war making abilities were as capable those the Prussians would display in 1866 and 1870-1871, which may surprise some readers.

Civil War Supply and Strategy is a must read for anyone interested in the Civil War or nineteenth century warfare.




Note: Civil War Supply and Strategy is also available in several e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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