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War upon the Land: Military Strategy and the Transformation of Southern Landscapes during the American Civil War, by Lisa M. Brady

Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2012. Pp. xix, 187. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $24.95 paper. ISBN: 0820342491.

War Upon the Land is Civil War history with an “environmental” slant. 

Prof. Brady (Boise State) gives us a look at the Civil War within the framework of its physical environment and how the people of the times viewed their natural surroundings, which naturally implies how these views and those surroundings affected the war, and how they were in turn affected by the war. 

Brady, who has contributed articles to such publications as Diplomatic History and War and the Environment, opens by noting that Northerners viewed the fact that the South was not only largely rural, but even wild in many areas, as demonstrating a failure by Southerners to dominate their environment, which, of course, affected attitudes toward civilians.  She goes on to look at how military operations were often affected by environmental conditions, and how armies often sought to manage environments in the furtherance of the war effort, such as digging canals, devastating agriculture, burning railroads and towns, and so forth, often with long enduring consequences.  

Oddly, while this may sound like some modern “touchy-feely” concept, the approach it is not as new a concept as it seems.  Most nineteenth century military historians often began their studies with detailed examinations of the physical, economic, and cultural geography of the theatres that they were writing about, such as the interesting account by the Count of Paris of The Battle of Gettysburg.  This is something found but infrequently in more recent works, which generally gloss over the environmental setting.  Given the unanticipated environment problems encountered during the Iraq and Afghan Wars, War Upon the Land is likely to be  a rewarding read for not just for those interested in the operations and strategy of the Civil War.

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Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   


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