The Civil War in the East
Struggle, Stalemate, and Victory
by Brooks D. Simpson
July 2011, 162pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-275-99161-6
$38, £29, 33€, A52
eBook Available: 978-0-313-08277-1
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.
This book fills a gap in Civil War literature on the strategies employed by the Union and Confederacy in the East, offering a more integrated interpretation of military operations that shows how politics, public perception, geography, and logistics shaped the course of military operations in the East.

For all the literature about Civil War military operations and leadership, precious little has been written about strategy, particularly in what has become known as the eastern theater. Yet it is in this theater where the interaction of geography and logistics, politics and public opinion, battlefront and home front, and the conduct of military operations and civil-military relations can be highlighted in sharp relief.

With opposing capitals barely 100 miles apart and with the Chesapeake Bay/tidewater area offering Union generals the same sorts of opportunities sought by Confederate leaders in the Shenandoah Valley, geography shaped military operations in fundamental ways: the very rivers that obstructed Union overland advances offered them the chance to outflank Confederate-prepared positions. If the proximity of the enemy capital proved too tempting to pass up, generals on each side were aware that a major mishap could lead to an enemy parade down the streets of their own capital city. Presidents, politicians, and the press peeked over the shoulders of military commanders, some of who were not reluctant to engage in their own intrigues as they promoted their own fortunes.

The Civil War in the East does not rest upon new primary sources or an extensive rummaging through the mountains of material already available. Rather, it takes a fresh look at military operations and the assumptions that shaped them, and offers a more integrated interpretation of military operations that shows how politics, public perception, geography, and logistics shaped the course of military operations in the East. The eastern theater was indeed a theater of decision (and indecision), precisely because people believed that it was important. The presence of the capitals raised the stakes of victory and defeat; at a time when people viewed war in terms of decisive battles, the anticipation of victory followed by disappointment and persistent strategic stalemate characterized the course of events in the East.

Brooks D. Simpson is ASU Foundation Professor of History at Arizona State University and the author of six books on the Civil War, including Let Us Have Peace: Ulysses S. Grant and the Politics of War and Reconstruction, 1861–1868; America's Civil War; and The Political Education of Henry Adams.


"The Civil War in the East provides a lesser discussed focus on the Washington-Richmond front of the conflict, and goes into great detail between them. An excellent addition to any American or general history collection."—Midwest Book Review, August 1, 2011

"The vast literature on the Civil War's Eastern Theater leaves many potential readers uncertain about what to read first. The Civil War in the East offers a splendid solution to this dilemma. Brooks D. Simpson brings a sure mastery of the material, clarity of argument, and expressive prose to his task of exploring military events that featured many of the greatest battles and most famous commanders in American history."—Gary W. Gallagher, John L. Nau Professor of History, University of Virginia, and author of The Union War

"An excellent overview of the Civil War in the Eastern Theater that effectively incorporates detailed analysis of the interplay of the political and military aspects of the war, including the politics of army command, into a single volume. Highly recommended for anyone looking for a broad overview of the Civil War in the Eastern Theater of operations, and especially for those who are just beginning their studies of the defining conflict that made the United States what it is today." —Eric J. Wittenberg, author of Little Phil: A Reassessment of the Civil War Leadership of General Philip H. Sheridan

"The Civil War in the East offers the sort of fresh thinking and provocative analyses of generals, presidents, and events that scholars have come to expect from its author. Informative, solidly researched, well-written, and unfailingly interesting, it will further solidify Brooks Simpson's place as one of this generation's outstanding scholars of the Civil War."—Ethan S. Rafuse, author of McClellan's War: The Failure of Moderation and the Struggle for the Union and Robert E. Lee and the Fall of the Confederacy, 1863-1865.

"Brooks Simpson’s The Civil War in the East offers readers a concise and discerning narrative of the conflict’s major military campaigns in the Eastern Theater. He stresses that it was a combination of drama, personality, and geography that made Northerners and Southerners believe that the East was more important than the West. That perception has endured, but as Simpson convincingly shows, it is not to be easily discounted. The Civil War in the East is an informative, lively and engaging text for scholars and students alike."—Lesley J. Gordon, Coauthor of “This Terrible War”: The Civil War and its Aftermath

"A judicious and well-argued work of historical interpretation. . . . It serves as a balanced treatment of al ongstanding historiographical controversy over the relative importance of the western and eastern theaters in the war's outcome. Simpson argues that both northern and southern public opinion focused on the eastern theater, making it politically vital and of superior importance, even though the war's actual military outcome came to fruition in the west."—Wayne Wei-siang Hsieh, U.S. Naval Academy, in Civil War History
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