Review: A Crisis In Confederate Command: Edmund Kirby Smith, Richard Taylor, And The Army Of The Trans-Mississippi

by James Durney on October 29, 2009 · 1 comment

A Crisis In Confederate Command: Edmund Kirby Smith, Richard Taylor, And The Army Of The Trans-Mississippi (Hardcover)
by Jeffery S. Prushankin

Product Details

Camp Pope Publishing
  • Hardcover: 308 pages
  • Publisher: Louisiana State University Press (December 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807130885
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807130889

ACrisisInConfederateCommandWho is the enemy?

The war between general officers can be as interesting as the war between the armies.  Bragg’s problems as commander of the Army of Tennessee with Polk and Hardee, Hood undercutting Johnston in 1864, the often-contentious HR problems of the Army of Northern Virginia, the Pope McClellan feud and Halleck maneuvering against Grant are well known.  Each of these is the subject of books or devoted chapters in numerous histories of the war.  The concentration on the war east of the Mississippi misses one of the worst feuds between generals during the war.  Richard Taylor and Edmund Kirby Smith were both proud, competent men that were sure they knew what was best.  After the fall of Vicksburg, the Trans-Mississippi became Kirby Smithdom.  Isolated from the Confederacy, subject to conflicting demands and directives from Richmond that might be impossible these two men fought the Union Army and each other to a standstill.  This is their story both during and after the war.

Neither man seems to have had real warm feelings for the other.  Taylor was responsible for Louisiana and reported to Smith who commanded the Trans-Mississippi.  The author gives us a full and careful review of the two men, their war experiences and political support.  This allows the reader to fully understand the root of the problems and appreciate the extant of their bitterness.  Taylor’s handling of CSA forces during the Red River Campaign is brilliant.  He defeats a much larger combined arms force isolating each and almost destroying both.  Smith may or may not have robbed Taylor of victory by removing troops to defeat an army advancing in Arkansas.

This book assumes the reader knows very little and carefully explains the position of the parties, their options and the results of the choice made.  This is one of the strongest parts of the book and keeps the reader fully informed, allowing us to make informed decisions.  A second strong point is covering the post-war history of both men and how the story grew and changed.  This is being done more often in better histories, is well handled and very valuable.

Richmond is part of the problem and the shadowy presence over the Trans-Mississippi.  The source of power, Smith and Taylor supporters battle there too.  However, Richmond has an agenda that fully supports neither and causes problems for both.  In the end, as was done elsewhere, Richmond refuses to support either side.  This book is not an expose of the Confederate Departmental system but it shows all the problems this system caused and that Richmond refused to resolve.

This is not an easy read but it is a worthwhile read.  The author’s words do not jump off the page, grab you and pull you in.  They build a solid reliable narration that is full of information and is very logical.  This is a book that those interested in the Trans-Mississippi and/or the Confederate high command should read.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Fred Ray October 29, 2009 at 10:06 pm

I read this also and would second your review — excellent analysis and a solid book, but not that easy a read. A must, however, for Trans-Miss students.

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