Review: The Army of Tennessee by Thomas L. Connelly

by James Durney on November 10, 2009 · 3 comments

Army of the Heartland: The Army of Tennessee, 1861-1862
by Thomas Lawrence Connelly

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Louisiana State University Press (September 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080712737X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807127377

Autumn of Glory: The Army of Tennessee, 1862-1865
by Thomas Lawrence Connelly

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Louisiana State University Press (September 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807127388
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807127384

ArmyOfTheHeartlandArmyOfTennessee1861to1862ConnellyThe Confederacy’s other army.

The Lost Cause Tradition revolves around Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia.  Most of books written on Civil War history are about battles that occur in the Eastern Theater.  This was the case during the war and has not improved in the years since.  If the Confederacy had a chance to win, if they had heroic figures they were in the battles and leaders of the AoNV.  From 1861 to the end of the war, a second army fought and died for the South.  These men gave as much as the men in the East without inspiring leadership.  Time after time, they saw victory taken from them.  Often they endured forced marches to save themselves only to repeat the cycle of defeat.  Their story is largely ignored or told as the “other army” in histories of Union armies.  The was the Confederate States of America’s Army of Tennessee, brave men badly lead who saw the war through.

Army of the Heartland, first published in 1967, is the history of the building the army.  Isham Harris, the CSA governor of Tennessee delivers an army to hold his state.  Jefferson Davis sent Albert Sidney Johnston, his best general, to lead it.  However, the army was not much more than an unarmed semi drilled mob.  Johnston was unequal to the task and Leonidas Polk demonstrated a willingness to do his own thing.  Facing them was an unknown Union General named U.S. Grant.  This is the story of Grant’s move to Corinth Mississippi as seen by the army he defeated.  After Johnston’s death, Braxton Bragg assumes command.  Bragg is a close personal friend of Jeff Davis, who has great confidence in him.  However, Davis is even closer to Leonidas Polk and has great confidence in William J. Hardee.  Add in an endemic of “Kentucky Fever” and we have the Perryville Campaign.

AutumnOfGloryArmyOfTennessee1862to1865ConnellyAutumn of Glory, published in 1971, takes us from Perryville to Nashville.  While the AoT still existed after Nashville, it was no longer an army.  The author covers this time but rightly considers the survivors to be more a collection of veteran units than an army.  This is the years when they fight and lose central Tennessee under Bragg.  The Georgia campaign under Joe Johnston and the return home under Hood.  1862 to 1865 are the years of the big battles and the political infighting that paralyze this army.  No American army was ever as poorly lead or suffered government indifference on this scale.  Richmond was paralyzed unable to choose between pro and anti Bragg factions.  Unable to consider removing either faction, Davis dithered, as Tennessee was lost.  This is a hard book to read as the army is doubly damned for not winning and for losing its’ supply base.  In the end, John Bell Hood leads this army to death in the largest charge of the war at Franklin and destruction at Nashville.

Connelly wrote these books years ago.  The maps are not great and they are not highly detailed.  They are one of the most readable army histories ever written.  Classic is a very over used word and one we see often.  This is one of the few times that it applies and should be used.  On publication, these were seen to be special and needed books.  That has not changed and shows no sign of changing.  The only improvement would be to publish them as one book.  You can do that with a single purchase and reading one after the other.  Enjoy them; they are a great and informative read.

Editor’s Note: Jim is a Top 500 Amazon.com reviewer.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Don Hallstrom November 10, 2009 at 10:08 am

Hello TOCWOC

This book and the second volume were some of the first books I read on the main western confederate army. They created an interest for me in the western theater that continues to this day. I thought they were the closest thing to what Freeman did with Lee’s Lieutenants.

I do think this area of The Civil War is ripe for more study. At one time it was rumored that Richard McMurray was working on a history of this confederate army. I’ve heard nothing about this for quite a while. Perhaps there is someone else considering a similar history?

Connelly did a wonderful job with both volumes. Thanks for bringing these books back into focus with your review.

Regards
Don Hallstrom

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sfcdan November 11, 2009 at 2:49 pm

I could not agree more. These books are classics. They should be a part of every Civil War collection.

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