Civil War Talk Radio: October 6, 2006

by Brett Schulte on October 6, 2006 · 0 comments

Air Date: 100606
Subject: How to Win Battles and Influence People
Books:  Commanding the Army of the Potomac
Guest: Stephen R.Taaffe

Summary: Dr. Stephen R. Taaffe, author of Commanding the Army of the Potomac, argues that leadership issues were endemic in that underachieving organization.

Brett’s Summary: Stephen R. Taaffe, a professor at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdotches, Texas, talks with Gerry about the army and corps commanders of the Army of the Potomac in this fascinating episode of Civil War Talk Radio.

Taaffe has a military history background and has already written several books on campaigns and battles of other wars.  He wanted to take a look at the Civil War while doing something different than a campaign or battle study.  The result is his look at the top two levels of command in the Army of the Potomac, an army he believes underachieved more than any other in the Civil War.

Much of the first two segments were spent discussing army commanders.  Taaffe is not a fan of George McClellan.  He made a point I thought was interesting when he indicated the smaller corps size of 10,000-15,000 in the Army of the Potomac was due in part to McClellan’s creation of extra corps during the Peninsula Campaign in 1862.  Not until the spring of 1864 did a consolidation take place that allowed Union Corps to grow to over 20,000 men again, more on a size to be able to handle a Confederate Corps on their own.

Gerry and the author also discussed Joe Hooker and his campaign to undermine McClellan at every opportunity, a campaign McClellan seems not to have known about.

Talk turned to the best and worst corps commanders in the army during the war.  Taaffe likes Winfield Scott Hancock for that honor, though he also names such men as John Reynolds and Henry Slocum.  His worst commanders both came from III Corps, and included alcoholic William French and the almost too amazing to be true Dan Sickles.

I have Taaffe’s book but I have not yet had a chance to read it as of March 2009.  This interview showed me Taaffe’s aims with the book and made me more interested in reading it.  I have heard enough good things about Taaffe’s book that I can safely recommend it to TOCWOC readers.

Civil War Talk Radio airs most Fridays at 12 PM Pacific on World Talk Radio Studio A. Host Gerry Prokopowicz, the History Chair at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina, interviews a guest each week and discusses their interest in the Civil War. Most interviews center around a book or books if the guest is an author. Other guests over the years have included public historians such as park rangers and museum curators, wargamers, bloggers, and even a member of an American Civil War Round Table located in London, England.

In this series of blog entries, I will be posting air dates, subjects, and guests, and if I have time, I’ll provide a brief summary of the program. You can find all of the past episodes I’ve entered into the blog by clicking on the Civil War Talk Radio category. Each program should appear either on or near the date it was first broadcast.

Check out more summaries of Civil War Talk Radio at TOCWOC – A Civil War Blog.

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