In the Review Queue: The Quest for Annihilation: The Role & Mechanics of Battle in the American Civil War

The “In the Review Queue” series provides TOCWOC – A Civil War Blog readers with a brief look at books Brett Schulte is planning to review here on the blog.  These will be very similar to Drew Wagenhoffer’s “Booknotes” series at Civil War Books and Authors.

TheQuestForAnnihilationPerelloI have long been a fan of Strategy & Tactics, the famous and long running wargames magazine which actually contains a functional wargame in each issue.  S&T is now getting into publishing books as well, and the first of these is The Quest for Annihilation: The Role & Mechanics of Battle in the American Civil War.  In glancing through the book, I am amazed at the number of maps (over 220 in varying degrees of quality).  Author Christopher Perello seeks to explain why no decisive victories were achieved during the war.  The idea seems somewhat similar to Brent Nosworthy’s recent book Roll Call to Destiny in that specific battles or smaller actions are used to as examples of various aspects of the war.  To give prospective readers a better idea of wgat is covered, I’m including the topics of each chapter here:

Prologue: Expectations

Chapter One: Strategy

Chapter Two: Armies

Chapter Three: Infantry

Chapter Four: Battleplans

Chapter Five: Artillery

Chapter Six: Siege

Chapter Seven: Campaigns

Chapter Eight: Fieldworks

Chapter Nine: Cavalry

Chapter Ten: Pursuit

Epilogue: Portents

The Quest for Annihilation looks to be a strong initial effort by Strategy & Tactics Press.  Wargamers especially will enjoy this one.  The book is available for order on the book’s page at the S&T Press site.

Information on The Quest for Annihilation: The Role & Mechanics of Battle in the American Civil War from Strategy & Tactics Press web site is as follows:

Civil War came to the United States when the first shot was fired at Fort Sumter on 12 April 1861. Most people, including the military and political leaders of both sides, thought the war would be won or lost quickly in the Napoleonic tradition, with a great battlefield collision. Instead, the war ground on for four increasingly bloody years, inching steadily but slowly into the Southern heartland. Battles were frequent, but rarely decided more than the control of a single town or a few blood-soaked fields.

The Quest for Annihilation examines the nature of those battles and the reasons they failed to produce a decisive end to the war. The book is loaded with detail – and copiously illustrated with more than 220 maps, plus more than 100 diagrams, photographs, orders of battle, and data tables – describing the war’s unique combat, fought on the cusp between the era of single-shot muzzle-loaders and that of automatic weapons.

Each chapter uses the events of a single battle or campaign to describe the component parts of one aspect of the war: how armies were formed, trained, and moved; how commanders decided whether to fight or avoid battle; the men, their weapons and drill; the leaders and the techniques they used to bring it all together at the right place and right time.  ( 320 pages )

Shipping in June, 2009


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2 responses to “In the Review Queue: The Quest for Annihilation: The Role & Mechanics of Battle in the American Civil War”

  1. Naim Peress Avatar

    It sounds like an interesting book. However, there were decisive battles during the Civil War. I think Gettysburg and Vicksburg were among them. There were no battles that ended the war like Napoleon’s Battle of Jena or Austerlitz. What do you think? I know people have written books about it but do you buy the author’s premise?

    1. admin Avatar


      I completely disagree about the existence of decisive battles during the Civil War. I define a decisive battle as one which ended the war, so I guess our definitions are different. The war lasted two more years after Gettysburg and Vicksburg, so no I do not think they were decisive battles. I completely disagree with the whole “Gettysburg as a turning point of the Civil War” idea as well. That came about after the war with the benefit of hindsight and the rise of Early’s Lost Cause rhetoric.


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