An introductory military history of the American Civil War, Shades of Blue and Gray places the 1861-1865 conflict within the broad context of evolving warfare. Emphasizing technology and its significant impact, Hattaway includes valuable material on land and sea mines, minesweepers, hand grenades, automatic weapons, the Confederate submarine, and balloons. The evolution of professionalism in the American military serves as an important connective theme throughout. Hattaway extrapolates from recent works by revisionists William Skelton and Roy Roberts to illustrate convincingly that the development of military professionalism is not entirely a post-Civil War phenomenon.
The author also incorporates into his work important new findings of recent scholars such as Albert Castel (on the Atlanta Campaign), Reid Mitchell (on soldiers’ motivation), Mark Grimsley (on “hard war"), Brooks D. Simpson (on Ulysses S. Grant), and Lauren Cook Burgess (on women who served as soldiers, disguised as men). In addition, Hattaway comments on some of the best fiction and nonfiction available in his recommended reading lists, which will both enlighten and motivate readers.
Informative and clearly written, enhanced by graceful prose and colorful anecdotes, Shades of Blue and Gray will appeal to all general readers.
In his preface, Hattaway (Why the South Lost the Civil War, How the North Won) notes that his goal was to focus on "certain military aspects of the American Civil War and to relate them more broadly to technological and managerial realities." He succeeds admirably, providing the reader with a clear, succinct background of changes in military strategy and armament proceeding from the Napoleonic wars, the Second Seminole War, the Mexican War and the Crimean War before dealing with the Civil War. Well organized and well-written, the parts and chapters move through those years with primary attention to each battle's strategic process and outcome while stressing the importance of technological developments and resultant changes in operational strategy. For example, the gradual adoption of entrenchment defense was necessitated by the longer range and accuracy of new rifles. Despite Hattaway's welcome brevity, the text offers asides that may surprise even seasoned Civil War buffs. For example, in his discussion of Gettysburg, he discusses General Richard S. Ewell's mental state: "Ewell may even have had severe mental problems... legends persist that he sometimes hallucinated that he was a bird; for hours at a time he would sit in his tent softly chirping." Throughout his text, Hattaway traces the growth of military professionalism and concludes that wars are inevitable and that only a professional military can prepare for them effectively. Illustrations not seen by PW. History Book Club selection.