The Grand Design: Strategy and the U.S. Civil War
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The Grand Design: Strategy and the U.S. Civil War

3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  68 ratings  ·  16 reviews
Of the tens of thousands of books exploring virtually every aspect of the Civil War, surprisingly little has been said about what was in fact the determining factor in the outcome of the conflict: differences in Union and Southern strategy.
In The Grand Design, Donald Stoker provides a comprehensive and often surprising account of strategy as it evolved between Fort Sumte...more
Hardcover, 498 pages
Published July 15th 2010 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published June 27th 2010)
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James Murphy
The story of the Civil War told in narrative is a familiar one. And at first Stoker's history seemed just another one. His intent is to explain the course of the war in terms of the military strategy developed and employed by the two sides. His claim that it's not been told before is questionable. The strategies are present in all general histories of the war, but they're folded in with the enormous amount of information about the individual battles and about the personalities that make the hist...more
William
There is the drama. There is the story. Then there is the analysis.


The U.S. Civil War usually gets the drama/story write-up. After all, it is an epic that has never ceased to fascinate. But Donald Stoker has skipped those well-trod lanes of narrative to pave the road less-taken: analysis. "The Grand Design" is about how the war was fought.


The Civil War came with no instruction manual. How does one muster the strength of a nation and commit to a multi-year war? How does an officer with command...more
Christopher H.
As you can tell from the reviews I've recently posted, I have immersed myself in reading some really excellent books about the American Civil War. Being a history buff, especially an American history buff, I have always had an abiding passion for the political and military events associated with this momentous period in our republic's history. I often wonder if most people really realize just how close "the great American experiment" came to becoming a complete and abject failure? Reading books...more
Mark
I really can't rate this book higher than two stars. I wanted to like it; but I kept barking my shins on poorly-substantiated sweeping statements (such as the statement that there has never been a book written concerned with Civil War strategy) and questionable conclusions. It's well-researched and capably-written... but.



The author unquestionably knows his stuff, but I'm not convinced by some of his arguments. It's notable that he goes against the grain and highlights some of the positive point...more
Chuck
Strategy and the US Civil War by Donald Stoker is a well written and interesting book dealing with interactions between the top military leaders on each side, and how they determined and carried out their military goals.

When the war began, the United States did not have a tradition of a permanent General Staff. Nor, did the US have a ready stable of experienced Army commanders. Due to the generally dispersed and small size of the regular military, and the reliance on short term militia call-ups...more
Matthew
About fifteen years ago, a historian friend of mine expressed some dismay at the upcoming 150th anniversary of the US Civil War. She was afraid that it would come to dominate the historical landscape even more than it had. The sadder truth seems to be that this hasn't happened, and the historical landscape has shrunk, although perhaps in the South, there is more to the observance.

This summer, though, with the anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863) at hand, it seemed apropos to...more
Dan
This is a challenging book because of its breadth; Stoker really covers everything and sort of expects the reader to have a familiarity with most of what he writes about. I wouldn't recommend picking up this book on a whim. To get the most out of it, it requires deep study, and perhaps a notepad on the side to keep track of the various ups and downs of the war.

I view this as the best book about the Civil War that I have ever read. Stoker rescues the war from a discussion of a chain of battles an...more
Steelman
This book is written to focus specifically on the planning and execution of policies and strategies on both sides of The Civil War. Battles and their outcomes are mentioned, but only as a result of the strategies each side pursued.

The Union developed a strategy well-suited to winning the war early in the conflict, but Lincoln encountered much difficulty finding both leaders and a command apparatus to implement his policy effectively. The Confederate government likewise developed a strategy they...more
Frank Roberts
A new perspective on the Civil War, which is quite an accomplishment considering the millions of words on the subject. Stoker gives a great review of the War from the vantage point of Grand Strategy, and shows how the Confederacy never achieved a strategic vision, while Lincoln and the Union did. He also challenges some longstanding truisms of Civil War buffs, such as the decisive nature of Gettysburg or the importance of Vicksburg.

Would have rated it higher, but Stoker gets into the weeds in s...more
Sean Chick
A one rating might not be fair, for Stoker has his moments. His analysis of McClellan is dead on. Unfortunately, his examination of Confederate strategy is shallow, revolving around the tired idea that Davis could do no right. Meanwhile, Lincoln's obsession with "destroying armies" (which NEVER OCCURRED IN A FIELD BATTLE) is blithely trotted out like gospel true. If Grant fails it is always the fault of others. Most of all, any book on strategy in the American Civil War that claims to be "the fi...more
Hale
Examines what we usually call the "Civil War" at the strategic level, a treatment that is long overdue. Most accounts of the conflict stress particular campaigns and battles -- the trees -- rather than poltical and miltary objectives, logistics and plans, and how they drove the conflict (the whole forest). The fact that we call this war the "Civil War" and not the "War for Southern Independence" tells you the story -- the US was able to align its military and political means (often in unforseen...more
Rich
A well-written, significant contribution to Civil War literature. Stoker provides comprehensive coverage of the Union & Confederate strategies from the war's start to finish. There's more detailed coverage of the Union, but that's only logical since the Union ended-up having more of a 'grand strategy' than the Confederacy. In discussing the Confederacy, Stoker says that the generally accepted thought that they pursued an 'offensive-defensive' strategy is incorrect and shows why.
John Kelley
Few books have given a cogent view of the use, or non use of strategy in the duration of war for more than four years. The Author, Donald Stoker has the credentials to write such an inviting look at the Civil War from the top down. This was not a quick read, but I finished reading last night.
I suggest those who hear the sound of the guns should read this excellent study on strategy in the Civil War.
Al
Dr Stoker presents a very lucid explanation of the three levels of war: strategic, operational, and tactical. Throughout this book, he reminds the reader what level of war is being discussed. This is a great strategic overview of the Civil War, presenting startegic and operational reasons for campaigns such as Arkansas-Missouri, as well as the political rationale. A very good read.
Wayne
Interesting piece on the Civil War. The key idea was to examine the way from a strategic political viewpoint. That topic was reasonably addressed but, at times, drifted into a regular civil war history. However, I learned some new information and it was reasonably entertaining.
Tom
Great look at the Civil War. It just reinforces that Grant and Sherman were the best generals of the war (not excepting Robert E. Lee).
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Donald Stoker is Professor of Strategy and Policy for the U.S. Naval War College's program at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California."
More about Donald Stoker...
Military Advising and Assistance: From Mercenaries to Privatization, 1815 2007 Strategy in the American War of Independence: A Global Approach Military Advising and Assistance: From Mercenaries to Privatization, 1815-2007 Clausewitz: His Life and Work Conscription in the Napoleonic Era: A Revolution in Military Affairs?

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