Friday, December 24, 2010

Failure in the Saddle Review

A new book that I would consider to be MUST reading for any Army of Tennessee aficionado is Dave Powell's newest, Failure in the Saddle: Nathan Bedford Forrest, Joseph Wheeler, and the Confederate Cavalry in the Chickamauga Campaign. I have chided Dave for several years that with this book he would never be able to come south again, due to daring to offer a critique of N.B. Forrest in this campaign, but after reading the complete book I have to say that any open minded student of Forrest and the western cavalry will learn a lot from this book and even if you don't agree with the analysis offered by Dave, I still think it gives you a lot to think about. With that though I do agree with the author on these subjects.
Forrest does not perform that well in this campaign, not all of this is his fault however, having to deal with several less than stellar subordinates, General John Pegram and Col. John S. Scott, as well as having to command a Corps for the first time. One thing that is often lost on Forrest is his rapid rise to commanding a corps, going from commanding a brigade in April to corps by September, with several intervals due to other factors. Forrest has a learning curve and its one that he benefits from, the Forrest of 1864 had to be made and the Chickamauga campaign was part of that. Dave is fair with Forrest and so although he fails at things, he does ultimately learn from his mistakes.
Forrest, however, is only part of this story. The other half belongs to "Fighting Joe" Wheeler, who really comes out of this looking bad. Wheeler never learned, and was a problem for the mounted arm of the Army of Tennessee. Wheeler should be held up with Leonidas Polk as one of the most incompetent high level leaders in the Confederate service.
I have often said that if the cavalry is the eyes and ears of an army, then the Army of Tennessee was blind and deaf during this campaign and Dave's book definitely cements that view. I high recommend it to anyone interested in the Chickamauga Campaign or the Army of Tennessee in general.

1 comment:

Tim Kent said...

I agree with Dave and will have to purchase this book. Forrest was a great independent commander, but didn't perform well as a subordinate. He despised following orders and preferred to do things his way. A great example is the Nashville Campaign under Hood. Everything I have studied on Wheeler leads me to believe that officer was greatly overrated. His record has never impressed me. Great blog.