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More Than Just Grit – Civil War Leadership, Logistics and Teamwork in the West, 1862--A Review

Updated: Nov 10, 2023

A Review of Richard Zimmermann’s More Than Just Grit – Civil War Leadership, Logistics and Teamwork in the West, 1862

Reviewed by B. Alan Guthrie, III



Zimmermann’s recently-published book examines in some detail nine Western Theater battles of 1862 and evaluates the actions in light of six criteria which he postulates to be predictive of the outline of each. These criteria are:


- Does the nation’s political leadership (or the theater commander chosen by the political

leadership) create a clear and obtainable objective for the commanding general?


-At the close of combat, does the commanding general hold the initiative?


-Does the commanding general have the competent and effective support of subordinates (unity of command)?


-Working with the commanding general, does the staff effectively supervise logistical support for the army to ensure proper distribution of food and ammunition?


-Did the general commit all of his resources to battle?


-Following the battle, did the general achieve strategic success?



The battles which he examines are:

-Mill Springs

-Forts Henry and Donelson

-Pea Ridge

-Shiloh

-Richmond (Kentucky)

-Perryville

-Corinth (October 3 – 4, 1862)

-Prairie Grove

-Stones River


The battle summaries include descriptions of the forces, commanding officers and significant subordinates, and a synopsis of the combat. Rudimentary maps are included. Each battle is then judged in light of the above criteria. While I had a few quibbles here and there (for instance, the culpability of Lew Wallace’s late arrival at Shiloh), his summaries are solid.


Mr. Zimmermann also includes a chapter on the Mexican War, contrasting the campaigns of Winfield Scott and Zachary Taylor, and a summary chapter reflecting on Civil War leadership. Another chapter assesses the opening of the Mississippi and briefly discusses the Battles of Island No 10, New Orleans, Memphis, and Chickasaw Bayou.


In the above list of criteria, one might argue that the second (initiative at close of combat) and the sixth (strategic success) items are two sides of the same coin. Taking the Battle of Richmond as an example, Edmund Kirby Smith certainly had the initiative at the end of the battle but did not achieve substantive strategic effect, lessening the impact of his decisive victory. Similarly, the Federal victories at Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove did not have much strategic impact given the underdeveloped nature of northern Arkansas which negated the ability to exploit the Federal victories.


While he acknowledges that the field of logistics encompasses more than food and ammunition, Mr. Zimmermann limits his discussion to these two items and solely in the context of each battle. Was a supply of ammunition maintained throughout the battle or were units pulled out of action to find resupply? Were the troops fed at the time of the battle? Given the tactical nature of his study, this restriction to just food and ammunition is appropriate.


Mr. Zimmermann stresses the importance of staff to the fighting of these battles and argues that the North had an advantage in that it had more engineers, railroad men, and business men who had experience organizing large enterprises, an attribute that easily translates into performing the important staff work of running and administering an army. Further, as 1862 progressed, the staffs, particularly for the Federals, became more professional and less dependent on personal relationships with the

commanding officer as tended to be the case earlier in the conflict. This abundance of talent would make itself felt in 1863 and subsequent years.


The book also includes two brief appendices discussing the Distribution of Food and Ammunition and Artillery Improvements. It is extensively foot-noted, and Mr. Zimmermann seems to have a good command of the available literature.


More Than Just Grit is worth reading. While this reviewer has long had an interest in Civil War staffs, I have never really examined the matter. This book has piqued my interest in Civil War staffs.


Zimmermann, Richard J; More Than Just Grit – Civil War Leadership, Logistics and Teamwork in the West, 1862; McFarland & Company, Jefferson, North Carolina, 2023. 176 pages of text, plus five pages of

appendices, and footnotes.


Order the book HERE.

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