Updated: Dec 6, 2022
When studying anything, there are always books that are essential to being able to fully understand a given topic. That is no different when it comes to the Western Theater in the Civil War. In this series we will highlight some of the most important works that should be at the top of your list and in your Western Theater library. The second book in this blog series is Nothing but Victory: The Army of the Tennessee by Steven E. Woodworth. Click HERE to check out the first book in this series.
Works that focus on entire armies are essential to understanding aspects of any given conflict, and that is no different when studying the Western Theater of the Civil War. Unfortunately, when it comes to full, book length studies on the Union armies of the west, there are few options, especially for arguably the most successful Union field army of the Civil War. The army, led by Ulysses S. Grant for most of its existence, operated and advanced in the Mississippi Valley, winning such battles as Fort Donelson, Shiloh (with some help from the Army of the Ohio), and Vicksburg. It then moved east to join its sister western army, the Army of the Cumberland from Chattanooga to Atlanta. As Woodworth notes in his introduction to the book, the Army of the Tennessee won "the decisive battles in the decisive theater of the war."
The reality for us Western Theater aficionados, is that there is a dearth of quality scholarship on this important field army. Thankfully, Woodworth has provided us with a comprehensive study, a whopping 700 pages that covers the army's formation in 1861 to its demobilization in 1865. Unlike other army studies, Woodworth does not focus only on the goings-on at the headquarters and the decisions made by the generals. The reader will receive not only the strategic and tactical overviews of the major events from the top, but also the experiences of the enlisted man who had to endure the trials and privations of the multiple campaigns and battles.
Woodworth is, without a doubt, one of the top scholars of the Western Theater, having written several important books (another on the Confederate Army of Tennessee will be a future WTCW Essential). Though we have this magnificent book on the Army of the Tennessee, there is still room for further study. The Army of the Potomac has a plethora of works devoted to different aspects of that army, from studies on specific corps actions at specific battles, to artillery, cavalry, and everything in between. The Army of the Tennessee, and the Army of the Cumberland for that matter, need the same treatment, and I am confident that as interest in the Western Theater grows (which is our main purpose here at WTCW) then we will begin to see more books published on our favorite western topics. In the meantime, buy this book, and prepare a large space on your bookshelf. Order it, read it, and spread the word!
If you would like to check out a portion of the first chapter, you can read that HERE. I would suggest trying to order this from a local bookstore in your area if you decided to purchase it. For the sake of future books in our niche, the independent publishers and small bookstores must be supported apart from Amazon.
Derrick Lindow is an author, historian, teacher, and creator of the WTCW site. His first book, published by Savas Beatie, will be released in Spring 2023. Go HERE to read more posts by Derrick and HERE to visit his personal page. Follow Derrick on different social media platforms (Instagram and Twitter) to get more Western Theater and Kentucky Civil War Content.