Setting aside necessarily non-narrative platforms (e.g. essay compilations, reference books, and edited diaries, letters, etc.), there is relatively little in the way of format experimentation in Civil War publishing. However, Sherman Invades Georgia by John R. Scales is one such book, a decision analysis of the opening moves of William T. Sherman's 1864 Atlanta Campaign. Written by a retired general, the book uses modern operational planning templates designed for current army officer training. Nevertheless, the book remains very accessible reading for the interested non-professional. Although these analytic techniques were designed long after the Civil War, the insights remain relevant. At the very least, they aid in the clear articulation of the options available to a Civil War army commander in a given situation.
Chock full of maps, tables, flow charts, matrices, and worksheets, General Scales's study can be skimmed quickly, but the careful reader is rewarded by a thorough consideration of the decision making tools outlined by the author. The first few chapters are definitional, necessary given what is to follow. In them, Scales defines Civil War organizations, operations, combat functions, and styles of warfare -- subjects many students will find quite familiar. From there on, the reader is exposed to a step-wise construction of an operational plan, using the methods of modern U.S. commanders.
Covering only the initial phase of the 1864 Atlanta Campaign in detail, the study is further narrowed to only General Sherman's operational perspective [in this section, the Confederate situation is viewed only through the lens of what Sherman's intelligence network knew at the time]. The planning phase begins with a statement of mission and situation analysis, before moving on to the development of a course of action. The enemy's possible initiatives are also analyzed and compared, with best courses explained and defended. This framework is supported abundantly with maps, tables, and charts. The final section of the book looks at the Confederate situation more objectively, and also summarizes the historical course of the campaign. A staff ride is included, too.
In terms of its value to current military professionals, I will leave an assessment of Sherman Invades Georgia to others, but, as a detailed examination of the components of the operational art of war, this book is a useful educational tool for interested historians and avocational readers. The terminology may be modern, but the concepts are timeless. Recommended.
Other CWBA reviews of Naval Institute Press titles:
* Ironclad Down: USS Merrimack - CSS Virginia from Design to Destruction
* Commanding Lincoln's Navy: Union Naval Leadership During the Civil War