One of the most decisive campaigns of the Civil War was the 1864 defeat of the Confederate Army of Tennessee by General William T. Shermanís Army. Sherman forced that Confederate army to leave Atlanta while he marched on and captured Savannah, Georgia. Confederate General John Bell Hood tried to lure Sherman into following and defeating him, but Sherman did not fall for this trick. Instead he let his subordinate General George H. Thomas to defeat Hood at Nashville.
In the first few chapters of Breaking the Confederacy, Jack Lepa sets the stage for the Georgia and Tennessee campaigns of 1864, informing readers about the generals on both sides and summarizing their actions up to this point. He also discusses differences there were between President Abraham Lincoln and Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
Lincoln relied on a general-in-chief; Davis acted as his own general-in-chief. Lincoln searched for the right general to help him but did not find him until 1864, in the person of U.S. Grant. Lincoln and Grant agreed on how the war should be fought; before Grant, Lincolnís generals did not agree with him, taking their time and missing chances to end the war early because they followed old-style military methods. Grant and Sherman knew that a new style was needed for this war. Lincoln saw this, too, and let Grant do what he wanted. Grant and Sherman made plans for Grant to lead the Army of the Potomac with General Mead against General Leeís Army of the Northern Virginia. Sherman would lead the Armies of the Tennessee, the Cumberland, and the Ohio against the Confederate Army of Tennessee first under General Joseph Johnston, then under General John Bell Hood.
Sherman pushed Johnston all the way back from his defenses in northern Georgia to Atlanta. Johnston remained mainly on the defensive. His army was smaller, and he felt he could do a better job of preserving his army by being on the defensive rather than attacking Sherman. But Sherman maneuvered Johnston out of several of his defenses. Once Sherman had Johnston in Atlanta, he tried to cut off all the railroads leading into Atlanta, although he was not totally successful.The experiment involved three stages. The standardization period lasted three months. Here it was determined how many calories were needed for each man to maintain his weight. This was followed by a six-month starvation period, during which their calories were reduced and their diet cut. They had two meals a day and as much coffee and water as they liked. Changes were documented. During the three month rehabilitation period, each manís recovery was studied and recorded.
Some of Johnstonís subordinate generals protested to President Davis to have him replaced. Davis agreed and sent in General Hood. General Hood attacked Sherman a few times, unsuccessfully. Sherman decided to leave a small force to keep up the siege of Atlanta while he and most of his army moved around Atlanta to cut off its railroads and possibly draw Hood out. Hood saw his situation becoming more and more precarious, so he moved his army out of Atlanta, and Shermanís army moved in.
Hood shifted his army toward Tennessee, hoping that Sherman would follow and that he might somehow defeat him in the open. Sherman instead abandoned Atlanta, moving east toward the Atlantic, foraging off of the land and destroying property as he went, and discouraging the Southern population into submission. He eventually captured Savannah. Hood moved toward Nashville, thinking that he could defeat General Thomas and then recruit more men for his army. Hood failed and was eventually replaced by General Johnston, who surrendered after General Lee to General Sherman in North Carolina. Jack Lepa tells the story better.
Lepa provides clear photographs and illustrations of generals and battlefield sites, and simple maps that show the region he discusses. Anecdotes from generals, other officers, plain soldiers, and civilians firsthand authenticity to the history. There are endnotes, a bibliography of books, articles, letters, diaries and an index. Rather than being a dry academic history of this campaign, this retelling is lively and flows well.Dr. Keys lived to be 100, and he was a busy man all his life. He first studies were on eels; his later studies were on high altitudes and on designing rations for the army. He published The Biology of Human Starvation, a work of 1,385 pages, after the starvation experiment was complete. He went on to study more in the health field, including heart disease and cholesterol. He also wrote two bestselling cookbooks which contained medical information as well.
Jack H. Lepa is the of The Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864 (2003) and of several articles published in Biblio and Renaissance magazines. Breaking the Confederacy is recommended to Civil War enthusiasts interested in the battle for Atlanta, the march to the sea, and Generals Sherman, Johnston and Hood. The book is mainly about the battle for Atlanta, with a smaller portion devoted to the march to the sea and the battle for Nashville.