Pgs. 177, The University of North Carolina Press, 2012.
Image courtesy of UNC Press Blog
With a Sword in One Hand and Jomini in the Other is a look into the military mindset of those commanders of the North through the words and maxims of Baron de Jomini. One problem persists in those commanders, however, in that Jomini’s words did not prepare them fully for what would happen during the American Civil War. Here, Reardon goes into the minds of the commanders and the soldiers in three brilliant chapters about strategy, professionalism and the human element when it comes to military philosophy during the Civil War.
Carol Reardon is an accomplished Civil War historian and Vietnam War historian. She has also published Pickett’s Charge in History and Memory and A Field Guide to Gettysburg. She is also the George Winfree Professor of American History at Pennsylvania State University along with being the recipient of the Helen Dortch Longstreet Prize in 2009 from the Longstreet Society.
For those who have read the works of Baron de Jomini, they are specified to the realm of Napoleonic Warfare which was the standard of the time in Europe. Commanders who studied at West Point and Virginia Military Institute studied Jomini as the great tactician, not Sun Tzu as popular belief states. Carol Reardon does not analyze the philosophy of Jomini, but she analyzes the effect he had on the minds of those who fought during the war. At first, she talks about strategy which reflects somewhat on the words of Jomini, but more so on what those words did to the strategy of the field. She also compares the work of Jomini to other military philosophers who attempted to best his work, but failed. The most interesting part of the work, is when Reardon explains what happened in the human element in the war when looking at Jomini’s work. Those fighting in France and other European nations during the Napoleonic Wars were soldiers while the soldiers in the Civil War were recruits and volunteers. This presents a difficulty in the work of Jomini because of the human element to the combat. This subject is handled with great efficiency by Reardon and talks about more than the march, but of the medical end of the spectrum. By stating that Jomini is writing for the soldier and not the recruit, she makes the point that Jomini may have been the wrong choice to follow when it comes to military philosophy and the human element.
What Reardon has done is given us a study into the realm of military philosophy combined with elements of the Civil War. Other historians have analyzed the works of Jomini, Tzu and even Clausewitz but never insert examples from the war. Reardon has done the opposite by bringing the war to the philosophy. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the works of military philosophy and how they are relevant to the Civil War.