Steven E Woodworth’s Six Armies in Tennessee, in print now for just over a decade, is a well-written, highly readable and deftly paced short history of the Civil War campaign for Central and Eastern Tennessee in 1863.
Beginning with the aftermath of the battle of Stone’s River, continuing through the battle of Chickamauga and the battles for Chattanooga, and concluding just after the failed siege of Knoxville, Six Armies in Tennessee explores a campaign, overshadowed in the popular imagination by the Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg that same year, but no less decisive in its results. Chickamauga, which took place precisely one year after Antietam, was the bloodiest two-day engagement of the entire war. (Antietam witnerssed the single bloodiest day for American troops in all our history.)
Woodworth’s treatment of the oft-disparaged Confederate commander General Braxton Bragg is an eminently fair and balanced one, far more sympathetic than most. Bragg’s greatest failing was not so much strategic acumen or its lack as it was a plague of truly dismal subordinates who failed him repeatedly, and whom he could not or would not motivate or break.
Similarly, Woodworth’s analysis of the merits of the successive Union commanders, Major Generals William S. Rosecrans and Ulysses S. Grant, is equally perceptive and balanced.
At just under 220 pages, Six Armies in Tennessee is brief, but not too brief, graced with good footnotes, an adequate index and a short but useful Bibliographical Essay.
I heartily recommend this history to anyone curious about this vitally important but too often ignored campaign.