Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Just Finished Reading - Confederate Supply by Richard D. Goff

Sometimes we overlook books published almost 50 years ago in favor of more recent scholarship. It is only natural to have a favor for current studies as those scholars of the present potentially have access to more evidence that those of the past. However, depending on the subject matter, works from a number of years ago can be quite valuable, too. And not just for historiography! 

This book, Confederate Supply, by Richard D. Goff is a good example. Published in 1969, by Duke University Press, it provides a fairly broad survey of the Confederate government's ability (or inability) to arm, equip, and feed its fighting men. 

Focusing primarily on the quartermaster and subsistence departments, Goff provides a look inside the making of Confederate supply policy and those government officials who executed those policies. Goff utilizes primarily a year-by-year approach on how the South's two main armies, the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Tennessee, were effected by governmental supply policy. The author finds that much of the Confederacy's issues resulted from initially failing to bring the border slave states in the CSA fold. Not doing so left a critical population of manpower to either serve the Union or sit out the war. It also left significant established manufacturing areas and transportation links outside of Confederate bounds. 

Another early strike against them was the Confederacy's inability to defend vital areas of manufacturing and important logistical routes upon Union invasion. Losing key cities in 1862 such as Nashville, New Orleans, Memphis, and others, hurt their chances in the long run. In addition, Goff makes it clear that the Confederate government's unwillingness to commandeer and centralize the railroads in effort to increase the efficiency of their supply transport was a critical factor in their ultimate defeat. Reactionary policy making instead of proactive planning was too often the rule of thumb. The inability to efficiently get the stockpiles of clothing, equipment, and food to the men in the field had dire repercussions on morale, both on the front lines and on the home front. 

Basing his research heavily on sources in the Official Records, Goff's analysis is solid and his interpretation is keen. Although this title is now out of print, and thus somewhat difficult to find, if you are as curious about Civil War logistics as I am, it is certainly one you want to read.

No comments:

Post a Comment