Acclaimed military historian Bevin Alexander's deconstruction of the worst mistakes of Civil War commanders on both sides is almost unbearable to contemplate. The horror is mitigated only by his account of the towering intelligence and rationality of Confederate General Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson, as told in Alexander's 2014 book, Such Troops As These: The Genius and Leadership of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson.
For an introduction and summary of the worst mistakes listen to the podcast of Alexander's discussion on the John Batchelor Show last night.
Doubly shattering is that the same mistakes made in fighting the Civil War -- mistakes repeated ad nauseam by both sides -- were then repeated in the First World War. Nothing, absolutely nothing at all, had been learned by the Europeans from the American Civil War, and so the first 'great war' was also a slaughterhouse.
Yet as Alexander explains, these weren't so much mistakes as a traditional European aristocratic way of war fighting transplanted to America -- a tradition that refused to bend to timeless rules of war.
Americans who despair at the U.S. prosecution of the Vietnam, Korean, and Afghan wars will find Bevin Alexander's discussion with John Batchelor to be a Hair of the Dog experience: if you think those modern American wars were crazily run, wait'll you learn in some detail what Jackson had to put up with.
It's not exactly cheering to know the story but it does tend to put many things in context.