The Most Effective Political General

By Dan Zeiser
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2006, All Rights Reserved

The debate has raged for decades. Was it George H. Thomas, Ulysses Grant, Robert E. Lee, William T. Sherman, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson? Each of us has his or her favorite. There are good arguments for those mentioned above and maybe a few others. In the end, perhaps there is no one right answer to the question who was the best general of the war. But ask who was the most effective general of the war and different names arise, names that would never be mentioned in response to the earlier question, names, mostly, of political generals. Benjamin Butler, Nathaniel Banks, John McClernand, while clearly not the best, were all effective generals. While the current notion is that all political generals were incompetent fools, while military generals won the war, that is not entirely true. Political generals acted in ways the military generals did not, often attaining goals military generals were simply incapable of. When examined in this manner, the most effective general was none other than John A. “Black Jack” Logan.

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The Most Overrated General

By Dan Zeiser
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2008, All Rights Reserved

Yes, I’m from Ohio. And yes, I love to point out the great accomplishments of fellow Buckeyes. And there is no doubt that he was a key player in the Civil War – one that we Buckeyes love to point to as a primary reason the North won the war. (Heck, I’ve even been to his childhood home in Lancaster. It is well worth the visit.) But William Tecumseh Sherman may just be the most overrated general who fought in the war.

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Ulysses Grant: Dual Personality?

By Dan Zeiser
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2011, All Rights Reserved

I have often thought that Ulysses Grant exhibited far different command skills in the West than he did in the East during the Civil War. Generally, my thoughts were that Grant used maneuver much better in the West than when he was in overall command. Look at the Vicksburg Campaign, which is still used today by the U.S. Army as an excellent example of feint and maneuver to keep the enemy off guard. Once Grant crossed the Mississippi at Bruinsburg, he kept Confederate General John Pemberton guessing as to his next move. This resulted in Confederate paralysis and led to the siege at Vicksburg and inevitable victory. In the East, however, Grant’s movements appear much more predictable and less inspired. He seemed simply to attempt to hammer away at Lee until the latter became exhausted and lost enough troops. Recently, however, I have come to re-examine my conclusions. Was Grant a different commander in the West? Did he come east and become simply the butcher he was decried as being? I think not.

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Was Jefferson Davis the Reason the Confederacy Lost the War?

By Dick Crews
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2004, All Rights Reserved

Jefferson Davis would have described himself as a loyal American. His heroes were George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, James Madison, and Zachary Taylor. All these American heroes were Presidents, Southerners, and slave owners.

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Decisive Battles of the Civil War? None

By Greg Biggs
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2008, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: Greg Briggs has authored or co-authored several books and many articles on the Civil War. He has held executive positions with several Civil War Roundtables and preservation and historical societies and is a member of the Advisory Board of the Center For the Study of the Civil War in the West at Western Kentucky University. Mr. Biggs spoke to the CCWRT at its December, 2007 meeting; this article is a follow-up to that presentation.


In my program “Napoleonic Cavalryman: Nathan Bedford Forrest” at the December meeting of the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable, I stated early on that the Civil War had no decisive battles despite Civil War historians constantly writing that this or that battle was “decisive.” I also stated that most Civil War historians do not study warfare prior to the Civil War, most importantly the Napoleonic Wars, when decisive battles were fought. Lastly, I argued that the primary reason for the lack of decisive battles in the Civil War was the misuse of cavalry, particularly in the pursuit phase, which rarely existed after a typical Civil War engagement.

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Fort Pillow and Ball’s Bluff: A Response

By Greg Biggs
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2012, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: Greg Briggs has authored or co-authored several books and many articles on the Civil War. He has held executive positions with several Civil War Roundtables and preservation and historical societies and is a member of the Advisory Board of the Center For the Study of the Civil War in the West at Western Kentucky University. Mr. Biggs spoke to the CCWRT in December 2007 and was our guide for our 2012 field trip to Forts Henry and Donelson. This article originally appeared in the Charger in response to a book authored by our November 2012 speaker, Dr. John Cimprich.


In the November 2012 issue of the Charger, President Michael Wells wrote about the controversy of Fort Pillow. He made mention of our time at the Tilghman House in Paducah and how the guide there compared the casualties at Ball’s Bluff to Fort Pillow and wondered why, since Ball’s Bluff had very similar casualty rates, it was also not called a “massacre.” The person who brought up this discussion was not the house guide, it was me.

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Confederate Complicity in the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln – Part 4

By John C. Fazio
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2008, All Rights Reserved

This is the final installment in a four-part series by past Roundtable President John Fazio reviewing the current scholarship on the question of whether John Wilkes Booth and his band of conspirators, in their attempt to behead the Union government, acted independently or under the direction of the Confederate Secret Service and the top levels of the Confederate government, up to and including Jefferson Davis.

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Confederate Complicity in the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln – Part 3

By John C. Fazio
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2008, All Rights Reserved

This is the third installment in a four-part series by past Roundtable President John Fazio reviewing the current scholarship on the question of whether John Wilkes Booth and his band of conspirators, in their attempt to behead the Union government, acted independently or under the direction of the Confederate Secret Service and the top levels of the Confederate government, up to and including Jefferson Davis.

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Confederate Complicity in the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln – Part 2

By John C. Fazio
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2008, All Rights Reserved

This is the second installment in a four-part series by past Roundtable President John Fazio reviewing the current scholarship on the question of whether John Wilkes Booth and his band of conspirators, in their attempt to behead the Union government, acted independently or under the direction of the Confederate Secret Service and the top levels of the Confederate government, up to and including Jefferson Davis.

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Confederate Complicity in the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln – Part 1

By John C. Fazio
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2008, All Rights Reserved

In this four-part series, past Roundtable President John Fazio reviews the current scholarship on the question of whether John Wilkes Booth and his band of conspirators, in their attempt to behead the Union government, acted independently or under the direction of the Confederate Secret Service and the top levels of the Confederate government, up to and including Jefferson Davis.

Continue reading “Confederate Complicity in the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln – Part 1”