The author also incorporates into his work important new findings of recent scholars such as Albert Castel (on the Atlanta Campaign), Reid Mitchell (on soldiers' motivation), Mark Grimsley (on "hard war"), Brooks D. Simpson (on Ulysses S. Grant), and Lauren Cook Burgess (on women who served as soldiers, disguised as men). In addition, Hattaway comments on some of the best fiction and nonfiction available in his recommended reading lists, which will both enlighten and motivate readers.
Informative and clearly written, enhanced by graceful prose and colorful anecdotes, Shades of Blue and Gray will appeal to all general readers.
With opposing capitals barely 100 miles apart and with the Chesapeake Bay/tidewater area offering Union generals the same sorts of opportunities sought by Confederate leaders in the Shenandoah Valley, geography shaped military operations in fundamental ways: the very rivers that obstructed Union overland advances offered them the chance to outflank Confederate-prepared positions. If the proximity of the enemy capital proved too tempting to pass up, generals on each side were aware that a major mishap could lead to an enemy parade down the streets of their own capital city. Presidents, politicians, and the press peeked over the shoulders of military commanders, some of who were not reluctant to engage in their own intrigues as they promoted their own fortunes.
The Civil War in the East does not rest upon new primary sources or an extensive rummaging through the mountains of material already available. Rather, it takes a fresh look at military operations and the assumptions that shaped them, and offers a more integrated interpretation of military operations that shows how politics, public perception, geography, and logistics shaped the course of military operations in the East. The eastern theater was indeed a theater of decision (and indecision), precisely because people believed that it was important. The presence of the capitals raised the stakes of victory and defeat; at a time when people viewed war in terms of decisive battles, the anticipation of victory followed by disappointment and persistent strategic stalemate characterized the course of events in the East.