With a Sword in One Hand and Jomini in the Other

The Problem of Military Thought in the Civil War North

By Carol Reardon

192 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-4230-7
    Published: February 2018
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-8078-3560-9
    Published: May 2012
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-8257-3
    Published: May 2012
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-4014-1
    Published: May 2012

Steven and Janice Brose Lectures in the Civil War Era

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When the Civil War began, Northern soldiers and civilians alike sought a framework to help make sense of the chaos that confronted them. Many turned first to the classic European military texts from the Napoleonic era, especially Antoine Henri Jomini's Summary of the Art of War. As Carol Reardon shows, Jomini's work was only one voice in what ultimately became a lively and contentious national discourse about how the North should conduct war at a time when warfare itself was rapidly changing. She argues that the absence of a strong intellectual foundation for the conduct of war at its start--or, indeed, any consensus on the need for such a foundation--ultimately contributed to the length and cost of the conflict.

Reardon examines the great profusion of new or newly translated military texts of the Civil War years intended to fill that intellectual void and draws as well on the views of the soldiers and civilians who turned to them in the search for a winning strategy. In examining how debates over principles of military thought entered into the question of qualifications of officers entrusted to command the armies of Northern citizen soldiers, she explores the limitations of nineteenth-century military thought in dealing with the human elements of combat.

About the Author

Carol Reardon is George Winfree Professor of American History Emerita at Pennsylvania State University and author of Pickett’s Charge in History and Memory.
For more information about Carol Reardon, visit the Author Page.


“Reardon examines the public debate in the North over what military strategy would best defeat the Confederacy.”--America’s Civil War

“Nothing less than amazing. For anyone interested in military history that goes beyond--without losing sight of--battles and leaders and engages big issues in Civil War military history in a way that is provocative, insightful, and compelling, Reardon’s book is an essential addition to their library.”--Civil War Monitor

"Reardon's revisionist contribution is . . . significant, timely, and thoroughly welcome."--Journal of American History

“A succinct but thorough examination of the intellectual dimensions of waging the war. . . . Highly recommended.”--North Carolina Historical Review

“This is a book that deserves and should find a wide audience. In addition to shedding important light on aspects of the war that had heretofore not received adequate attention from scholars, it is also impressively researched, analytically rigorous, and clearly written.”--Blue & Gray Magazine

“Reardon’s approach to combat studies offers a new and promising framework to understand the connection between soldiers, combat, and unit effectiveness.”--Journal of Southern History