Prussia, like much of nineteenth-century Germany, was governed by the belief that knowledge, and thus understanding, was best derived from direct observation and attained most effectively through documentation. Based on that concept, Justus Scheibert, an officer in the Royal Prussian Engineers, was sent to the United States for seven months to observe the Civil War from the Confederate perspective and report the effects of artillery on fortifications. His interests, however, thoroughly surpassed that limited assignment, and his observations, as well as the writings translated in this work, went on to include tactics, strategy, logistics, and intelligence. Scheibert, who was a contemporary expert on warfare, had access to the Confederate high command, including such luminaries as Robert E. Lee, J. E. B. Stuart, and Stonewall Jackson. He brought to the war not only the fresh perspective of a foreigner, but also the insightful eye of a career military officer and a skillful correspondent. Although he was personally sympathetic to the South, Scheibert researched both sides of the conflict in order to write unbiased, informed commentary for his fellow Prussian officers.
What resulted was a firsthand account of most aspects of the Civil War, including a theoretical discussion of every branch of service, medical service, and the Confederate high command. Based on research, as well as personal experience, Sheibert's narrative effectively portrays the soldiers, weaponry, and battles, forming one of the first, and one of the few, studies of combined operations in the Civil War. In the volume, Trautmann combines two of Scheibert's publications, The Civil War in the North American States: A Military Study for the German Officer and Combined Operations by Army and Navy: A Study Illustrated by the War on the Mississippi, 1861-1863 (ca. 1887), which for decades heavily influenced German military writing on the Civil War. Frederic Trautmann's translations of these books evince a grace and readability difficult to achieve from such intricate and complex works. A Prussian Observes the American Civil War makes an important addition to Civil War studies and will appeal greatly to professional historians and those interested in, and dedicated to, Civil War and military studies.