Had Lee enjoyed the manpower or materiel advantages of Grant, would the South have triumphed? Had Hood possessed strength superior to Sherman's, would he still have lost their encounters in Georgia? Popular sentiment has long bowed to the military leadership of the Civil War's victorious generals--a view that has been disputed by modern scholarship. Many might be startled to learn that a British army officer also called these opinions into question long ago. Out of print for more than fifty years, Lee, Grant and Sherman is an unrecognized classic of Civil War history that presaged current scholarship by decades. Alfred H. Burne assesses the military leadership of Grant, Lee, Sherman, Hood, Johnston, Early, and Sheridan from mid-1864 to Appomattox, contradicting prevailing perceptions of the generals and even proposing that Grant's military capabilities were inferior to Lee's.
Burne sought to challenge the orthodox views of other historians--J. F. C. Fuller on Grant and Basil Liddell Hart on Sherman--but his assessments were so unorthodox that even with the endorsement of preeminent Civil War historian Douglas Southall Freeman, his book received scant attention in its day. He sees Sherman as more concerned with the geographical objective of capturing Atlanta than the military goal of smashing the Confederate army, lacking Grant's understanding that the principal object of war is to conquer and destroy the enemy's armed forces. Yet he asserts that "Grant in his heart of hearts feared Lee" and also suggests that Jubal Early's Valley campaign might have been
the most brilliant of the whole war.
In his analysis of the Georgia campaign, Burne views Sherman as a general who avoided risk and was too obsessed with raiding to wage an all-out offensive battle. Refusing to dismiss Hood as incompetent, as many historians have done, Burne points to his brilliance in military planning and claims that most of his defeats were merely the result of inadequate resources.
Burne's book was ahead of its time, anticipating later shifts in historical evaluations of Civil War leadership. Now available in a corrected edition, with Freeman's original introduction and a new foreword and endnotes by Albert Castel, it is a rich source of
insight for scholars--and for anyone willing to reconsider traditional views of these generals.