Confederate Tide Rising: Robert E. Lee and the Making of Southern Strategy, 1861-1862

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Kent State University Press, 1998 - History - 278 pages

"Confederate Tide Rising is one of the most significant evaluations of Civil War strategy to be published in the past fifty years. It contributes critically to our understanding of the war, and it will influence the course of Civil War scholarship for decades to comes. I cannot overemphasize the importance of this book."--Richard J. Sommers, U.S. Army Military History Institute

In this reexamination of Confederate war aims, Joseph L. Harsh analyzes the military policy and grand strategy adopted by Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis in the first two years of the Civil War.

Recent critics of Lee have depicted him as a general of tactical brilliance, but one who lacked strategic vision. He has been accused of squandering meager military resources in vain pursuit of decisive victories during his first year in field command. Critics of Davis claim he went too far in adopting a "perimeter" policy which attempted to defend every square mile of Southern territory, scattering Confederate resources too thinly.

Harsh argues, to the contrary, that Davis and Lee's policies allowed the Confederacy to survive longer than it otherwise could have and were the policies best designed to win Southern independence.


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A shallow book -- well intentioned perhaps, but sadly lacking in basic knowledge of what was going on at the time.
For example, Harsh quotes Davis as saying ""we just want to be left alone
" . While Harsh does have a few words to modify that, he lets it stand.
Not one word about the killing sprees in Kansas, orchestrated and funded by Davis and carried out by David Atchison, from 1856 on, to kill and terrorize anyone who even spoke --yes spoke -- against slaver. See Atchison's amazing speech from May 21 1856, the first of three killing sprees into Lawrence, to punish them for having a newspaper -- against Davis and Atchison orders -- that spoke against slavery.
Its not like t his is a secret Harsh could not find. Perhaps he heard of Sumner "Crimes Against Kansas Speech" that detailed some of the killings -- but ironically Sumners speech came the day BEFORE Atchison's first killing spree with his army or paid mercenaries.
At any rate, how do you call killings and hiring me to kill, and boasting of killing to stop people from speaking against slavery, as "just want to be left alone"
Harsh rambles on some, qualifying Davis statement -- but idiotically thinks he knows what Davis thinks. Here is a clue, what Davis thinks is clear by what he DID. Too complicated? Going too fast? IS there some law or rule among "historians: like Harsh that men who kill and terrorize on one hand, but speak lovely false narratives on the other, believe the narratives?
Harsh isn't the only historian clueless that even PERHAPS people like Davis spoke one way and could possibly act another way. Stunning really.
But it's SO much easier to quote someone like Davis -- and then go on. Hard to deal with facts about what he did, who he had killed, who he paid to do the killing, that sort of thing. Gets in the way of the narrative.


He who makes the assault Confederate Strategy from Sumter to Seven Pines April 1861May 1862
Confederate Military Policy
Confederate Grand Strategy
The First Phase of the War AprilOctober 1861
The Second Phase of the War November 1861AprilMay 1862
The Start of Phase Three AprilMay 1862
It would change the character of the war The Ascent of Lee to June 1 1862
Lees Running Start
The Crisis Crests August 59
Richmond was never so safe Lee Evolves a Border Strategy August 926 1862
The Rapidan Stall August 152O
The Rappahannock Waltz August 2124
Lee Plots a Wider Turn August 24
The Turning Movement Launched August 2526
If we expect to reap advantage Lee Pursues Total Victory August 2731 1862
Jackson the Raider August 2627

Every Victory Should Bring Us Nearer
Easy Fighting and Heavy Victories
They Ought Always to Be Turned
How do we get at those people? Lees Strategy in the Seven Days Campaign June 1July 2 1862
Lee Concentrates His Army
Lee Wrestles with Grand Tactics June 424
The Seven Days June 25July 2
The enemy is congregating about us Lee in Strategic Stalemate July 2August 9 1862
Concentration and Estrays
Strategy July 613
Lee Marches in Place July 14August 4
Jackson the Aggressor August 28
Lee Hesitates August 29
Combat Finds Lee August SO
Lee Returns to Maneuver to Finish August 31
The war was thus transfer red from interior to frontier The Chantilly Fumble September 1 1862
A Working Definition of Strategy
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Page vii - War is to be regarded not as an independent thing, but as a political instrument [that is, an instrument related to both peace and war]; and it is only by taking this point of view that we can avoid finding ourselves in opposition to all military history.
Page vii - We see, therefore, in the first place, that under all circumstances war is to be regarded not as an independent thing, but as a political instrument; and it is only by taking this point of view that we can avoid finding ourselves in opposition to all military history. This is the only means of unlocking the great book and making it intelligible. Secondly, this view shows us how wars must differ in character according to the nature of the motives and circumstances from which they proceed.

About the author (1998)

The late Joseph L. Harsh was professor and former chair of history at George Mason University. He was founding president of the Northern Virginia Association of Historians and was editor from 1980--90 of Courier of Historical Events. His articles have appeared in Civil War History and Military Affairs.

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