The Civil War in the West: Victory and Defeat from the Appalachians to the Mississippi

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No historian is better equipped than Earl Hess to tell the important story of the Civil War in the West, and none does a better job of explaining why it was important and how it decided the outcome of the broader conflict.” -- Steven E. Woodworth, author of Manifest Destinies: America’s Westward Expansion and the Road to the Civil War


“An excellent overview of the Civil War in the western theater. Covering all significant campaigns and incorporating subjects either ignored or only lightly touched on in other operational histories, this is a book of unusual breadth and depth.” -- William L. Shea, author of Fields of Blood: The Prairie Grove Campaign


“A thorough account and compelling analysis of the challenges those in charge of the Union war effort faced in the West and how they overcame them. Impressively researched and informative, this is an outstanding addition to the Littlefield History of the Civil War Era.” -- Ethan S. Rafuse, author of McClellan’s War: The Failure of Moderation in the Struggle for the Union and Robert E. Lee and the Fall of the Confederacy, 1863-1865


“A masterly analysis of the conflict in the West,…a splendid, stimulating study.” -- Brian Holden Reid, King's College, London, in Journal of Military History


"Hess has done it again. He has delivered a wonderfully researched and elegantly written volume that reveals his mastery of military history west of the Appalachians. Students and scholars are sure to profit from his insightful analysis and bold assertions, making for a better understanding of this complicated conflict." -- Stephen D. Engle, Florida Atlantic University, in Journal of American History

“In just 319 pages Earl J. Hess has crafted a comprehensive and thought-provoking history of the Civil War in the western theater. This book is a valuable asset to anyone hoping to make sense out of a complex subject and place it within the larger story in a meaningful way.” -- Robert I. Girardi

“A thought-provoking, well-organized, engagingly written, and thoroughly enjoyable narrative, Hess’s The Civil War in the West is by far one of the best general accounts of the war in the West and will serve as a point of departure for future debate on how and where the war was won and lost.” -- William B. Feis, author of Grant’s Secret Service: The Intelligence War from Belmont to Appomattox

The expansive region west of the Mississippi River, east of the Appalachian Highlands, and south of the Ohio River was the heartland of the South. It was a region rich in agricultural resources, manpower, and slaves. If the South lost the West, there would be little hope of holding any other area of the Confederacy.

Both belligerents in the West faced daunting problems of attacking or defending huge areas of territory—the Southerners dealt with those problems less effectively than their opponents. This is a study of how Federal forces invaded and conquered the West, and how Confederate forces failed to protect their heartland. It is a story of Northern use of modern transportation technology and superior management of logistical and manpower resources to conquer time and space, a process as important as defeating Confederate troops on the battlefield.

The Federals in the West developed a winning way of war that enabled them to achieve victory in that region faster than their Eastern counterparts were able to do in Virginia. This book describes that Federal way of war in the West, which involved not only a superior use of transportation and logistical facilities, but the development of an aggressive self-confidence among Federal soldiers. The Western way of war also involved making use of black manpower, mostly as laborers but also as garrison soldiers. Dealing with an often recalcitrant white population under occupation produced a variety of policies which kept the lid on popular unrest long enough to allow Federal armies to win campaigns on the battlefront. The Confederates never had enough manpower, supply resources, transportation potential, or inspired leadership to counter these Western moves.

Based on extensive research in the dispatches, reports, and personal accounts of the Western war, this book is the first large scale study of the struggle for the Southern heartland that balances a look at the battle lines with an understanding of what was happening within the occupied territories.

This book is part of The Littlefield History of the Civil War Era Series, Gary W. Gallagher and T. Michael Parrish, Series Editors. A joint project of The University of North Carolina Press and The Littlefield Fund for Southern History at the University of Texas at Austin.

This landmark series of sixteen volumes—written by some of today’s most respected Civil War historians—covers the War from the earliest rumblings of disunion through to its devastating conclusion and Reconstruction. To be published between 2008 and 2015, these books will provide a comprehensive narrative of that defining event in United States history.


Published By: 

The University of North Carolina Press

P.O. Box 2288

Chapel Hill, NC 27515-2288


Full List of Books by Dr. Earl J. Hess

Author Bio