"Donald Stoker breaks with a generation's worth of cliches in this stimulating and persuasive demonstration that the Civil War's crucial contrast was not between ideas or resource bases. It involved strategy. The war was decided when Lincoln's generals were able to execute his policies while their Confederate counterparts failed to respond to Jefferson Davis's uncertain trumpet. As good a book on the Civil War as I've read for a decade."---Dennis Showalter, Colorado College, author of Patton and Rommel: Men of War in the 20th Century, and former president, American Society for Military History
"Finally, a Civil War study that reveals why strategy mattered to Union victory. Clearly and forcefully, The Grand Design shows how the Union learned to use its military force in pursuit of its political objectives."---William L. Barney, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, author of The Making of a Confederate
"Stoker's grand overview of strategy is a welcome introduction to the big picture of the Civil War. Too often, the American Civil War is read as an ill-fitting string of tactical incidents, determined almost entirely by the personalities of successful generals. Looked at in Stoker's bird's-eye fashion, the large-scale strategic picture, as well as the large-scale strategic mistakes, finally begin to come clear."---Allen C. Guelzo, Director, Civil War Era Studies at Gettysburg College, author of Lincoln and Douglas
"A superbly written, well-researched, and detailed analysis of how the Union's strategy---simultaneous strikes at the Confederacy's critical points and at its center of gravity, its army---destroyed the South's capacity to fight and helped lead to its defeat. Stoker's first-rate study revives the role of strategy in the conversation on why the Union won the Civil War."---Howard Jones, University of Alabama, author of Mutiny on the Amistad
"Donald Stoker's book offers a new way of looking at both the military and political history of the Civil War, and does so from a strategic vantage point far above that to which we have been accustomed. The Grand Design represents an important advance in our understanding of this momentous event."---Steven E. Woodworth, Texas Christian University, author of Nothing but Victory: The Army of the Tennessee, 1861-1865 and co-author of The Oxford Atlas of the Civil War
Of the Thousands of books on the Civil War, few have explored in depth what was in fact the determining factor in the outcome of the conflict: differences in Union and Confederate strategy.
In The Grand Design, Donald Stoker provides a comprehensive, highly readable, and often surprising account of strategy as it evolved between Fort Sumter and Appomattox. Stoker examines how Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis identified their political goals and worked with their generals to craft the military means to achieve them. Despite a West Point education and experience as U.S. Secretary of War, Davis lost control of the political side of the war. Stoker argues that his invasion of Kentucky was a turning point that shifted the loyalties and vast resources of the border states to the Union. Lincoln, in contrast, developed a clear strategic vision. He nonetheless struggled for years to make his generals implement it. Stoker presents evidence that the Union could have won the war in 1862, had it followed the grand plan of the controversial and enigmatic George B. McClellan, in whom Lincoln lost confidence.
Historians have often maintained that the North's advantages in population and industry ensured victory. In The Grand Design, Stoker reasserts the primacy of the overarching political plan---the strategy---of each side, arguing convincingly that it was Lincoln's superior grasp of the political character of the conflict that led to Union victory and Southern defeat. Here is a book illuminating a central but under-examined aspect of the Civil War that will provoke debate and discussion.