Book Review: In the Shadows of Victory: America’s Forgotten Military Leaders - Thomas D. Phillips
by Michael F. Dilley
Casemate Publishers (US); Havertown, PA; and Casemate Publishers (UK); Oxford, UK; 2016; $32.95
288 pages; photos, index, bibliography;
ISBN No.: 978-1612003605
The typical military history book deals with a single operation or a single war. The biography of a military leader explores the subject’s life. A brand new military history combines aspects of both of these. It is In the Shadows of Victory. The author, Thomas D. Phillips, has taken a slightly different approach with his new book and does an excellent job.
First, he has chosen as his subjects some of the lesser known military leaders in American military history. Second, the scope of his book covers the major American wars from the Revolution to the Wars with the Plains Indians, including the Barbary Wars, the War of 1812, the Seminole Wars, the War with Mexico, and the Civil War. Many of the military leaders in the later wars are seen in junior roles in earlier wars.
The subjects of Phillips’ book include, among others: Daniel Morgan, who conducted perhaps one of the finest operations anywhere on the American continent at the Battle of Cowpens; Francis Marion (the Swamp Fox), who led one of the best guerrilla units in South Carolina; Nathanael Greene, whose strategy in the South moved the British out of the Carolinas and Georgia and sent them to Yorktown and defeat; Stephen Decatur, the fearless naval leader in the Barbary Wars; Philip Sheridan, who after a successful career during the Civil War led the U.S. Army in the Indian Wars; Emory Upton, who held senior positions in the Union Army in all the combat branches of infantry, artillery, and cavalry and who advocated for a strong standing army, professional education for the soldiers, and suggested a general staff for major levels of command; Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, former professor at Bowdoin College, who probably saved the United States by his actions at Little Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg and was awarded the Medal of Honor for doing so, and then accepted the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox by ordering his soldiers to render a rifle salute as the defeated army marched past; and Wesley Merritt and Nelson Miles, who both led forces to major victories during the Indian Wars. In addition to discussing the major contributions of these and other military leaders, the author provides biographical information from before their involvement in the particular war being discussed and afterwards as well.
Some of the military leaders included here will be known to some readers but generally speaking most will not be. That makes this book a valuable contribution to the annals of American military history by expanding the reader’s knowledge of and, hopefully, interest in the lives of these second and third tier leaders. Be exploring engagements at the level of these leaders, Phillips gives his readers a slightly different view of the military actions he discusses.
The discussion of each war details the causes of the war and explores the significance of each engagement discussed. The particular enemies are not just hollow leaders either. Phillips explains the importance to the enemy of each of the leaders he discusses as well as some of their tactics. On the enemy side of this history are included such leaders as: Banastre Tarleton, whose British Legion was the scourge of the South until Cowpens; Lord Cornwallis, who commanded the British military efforts in the South; Osceola, the Seminole chief who refused to quit fighting for his people until he had no other choice; General Santa Anna, one of the major military leaders of Mexico for many years and a thorn in the side of the U.S. Army during the Mexican War; and Cochise and Sitting Bull, both proud leaders of the resistance of Indian tribes in the Northern tier of the country during the Indian Wars. In the section discussing the Civil War, leaders from both the Union and Confederate armies are included.
It is obvious that Phillips has done a lot of research for this book. A look at his bibliography will confirm this but it is only necessary to read the various chapters to see the depth of his research and analysis. He did not just cut and paste the information together. Rather, he has taken the time to put his research into perspective by drawing his own conclusions. This book is easy to read, informative, and well written. It is a valuable addition to the history of American military leaders because of its viewpoint. I highly recommend this book to students of history and military history, especially American military history. It is a necessary addition to the libraries of all such students and the public at large.
Review written by Michael F. Dilley.
Copyright © 2016 Micheal F. Dilley.
Written by Michael F. Dilley. The author retains the copyright to this piece bearing his name. No reproduction, copying, or other forms of retrieval without permission. If you have questions or comments on this article, please contact Michael F. Dilley at:
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About the author:
Michael F. Dilley has a B.A. in History from Columbia College in Missouri and is a retired U.S. Army Military Intelligence officer. He served two tours in Viet Nam and six and one-half years in airborne units. In the field of military history, he was written three books (one of them as co-author) and contributed to two anthologies. He has also written many articles and book reviews dealing with special purpose, special mission units.
Published online: 04/17/2016.
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