The Hard Hand of War explores the Union army's policy of destructive attacks upon Southern property and civilian morale--how it evolved, what it was like in practice. From an initial policy of deliberate restraint, extending even to the active protection of Southerners' property and constitutional rights, Union armies gradually adopted measures that were expressly intended to demoralize Southern civilians and to ruin the Confederate economy. Yet the ultimate "hard war" policy was far from the indiscriminate fury of legend. Union policy makers promoted a program of directed severity, and Professor Grimsley demonstrates how and why it worked. This volume fits into an emerging interpretation of the Civil War that questions its status as a "total war" and instead emphasizes the survival of political logic and control even in the midst of a sweeping struggle for the nation's future: the primary goal of the Federal government remained the restoration of the Union, not the devastation of the South. Intertwined with a political logic, and sometimes indistinguishable from it, was also a deep sense of moral justice--a belief that, whatever the claims of military necessity, the innocent deserved some pity, and that even the guilty should suffer in rough proportion to the extent of their sins. Through comparisons with earlier European wars and through the testimony of Union soldiers and Southern civilians alike, Grimsley shows that Union soldiers exercised restraint even as they made war against the Confederate civilian population.
"This is one of the best books of Civil War military history published in twenty-five years." Journal of American History "Well researched, clearly written, and elegantly conceived, this is an important book." Choice "Students of the Civil War continue to debate the degree to which the North embraced a strategy designed to punish the Confederacy's civilians as well as to defeat its soldiers. The Hard Hand of War is a major contribution to this debate, in which Mark Grimsley argues that northern policies and practices fit comfortably within European traditions rather than marking a dramatic break with the past. Especially useful in its discussion of factors that promoted restraint among the North's citizen-soldiers, Grimsley's book should be essential reading for anyone interested in whether the Civil War deserves to be called a 'total war.'" Gary W. Gallagher, The Pennsylvania State University "Mark Grimsley has written the best study of how Northern policy evolved from a limited war to restore the old Union into a "hard war" to dismantle the old South and build a new free-labor nation...The writing is lucid, the argument persuasive, the analysis illuminating." James M. McPherson, Princeton University, author of Battle Cry of Freedom "Mark Grimsley's The Hard Hand of War is the latest and best study to strip away the myth and explore the reality of Sherman's attack on the Southern civilian economy and population as a means of winning the war...Grimsley tells that story more clearly than anyone else has so far done. In lucid, straightforward prose grounded in thorough research he analyzes the evolution of Union strategy through three main phases." James M. McPherson, New York Review of Books The 'Hard Hand of War' is an excellent account of how Northern military policy hardened over time, gradually allowing and even advocating foraging and destruction of civilian property which might aid the Southern war effort...Grimsley persuasively ties together a variety of sources to provide the best one-volume account of the origins of 'total war' in the 1860s. His book should be required reading for those who want to understand the roots of one of the more storied decisions in American military history, and would be an excellent addition to both graduate and undergraduate courses on the Civil War." Lance Janda, Journal of Military History "Mark Grimsley challenges that old assumption by insisting that the civil war was not a total war, but a "hard war" in that the destruction of southern property was not the work of mindless human 'beasts,' but a calculated, measured attempt to demoralize the Confederate population by striking at chosen areas in order to cause surrender...Professor Grimsley has written a provocative and original book; it makes a reader look forward to more works from this rising Civil War scholar." The Civil War News "The text of The Hard Hand of War flows with the chronology, precision, and rationale of a well-written legal brief...Mark Grimsley presents an irrefutable argument that the primary goal of the Federal government was at all times the restoration of the Union, not the devastation of the South...the result is a well-reasoned and elegantly written monograph that will take its place as one of the more important works about the Civil War to appear in years." David Long, Civil War History "Mark Grimsley deserves respect for his keen concern with moral action in war." The Journal of Southern History "The impact of the war on civilians is often not fully understood or misunderstood or quite deliberately misstated. So those new to the Civil War should read Mark Grimsley's The Hand of War: Union Military Policy Toward Southern Civilians, 1861-1865. It examines the intentional and unintentional effects of the conflict in a balanced, comprehensive manner." Fritz Heinzen, Osprey Military Journal