Preparing for Disunion: West Point Commandants and the Training of Civil War Leaders


Preparing for Disunion: West Point Commandants and the Training of Civil War Leadersdescribes how the United States Military Academy trained young men to become officers in the American Civil War. This was accomplished by a combination of classroom instruction, year-long drill on the West Point plain, field exercises, personal discipline, and role-modeling by commissioned officers. At the Academy, the Commandant of Cadets administered this program.

Both military historians and Civil War officers criticized the military training provided by the Academy. They cite a lack of instruction in large unit management and the lack  of military strategy. These faults suggest that the military academy should be educating generals and not captains. The reality of nineteenth century military life was that most men would be fortunate to become captains during their thirty or forty year career and the majority would resign their commissions to pursue careers in engineering, business, education, and the law.


Grant and His Generals

The book also analyzes the impact of the Commandant of Cadets on the military curriculum and on producing officers for the coming conflict. Six officers accounted for over 30 years of service during the 47 years examined. These men helped form the officers who achieved glory on the battlefields from 1861 to 1865.

  • William J. Worth – 8 years 9 months
  • Bradford Alden – 6 years 11 months
  • John Fowle – 4 years 8 months
  • Charles F. Smith – 4 years 5 months
  • Ethan A. Hitchcock – 4 years 3 months
  • William J. Hardee – 4 years 2 months

Some of these men achieved greatness in the Florida War, Mexican War, and/or Civil War. Others faded from our memory after their time at the Academy.

As part of the research for the book, I am compiling a list of the graduating classes from 1817 to 1864. The list includes their rank during the Civil War excluding any promotions made as part of the March 13, 1865 honors.

John Fowle             W. J. Worth          C. F. Smith                 W. J. Hardee

McFarland has just notified me that the book’s new title will be Preparing for Disunion: West Point Commandants and the Training of Civil War Leaders. [2/19/18]

You can pre-order the book on Amazon or McFarland Publishing. The new release date is September 2018.