Steven Woodworth's previous book, the critically acclaimed Jefferson Davis and His Generals , won the prestigious Fletcher Pratt Award and was a main selection of the History Book Club. In that book he showed how the failures of Davis and his military leaders in the west paved the way for Confederate defeat. In Davis and Lee at War, he concludes his study of Davis as rebel commander-in-chief and shows how the lack of a unified purpose and strategy in the east sealed the Confederacy's fate.
Woodworth argues that Davis and Robert E. Lee, the South's greatest military leader, had sharply conflicting views over the proper conduct of the war. Davis was convinced that the South should fight a defensive war, to simply outlast the North's political and popular support for the war. By contrast, Lee and the other eastern generals-notably P.G.T. Beauregard, Gustavus Smith, and Stonewall Jackson-were eager for the offensive. They were convinced that only quick and decisive battlefield victories would prevent the North from eventually defeating them with its overwhelming advantage in men and materials.
Davis and Lee, Woodworth shows, shared a mutual respect for each other for most of the war. But it was respect mixed with a stubborn resistance to the other's influence. The result of this tense tug-of-war was Davis's misguided pursuit of a middle ground that gave neither strategy its best chance for success. The war finally ground to a bloody conclusion with Davis as indecisive as ever and virtually blind to how little confidence his generals had in his leadership.
Drawing extensively upon the papers of Jefferson Davis and the works of leading Civil War historians, Woodworth places the eastern military campaigns in an entirely new light and expands our understanding of Davis as leader of the Confederacy.