The Campaigns for Vicksburg, 1862-63: Leadership Lessons by Kevin Dougherty

Five stars plus! I loved reading this fantastic book by Kevin Dougherty. “The Campaigns for Vicksburg, 1862-63: Leadership Lessons” is too good for a book to be relegated to just another history of Vicksburg. Bookstores should not limit the book to an assignment in the military history section. It deserves a prominent place in the business section with the books on leadership and management as well as the military history section. As I read the book, I was reminded of a book I read in the early 1990s, “Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun.” The book is that good!

Kevin Dougherty does an excellent job of providing leadership lessons from the key military and political leaders of the time.  He helps us understand Vicksburg. He does this by sharing the challenges, characteristics, and styles associated with leadership during the Civil War. He follows with an overview of the entire Vicksburg Campaign.

Next, he provides thirty case studies or leadership vignettes. He starts with General Winfield Scott’s Anaconda Plan. He carries us systematically through the campaign. We meet and learn about the key leaders and engagements. Each of the thirty vignettes begins with the summary. It follows with a concise history of the event (e.g. Chickasaw Bayou: William Sherman and Knowing When to Quit). Sharing the resulting leadership lessons learned from the event follow. The chapters (vignettes) conclude with a sidebar of “Takeaways” which provide a succinct summary of the lessons learned.

As you are enjoying reading the book, you learn valuable lessons about the difference between management and leadership. You gain an understanding of servant leadership. You see the value of clear communication from leaders to their subordinates. You comprehend the worth of personal presence of the leader in an organization.

The author ends the book with conclusions about leadership during the Vicksburg campaign. The areas covered are the strategy, confidence, unity of effort, the frame of reference, situational awareness, risk-taking, problem-solving, personal bravery, and technical skill. The inclusion of the Vicksburg Campaign Order of Battle as an appendix is appreciated and helps to understand the size of the leadership task faced by General U.S. Grant.

“The Campaigns for Vicksburg, 1862-63: Leadership Lessons” is a valuable addition to the study of leadership and Vicksburg.  It would be an excellent study for business leaders as well as the professional officer and soldier. I recommend its addition to the personal library of all students of military science. My hope is it would be included on the reading lists of the officer basic or advanced courses. As in “Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun,” the lessons presented in “The Campaigns for Vicksburg, 1862-63: Leadership Lessons” are timeless.

Well done, Lt. Col. Kevin Dougherty, Ph.D., US Army (retired) Adjunct Professor, Tactical Officer at The Citadel. I enjoyed your book. Well done, indeed!

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