In the Shadows of Victory: America’s Forgotten Military Leaders, 1776-1876

Nebraska Author at

Also at Barnes and Noble in Lincoln.

 The premise of Lincoln author Thomas D. Phillips’ latest book “In the Shadows of Victory: America’s Forgotten Military Leaders” is that history plays tricks sometimes. As Phillips points out, during the course of our nation’s existence, history has enshrined an exceptional few military leaders in our collective consciousness while ignoring others often equally as deserving. In the Shadows of Victory is about those who have been overlooked.

     Phillips notes that the military history of the United States is replete with examples of leaders whose singular leadership is now little remembered or forgotten completely. For example, few of the many thousands of people who pass by the traffic square between Fifth Avenue and Broadway in Manhattan realize that it houses a tomb. Fewer still understand that beneath the obelisk rests one of America’s great military commanders – a hero not in one, but two of the nation’s wars.
Similarly, the Civil War general who never lost a battle and who many military historians believe fought one of the two most perfect battles in history was not Grant, Sherman, Lee, or Jackson, or any of the more renowned names so prominent in popular literature and history books.
For Nebraska readers, the actions of a young cavalry officer in a battle fought three weeks after the Little Bighorn will be of particular interest. The encounter at Warbonnet Creek in the state’s extreme northwestern panhandle stopped hundreds of Sioux and Northern Cheyenne from joining hostile bands further north. The victory was the beginning of the end for the Plains Indians. The names of those leaders, by the way, are William J. Worth, George H. Thomas, and Wesley Merritt.

    Phillips’ book profiles leaders like Worth, Thomas and Merritt who rendered invaluable, if mostly unappreciated or poorly remembered service in America’s conflicts. As individuals, they were widely different in background, appearance, and personality. What they share in common, however, is that their achievements have been undervalued and their remarkable leadership has been overshadowed, at times unfairly, by more renowned contemporaries. In the Shadows of Victory: America’s Forgotten Military Leaders brings them out of the shadows and illuminates their extraordinary services to the nation.  

     In addition to shining light on leaders whose contributions deserve more recognition than has previously been accorded them, the book identifies an extraordinary few whose major renown is associated with a specific war but who also rendered exceptional, though nearly forgotten, service during other conflicts as well. Winfield Scott, for example, the towering figure of the War with Mexico, also played a consequential role in the War of 1812 and, to a lesser extent, the Civil War.  

     In the Shadows of Victory: America’s Forgotten Military Leaders covers essentially the first one hundred years of the nation’s existence stretching from the War of Independence through the Indian Wars of the American West. A second volume focusing on the period from the Spanish-American War through World War II will be forthcoming. 

     Phillips, a veteran of 36-years in the armed forces, writes from his home in Lincoln. His other books include A Pilgrim in Unholy Places: Stories of a Mustang Colonel (Heritage Press), Battlefields of Nebraska (Caxton Press), Touching All the Bases: Baseball in 101 Fascinating Stories (Rowman and Littlefield), and Boots and Saddles: Military Leaders of the American West (Caxton Press).

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