Feis, William B. 1963–

views updated

Feis, William B. 1963–

PERSONAL: Born 1963; married; children: Phoebe. Education: University of Nebraska, B.A., M.A.; Ohio State University, Ph.D.

ADDRESSES: Office—Buena Vista University, Dixon-Eilers 202B, Storm Lake, IA 50588. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Buena Vista University, Storm Lake, IA, associate professor of history.

MEMBER: American Historical Association, Southern Historical Association, Society for Military History, Ulysses S. Grant Association, Association of Civil War Historians, Council on America's Military Past.

AWARDS, HONORS: Best Scholarly Article on Intelligence award, National Intelligence Study Center, 1991; U.S. Army Center of Military History fellowship, 1993–94.

WRITINGS:

Grant's Secret Service: The Intelligence War from Belmont to Appomattox, University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 2002.

Contributor to books, including The Art of Command in the Civil War, University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 1998; Grant's Lieutenants, Volume 1, University Press of Kansas, 2001; and The Collapse of the Confederacy, University of Nebraska Press, 2001. Contributor of essays and book reviews to periodicals, including Ohio History, Civil War History, Journal of Military History, North & South, Annals of Iowa, Columbiad, and Historian. Contributing editor, North & South.

WORK IN PROGRESS: The Worst Angels of Our Nature: Guerrilla Warfare in the American Civil War.

SIDELIGHTS: William B. Feis teaches and writes about American history, including the Civil War period. His Grant's Secret Service: The Intelligence War from Belmont to Appomattox focuses on the use of military intelligence by Union General Ulysses S. Grant from his 1861 assignments in Missouri to his final campaigns in Virginia in 1864 and 1865. Feis shows how Grant changed from using an intuition-based strategy to relying increasingly on military intelligence as the Union's espionage-gathering capabilities improved. "At the same time," noted Edward Hagerman in the Journal of Southern History, "Feis demonstrates that Grant was self-conscious about not being paralyzed by 'noise' (the conflicting signals of intelligence), seldom allowing contradictory or incomplete reports to affect his preconceptions of Confederate intentions and capabilities to sustain offensives."

Prior to 1862, neither the Union nor the Confederate armies had an intelligence system to help locate the enemy. This presented a problem for commanders like Union General George B. McClellan, who became immobilized by uncertainty. Grant, on the other hand, created his own intelligence network by interrogating deserters and escaped slaves, and by studying the reports of Union scouts and spies. During his Mississippi campaigns, he relied on the intelligence network created by Brigadier General Grenville M. Dodge. By the end of the Civil War, Grant's intelligence gathering was nearly perfect, but it sometimes came with a cost, particularly when he viewed reports of the enemy's strength with skepticism, leading to hard-won battles like Shiloh and his 1864 engagement with Robert E. Lee in Virginia. Kevin Conley Ruffner wrote in the Journal of American History that Grant's Secret Service "is an important contribution to the literature on Civil War intelligence." Feis "cites a wide array of published sources and official records," the critic added, "and he lays out his story in a highly readable form, with numerous maps and photographs."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Journal of American History, September, 2003, Kevin Conley Ruffner, review of Grant's Secret Service: The Intelligence War from Belmont to Appomattox, p. 650.

Journal of Military History, January, 2003, Ralph A. Wooster, review of Grant's Secret Service, p. 246.

Journal of Southern History, November, 2003, Edward Hagerman, review of Grant's Secret Service, p. 925.

Library Journal, March 15, 2002, Randall M. Miller, review of Grant's Secret Service, p. 93.

Publishers Weekly, February 11, 2002, review of Grant's Secret Service.

ONLINE

American Civil War Round Table Online, http://www.americancivilwar.org.uk/ (March 31, 2005), Thomas J. Ryan, review of Grant's Secret Service.

Buena Vista University Web site, http://web.bvu.edu/ (March 31, 2005), "William B. Feis."