Edwin C. Fishel


Fishel, Edwin C. "A Cable from Napoleon." Studies in Intelligence 2, no. 3 (Summer 1958): 81-101.

From https://www.cia.gov: "Tells the story of how the US government, in 1867, intercepted a critically important cable from Napoleon III to his commanding general in Mexico confirming Napoleon's order to withdraw all French troops from Mexico. This was probably the first instance of US peacetime communications intelligence."


Fishel, Edwin C. "Civil War Intelligence: A New Perspective on Command Decisions." American Intelligence Journal 17, no. 1/2 (1996): 79-84.

The author capsulates the conclusions of his heroic research on the role of intelligence in the Civil War. The full version -- at least to Gettysburg -- appears in his seminal work, The Secret War for the Union (1996). The main thrust of Fishel's conclusions about Civil War intelligence had been known for over 30 years, but this article provided the reader a clear and succinct rendition. The article reproduces a speech made by the author to the 16 June 1996 meeting of the NMIA Potomac Chapter.


Fishel, Edwin C. "Errata? Yes, We Have Some." Foreign Intelligence Literary Scene 12, no. 3 (1988): 12.


Fishel, Edwin C. "Mythmaking at Stimson's Expense: What Did the Secretary Say (or Not Say)?" Foreign Intelligence Literary Scene 4, no. 5 (1985): 4-6.


Fishel, Edwin C.

1. "The Mythology of Civil War Intelligence." Civil War History 10, no. 4 (Dec. 1964): 344-367.

Pforzheimer calls this article "an invaluable starting point for ... reading of the mass of Civil War intelligence literature, most of which is hardly credible."

An updated version of the article appears below.

2. "Myths That Never Die." International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 2, no. 1 (Spring 1988): 27-58.

From Editor's Note: "[T]his article, originally published in the quarterly Civil War History in December 1964, is recognized as the most authoritative study of the whole broad field, Federal and Confederate. Thus it is the only article, listed among 259 books, in the Defense Intelligence College's Bibliography of Intelligence Literature, edited by Walter Pforzheimer. This update includes several emendations of the original text, silently inserted, and a supplementary essay on recent developments in Civil War intelligence mythology."


Fishel, Edwin C. "Pinkerton and McClellan: Who Deceived Whom?" Civil War History 34, no. 2 (1988): 115-142.


Fishel, Edwin C. The Secret War for the Union: The Untold Story of Military Intelligence in the Civil War. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996.

Clark comment: This is a truly monumental work -- a feat of intellectual persistence of the first magnitude. Building on the discovery at the National Archives in 1959 of the operational files of the Army of the Potomac's Bureau of Military Information, Fishel has produced the first true "intelligence history" of the American Civil War. However, without subtracting in the least from the importance of this work, it is fair to say that Fishel's findings will not lead to an immediate and wholesale rewriting of the history books.

In the first place, despite the title, the military intelligence included here is predominantly related to the Union side of the conflict, and only with regard to the eastern campaign through Gettysburg. There is precious little mention of the fact that other major campaigns were underway in the West, and no attention is paid to the role of intelligence in that arena on either side of the conflict. Second, Fishel's views on the dominance of Union over Confederate intelligence have been long established, and are clearly stated here. The question remains, nonetheless, of whether the Confederates' apparent lack of appreciation of the role of intelligence reflects the true state of affairs or simply the absence of the kind of documentary evidence Fishel has mined with such effect in producing his narrative.

Tidwell, WIR 15.6, stresses both the importance of Fishel's work and its limited scope: "It is a description of tactical intelligence as it was handled in one Union army." To Troy, IJI&C 9.4, "Ed Fishel's scholarship is breathtaking. His writing is logical, lucid, witty, and stimulating.... His narrative, so fact-filled, is not 'an easy read,' but it is certainly rewarding." Wicker, Library Journal, 1 Jun. 1996, calls the book "very detailed and well written"; it "gives an excellent overview of the use of military intelligence in the Civil War."

The reviewer for the Virginia Quarterly Review 73.1 believes the work "should change the known history of Civil War campaigns ... [and] should delight Civil War buffs." Jamieson, Air Power History, Spring 1997, says that this "path-breaking work ... provides a fuller understanding of the Eastern campaigns of 1861-1863." At times, Fishel sharpens previous ideas; and in other instances, he "presents material that is altogether new." While chiding Fishel for ignoring the importance of codes and ciphers, Kruh, Cryptologia 21.1, nevertheless concludes that "their absence does not diminish his enormous contribution to Civil War history."


Fishel, Edwin C., and Louis W. Tordello. "FDR's Mistake? Not Likely." International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 5, no. 3 (Fall 1991): 360-372.

This article is a refutation of the ideas presented in Barkin and Meyer, "COMINT and Pearl Harbor: FDR's Mistake," IJI&C 2.4 (Winter 1988), 513-531. The latter article focuses on the work of "neo-revisionists" who emphasize the interception of Japanese Naval radio transmissions, rather than MAGIC, as warnings that were ignored -- or, rather, that Roosevelt deliberately failed to communicate to the commanders at Pearl Harbor.



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