James McManus thinks that is the underlying theme in the massive, highly praised three volume :The Civil War: A Narrative by Shelby Foote.
from the Daily Beast
The Civil War, published in three magnificent volumes between 1958 and 1974, is the first work of history to explore how the game’s lore and logic fits into the overall scheme of America’s most definitive conflict. While Wills uses Nixon’s poker-playing as a colonoscope into the bowels of a politician he felt little sympathy for, Foote has great reserves of empathy for the game and its players. His paternal grandfather had lost the family’s considerable fortune playing stud, often while drunk. Perhaps the only upside of the squandered inheritance was that his grandson learned how profoundly the game could affect both the person who played it and the people who depended on him.
Foote’s 2,836-page narrative makes vividly clear how integral poker was to the Northern and Southern war efforts, from the penny-ante games of enlisted men through the do-or-die showdowns of generals—that the feints, bluffs, and aggressive poker mind-set of Grant, Lee, Forrest, and others often determined how critical battles played out. He quotes a friend of “Fighting Joe” Hooker on the gumption of that charismatic Union commander. “He could play the best game of poker I ever saw, until it came to the point where he should go a thousand better, and then he would flunk.” This shortage of intestinal fortitude had enormous military consequences. Having been placed by Lincoln at the head of the Army of the Potomac in 1863, the hard-drinking Hooker gave up alcohol to remain clear-headed as he faced off with Lee—though a belt of good moonshine might have bolstered him when the chips were down at Fredericksburg. On the verge of crushing the rebellion with a single decisive blow, Hooker held 2-to-1 advantages in men and artillery, a commanding position on high ground from which to annihilate Lee’s infantry, with an open path to Richmond after that. But when Lee’s pinned-down veterans suddenly took the initiative, Hooker lost his nerve—“flunked,” as his friend might have put it. When Hooker ordered a retreat instead of a counterattack, his generals refused to believe it. And yet it was true. Even more bizarrely, Hooker then ordered his main force to take a vulnerable position in the Battle of the Wilderness, where he soon suffered a devastating defeat by Lee and Stonewall Jackson.
The consensus among historians now is that Lee, in the words of John Steele Gordon, “played Joseph Hooker like a fiddle, bluffing him into a defensive posture when he had overwhelming superiority.” Not only Hooker, of course. Early in the war, as Lee desperately searched for reinforcements, he bluffed George Meade into thinking the Army of Northern Virginia was at full strength; Meade’s failure to attack him bought Lee invaluable time. When the battles were finally joined, Lee’s knack for misleading, intimidating, and outmaneuvering much larger armies was often enough to carry the day.
James McManus has covered poker for The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Harper’s Magazine, Card Player, ESPN.com, and The New Yorker. Positively Fifth Street, his memoir of finishing fifth in the World Series of Poker championship, was a New York Times bestseller.