From First to Last: The Life of William B. Franklin

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"This is a complete life story of one of the most controversial yet least well known generals on either side during the Civil War. Graduating first in his class at West Point, William Buel Franklin went on to serve in the Army's Corps of Topographical Engineers and contributed greatly to the building of the nation's internal improvements; at one point, he was chief engineer in charge of construction of the U.S. Capitol's dome and extension. During the Civil War, Franklin rose rapidly, commanding a brigade at Bull Run, moving up to leadership of the Sixth Corps of the Army of the Potomac in the Peninsula and Maryland campaigns, and going on to command of the Left Grand Division at Fredericksburg. In the wake of that terrible battle, Franklin was unjustly blamed for the Union defeat - largely for political reasons. Censured by the notorious joint Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War, Franklin was banished to the Department of the Gulf, where he participated in the ill-fated Sabine Pass Expedition and the Red River Campaign. Wounded during the latter campaign, Franklin was captured during his convalescent leave. He would escape his Confederate captors, but he could not escape the wrath of the Lincoln administration. Franklin resigned his commission in 1866 and began a highly successful postwar career as vice president and general manager of Colt Firearms in Hartford, Connecticut. Franklin continued to serve in various public positions, including leadership of a bureau that eventually became the U.S. Veterans Administration." This study of Franklin's life points out the flaws and lapses of judgement - such as at the battle of Crampton's Gap - but illuminates his previously ignored strengths. From First to Last may well change the way historians interpret this important period of American history.
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Editorial Reviews

Snell (director, George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War, Shepherd College) chronicles the life of Civil War general Franklin, heavily relying on recently discovered personal correspondence and private papers. The Union general, often much derided for his military performance during the Civil War, is given a more sympathetic treatment than usual. The bulk of the material consists of a reevaluation of the general's military performance during the conflict, but consideration is given to Franklin's youth and his post-war stewardship of Colt's Patent Firearms. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780823221486
  • Publisher: Fordham University Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/2002
  • Series: North's Civil War Series
  • Edition description: 2
  • Pages: 392
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 6.20 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark A. Snell is Director of the George Tyler Center for the Study of the Civil War. He has a B.A. from York College of Pennsylvania, an M.A. in American history from Rutgers, and a Ph.D. from University of Missouri-Kansas City. Snell is a former assistant professor of the United States Military Academy, West Point, NY, where he taught course in American History and the Civil War. At Shepherd College he teaches two Civil War courses and the American history survey course.

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