A Glorious Army: Robert E. Lee's Triumph, 1862-1863

A Glorious Army: Robert E. Lee's Triumph, 1862-1863

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by Jeffry D. Wert
     
 

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From the time Robert E. Lee took command of the Army of Northern Virginia on June 1, 1862, until the Battle of Gettysburg thirteen months later, the Confederate army compiled a record of military achievement almost unparalleled in our nation’s history. How it happened—the relative contributions of Lee, his top command, opposing Union generals, and of

Overview

From the time Robert E. Lee took command of the Army of Northern Virginia on June 1, 1862, until the Battle of Gettysburg thirteen months later, the Confederate army compiled a record of military achievement almost unparalleled in our nation’s history. How it happened—the relative contributions of Lee, his top command, opposing Union generals, and of course the rebel army itself—is the subject of Civil War historian Jeffry D. Wert’s fascinating and riveting new history.

In the year following Lee’s appointment, his army won four major battles or campaigns and fought Union forces to a draw at the bloody Battle of Antietam. Washington itself was threatened, as a succession of Union commanders failed to stop Lee’s offensive. Until Gettysburg, it looked as if Lee might force the Union to negotiate a peace rather than risk surrendering the capital or even losing the war. Lee’s victories fired southern ambition and emboldened Confederate soldiers everywhere.

Wert shows how the same audacity and aggression that fueled these victories proved disastrous at Gettysburg. But, as Wert explains, Lee had little choice: outnumbered by an opponent with superior resources, he had to take the fight to the enemy in order to win. For a year his superior generalship prevailed against his opponents, but eventually what Lee’s trusted lieutenant General James Longstreet called “headlong combativeness” caused Lee to miscalculate. When an equally combative Union general—Ulysses S. Grant—took command of northern forces in 1864, Lee was defeated. A Glorious Army draws on the latest scholarship, including letters and diaries, to provide a brilliant analysis of Lee’s triumphs. It offers fresh assessments of Lee; his top commanders Longstreet, Jackson, and Stuart; and a shrewd battle strategy that still offers lessons to military commanders today. A Glorious Army is a dramatic account of major battles from Seven Days to Gettysburg that is as gripping as it is convincing, a must-read for anyone interested in the Civil War.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Wert succeeds admirably in his quest to provide a fresh perspective on Lee's virtues as the commander of the South's most prominent army."

—Col. Cole C. Kingseed (USA-Ret.), Army

A Civil War specialist revisits the glory days of one of the most splendid fighting forces ever assembled: the Army of Northern Virginia (ANV).

After the bitter defeat at Gettysburg, the Confederate army, its officer corps severely depleted, never regained the momentum it had achieved since June 1862 when Robert E. Lee assumed command. But what a run they had. At the Seven Days, Second Manassas, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and even the bloody stalemate at Antietam, the ANV fashioned a brilliant string of military successes that changed the course of the war in the East. In the process, Lee and his gallant army came to embody the Southern cause, keeping alive the possibility against long odds that the Confederacy might survive. Assessing the ANV’s legacy, Wert (Cavalryman of the Lost Cause: A Biography of J.E.B. Stuart, 2008, etc.) eschews the tick-tock of battle in favor of analysis of the big-picture, how the army was led and how the rank and file responded. Nimbly sifting the oftentimes conflicting judgments of a wide array of historians and making vivid use of primary source documents, the author demonstrates how everything—the good and the bad—began with Lee. He immediately reorganized and disciplined the army, improved communications, delegated broad authority to his senior commanders, particularly the steady, reliable James Longstreet and the eccentric, audacious Stonewall Jackson, and relied on a talented cadre of brigade and regimental officers to implement his relentlessly aggressive battle plans. Convinced the South could never prevail relying on a passive, defensive strategy, Lee constantly took the fight to the enemy, even as the battlefield victories bled his forces. Wert covers it all—the blunders, the exceptional maneuvers, the irreparable losses, all the exquisitely difficult choices facing a general whose bold calculations always prevailed until, finally, they didn’t.

An energetic, evenhanded assessment that gets at the heart of Lee’s genius and the heroic achievements of the army he so ably led.

Kirkus Reviews

"Acclaimed Civil War historian Wert, who has written extensively on both Robert E. Lee's army and the Union's Army of the Potomac, brings his lucid literary skills and keen analysis to a close examination of Lee's military character and conduct during the most successful period of his generalship. . . . Wert's book is a page-turner and an essential read for both Civil War history fans and scholars."

Library Journal (starred review)

"With admirable skill and flair, Jeffry D. Wert addresses the historic standing of General Lee. . . . Lee is well served by Wert's eloquent and judicious study."

—Philip Terzian, The Weekly Standard

"Wert's prose is accessible and clear. . . . These battle-by-battle accounts, along with his carefully judged opinions backed up by quoting from diaries and letters at the time or memoirs written later and other sources, will delight mostly those who savor every twist and turn of battle. . . . Wert's judgments are sober and convincing."

—Michael Giltz, Huffington Post

Library Journal
Acclaimed Civil War historian Wert (Cavalryman of the Lost Cause: A Biography of J.E.B. Stuart), who has written extensively on both Robert E. Lee's army and the Union's Army of the Potomac, brings his lucid literary skills and keen analysis to a close examination of Lee's military character and conduct during the most successful period of his generalship. Wert argues that Lee became an aggressive general in his strategy and tactics as he recognized that the South could not survive a protracted war and needed to win convincingly in the field because of his own psychological understanding of war and his belief in the invincibility of his soldiers. Wert shows how Lee's aggressiveness succeeded in the field, even against great odds, but ultimately undermined the offensive killing power of his army owing to high battlefield losses. Sloppy intelligence, a tired general, confusing orders, and other factors led to Lee's defeat at Gettysburg, thus shifting the strategic initiative to the Union. VERDICT Wert's book is a page-turner and an essential read for both Civil War history fans and scholars and a work to ponder in terms of the ways self-perceptions inform policy and chance as much as design decides military destiny.—Randall M. Miller, Saint Joseph's Univ., Philadelphia
Kirkus Reviews

A Civil War specialist revisits the glory days of one of the most splendid fighting forces ever assembled: the Army of Northern Virginia (ANV).

After the bitter defeat at Gettysburg, the Confederate army, its officer corps severely depleted, never regained the momentum it had achieved since June 1862 when Robert E. Lee assumed command. But what a run they had. At the Seven Days, Second Manassas, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and even the bloody stalemate at Antietam, the ANV fashioned a brilliant string of military successes that changed the course of the war in the East. In the process, Lee and his gallant army came to embody the Southern cause, keeping alive the possibility against long odds that the Confederacy might survive. Assessing the ANV's legacy, Wert (Cavalryman of the Lost Cause: A Biography of J.E.B. Stuart, 2008, etc.) eschews the tick-tock of battle in favor of analysis of the big-picture, how the army was led and how the rank and file responded. Nimbly sifting the oftentimes conflicting judgments of a wide array of historians and making vivid use of primary source documents, the author demonstrates how everything—the good and the bad—began with Lee. He immediately reorganized and disciplined the army, improved communications, delegated broad authority to his senior commanders, particularly the steady, reliable James Longstreet and the eccentric, audacious Stonewall Jackson, and relied on a talented cadre of brigade and regimental officers to implement his relentlessly aggressive battle plans. Convinced the South could never prevail relying on a passive, defensive strategy, Lee constantly took the fight to the enemy, even as the battlefield victories bled his forces. Wert covers it all—the blunders, the exceptional maneuvers, the irreparable losses, all the exquisitely difficult choices facing a general whose bold calculations always prevailed until, finally, they didn't.

An energetic, evenhanded assessment that gets at the heart of Lee's genius and the heroic achievements of the army he so ably led.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781416598473
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
04/05/2011
Sold by:
SIMON & SCHUSTER
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
937,360
File size:
5 MB

Meet the Author

Jeffry D. Wert is the author of eight previous books on Civil War topics, most recently Cavalryman of the Lost Cause and The Sword of Lincoln. His articles and essays on the Civil War have appeared in many publications, including Civil War Times Illustrated, American History Illustrated, and Blue and Gray. A former history teacher at Penns Valley High School, he lives in Centre Hall, Pennsylvania, slightly more than one hour from the battlefield at Gettysburg.

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