A Glorious Army: Robert E. Lee's Triumph, 1862-1863
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 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.
249. 100. OR, vol. 27, pt. 2, p. 697; Freeman, Lee’s Lieutenants, vol. 3, p. 139; Wert, Cavalryman, pp. 282, 284, 285. 101. Wert, Gettysburg, pp. 59, 90. 102. “The Gettysburg Campaign,” Alexander Papers, UNC. 103. Gallagher, ed., Third Day at Gettysburg, pp. 45, 46. Longstreet claimed in a postwar letter that Pickett’s division while at Chambersburg was under Lee’s direct authority, and Lee should have ordered the command to the field on July 3. See James Longstreet to H. T. Owen, April 21,
liberating themselves. Whatever success may attend that effort, I hope, at any rate, to annoy and harass the enemy.” A local physician visited the Harrison home and attended to Lee’s injured hands, applying new splints and giving him slings for his arms.16 The next morning, September 6, Lee, Longstreet, and the wing commander’s troops headed toward the Potomac crossings. “You may expect to hear of wonders performed by the consolidated, veteran armies of Longstreet and Jackson,” predicted a
history that will flash down the tide of time a luster of glory. It had done an amount of marching and fighting that appears almost incredible, even to those minds familiar with the records of great military exertions.”4 The British historian Frederick Maurice concluded: “Lee’s campaign of 1862 is a remarkable example of calculated boldness and imaginative strategy. No other commander has achieved with means so exiguous results more remarkable. And throughout the campaign Fortune had been almost
rarely accomplished by so small a force.”65 In unbroken, blue-darkened ranks the Federals filed across the three pontoon bridges throughout December 12. As one regiment passed a group of prisoners, a Southerner drawled to them, “Never mind, Yanks, you chaps will ketch hell over there.” Once in the town discipline among the officers and men evaporated in a frenzy of ransacking and destruction. The Yankees looted abandoned houses and businesses, dragged furniture into the streets, smashing the
returned to Lee and admitted, “It would be inexpedient to attack here.” So instead Lee ordered Jackson and three of his divisions to follow McLaws the next morning, combine with Anderson, and engage the Yankees at Chancellorsville. Jubal Early’s division and Barksdale’s brigade, 12,400 officers and men, would defend Marye’s Heights against Sedgwick’s troops. Jackson would confront at least three Union corps with fewer than 44,000 officers and men.36 Lee confronted Hooker’s boldness with his