Cozzens is for readers who like their battles hard-core. He wants to know what every single regiment was doing during the engagement and he's going to...moreCozzens is for readers who like their battles hard-core. He wants to know what every single regiment was doing during the engagement and he's going to make sure you learn, too. He's a difficult read for the novice, but the trek is unusually rewarding. Cozzens has a good eye for anecdotes and he likes to make clear the gory cost of battle. He's also an excellent exploder of myths--and does a reassessment of those soldiers whose efforts have been either overlooked by history, or overpraised.
By the time you're done with one of his books you will have learned the fight about as thoroughly as anyone can from a single volume. You really don't understand Civil War battle history until you are willing to delve into one of these conflicts on the level Cozzens is trying to take you, and it's well worth going on the journey with him.
Krick is always a good read, and I wish he would write more. He's an unreconstructed Southerner who adores Jackson, yet he's not above including scene...moreKrick is always a good read, and I wish he would write more. He's an unreconstructed Southerner who adores Jackson, yet he's not above including scenes that are not to Jackson's credit. Krick has a real gift for amusing incidents and interesting narrative, and he should not be missed.
Hill is a strangely modern and tragic character. As a lieutenant in the U.S army he was stationed in Florida during various conflicts with the Seminol...moreHill is a strangely modern and tragic character. As a lieutenant in the U.S army he was stationed in Florida during various conflicts with the Seminoles, yet in contrast to the usual racism of the time he was sympathetic to the Indians, noting that all they wanted was to be left alone. Possibly as a result of the stress of his duties he took to drink, though he later regained more moderate habits after he was transferred to other theaters. Sent in at the tail end of the Mexican War, he called the conflict unjust. Hill neither owned slaves nor cared for slavery, yet as a Virginian and a Southerner, he found he could not fight anywhere else except under Lee. Still a lieutenant at the outbreak of the Civil War, he was promoted faster than practically any man in the Southern Army, making Brigadier General in nine months. Within the next year he was promoted to Lieutenant General, and in the last year of the war he was, despite poor health, Lee's second-in-command.
Very early on Hill gained a reputation as an excellent trainer of troops, and his thorough work was apparent at the Battle of Bull Run, a conflict in which both sides dissolved into a pair of disorderly mobs ineffectually shoving at each other. The tide turned when Kirby Smith's brigade arrived, kept both discipline and order and smashed the Union right, thus starting the famous rout. Few knew that the training of that brigade had been nearly all the work of A. P. Hill. However, the army’s commander, Joe Johnston took note and Hill received his promotion to general. Nor would this be the first occasion Hill’s superiors would receive credit for Hill’s efforts.
During the Seven Day’s fighting around Richmond, Hill’s troops bore the bulk of the weight of the conflict, and his division took thirty percent casualties, gained itself a name as Hill’s Light Division along with much praise in the newspapers, and earned the jealous wrath of James Longstreet.
This conflict was caused because Longstreet failed to show up for the battle at Beaverdam Creek, thus leaving Hill in the lurch, then failed to show up at the battle of Gaines' Mill, leaving Hill in the lurch yet again as Longstreet thrashed around in the underbrush for several hours unable to get a battle line formed. Longstreet's troops only entered the conflict when Hill came over to Longstreet's position and ordered Hood's brigade (of Longstreet's division) to attack, a blow which resulted in the collapse of the Union line. Given the task of pursuing the now-retreating Federals, Lee assigned Hill command of Longstreet's troops for a while because Longstreet had vanished (despite the obvious importance of rescuing Richmond and staying on goal--you can only wonder what Longstreet was thinking).
A Richmond newspaper praised Hill a little too much for Longstreet's taste, and embarrassingly, noticed the oddness of Hill being in charge of Longstreet's own troops for a time. Longstreet exploded and arrested Hill, but only to back off when Hill challenged him to a duel.
After this behavior, Hill had had enough and refused to serve under Longstreet again. Transferring to Stonewall Jackson's corps, however, was only going from the frying pan into the fire. It wasn’t long before Hill collided with Jackson’s ego. Hill’s troops rescued Jackson from a virtual rout at the Battle of Cedar Mountain when the Federals inconveniently decided to attack sooner than Jackson had been planning. This led to further ill-feeling when Jackson discovered his own Stonewall brigade had been the first to collapse and the only body of troops, nominally Jackson’s own, that distinguished itself in the fighting was Hill’s former regiment, the 13th Virginia. Jackson finally lost it, clapped Hill under arrest though refusing to charge him with anything, (a situation illegal according to military law.)
Wrathful but still dutiful, Hill swallowed his pride, talked his way back into command and fought the entire Maryland campaign while technically still in a state of arrest. His troops bore the weight of the fighting at 2nd Manassas and Chantilly, and his division inflicted the coup de grace at Harper’s Ferry by flanking the enemy out of the fortifications. As a capper, Hill rescued Lee’s entire army at Antietam. Reinstated after pressure from Lee, Hill and Jackson feuded all the way until Jackson’s death.
In the last year of the war Hill had a vital role in preserving the deteriorating Confederate morale in the trench warfare around Petersburg, though his health was failing badly. The reader is left with the subtle impression that Hill was more important in this respect than Lee himself was. The date of the significant decline of conditions in Lee's trenches starts exactly when Hill was forced to take prolonged sick leave.
Hill's end could have been written by a Greek tragedian. In the last few days of the war he was shot directly through the heart and died trying to rally his troops when Grant finally broke the Confederate lines. Robertson’s book is a fascinating read but it would be best if supplemented by other Civil War books, especially those dealing with the specific battles Hill fought. The Southern mythos has got Hill mostly wrong, and needs better scholarship and a more hard-nosed attitude about giants such as Lee, Longstreet, and Jackson. Too often historians trying to preserve the reputations of the aforementioned trio try to diminish Hill’s. It is part of the Southern mythos that Lee was loved by his troops. But one of Lee’s soldiers stated in a memoir that though Lee was respected by his troops, he wasn’t loved. Lee was simply too formal, cold, and distant to inspire that sort of tender emotion. Hill, Robertson makes plain, was loved by his men. (less)
There is a one-volume condensed version of this trilogy. Avoid it like smallpox. That's akin to buying a one-volume condensed version of the Lord of T...moreThere is a one-volume condensed version of this trilogy. Avoid it like smallpox. That's akin to buying a one-volume condensed version of the Lord of The Rings. (less)
This volume is the most popular of Strong's diaries because of the subject matter of the Civil War. Strong was a close and careful observer, and any s...moreThis volume is the most popular of Strong's diaries because of the subject matter of the Civil War. Strong was a close and careful observer, and any student of the period needs to be aware of his work. Volume 1 of the series is the weakest, for Strong was still developing as a writer. Volumes 2 and 4, though not read as often as 3, are solidly good and are worthwhile cultural histories of Strong's time. (less)
Though out of date, this book is well-written and still quite likeable. A good introduction to the battles before Richmond at the beginning of the Civ...moreThough out of date, this book is well-written and still quite likeable. A good introduction to the battles before Richmond at the beginning of the Civil War. (less)
This book, despite its publishing date, is still the best biography in existance about Robert E. Lee. All other attempts (including Douglas Southall F...moreThis book, despite its publishing date, is still the best biography in existance about Robert E. Lee. All other attempts (including Douglas Southall Freeman's) suffer from being much too hagiographic. Dowdey, a Southerner, likes his Lee very much, but alone among biographers he's also interested in finding out what made Lee tick. This book would be better if some editor could add new information to it but as it stands, this is still the one to go to. (less)
A detailed account of the daily life of Civil War soldiers. If you want to find out what types of insect life infested army hardtack, or how they buri...moreA detailed account of the daily life of Civil War soldiers. If you want to find out what types of insect life infested army hardtack, or how they buried all those dead and rotting horses after a large battle, this book is for you. Very funny and informative. (less)
The best personal account of Stonewall Jackson during the Civil War. Douglas, who was on Jackson's staff, presents a more balanced view of Stonewall t...moreThe best personal account of Stonewall Jackson during the Civil War. Douglas, who was on Jackson's staff, presents a more balanced view of Stonewall than many others. (less)
This is one of the unknown classics of the Civil War. Grigsby recounts his escape from a Southern prison, and with the help of friendly slaves he mana...moreThis is one of the unknown classics of the Civil War. Grigsby recounts his escape from a Southern prison, and with the help of friendly slaves he manages to make his gradual way north to safety. A very gripping read. (less)
This is one of my all-time-favorite war books. As told by Newton, the battle of Seven Pines was characterized by unbelievable ineptitude on the part o...moreThis is one of my all-time-favorite war books. As told by Newton, the battle of Seven Pines was characterized by unbelievable ineptitude on the part of the Confederates. Often hilarious, though tragic, this book is highly recommended. (less)