A Glorious Army: Robert E. Lee's Triumph, 1862-1863
Jeffry D. Wert
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.
ALSO BY JEFFRY D. WERT Cavalryman of the Lost Cause: A Biography of J. E. B. Stuart The Sword of Lincoln: The Army of the Potomac Gettysburg: Day Three A Brotherhood of Valor: The Common Soldiers of the Stonewall Brigade, C.S.A., and the Iron Brigade, U.S.A. Custer: The Controversial Life of George Armstrong Custer General James Longstreet: The Confederacy’s Most Controversial Soldier—A Biography From Winchester to Cedar Creek: The Shenandoah Campaign of 1864 Simon & Schuster 1230.
Brigades would remain in Chambersburg with the army’s wagon trains. “In the absence of the cavalry,” Lee reported, “it was impossible to ascertain his [Hooker’s] intentions; but to deter him from advancing farther west, and intercepting our communication with Virginia, it was determined to concentrate the army east of the mountains.”85 Lee should not have been surprised at Harrison’s information; he had known for a week of the Federals’ construction of a pontoon bridge across the Potomac. He had.
The Rebels wrested from the Federals a section of the fieldworks on the lower part of the hill. But the steepness of the hill, the protection accorded the defenders by the earthworks, and reinforcements stopped the attackers. The fighting continued until 10:00 P.M., before ending “by degrees and by common consent.” The foes remained in close proximity. During the night the rest of the Twelfth Corps brigades returned to the hill.94 While the struggle for Culp’s Hill flamed in the woods, Early.
Believed, with justification, that he deserved a major generalcy ahead of either of them, who were both junior in rank to him. Wilcox had led more than one brigade capably during the summer campaigns. He asked Lee to be relieved from command and transferred to the west. “I cannot consent to it,” answered Lee, “for I require your services here.… I know you are too good a soldier not to serve where it is necessary for the benefit of the Confederacy.” Lee met with the disgruntled general, and Wilcox.
Enemy with your usual skill.” Tragically for Stuart during these days he learned that his four-year-old daughter, Flora, named for her mother, had died of typhoid fever. To his staff, with tears on his face, he said, “I will never get over it—never!” Two weeks earlier Lee’s twenty-three-year-old daughter, Annie, had also succumbed to typhoid fever.45 Duty kept Stuart from consoling his grief-stricken wife. Few men were more devoted to the cause than he; at one time he had told his mother, “I.