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The U.S. Civil War Generals
This Page:   Alexander - Longstreet - Hill
Also:  Sheridan - Sherman - Custer - Grant - Lee - Pickett

General Alexander

Probably the best of the Confederate memoirs, a must-have.   Any serious student of the War for Southern Independence has learned that memoirs are a veritable minefield of self-serving half-truths and outright misrepresentations.   Alexander's is the notable exception.   Long allied with, and perhaps a bit beholden to, James Longstreet, Alexander tries to if not defend, at least explain his old chief, particularly at Gettysburg.   Alexander's fundamental honesty triumphs, though he is at pains to put the best face on Longstreet's actions. The memoir is frank, enormously fact-filled, and about as honest as someone with a personal stake in the matter could be. An absolute must-have for any student of The War.
'Military Memoirs" and Henderson's 'Stonewall Jackson' are probably the two most important books on the Army of Northern Virginia.   Both provide fair and extremely in depth critiques on the actions and motives of the Confederate Army.    'Military Memoirs however was written by a participant in the conflict (Alexander was chief of Artillery in the ANV) and does not stop after Chancellorsville, which pushes it ahead of Henderson's masterpiece as the most valuable Confederate military history.   It is absolutely a must for every Civil War buff!!!

Finest personal memoir of the Civil War I have read.    I think that as time goes by, Porter Alexander's personal memoirs, written for his family and thus very candid, will come to be seen as an outstanding work both of historical reminiscence and of 19th century writing.   The Introduction, in which Alexander tells of some incidents from his boyhood, is worth the entire book. But, there is more. Alexander worked either as signals officer, ordnance officer or artillery commander for virtually everybody in the Army of Northern Virginia, including Beauregard, J.E. Johnston, Stonewall Jackson, Longstreet, and Lee.   He participated in virtually every major battle. He has the rare ability to describe events in a fresh and modern manner, so that the reader is there with him in the thick of things.   I can only imagine the thrill that the editor must have had when he found these papers at UNC in 1989.   Alexander apparently wrote a more formal history of the Civil War published in 1907 with which I am not familiar.   Although the frontispiece shows an unremarkable face, the writing shows the glowing intelligence and enthusiasm that must have impressed his superiors and led to his being given one responsible assignment after another. By being present, but a generation younger than the ANV leaders, he is able to give both intimate, but also critical pictures of them.   This book is indispensable to anyone with an interest in the Civil War in the Eastern Theatre.    A true classic.

James Longstreet

From Booklist , October 15, 1993
The author of the excellent Mosby's Rangers (1991) pulls together a full-scale account of another controversial Civil War figure -- James Longstreet, commander of the First Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, referred to by Lee as "my old war horse" and conventionally blamed for the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg.   What emerges here is the portrait of a solidly competent soldier who had his flashes of tactical brilliance as well as genuine disagreements with Lee over the respective merits of offensive and defensive tactics.   Gettysburg was probably not winnable by the South, and Longstreet's subsequent reputation owes more to Southern resentment of his postwar Republican political career (less distinguished by far than his military one) than to solid evidence, as Wert's biography points up. With the movie Gettysburg in release this fall, interest in this book may well extend beyond the ranks of Civil War buffs.   Civil War fans, movie going newcomers to Civil War history, and even other historians are all well served by Wert's effort. Roland Green  Copyright© 1993, American Library Association. All rights reserved

Lee's Tarnished Lieutenant:
James Longstreet and His Place in Southern History
by William Garrett Piston

Paperback (1990)

Reconstructing the military career of one of the Confederacy's most competent but also one of its most vilified corps commanders, this book reveals how Longstreet became, in the years after Appomattox, the Judas of the Lost Cause, the scapegoat for Lee's and the South's defeat.   This book reads like the doctoral dissertation of a graduate student: copious footnotes carefully documenting statements, and a thesis with "point" to be made.   The writing, however, is not bone dry like many academic endeavours are, and this book is nicely crafted.   Longstreet probably alienated many people with his irascible nature, but I do think he was justified in saying the same things that Lee himself said about Gettysburg: the decision to make Pickett's Charge was Lee's, against Longstreet's advice, and Lee properly took the blame for the defeat.   Civil War enthusiasts will enjoy this book.


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