Robert E. Lee's Civil War

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"This book should delight enthusiasts of strategy and tactics. But it is also an excellent choice for anyone wishing to gain an introductory knowledge of the sequence of military events from the first days of the Civil War to the last." -The Wall Street Journal

"Bevin Alexander's work is brilliant, provocative work challenging both the scholar and enthusiast to rethink the generalship of R.E. Lee. The author provides clear, insightful, well-documented discussions of Lee's campaigns. Readers are advised to ponder this finely written, comprehensive, and controversial book. Whether the reader agrees or disagrees with Alexander, they will surely find this bold consideration of Lee's military ability more rewarding." -The Civil War New

This vivid depiction of the fiercest battles ever fought on American soil presents the Civil War as you've never seen it before-with a provocative re-examination of the military genius of Robert E. Lee, and a critical, pragmatic re-evaluation of the performance of the generals who led the armies of both South and North.

Military strategist and historian Bevin Alexander takes you behind the battle lines into the general's camps offering a gripping look at the uncertainties, the bravado, and the often misguided decisions of these West Point-trained officers as they struggle to adapt traditional strategies to a new era of warfare.

Robert E. Lee—the South's most revered military leader—receives full credit for both his outstanding defensive maneuvers and for his remarkable achievement in holding together a disorganized and often under-equipped Confederate Army. But, Alexander also demonstrates how Lee's rigid belief in launching large-scale attacks on Union armies led inevitably to the Confederacy's defeat.


Lee fights against the United States but is an American hero. He is seen as a beau ideal, incorporating nearly all the elements Americans value in human character. The Civil War is nearly unique in that a single man, Lee, is able to stymie over a period of years the greatest efforts of an extremely powerful state, the Union.

Chapter 1: Lee Takes Command

Description of the desperate situation the Confederacy faces in spring 1862, with a vastly superior Union army in front of Richmond. President Jefferson Davis places Lee in command.

Chapter 2: The Seven Days

Description of the attacks Lee launches against McClellan over Seven Days ending July 2, 1862, when Lee drives the Union army to Harrison’s Landing on the James River east of Richmond.

Chapter 3: The Revolution in Warfare

The new Minié-ball rifle has a range four times that of the old smoothbore musket. This weapon, plus field fortifications, is transforming warfare, making attacks on defended positions almost certain to fail.

Chapter 4: “Pope Must Be Suppressed”

Story of the campaign in the summer of 1862: Stonewall Jackson’s victory over John Pope at Cedar Mountain, his descent on Manassas, and his inducing Pope to attack his powerful defensive position at Groveton, just north of Gainesville, where Lee is about to emerge from the Bull Run Mountains.

Chapter 5: Second Manassas

Story of this battle. Jackson knows he can stop Pope’s frontal attacks, and expects Lee to fall on Pope’s left or southern flank, shatter his army, and prevent its retreat over Bull Run. Lee, however, waits till late on the second day to attack, too late to destroy Pope’s army.

Chapter 6: The Lost Order

Lee moves into Maryland in September 1862, refuses to stand east of South Mountain, as Jackson recommends, and withdraws westward. McClellan finds a discarded order that tells him Lee’s dispositions, and pursues Lee. Lee resolves to stand at Antietam Creek.

Chapter 7: Antietam

The bloodiest day in American history. Lee fends off McClellan’s attacks, but does not have enough space to move around the Union flank, and defeat the Union army. A Confederate disaster, for it gives Lincoln a victory so he can announce the Emancipation Proclamation.

Chapter 8: Fredericksburg

Burnside decides to attack Lee at Fredericksburg. Jackson sees that no decisive victory is possible here, because the battlefield will be dominated by Union artillery on Stafford Heights. He tries to get Lee to withdraw to a better position to the south, but Lee refuses. A Confederate victory, but with no strategic gain.

Chapter 9: Chancellorsville

Hooker sends a huge Union force on Lee’s flank, but Sedgwick fails to attack Lee and hold him in place. Jackson drives Hooker back into the Wilderness, then convinces Lee to send Jackson’s whole corps on Hooker’s exposed right flank. A great victory, but fails to destroy Union army because Jackson is mortally wounded.

Chapter 10: The March into Pennsylvania

Lee resolves to force a decision in the war. His troops reach Carlisle and Wrightsville in Pennsylvania, but he turns back abruptly south when he learns Meade is at Frederick, Maryland, and concentrates his army at Gettysburg.

Chapter 11: Gettysburg

Instead of standing on the defensive, Lee attacks at Gettysburg, driving the Federals onto Cemetery Hill and Ridge south of town. Longstreet tries to get Lee to move between Meade and Washington, knowing Meade must then attack. But Lee refuses, orders Confederate assaults, culminating in the disastrous Pickett’s Charge on the third day.

Chapter 12: Defiance

Description of the Virginia campaign of 1864—the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House, Battle of North Anna, Battle of Cold Harbor, and Grant’s crossing the James River to invest Petersburg.

Chapter 13: Stalemate

Description of the siege of Petersburg and the slow deterioration of Confederate strength.

Chapter 14: Surrender

Description of the Confederate retreat from Petersburg to Appomattox. Details of the surrender.


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