General Stonewall Jackson, VMI, Cadets

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General Stonewall Jackson, VMI, and the Cadets

General Stonewall Jackson
General Stonewall Jackson.jpg
(Courtesy VMI)

(About) Photograph of Major Jackson in 1851, shortly before he left Army service. That same year, he resigned his commission and began teaching at the Virginia Military Institute. Courtesy VMI.

Stonewall Jackson at the Virginia Military Institute

"As Professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy, Major Jackson was not a success....His genius was in the Science and Art of War." VMI Superintendent Francis H. Smith.

From 1851 until the outbreak of Civil War, Thomas J. Jackson served as Professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy and Instructor of Artillery Tactics at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia (See Civil War Army: The Confederate and Union Infantry, Cavalry, and Artillery Organizations). Natural Philosophy (in modern terms, roughly equivalent to Physics; it included astronomy, mechanics, acoustics, optics, and other sciences), was a difficult part of the mid-nineteenth century curriculum; many cadets found it almost impossible to master under the best of circumstances. Unfortunately, Major Jackson, as he was known at VMI, was a mediocre teacher--although highly intelligent, he could not convey the concepts to students. This inability, along with his humorless demeanor, soon branded Jackson as an unpopular faculty member, one who was the target of many student pranks.

Francis H. Smith, VMI's Superintendent during Jackson's era, wrote the following in his History of the Virginia Military Institute

"As Professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy, Major Jackson was not a success. He had not the qualifications needed for so important a chair. He was no teacher, and he lacked the tact required in getting along with his classes....His genius was in the Science and Art of War. He found a field for the display of this genius when the war opened in 1861."

On May 15, 1863, the funeral of one of the great military leaders of the South was held in Lexington, and hundreds came to pay him tribute. In the short span of two years, 1861 to 1863, Thomas Jonathan Jackson had risen to fame in the South and had become the immortal "Stonewall." In this brief interval he had captured the respect and admiration of the people of the Confederacy and of soldiers from both sides of the North-South conflict.

The Virginia Military Institute prizes the distinct kinship it has with the life of Lieutenant General Jackson. It was in Lexington that he made his home and at VMI that he spent the years before the Civil War, years of instructing cadets in the classroom and drilling them in the field. It was at VMI that his personal qualities and code of living made such an imprint that his influence exists to this day.

At VMI one cannot escape the memory of Stonewall Jackson nor forget those things for which he stood. On the west side of the cadet barracks overlooking the parade ground-larger now, but still the same ground on which Jackson drilled cadets, stands Sir Moses Ezekiel's bronze statue of Jackson, depicting him as he surveyed his army just before the Battle of Chancellorsville. It was May 2, 1863, the day of his greatest triumph and also of the wound that proved to be fatal (Chancellorsville Campaign and the Death of Thomas Jonathan Jackson). As Jackson looked about, he saw many former cadets and VMI associates in command positions with the army, and his words at that moment, addressed to his cavalry leader, Colonel Thomas T. Munford, VMI class of 1852, are inscribed upon the base of the statue: "The Institute will be heard from today."

Appropriately flanking the statue are the four six-pounder guns of the old cadet battery used by Jackson in artillery instruction at VMI. Near these same guns he stood at First Manassas when he won his nickname. The guns are a reminder that although Jackson became a great exponent of the war movement, he was primarily a master artillerist.

To the rear of the Jackson statue, across the wide road which circles the parade ground, is the principal entrance into the cadet barracks, an archway with the words "Stonewall Jackson" lettered over it. Each time a new cadet leaves the barracks through that arch, he salutes the statue of Jackson. Cadets entering the arch see inscribed in bronze letters the maxima Jackson wrote in a composition book in which he made notes during his own cadet days at West Point: "You may be whatever you resolve to be."

VMI's assembly hall is the Jackson Memorial Hall, and the Institute's museum houses a handsome collection of Jackson memorabilia. Among the items displayed in the museum are the uniform he wore as a member of the VMI faculty, the forage cap he wore during the major part of the war, his field desk and camp stool, the bullet-pierced raincoat he wore the night of his accidental wounding, and other items from his pre-war days.

Also in the museum is the mounted hide of his famed war horse, Little Sorrel. Jackson obtained the sorrel gelding shortly after the war began and was riding him at First Manassas when General Barnard E. Bee made the statement that gave Jackson his lasting nickname. He rode Little Sorrel throughout the Valley campaign and was astride the little horse when he received his fatal wound.

Thomas Jonathan Jackson was born January 21, 1824, in Clarksburg, Virginia, now in West Virginia. He was graduated from the Unites States Military Academy at West Point on July 1, 1846, with the commission of brevet second lieutenant of artillery. The young lieutenant immediately reported for duty with the First Artillery and was soon assigned to Magurder's Light Battery, then serving in Mexico. Fourteen months later he had risen to the rank of brevet major of artillery and had established his reputation as a soldier.

At this time, in the Valley of Virginia, the Board of Visitors of the Virginia Military Institute was considering a new appointment to its faculty, and in the school year 1850-51 the Board began an active search for a suitable person to fill the chair of Natural and Experimental Philosophy, or physics as it is called today. It was not surprising when associates of the young Major Jackson, who had been commended highly for bravery in the Mexican War, were quick to point out his qualifications to the VMI Board.

In early February 1851, the superintendent of VMI, Colonel Francis H. Smith, wrote to Major Jackson offering him the position at the Institute. Jackson at this time was stationed with the First Regiment, U.S. Artillery, at Fort Meade, near Tampa Bay, Florida. He accepted the appointment and reported to the Institute on August 13, 1851, in the days when cadetship at VMI was year-around.

Thomas Jonathan (Stonewall) Jackson served on the VMI Faculty as Professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy & Instructor of Artillery from August 1851 until the beginning of the Civil War in April 1861.

Jackson was twenty-seven when he came to VMI. The Institute, even younger, was only in its twelfth year, and over the next ten years of Jackson's active faculty status they struggled and developed together.

Recommended Viewing: Warriors of Honor (DVD). Description: It has become politically correct to cast slurs and aspersions on all things and men who fought for the Confederacy. Is it true that both General Robert E. Lee and General "Stonewall" Jackson fought to preserve slavery? Clearly, according to this thought-provoking DVD, it wasn't true then and isn't now, but if enough people yell it loud enough long enough it achieves the same status as the truth. Continued below...
This documentary delves in fact, and explains most clearly the motivations of two of the Confederacy's most brilliant and beloved Generals. It goes behind the common information and deals with the true feelings and spiritual beliefs of the two Heroes. Highly recommended for all serious students and buffs of the War between the States. History teachers, moreover, would be shocked by this candid, scholarly, and informative study.

The VMI Cadets!
VMI Cadets.jpg
"Put the Boys In" by Don Troiani

(Right) The Battle of New Market* is the only occasion in American history in which a student body has charged to victory in pitched combat.

In addition to his teaching duties at VMI, Jackson served as instructor in artillery tactics and had an integral part on the military training of all cadets. The cadet battery, made especially for VMI in 1848, was used by Jackson for artillery instruction, and though mounted drill was not established at VMI until 1919, it is recorded that three months after his arrival at the Institute he developed a plan for a battery of horsedrawn artillery.

As a professor, Jackson was strict and often stern in his discipline. He was never a popular professor, but no faculty member possessed a higher degree of respect from the cadets for unbending integrity and fearlessness in the discharge of one's duty. It is said "exact as the multiplication table and full of things military as an arsenal."

From his first year at VMI, Jackson was the subject of many cadet pranks. His ungainly appearance, strictness, and lack of humor provided fuel for "much juvenile wit & merriment." Cadets delighted in drawing caricatures on the blackboard in Jackson's classroom--often a sketch depicting an officer with enormous feet (his exceptionally large shoe size inspired "Square Box," one of his several nicknames; others were "Old Jack," "Tom Fool," "Old Hickory"). Other incidents included throwing spitballs in class, making noises when his back was turned, dropping a brick as he passed underneath a barracks window, and pulling linchpins from cannon wheels during artillery drill.

Jackson was exacting in demands he made upon the cadets, and no less so in demands made upon himself.

A popular Jackson story at VMI is that of an incident that typified the character of the young officer. The story concerns an appointment between Jackson and the VMI superintendent who had advised the major that he wanted to see him in his office. Jackson arrived at the precise hour of the appointment, but the superintendent, remembering something he had to do, asked Jackson to be seated and to remain until he returned. Detained longer on his errand than he had anticipated, the superintendent remembered quite late that Major Jackson was waiting, but he presumed Jackson had waited a reasonable time and then gone home. Coming into his office the next morning, the superintendent found Jackson still waiting, sitting upright in the same chair where he had been seated the evening before. Jackson had interpreted the superintendent's polite request that he remain seated as an order-and Major Jackson never disobeyed an order.

Jackson was a man of perfect truth and sincerity, and so sensitive about misrepresentation that it is told he walked a mile and a half through rain one night to correct a statement about an incident which had occurred between two cadets. He had represented the incident as taking place on the lawn when, as a matter of fact, it had occurred on the porch. Though this seems to be an exaggerated effort to keep in line with perfect truth, it was characteristic of the young officer.

At VMI, Jackson taught his classes with the same directness with which he thought and acted, and though he was severely criticized for his manner, the superintendent and others saw his worth. He never wavered in his character, in his devoutness to church, in his dependability, faith, and resolution. These qualities overshadowed any professorial deficiencies and set a mark that even the young cadets recognized as the potential of greatness.

As he became a part of VMI, Jackson also became a part of the community. He married in Lexington and established in the town the only home he ever maintained.

It was in Lexington that Jackson selected his church affiliation and actively began the practice of his Christian principles. He became a member of the Presbyterian Church and, later, a deacon in that church. He started a Negro Sunday School which he taught himself-and if his pupils were not on time, they didn't get in. He took his duties seriously and conscientiously tithed his money.

Two years before the Civil War, the cadets at VMI had an indication of what was to come in the growing differences between North and South. Abolitionist John Brown, who had been captured after his raid on Harpers Ferry, had been found guilty of conspiring to commit treason and had been sentenced to be hanged December 2, 1859. There was fear there might be another uprising to aid his escape, and the aid of the VMI cadets was sought by the governor of Virginia. Jackson moved a contingent of cadets to Harpers Ferry where they helped to maintain order in the days before and following Brown's execution. Fifteen months later, Jackson moved the entire cadet corps out of Lexington. War had come, and he was never to return to VMI alive.

In early April 1861, the unrest among the people of the community provoked several incidents, one of which resulted in one of Jackson's rare public speeches.

One Saturday afternoon attempts were made to raise two flags in Lexington, one for secession and one for staying with the Union, and among citizens assembled on the streets there was strong feeling. Being a free afternoon for cadets, many were in the town and were thrown in contact with persons whose sentiments differed greatly from that of the VMI corps in general. Excitement increased when an extremist drew a revolver and knife on a squad of cadets, and though the difficulty was quelled by onlookers who intervened, word spread quickly to barracks that a group of cadets was in danger. At the barracks, the already aroused cadets, with rifles in hand, began to run toward the town but were instantly headed off by the VMI superintendent who ordered their return to the barracks. There the corps was assembled, and the superintendent urged Jackson to speak to the cadets.

"Military men make short speeches," he said, "and as for myself I am no hand at speaking anyhow. The time for war has not yet come, but it will come and that soon; and when it does come, my advice is to draw the sword and throw away the scabbard."

With the final outbreak of hostilities between North and South, the cadets were ordered to Richmond to serve as drill instructors for Confederate recruits. Under Jackson's command, the cadets left VMI on April 21, 1861, and in Richmond reported to Confederate headquarters at Camp Lee. There, Jackson was commissioned a colonel in the Confederacy and, leaving the cadets at Camp Lee, moved on to active military service with the Southern forces.

From this point, his military victories, his tactics, and his strategy are history. From Manassas to Chancellorsville (where he was fatally wounded), Jackson, who had advanced to the rank of lieutenant general, was practically faultless. His battles have been studied almost the world over, and his tactics have become text for many a soldier.

Recommended Reading: Stonewall Jackson: The Man, the Soldier, the Legend (Hardcover) (950 pages). Description: A distinguished Civil War historian unravels the complex character of the Confederacy's greatest general. Drawing on previously untapped manuscript sources, the author refutes such long-standing myths as Stonewall Jackson's obsessive eating of lemons and gives a three-dimensional account of the profound religious faith frequently caricatured as grim Calvinism. Though the author capably covers the battles that made Jackson a legend--Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, etc.--he emphasizes "the life story of an extraordinary man." The result is a biography that will fascinate even those allergic to military history. Continued below...

The New York Times Book Review, Stephen W. Sears . . . [T]wo dozen writers have attempted [Stonewall] biographies, and there are any number of special studies, monographs and essays. Now going straight to the head of the class of Jacksonbiographers, and likely to remain there, is James I. Robertson Jr. . . . Stonewall Jackson: The Man, the Soldier, the Legend gives us far and away the sharpest picture we have ever had of this enigmatic figure.

*VMI Cadets and the Battle of New Market

 

How many cadets fought in the battle? Were any cadets killed or wounded?
257 cadets took part in the battle; 10 cadets were killed in action or died later as a result of wounds received; 57 cadets were wounded.

 

What kind of weapon did a New Market cadet carry?
Of the 257 VMI cadets participating in the battle, around 200 carried the Austrian Lorenz rifle; the remainder carried the Model 1851 Cadet Springfield musket.

 

How old were the cadets who fought at New Market?
Although the ages ranged from 15 to 24, most cadets were between 17 and 21 years old-- that is, very similar in age to today's college students.

"Virginia Mourning Her Dead."
VMI Cadet Monument.jpg
Sculpted by Moses Ezekiel

The VMI Corps of Cadets fought as a unit at the Battle of New Market on May 15, 1864

 

(Right) "Virginia Mourning Her Dead." This memorial to the cadets who fought at New Market was sculpted by Moses Ezekiel, VMI Class of 1866 and a New Market veteran. Grave markers can be seen in the background near the monument's base. 


The “New Market Day Ceremony” is an annual observance held at VMI in front of the monument "Virginia Mourning Her Dead", a memorial to the New Market Corps. The names of all of the cadets in the Corps of 1864 are inscribed on the monument, and six of the ten cadets who died are buried at this site. The ceremony features the roll call of the names of the cadets who lost their lives at New Market, a custom that began in 1887. The name of each cadet who died is called, and a representative from the same company in today's Corps answers, "Died on the Field of Honor, Sir."

 

Ten VMI cadets were mortally wounded at the Battle of New Market on May 15, 1864. Five of the cadets --- William Henry Cabell, Charles Gay Crockett, Henry Jenner Jones, William Hugh McDowell, and Jaqueline Beverly Stanard --- died on the battlefield. The sixth, Thomas Garland Jefferson, died three days later in a private home. These six were buried in the Lutheran Church cemetery at New Market.

 

Four other cadets --- Samuel Francis Atwill, Alva Curtis Hartsfield, Luther Cary Haynes, and Joseph Christopher Wheelwright --- died over the period of the next six weeks as a result of the wounds received in battle. Wheelwright had been taken from the battlefield to the home of a doctor in nearby Harrisonburg, where he died on June 2; Haynes died circa June 15 at the old Powhatan Hotel Hospital in Richmond; Hartsfield died in a Petersburg hospital on June 26; Atwill; Atwill died on July 20 at the home of Dr. F. T. Stribling, in Staunton.

Battle of New Market Map
New Market Battle Map Civil War Battlefield.jpg
(Click to Enlarge)

In the Spring of 1866 the remains of Jones, McDowell, Jefferson, Wheelwright, and Atwill were reinterred at VMI. On May 7, 1866, a detail of four cadets, all of them New Market veterans, set out to bring back the bodies of their classmates. On May 15, the second anniversary of the battle, the bodies were escorted in a procession of the Corps of Cadets from the VMI hospital to the town's Presbyterian Church where memorial services were held. Following the ceremony, the bodies were placed in a vault in the old Porter's Lodge located near the Limit Gates. The remains were subsequently moved to the magazine, located on the bluff across the ravine behind barracks; in 1878 to the newly created cadet cemetery, located in a wooded area which now is the northwest corner of the parade ground; and in 1912 to their final graves under the statue "Virginia Mourning Her Dead." Although individual headstones mark their graves, the remains are actually buried in a copper box set into the foundation of the monument. A sixth grave --- that of Crockett --- was added in 1960. The four other cadets who died at New Market are buried elsewhere. Cabell's grave is at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond; Hartsfield is buried in an unmarked grave in Petersburg; Haynes is interred at his home "Sunny Side" in Essex County; and Stanard at Orange, Virginia.

 

The participation of the VMI Cadet Corps in the battle of New Market marks a moment when young people-- college students-- were called upon to accomplish an assignment of heroic proportions. Called out of their classrooms on 11 May, the Corps marched 80 miles over four days (much of it in a soaking rain). On 15 May the Corps found itself in the center of the Confederate reserve line as General Breckinridge called for an infantry attack. Fate as much as planning resulted in the VMI Cadets advancing across a field into the mouth of waiting Union artillery and Infantry. The conduct of the cadets would determine the outcome of the struggle. The charge was a success and brought victory to the Confederates.

Battle of New Market Battlefield Map
Battle of New Market Battlefield Map.jpg
(Click to Enlarge)

In 1839 the Virginia legislature approved replacing the guard company at the Lexington Arsenal with a military school. The school was intended to provide a source of competent militia officers, engineers, and teachers. It proved to be the states greatest source of officers in 1861; of sixty-four regiments raised that year, twenty-two were commanded by VMI graduates. Of 1,902 VMI matriculates from 1839 to 1865, 1,781 served in the Confederate Army. In April 1861 the Corps of Cadets, 200 strong, performed training duties in Richmond.

 

The school resumed "normal" operations in January 1862 with 269 cadets. The corps was called out as reserve in April and May 1862 during Jackson's McDowell Campaign and took to the field three times in 1863 to support resistance against Federal cavalry raids in southwest Virginia. Following New Market, the corps was ordered to Richmond, where it served briefly in the city's defenses. It returned to Lexington in June to resist Hunter's advance, but could do little to prevent the Federal burning of Institute facilities. The corps was furloughed from July to October, when it was reassembled at Richmond where it served again periodically in the city defenses. It was disbanded on 2 April 1865 on the eve of the evacuation of Richmond. The Institute reopened at Lexington in October 1865.

(About) Video of General "Stonewall" Jackson earning his nom de guerre at the First Battle of Bull Run.

(Source: VMI)

Recommended Viewing: Gods & Generals (2003) (219 minutes), starring Stephen Lang, Robert Duvall, Jeff Daniels, Mark Aldrich, and George Allen. Description: The more you know about the Civil War, the more you'll appreciate Gods and Generals and the painstaking attention to detail that Gettysburg writer-director Ronald F. Maxwell has invested in this academically respectable 219-minute historical pageant. Continued below…

In adapting Jeffrey Shaara's 1996 novel (encompassing events of 1861-63, specifically the Virginian battles of Bull Run, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville), Maxwell sacrifices depth for scope while focusing on the devoutly religious "Stonewall" Jackson (Stephen Lang), whose Confederate campaigns endear him to Gen. Robert E. Lee (Robert Duvall, giving the film's most subtle performance). Battles are impeccably recreated using 7,500 Civil War re-enactors and sanitized PG-13 violence, their authenticity compromised by tasteful discretion and endless scenes of grandiloquent dialogue. Still, as the first part of a trilogy that ends with The Last Full Measure, this is a superbly crafted, instantly essential film for Civil War study. For all its misguided priorities, Gods and Generals is a noble effort, honoring faith and patriotism with the kind of reverence that has all but vanished from American film – but provides abundant proof that historical accuracy is no guarantee of great storytelling. It is a sweeping epic charting the early years of the Civil War and how campaigns unfolded from Manassas to the Battle of Fredericksburg, and this video was the prequel to the film Gettysburg, which explores the motivations of the combatants and examines the lives of those who waited at home.

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Recommended Reading: Young Lions: Confederate Cadets at War. Description: "In making soldiers of them," said Confederate president Jefferson Davis regarding the mobilization of his nation’s youths, "we are grinding the seed corn." Yet, the bloody millstones of war ground them--and nowhere more noticeably than at the Confederacy’s de facto "West Points." The legend of the Southern cadets is one of "untrained boys wastefully flung in the path of Yankee armies as the Confederacy came to a turbulent end." The reality, however, is one of highly trained young men who rendered valuable service from the earliest days of the war and, when confronting the enemy on the battlefield, acquitted themselves as well as veteran troops did. Continued below...

The Young Lions: Confederate Cadets at War is the story of the Southern cadets at four major military colleges during the Civil War—the Georgia Military Institute, the South Carolina Military Academy  (Columbia’s Arsenal campus and the Citadel in Charleston), the University of Alabama, and the Virginia Military Institute. It is also the story of the Confederate government’s lack of a cohesive policy toward military colleges and its failure to adequately support the institutions that fostered its officer corps. This study is the first thorough examination of the interrelationships and common challenges of the South’s major military colleges, giving a detailed history of these Southern institutions. James Lee Conrad discusses the cadets’ day-to-day lives as well as the academic and military systems of the schools. From the opening of the Virginia Military Institute in 1839, through the struggles of all the schools to remain open during the war, the death of Stonewall Jackson, and the Pyrrhic victory of the Battle of New Market to the burning of the University of Alabama, Conrad reveals the everyday heroism of cadets both on and off the battlefield.

 

Recommended Reading: The Stonewall Brigade, by James I. Robertson (Author) (304 pages) (Louisiana State University Press). Description: Commanded by Thomas J. Jackson and comprised of the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 27th and 33rd Virginia Infantry Regiments, plus the Rockbridge Artillery Battery, the unit was officially Virginia's First Brigade. This changed forever at the Battle of First Manassas when in the face of a seemingly overwhelming Federal attack, General Bee, an adjacent Confederate brigade commander, reportedly said, "Yonder stands Jackson like a stone wall; let's go to his assistance. Rally behind the Virginians!" Continued below...

This book describes the Stonewall Brigade in combat from first mustering to bitter end, when only 210 ragged and footsore soldiers remained of the 6,000 that served through the war. Absolutely a must read for the Civil War buff!
 

Highly Recommended Reading: Valley Thunder: The Battle of New Market and the Opening of the Shenandoah Campaign, May 1864 (2010). Description: Charles R. Knight's 'Valley Thunder' is the first full-length account in more than three decades to examine the combat at New Market on May 15, 1864-the battle that opened the pivotal 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign. Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, who set in motion the wide-ranging operation to subjugate the South in 1864, intended to attack the Confederacy on multiple fronts so it could no longer "take advantage of interior lines." Continued below...

One of the keys to success in the Eastern Theater was control of the Shenandoah Valley, a strategically important and agriculturally abundant region that helped feed Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Grant tasked Maj. Gen. Franz Sigel, a German immigrant with a mixed fighting record, and a motley collection of units numbering some 10,000 men to clear the Valley and threaten Lee's left flank. Opposing Sigel was John C. Breckinridge, a former vice president and now Confederate major general who assembled a scratch command to repulse the invading Federals. Included within the ranks of his 4,500-man army were cadets from the Virginia Military Institute under the direction of VMI Commandant of Cadets Lt. Col. Scott Ship, who had marched eighty miles in just four days to fight Sigel. When the two armies faced off at New Market, Breckinridge boldly announced, "I shall advance on him. We can attack and whip them here and we will do it!" As the general rode by the cadets he shouted, "Gentlemen, I trust I will not need your services today; but if I do, I know you will do your duty." The sharp fighting seesawed back and forth during a drenching rainstorm, and was not concluded until the cadets were dramatically inserted into the battle line to repulse a Federal attack and launch one of their own. The Confederate victory drove Union forces from the Valley, but they would return, reinforced and under new leadership, within a month. Before being repulsed, these Federals would march over the field at New Market and capture Staunton, burn VMI in Lexington (partly in retaliation for the cadets' participation at New Market), and very nearly capture Lynchburg. Operations in the Valley on a much larger scale that summer would permanently sweep the Confederates from the "Bread Basket of the Confederacy." 'Valley Thunder: The Battle of New Market' is based upon years of primary research and a firsthand appreciation of the battlefield terrain. Knight's balanced and objective approach includes a detailed examination of the complex prelude leading up to the day of battle. His entertaining prose introduces a new generation of readers to a wide array of soldiers, civilians, and politicians who found themselves swept up in one of the war's most gripping engagements. About the Author: Charles R. Knight is a native of Richmond, Virginia. He is a former Historical Interpreter at New Market Battlefield State Historical Park, and currently serves as the curator of the Douglas MacArthur Memorial. Charlie has written articles for various Civil War and railroad publications, including Blue and Gray, Classic Trains, and NRHS Bulletin. He lives in Norfolk, Virginia, with his wife and son.

 
Recommended Reading: Rebels from West Point: The 306 U.S. MilitaryAcademy Graduates Who Fought for the Confederacy. Description: "Rebels from West Point" tells the story of the 306 officers who, after receiving a West Point education and swearing to uphold the values of the Union, defected to serve the Confederacy. Continued below…

The author examines this fascinating group of officers, describing the heart-wrenching choice they made and how, even after they "went South," they remained connected to the brotherhood of their former West Point cadets. Among the more famous personalities included in this group are Gen. Robert E. Lee, Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, Gen. J. E. B. Stuart, Gen. A. P. Hill, Gen. James Longstreet, and Gen. John B. Hood.

 
Recommended Reading: A Brotherhood Of Valor: The Common Soldiers Of The Stonewall Brigade C.S.A. And The Iron Brigade U.S.A. Description: Confederate General Thomas J. Jackson was arguably the greatest commander of the Civil War. Yet, "Stonewall" Jackson owed much of his success to the troops who served under his command. He eagerly gave them their due: "You cannot praise these men of my brigade too much; they have fought, marched, and endured more than I even thought they would." The Stonewall Brigade, composed mainly of Virginians from the Shenandoah Valley, proved its mettle at First Manassas and never let up--even after its esteemed leader was shot down at Chancellorsville. Their equally elite counterparts in the Army of the Potomac were known as the Iron Brigade, hardy westerners drawn from Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan. By focusing on these two groups, historian Jeffry Wert retells the story of the Civil War's eastern theater as it was experienced by these ordinary men from North and South. Continued below...

His battle descriptions are riveting, especially when he covers Antietam:

Three times the Georgians charged towards the guns, and three times they were repelled. Union infantry west of the battery ripped apart the attacker's flank, and the artillerists unleashed more canister.... Finally, the Georgians could withstand the punishment no longer, and as more Union infantry piled into the Cornfield, Hood's wrecked division retreated towards West Woods and Dunker Church. When asked later where his command was, Hood replied, "Dead on the field."

But the book is perhaps most notable for the way in which it describes the everyday hardships befalling each side. They often lacked food, shoes, blankets, and other military necessities. When the war began, the men believed deeply in their conflicting causes. Before it was over, writes Wert, "the war itself became their common enemy." Wert is slowly but surely gaining a reputation as one of the finest popular historians writing about the Civil War; A Brotherhood of Valor will undoubtedly advance his claim.

 
Recommended Reading: The Civil War: A Narrative, by Shelby Foote (3 Volumes Set) [BOX SET] (2960 pages) (9.2 pounds). Review: This beautifully written trilogy of books on the American Civil War is not only a piece of first-rate history, but also a marvelous work of literature. Shelby Foote brings a skilled novelist's narrative power to this great epic. Many know Foote for his prominent role as a commentator on Ken Burns's PBS series about the Civil War. These three books, however, are his legacy. His southern sympathies are apparent: the first volume opens by introducing Confederate President Jefferson Davis, rather than Abraham Lincoln. But they hardly get in the way of the great story Foote tells. This hefty three volume set should be on the bookshelf of any Civil War buff. --John Miller. Continued below.
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Product Description:

Foote's comprehensive history of the Civil War includes three compelling volumes:Fort Sumter to Perryville, Fredericksburg to Meridian, and Red River toAppomattox. Collected together in a handsome boxed set, this is the perfect gift for any Civil War buff.

Fort Sumter to Perryville

"Here, for a certainty, is one of the great historical narratives of our century, a unique and brilliant achievement, one that must be firmly placed in the ranks of the masters." —Van Allen Bradley, Chicago Daily News

"Anyone who wants to relive the Civil War, as thousands of Americans apparently do, will go through this volume with pleasure.... Years from now, Foote's monumental narrative most likely will continue to be read and remembered as a classic of its kind." —New York Herald Tribune Book Review

Fredericksburg to Meridian

"This, then, is narrative history—a kind of history that goes back to an older literary tradition.... The writing is superb...one of the historical and literary achievements of our time." —The Washington Post Book World

"Gettysburg...is described with such meticulous attention to action, terrain, time, and the characters of the various commanders that I understand, at last, what happened in that battle.... Mr. Foote has an acute sense of the relative importance of events and a novelist's skill in directing the reader's attention to the men and the episodes that will influence the course of the whole war, without omitting items which are of momentary interest. His organization of facts could hardly be bettered." —Atlantic

Red River to Appomattox

"An unparalleled achievement, an American Iliad, a unique work uniting the scholarship of the historian and the high readability of the first-class novelist." —Walker Percy

"I have never read a better, more vivid, more understandable account of the savage battling between Grant's and Lee's armies.... Foote stays with the human strife and suffering, and unlike most Southern commentators, he does not take sides. In objectivity, in range, in mastery of detail in beauty of language and feeling for the people involved, this work surpasses anything else on the subject.... It stands alongside the work of the best of them." —New Republic

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