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General Lee's Army

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  • General Lee's Army

    While not finished with the book, I'm far enough along in Joseph T. Glatthaar's General Lee's Army: From Victory to Collapse (9780684827872): Joseph Glatthaar: Books to begin a review of the book. He is a professor of American History at the University of North Carolina, a well respected center of study on the American Civil War. His book is unique in that he uses a cluster sample of members of the Army of Northern Virginia to paint a picture of the men who comprised the ANV, and he examines the culture of the ANV and how it did and did not reflect Southern antebellum culture. He supplements his statistical analysis with a large body of primary source material, doing a good job supporting the organizational culture arguments that he makes.

    Where the book is weak is in it's telling of battles and military history analysis (to be fair, this is not the thrust of the book - the thrust is as an ethnographic study of the ANV). Glatthhaar makes several assertions that he fails to back up with solid analysis, assertions that primary fall in step with the Lost Cause line of argument that the Union was bound to win, Lee was a great operational artist, and that he was a great strategist that gave the South its only chance of winning. What is disappointing is that he offers a very fair sampling of evidence that speaks to the contrary - for example, who talks to the large scale, state-led effort starting in 1860 by Southern states to arm themselves for the impending civil war.

    Overall, while the military history is weak, the social history is strong and he tells the good, the bad, and the ugly of the ANV, and this book belongs on the shelf of ACW enthusiasts.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3