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Leaders of the lost cause : new perspectives on the Confederate high command

The Confederate march on Grant’s camp was perhaps the most ill fated of the war. Oddly Beauregard’s plan of advance was based upon Napoleon’s march to Waterloo. It was delayed by rain, the lack of discipline among the troops, and poor organization. Even before the attack there was contention within the high command on whether to launch the assault. Beauregard believed they had been detected and the union would be “entrenched to the eyes.” Albert Sidney Johnston dismissed this fear, “I would fight them if they were a million!”

Leaders of the lost cause : new perspectives on the Confederate high command    Mechanicsburg, PA : Stackpole Books, c 2004  edited by Gary W. Gallagher and Joseph T. Glatthaar Generals Confederate States of America Biography Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xvi, 294 p. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Jefferson Davis said, “The many who measure the value of an officer’s service by the conspicuous part he played upon the fields of battle, may not properly estimate the worth of Cooper’s services in the war between the States.”
Although General Cooper’s contributions to history are everlasting, he is one of the least recognized and written about generals that served the South.

President Jefferson Davis once wrote his brother that great generals only come around once in every generation. Unfortunately, Davis explained, the Confederacy needed a half dozen.

I think it better to do right, even if we suffer in so doing, than to incur the reproach of our consciences and posterity… Robert E. Lee

This collection of essays, Leaders of the Lost Cause, looks at the lives and command decisions of eight Confederates who held the rank of full general and at the impact they had on the conduct, and ultimate outcome, of the Civil War. Old mvths and familiar assumptions are cast aside as a group of leading Civil War historians offers new insight into the men of the South on whose shoulders the weight of prosecuting the war would fall.

“I am inclined to think that General Joe Johnston was the ablest and most accomplished man that the Confederate armies ever produced. He never had the opportunity accorded to others, but he showed wonderful power as a tactician and a commander. I do not think that we had his equal for handling an army and conducting a campaign” James Longstreet August 2, 1879

In May 1861, barely a month into the Civil War, the fledgling Confederate Congress created the rank of full general. By early summer. President Jefferson Davis had appointed four individuals to the rank: Albert Sidney Johnston,  Samuel Cooper,  Robert E. Lee, and Joseph E. Johnston. At the end of August 1861, P. G. T. Beauregard, hero of Fort Sumter and 1st Manassas, joined the group.

Genaral P. G. T. Beauregard of Louisiana explained that the South has two kinds of enemies–first, those who come from the North as open foes, with guns in their hands to subjugate us, Solidly proclaiming their mission. Secondly, those in our own midst, who like sucking assassins, blatant with wordy professions of loyally and devotion, strike at one cause by refusing to receive Confederate money. Keep your eye upon the misereres who refuse Confederate money. They will be the first among us to take the oath of allegiance to Lincolns Government to save their property. The Provost Marshal has received instructions from the military authorities to require the Banks at Memphis to take “Confederate notes as currency in the transactions of their business, and to arrest as disloyal all persons who refuse Confederate money in ordinary business transactions.” These instructions the Provost Marshal will vigilantly and rigidly enforce.

Throughout the course of the war, three others would rise to the rank of full general. Braxton Bragg, chief of staff under Albert Sidney Johnston, succeeded his commander after he fell at Shiloh.

Bragg attempted to provide for his troops and made enemies in a losing struggle against an archaic and inefficient supply system. As part of this attempt he had an officer executed for corruption, the only commander on either side to do so in the entire war. Throughout the war, Bragg took a sincere interest in the welfare of his soldiers. He was constantly inspecting their camps, questioning them about their needs, and visiting the hospitals. Bragg “failed” as a commander because he tried to impose a modern command structure on a society which wasn’t ready for the discipline this entailed, and many of his contemporaries, for personal reasons, turned on him.

Edmund Kirby Smith led the Trans-Mississippi Department and received a promo­tion. The last to hold the rank, John Bell Hood, assumed the position temporarily when he replaced Joseph Johnston as commander of the Army of the Tennessee in July 1864.

Edmund Kirby Smith upon his graduation from West Point, was sent to Mexico for the Mexican War where he served in the infantry and won two brevets. On the outbreak of the War for Southern Independence Kirby Smith joined the Confederate Army and by June had reached the rank of brigadier general. On May 26, 1865 his was the last major Confederate army to surrender.

These generals had an enormous impact on the outcome of the war, yet never before have they been examined collectively. Now eight preeminent Civil War historians offer fresh perspectives on each of these leaders, analyzing their battlefield performance and highlighting thee importance of politics and personality in shaping the Confederacy’s war effort.

General John Bell Hood leading the 4th Texas Regiment through the
Union line at the Battle of Gaine’s Mill on 27 June 1862 during the
Seven Days Campaign around Richmond.

Designed to be both suggestive and descriptive, biographical as well as interpretive, these essays form a fascinating portrait of the Confederate high command.


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