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Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace… Psalm 37

This is the verse that William Nelson Pendleton, a former Confederate chaplain, based his eulogy of Robert E. Lee on. It is a shame that Glatthaar is either unfamiliar with the eulogy or thinks the verse unimportant because as good as his book is it would be better if that guided his understanding. Other than the simplistic – and egregious – error that the South was fighting to defend slavery the nuts and bolts of troop movements, supply and equipment shortages and strategy confounded not only by the fog of war but also be the political failure of the Richmond government – and the absolute lack of scruple by Lincoln’s government are all covered here.

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General Lee’s army : from victory to collapse  Joseph T. Glatthaar  New York : Free Press, 2008  Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xv, 600 p., [16] p. of plates : ill., maps, plans ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 543-581) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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“You would be surprised to see what men we have in the ranks,” Virginia cavalryman Thomas Rowland informed his mother in May 1861, just after joining the Army of Northern Virginia. His army – General Robert E. Lee‘s army – was a surprise to almost everyone: With daring early victories and an invasion into the North, they nearly managed to convince the North to give up the fight. Even in 1865, facing certain defeat after the loss of 30,000 men, a Louisiana private fighting in Lee’s army still had hope. “I must not despair,” he scribbled in his diary. “Lee will bring order out of chaos, and with the help of our Heavenly Father, all will be well.”

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Astonishingly, after 150 years there are still some major surprises about the Army of Northern Virginia. In General Lee’s Army, Glatthaar draws on an impressive range of sources assembled over two decades – from letters and diaries, to official war records, to a new, definitive database of statistics – to rewrite the history of the Civil War’s most important army and, indeed, of the war itself.

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Glatthaar takes readers from the home front to the heart of the most famous battles of the war: Manassas, the Peninsula campaign, Antietam, Gettysburg, all the way to the final surrender at Appomattox. General Lee’s Army penetrates headquarters tents and winter shanties, eliciting the officers’ plans, wishes, and prayers; it portrays a world of life, death, healing, and hardship; it investigates the South’s commitment to the war and it depicts and analyzes Lee’s men in triumph and defeat.

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The history of Lee’s army is a powerful lens on the entire war. The fate of Lee’s army explains why the South almost won – and why it lost. The story of his men – their reasons for fighting, their cohesion, mounting casualties, diseases, supply problems, and discipline problems – tells it all.

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Glatthaar’s account attempts to settle many historical arguments with varying degrees of success. More than half of Lee’s men were killed, wounded, or captured – a staggering statistic. Their leader, Robert E. Lee, though far from perfect, held an exalted place in his men’s eyes despite a number of mistakes and despite a range of problems among some of his key lieutenants. General Lee’s Army is a masterpiece of scholarship and vivid storytelling, narrated as much as possible in the words of the enlisted men and their officers.

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