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General Lee's Army: From Victory to Collapse

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General Lee's Army: From Victory to Collapse [Hardcover]

Joseph Glatthaar
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 18, 2008 0684827875 978-0684827872 1
This sweeping history of the Civil War and the Confederacy is told through the lens of its most crucial army, the Army of Northern Virginia commanded by Robert E. Lee.

General Lee's Army takes readers across the Rebel landscape, from campfires to battlefields to their homes, as it portrays a world of life, death, healing, and hardship. Detailing the feelings and conduct of officers and enlisted men throughout the course of the war, it demonstrates how effectively Lee's men served their country and just how close the South came to winning the great war between the states--and why it ultimately lost. Glatthaar investigates the South's commitment to the war and its gradual erosion, and he analyzes Lee's army in triumph and defeat. Fourteen years in the making, this scholarly tour-de-force upends much of the conventional wisdom about the Civil War.

--This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

You cannot say that University of North Carolina professor Glatthaar (Partners in Command) did not do his homework in this massive examination of the Civil War–era lives of the men in Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Glatthaar spent nearly 20 years examining and ordering primary source material to ferret out why Lee's men fought, how they lived during the war, how they came close to winning, and why they lost. Glatthaar marshals convincing evidence to challenge the often-expressed notion that the war in the South was a rich man's war and a poor man's fight and that support for slavery was concentrated among the Southern upper class. Lee's army included the rich, poor and middle-class, according to the author, who contends that there was broad support for the war in all economic strata of Confederate society. He also challenges the myth that because Union forces outnumbered and materially outmatched the Confederates, the rebel cause was lost, and articulates Lee and his army's acumen and achievements in the face of this overwhelming opposition. This well-written work provides much food for thought for all Civil War buffs. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"The storied history of the Army of Northern Virginia has never had a better chronicler than Joseph Glatthaar. Like all armies, it reflected the strengths and weaknesses of the society from which it was recruited. Glatthaar has written its story as it should be written -- a fast-paced narrative of campaigns and battles, to be sure, but also an analysis of the army's socioeconomic makeup based on research more thorough and penetrating than has been done for any other Civil War army." -- James M. McPherson, author of This Mighty Scourge: Perspectives on the Civil War

"Joseph T. Glatthaar brings a fresh and revealing perspective to the much-studied history of Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia. Prodigious research, a meticulous use of statistical information, and analytical acuity mark this book, which abounds with surprising information about the makeup of the army, its casualties, and the quality of its leadership. This is now the indispensable first place to go for anyone interested in Lee, his army, and their storied campaigns." -- Gary W. Gallagher, author of The Confederate War

"This is a splendid piece of work, buttressed by wondrously thorough research in a vast array of primary material, and destined to be a great classic." -- Robert K. Krick, author of Stonewall Jackson at Cedar Mountain

"A unique, often controversial description of Lee's soldiers, their background and the conditions under which they fought." -- Kirkus Reviews --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1 edition (March 18, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684827875
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684827872
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #225,707 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a Book about Battles May 26, 2008
Not a Book about Battles
Dr Joseph T. Glatthaar's General Lee's Army is NOT a book about battles, although it does an adequate job of summarizing the basics of General Lee's major engagements. Rather, it is an in-depth socio-economic study of General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia: What it was, who the personnel were, what they did, and how the army basically functioned. There was more, so much more, to Lee's grand army than just fighting. What was the real morale like? How and what did the soldiers eat and do when not fighting or on "the march"? What happened in camp during those long periods of inactivity? In essence, how did the army function when it was not engaged in combat, and when it was fighting how did the front line soldiers react? Much has been written about civil war combat, strategies, and tactics, but little has been written about the mundane non-combat life of a civil war army. Dr Glatthaar does a superb job of analyzing, investigating, and documenting (over 108 pages of Notes and Bibliography) the everyday workings of Lee grand Army of Northern Virginia.
Not a book if you are looking for the taste and feel of battle. But an excellent source for the "rest of the story" of Civil War army life. Dr. Glatthaar's writing style is easy and flows with an interesting chronological time line. He subtly points out how General Lee's army changed as the war progressed and more of the veteran leaders and soldiers were killed or become incapacitated. He highlights through personal quotes how many of the problems associated with any army also plagued Lee's Army. Not everything was chivalrous and honor. Thievery, desertion, skulking, straggling, lying, quibbling, cowardice, drunkenness, etc., all plagued General Lee's heroic army.
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47 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Intimate Look at the Soldiers of a Great Army April 2, 2008
Joseph Glathaar's "General Lee's Army: From Victory to Collapse" is not the kind of Civil War book I ordinarily buy -- my shelves hold relatively few Confederate-specific titles. By geography and ancestry my fundamental orientation is pro-Union (several members of my family served in various Union Army regiments, none in Confederate units) and a part of me must view the Confederate Army as "the enemy". But what I saw of Glatthaar's new volume on the bookstore shelves persuaded me to buy it. It is in part a narrative history of the campaigns and battles of the Army of Northern Virginia (I suppose I would say that this forms the skeleton upon which to hang the main narrative), but is much more a "socioeconomic" look at the common soldiers (and common field officers) of the ANV, especially how their attitudes and morale evolved over the course of the war. Glatthaar bases his study in part upon a statistical analysis of many soldiers in the ANV, but the main thrust of the book is firmly based on good-old history drawn from innumerable primary sources, and it provides an excellent look at the men who served for so long in a terrible struggle. I found it worthwhile reading, even for a dyed-in-the-wool-uniform New England Yankee.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars General Lee's Army From Victory To Collapse January 29, 2011
"General Lee's Army From Victory To Collapse" by Joseph Glatthaar is an interesting look at the famous Army of Northern Virginia commanded by one of America's greatest generals - Robert E. Lee.

Among the topics covered include:

1. Various military campaigns - Seven Days, 2nd Manassas, Fredericksburg, Antietam, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, etc.
2. The reason soldiers enlisted.
3. Religious background of officers and soldiers.
4. Discipline in the army.
5. Relationships between the general officers.
6. Camp and recreation life between campaigns.
7. The issue of blacks and slavery.
8. Medical care.

While I was a bit hesitant at first reading the book (not all, but many college professors tend to be very liberal in their beliefs - I may get some heat for that comment!), I thought Glatthaar was pretty fair in his assessment and description of Lee's army.

The narrative was smooth and did not get bogged down into dry details. The author included several anecdotes of officers and enlisted men that kept my interest high.

Read, enjoy, and learn more about one of America's most famous armies.

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21 of 27 people found the following review helpful
I am not what you would call a Civil War buff or expert of that war, yet I do have many volumes on that conflict in my home library, with several of my ancestors fighting for and perishing in the conflict for the Union. A few years ago I felt a volume on Lee's retreat from Gettysburg was needed, and a book from the University of North Carolina soon appeared that did deal with that very subject. Many times I've thought a book was also needed on the mainstay of the Confederacy, the Army of Northern Virginia. and now this volume appears. This new book is both well overdue and well done.

Sometimes when doing a review it seems I have read a different book than many other reviewers doing reviews on that book. Sadly, I get that same feeling here. In the author's own words he has been crafting this book since the late 1980s, and much of the book is based on the participant's own words from their own letters. How anyone can quibble with what these men wrote is beyond my understanding. And in reading these letters, many of the writers did not live beyond the war, so one just must accept what they wrote, felt, saw, and how they prioritized their last months. Many saw state's rights as #1, others saw northern invasion as #1, while others mention slavery as #1. Doesn't really matter, does it, all of these items forged them into what became the Army of Northern Virginia. And early on, one fact the author mentions, is the affect of the home on the battlefront and conversely how the battlefront affected the home. As a newly formed nation, they knew their future depended on supporting one another if there was to be any chance of a successful outcome.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Mr. Glathaar Paints A Portrait
Joseph Glatthaar writes very good Civil War history. This book is very interesting and Mr. Glatthaar's writing style is enjoyable. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Jem
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Very well written and extremely informative, but often repetitive.
Published 6 months ago by Jennifer Stanley
5.0 out of 5 stars New Knowledge
This book will go down as one of the foundational knowledge books about the civil war. This book is as good as the famous Douglas Feeman's "Lee's Lts. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Thomas M. Magee
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Very informative, well written.
Published 12 months ago by Hugh T. Collier
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books on the Civil War I have every read
One of the best books on the Civil War I have every read. The way this author writes is amazing. After reading this book all the other books I have read have become so much more... Read more
Published 12 months ago by michael Moyer
3.0 out of 5 stars Dissonance Between Evidence and Editorial
I thought this was a good book that brought to life the "social" history of the Army of Northern Virginia. Read more
Published 13 months ago by James
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 14 months ago by C L Geigner
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book to learn the real truth on history
History was tough. Great book to learn the real truth on history.
Published 15 months ago by Climb
5.0 out of 5 stars Among the finest books on the subject
Among the finest books on the subject. This should be on the shelf of every student of the Second American Revolution.
Published 16 months ago by bucephalus
4.0 out of 5 stars best summarized the reasons for our perennial interest in the ...
So many books regarding the War Between the States now exist that even a casual observer of American history would be inclined to believe that nothing new can be written about the... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Jeff Minick
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More About the Author

Joseph T. Glatthaar is Stephenson Distinguished Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is author of numerous books and articles, including: The March to the Sea and Beyond: Sherman's Troops in the Savannah and Carolinas Campaigns (New York University Press, 1985), Forged in Battle: The Civil War Alliance of Black Soldiers and Their White Officers (The Free Press, 1989), Partners in Command: Relationships Between Leaders in the Civil War (The Free Press, 1994), Forgotten Allies: The Oneida Indians in the American Revolution (Hill & Wang, 2007) with James Kirby Martin, General Lee's Army: From Victory To Defeat (The Free Press, 2008), and Soldiering in the Army of Northern Virginia: A Statistical Portrait of the Troops Who Served under Robert E. Lee (University of North Carolina Press, 2011). He is currently President of the Society for Military History.

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