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A Glorious Army: Robert E. Lee's Triumph, 1862-1863 Hardcover – April 5, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


"Wert succeeds admirably in his quest to provide a fresh perspective on Lee's virtues as the commander of the South's most prominent army."

—Col. Cole C. Kingseed (USA-Ret.), Army

A Civil War specialist revisits the glory days of one of the most splendid fighting forces ever assembled: the Army of Northern Virginia (ANV).

After the bitter defeat at Gettysburg, the Confederate army, its officer corps severely depleted, never regained the momentum it had achieved since June 1862 when Robert E. Lee assumed command. But what a run they had. At the Seven Days, Second Manassas, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and even the bloody stalemate at Antietam, the ANV fashioned a brilliant string of military successes that changed the course of the war in the East. In the process, Lee and his gallant army came to embody the Southern cause, keeping alive the possibility against long odds that the Confederacy might survive. Assessing the ANV’s legacy, Wert (Cavalryman of the Lost Cause: A Biography of J.E.B. Stuart, 2008, etc.) eschews the tick-tock of battle in favor of analysis of the big-picture, how the army was led and how the rank and file responded. Nimbly sifting the oftentimes conflicting judgments of a wide array of historians and making vivid use of primary source documents, the author demonstrates how everything—the good and the bad—began with Lee. He immediately reorganized and disciplined the army, improved communications, delegated broad authority to his senior commanders, particularly the steady, reliable James Longstreet and the eccentric, audacious Stonewall Jackson, and relied on a talented cadre of brigade and regimental officers to implement his relentlessly aggressive battle plans. Convinced the South could never prevail relying on a passive, defensive strategy, Lee constantly took the fight to the enemy, even as the battlefield victories bled his forces. Wert covers it all—the blunders, the exceptional maneuvers, the irreparable losses, all the exquisitely difficult choices facing a general whose bold calculations always prevailed until, finally, they didn’t.

An energetic, evenhanded assessment that gets at the heart of Lee’s genius and the heroic achievements of the army he so ably led.

Kirkus Reviews

"Acclaimed Civil War historian Wert, who has written extensively on both Robert E. Lee's army and the Union's Army of the Potomac, brings his lucid literary skills and keen analysis to a close examination of Lee's military character and conduct during the most successful period of his generalship. . . . Wert's book is a page-turner and an essential read for both Civil War history fans and scholars."

Library Journal (starred review)

"With admirable skill and flair, Jeffry D. Wert addresses the historic standing of General Lee. . . . Lee is well served by Wert's eloquent and judicious study."

—Philip Terzian, The Weekly Standard

"Wert's prose is accessible and clear. . . . These battle-by-battle accounts, along with his carefully judged opinions backed up by quoting from diaries and letters at the time or memoirs written later and other sources, will delight mostly those who savor every twist and turn of battle. . . . Wert's judgments are sober and convincing."

—Michael Giltz, Huffington Post

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Jeffrey D. Wert is the author of eight previous books on Civil War topics, most recently Cavalryman of the Lost Cause and The Sword of Lincoln. His articles and essays on the Civil War have appeared in many publications, including Civil War Times Illustrated, American History Illustrated, and Blue and Gray. A former history teacher at Penns Valley High School, he lives in Centre Hall, Pennsylvania, slightly more than one hour from the battlefield at Gettysburg.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st edition (April 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416593349
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416593348
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,317,681 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Amanda Warren on May 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an excellent in-depth description of a year in the life of the Army of Northern Virginia, beginning with General Lee's assumption of command in June 1862 and the Seven Days' battles, through Gettysburg (with a brief overview in the last chapter of subsequent major developments leading to Appomattox). Although anyone will enjoy it, this book is not the best choice for a reader with no background knowledge of the War in the East. Rather, it offers for those who have already learned some or much about the events of the Civil War, a layering of abundant insight and delicious detail. Copious quotes (many previously unknown to me) of private soldiers through high-level staff officers, give the reader a poignant sense of the ground-level sensations of those who marched and fought in the Army. Wert's beautiful writing, so enjoyed in his biographies of Longstreet and Stuart, is even better here. (For example, on the morning before Antietam: "A drizzling rain fell, followed by fog, which settled into the hollows and among the trees, as if white-clad specters had gathered for the coming harvest of souls.") His inclusion of small details, such as a rooster's crowing at Fredericksburg's stone wall and Stuart's singing as he led Jackson's troops after the latter's wounding at Chancellorsville, add much to the reader's appreciation of the book's momentous events. This work's shining greatness is in its depiction of the force of the commanders' personalities. For example, I always thought of Lee's famous statement to Longstreet at Fredericksburg ("It is well that war is so terrible or we would grow too fond of it") in a rather abstract, academic light.Read more ›
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By James W. Durney TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia occupy a special place in both our history and mythology. For many, this is the American Civil War. Either glorify or demonize, the man and his army are the subject of a library full of books. Jeffery Wert is no stranger as he steps fearlessly into this arena. Books on this subject can draw fire from both sides, placing an author in the middle of an ongoing battle. Wert has an almost lyrical style that is equally informative and fun to read. While not terse, he tells the story without unnecessary words. Add an ability to use respected historians, original sources with his intelligent observations make for an excellent book.
This history covers the time from Lee assuming command outside of Richmond to Gettysburg, an oft-told tale that Wert tells in a fresh vigorous way.
This is not a detailed slog through battles, army politics and supply problems.
This is not a detailed tactical study of the battles.
This is a very solid overview of the months when Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia became the embodiment of the Confederacy. The book maintains a real balance between detail and story. The level of detail adjusts to the needs of the story and never slows the story. This is very necessary, as these are busy months with multiple stories. We focus on the relationship between Lee, his officers and the men. On how they grow together and how they learn the limits of the other.
This is not the mythic story but a hard honest look full of truth. The author maintains a balance between admiration and history. The myth is not allowed to take control but this is the foundation of the myth. Presentation of the battles is from the army perspective.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By James D. Miller on August 10, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The Confederate defeat at the Battle of Gettysburg has often been referred to as the turning point of the American Civil War. Since Robert E. Lee assumed the command, the Army of Northern Virginia won a string of battle victories: the Seven Days, Second Manassas, Antietam (not a victory, but a tactical draw), Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. Up until its defeat at Gettysburg the Army of Northern Virginia seemed nearly invincible.

So how is it that in mid July 1863, Robert E. Lee's army should find itself defeated and retreating from Pennsylvania back to Virginia? Jeffry D. Wert attempts to answer that question. His book, "A Glorious Army: Robert E. Lee's Triumph, 1862-1863" begins with Robert E. Lee's assumption of the command of the Army of Northern Virginia in June of 1862 and traces through its defeat at Gettysburg. This is not a blow by blow account of each of the battles, but rather it is an amalgamation of scholarly interpretations by noted historians of Lee's generalship, his tactics and his strategy.

Wert distills the insights, opinions and historical interpretations of such noted historians as Gabor Borritt, Peter Carmichael, Thomas Connelly, Gary Gallagher, Joseph Glatthaar, Joseph Harsh, Robert K. Krick, Donald Pfanz, George Rable, Ethan Rafuse, and Steven Woodworth into a single tome. Wert ably demonstrates that Lee's aggressive and daring tactics and his bold strategy, the offensive defense, cost the Army of Virginia its life blood. With each succeeding battle the army's officer corps, as well as its rank and file, was being decimated.

"A Glorious Army" is well researched and Mr. Wert's narrative is easily read. However, its one drawback is his constant references to other historians: "Robert K. Krick has argued . . .
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