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Lee Moves North: Robert E. Lee on the Offensive [Hardcover]

Michael A. Palmer
2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 19, 1998 0471164011 978-0471164012 1
Lee Moves North "A revisionist look at Lee's career . detailed and interesting." --Orlando Sentinel "Michael Palmer says that Robert E. Lee was 145;a man of military genius'--but only when he was reacting to a Union attack. When he analyzes Lee on the offensive, Palmer labels him a woefully inadequate general. Powerfully written, this no-holds-barred criticism of Lee the general will shake long-held perceptions of historians and buffs. Like this book or not, it is must reading." --John F. Marszalek, Mississippi State University author of Sherman: A Soldier's Passion for Order "A superb study--one that provides refreshingly new insight into the generalship of Robert E. Lee .a must for Civil War and military historians." --William N. Still Jr., coauthor of Why the South Lost "A unique and careful analysis of Lee's generalship #133;an excellent and persuasive consideration of the Marble Man." --Alan T. Nolan, author of Lee Considered Reconsidering a Confederate Legend . In a boldly revisionist look at the career, leadership capability, and decisive battles of the venerated General Robert E. Lee, prize-winning historian Michael Palmer delivers a riveting new perspective on one of the most compelling figures in United States history.

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

For much of the Civil War, Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia fought on the defensive, but it's during three specific invasions northward--Antietam, Gettysburg, and the lesser-known Bristoe Station--that both the genius and failings of General Lee come to light. Historian Michael Palmer offers a revisionist look at how Lee, who has been at times nearly universally revered, made serious mistakes when engaging in offensive operations. Regardless of whether the reader totally agrees with Palmer's thesis, the argument is well presented, and the sources cited and Palmer's writing could engender a lively debate.

From the Publisher

Few military figures have attained the legendary status of Robert E. Lee. Yet, though he displayed tactical brilliance in the defensive mode, Lee's offensive moves were often hastily undertaken with virtually no logistical preparation. And not surprisingly, these assaults ended in defeat. Lee Moves North explores the weaknesses of Lee's leadership by focusing on three of his unsuccessful campaigns to break ground in the North: the abortive Maryland invasion in Sharpsburg of 1862, the disastrous Gettysburg campaign of 1863, and the lesser-know Bristoe Station fiasco later that year.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 189 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (March 19, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471164011
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471164012
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.4 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,664,027 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

2.9 out of 5 stars
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Michael Palmer's analysis of Confederate General Robert E. Lee's strategic operations during the American Civil War reveals a general who was (and remains) without peer as a tactical genius, but also one who possessed dubious talents as a military strategist. Palmer focuses on three notable strategic offensives undertaken by the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia under Lee's command: The Sharpsburg campaign of September 1862, the Gettysburg campaign of June-July 1863 and the Bristoe Station campaign of late 1863. All three campaigns possessed several common characteristics: (1) A lack of proper logistical support for the forces in the field (2) The lack of a clear-cut military objective. As a consequence, all three Confederate strategic campaigns ended in a stalemate and the withdrawal of the Army of Northen Virginia from the fields of battle. In defense of Lee, it has been speculated that Lee's strategic judgement was impaired as the Gettysburg campaign began in June 1863 due to a heart ailment and that he suffered a heart attack at the height of the battle in early July 1863. In the end, these failed strategic offensives contributed - along with the Union's superior manpower reserves, overwhelming industrial production facilities and the hard-won quality of its officers and enlisted men - to the defeat of the Confederacy. Palmer's work is an excellent study of Robert E. Lee's strategic mind and is worthy of study, reflection and debate by students and scholars of the American Civil War.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lee's Offensive Strategy October 16, 2000
In the book's preface, Professor Palmer asks the thought provoking question "Did he and his lieutenants simply have a couple of bad days? Or were there other factors at work? ....could the strategic offensive, then be the shared thread, the common denominator that might help to explain Lee's failures?" He then reviews Lee's Maryland, Gettysburg and Bristoe Station campaigns to answer his question.
In Chapter 1, Palmer states that lacking published plans and with an ambiguous objective, Lee moved into Maryland without Jeff Davis's prior approval . The author asserts that the Maryland campaign was a Federal success and allowed "the Lincoln administration to solidify its political support...." Quite the contrary happened. Aghast at the Antietam casualties, northern voters in the 1862 fall elections for governors and congressmen, gave Lincoln's party several major reverses. The chapter makes the ridiculous comparison that "Lee was one of many southerners caught up in a wave of `victory disease', not unlike that which gripped the Japanese before the battle of Midway". The Japanese defeat at Midway was not due to "victory disease" but due to their naval code having been broken and Admiral Nagumo's bad tactical decision,
Nevertheless, regarding Maryland, Professor Palmer correctly writes "Why had Lee failed? The answer is simple: virtually all of the assumptions upon which he based his plans were unfounded."
The Gettysburg campaign chapter is well written and objective. The review of events leading to the Gettysburg campaign is excellent. Normally given limited coverage, the narration of the meetings in Richmond with Davis and his cabinet plus the correspondence regarding Lee's Gettysburg campaign is very interesting. Palmer reviews Lee's organization problems writing "....
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lee's Strategic Faults September 3, 2009
This is a rather brief study of what could be considered a large topic. One suspects that this work was expanded from a thesis into a book by the author. Containing less than 200 pages certainly seems to indicate that this was likely the case.

The author breaks his work down to three discussions about Lee's attempts to invade the North and why this was folly. Thus Antietem, Gettysburg and a third lesser know action are examined. The basic premise that is presented is that Lee poorly planned and exicuted all of these operations. Since invading the North seems to have been an Idee Fix with the legendary Southern general, the author has a valid point in comparing these operations. If, as the author points out Lee was sloppy in his agressive planning, what should have been his course of action?

Given the South's strategic situation in the Civil War options were limited. Perhaps the wiser course might have been a complete defensive strategy which certainly went against Lee's innate instincts. This likely would have boiled down to a protracted seige of Richmond, which is what happened anyway. The only difference might have been that a stronger Rebel army could have made the struggle more difficult.

Lee saw that only be humbling the Union and weakening its resolve to fight did the South have a chance to succeed. In retrospect this may seem like a flawed strategy, but at the time it probably seemed the only valid course to pursue. Studies like this always have the advantage of hindsight to evalute their subjects in critical light. Lee was certainly a more traditional general, and he waged the war in an early 19th century context. The Civil War started out more or less like a conflcit of that time, but quickly became a struggle of a different nature.
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