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Lost Victories: The Military Genius of Stonewall Jackson Hardcover – November, 1992


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Alexander ( Korea: The First War We Lost ) debuts as a Civil War historian by asserting that Stonewall Jackson, rather than Robert E. Lee, possessed the strategic insight that might have won Confederate independence. Jackson initially advocated striking at the Union's will by invading the North; when neither Lee nor Jefferson Davis accepted this concept, Jackson concentrated on plans to destroy the Union army. Here too he was repeatedly frustrated, according to Alexander, by Lee's limited strategic insight and tendency to accept pitched battles whose losses the Confederacy could not afford. Only at Chancellorsville in 1863 did Lee accede to Jackson's bold plan, which might have annihilated the Army of the Potomac had Jackson not been mortally wounded. Alexander's critique of Lee, and his belief that decisive battles were possible under Civil War conditions, are debatable. Nevertheless this revisionist analysis merits the attention of Civil War students.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

A detailed analysis of the battles and correspondence of Stonewall Jackson leads Alexander to conclude that Jackson's strategic overview was superior to that of Robert E. Lee and would have led to fewer Southern casualties and to the possibility (on at least three occasions) of the total destruction of the Northern Army of the Potomac. He views Lee as a conservative, timid, and nearsighted military leader. This is not a comprehensive biography (for such see Byron Farwell's Stonewall: A Biography, LJ 9/1/92) but a "what if" book analyzing the strategic opinions and views of Stonewall Jackson--a smoothly written, well-researched text offering a new perspective on the Civil War's leading tactical genius. Recommended for military collections.
- Richard Nowicki, Emerson Vocational H.S., Buffalo, N.Y.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 350 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt & Co; 1st edition (November 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805018301
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805018301
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #873,932 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

As shown in the book, time after time Lee wasted his soldiers in frontal assaults.
alex20850
I tend to be suspicious of second guessers who tell us how much better things could have been done.
James Gallen
I am one of those unfortunates who believes General Robert E. Lee was not beatific.
Michael E. Fitzgerald

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Tom Munro on March 5, 1999
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is another revisionist attack on the reputation of General Robert E Lee. It suggests that Lee missed opportunities to defeat Northern armies most significantly at the battle of Chancellorsville. It further suggests that Stonewall Jackson had developed a greater tactical skill than Lee and had developed a "plan" which would have allowed the South to defeat the North.
That plan was a recognition that due to the invention of the rifled musket frontal attacks on defended positions would lead to defeat. For the south to win it was necessary for them to invade the north, but not to seek a military victory by attacking a northern army. Rather it would be necessary to move north and to force a defensive battle on terms that favor the confederacy.
The central argument has some interest. It would seem clear that Lee's career was aided by facing in the main not just timorous but incompetent opponents. One wonders in his various successful battles such as the Seven Days and Antiem what sort of disaster would have befallen him if his opponent had not run away at the point when they could have achieved victory.
The suggestion that another general could have done better is harder to believe. The Federal government had large numbers of troops that were generally dispersed. The dispersal of the armies assisted the confederates in fighting battles in which they were not overwhelmed. A move to Washington however would have seen a concentration of such force it is hard to believe the southern armies could have been victorious.
The book however is well written and in approaching the topic from the way it does it forces the reader to think and learn more about the American Civil War than most straight chronological narratives.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Alan Mills VINE VOICE on September 13, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The key to understanding the Civil War is the technology. The Civil War was the first to make universal use of the rifle (compared to the age old musket). This increased the effective range from about 50 yards to 400 yards, thus eliminating the key defensive weapon--the cannon--which had a range of about 100 yards. The result was that virtually every offensive action in the Civil War, by either side, lost.
The much maligned Union generals (McClellan, Meade, Burnside, and Hooker) all reacted to one degree or another by hesitating to make any movement whatsoever.
The underlying hypothesis of "Lost Victories" is that Jackson is the one general in the war who figured out that the only way to win is to use the South's vast advantage in manueverability to gain positions which required the Union onto the attack.\
The detailed descriptions of the many battles leading up to Chancelorsville (recounted elsewhere endlessly) are here used to demonstrate the truth of the hypothesis that frontal attacks were always suicidal.
Less successful is the author's attempt to demonstrate that Jackson had figured out the answer. the only time he was permitted to try (Chancelorsville), he was killed (by friendly fire) before the battle was over. While there is an argument (well made here) that the battle would have been won by the South had Lee only continued with Jackson's battle plan. Nonetheless, the fact is it was not.
The epilogue consists of a lengthy speculation as to whether Jackson could have repeated his early success at Chancelorsville, and ultimately avoided Gettysburg and won the war.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 11, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Alexander's conclusion about the strategic value of Stonewall Jackson is notable, and worthy of study. It also fits with the portrait of Jackson painted by Burke Davis in his biography "They Called Him Stonewall." Jackson, had he been allowed to, and properly equipped, could very well have won the war before 1863. Had he taken the war to the North, and had Lee's disastrous and bloody Seven Days been averted, there might be two American nations on the continent.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By James Gallen VINE VOICE on September 14, 2007
Format: Paperback
In "Lost Victories" author Bevin Alexander advances the proposition that Stonewall Jackson was the only military genius who could have brought victory to the Confederacy, had his initiatives not been thwarted by the limited visions of Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis. The main idea is that Jackson saw that the only way the South could win was through a bold invasion of the North. He begins his story with descriptions as to how advances in arms, primarily in rifles and cannon, switched the advantage from the attack to the defense. The narrative then leads the reader through many of the major battles of Virginia and Maryland as it explains the troop movements for which the various generals were responsible. During the descriptions of the battles, Alexander points out the many mistakes made by leaders on both sides. Toward the end he argues that, had Jackson been at Gettysburg, it is likely that he would have prevented that battle from being fought and would have guided the fighting to land favorable more to the Southern cause.

This book makes a good effort in establishing its point. It is well written, although, at times, it drifts into minutiae over which units were where it the line, etc. The reader is left with an appreciation for Jackson's admirable talents in the military arts. I tend to be suspicious of second guessers who tell us how much better things could have been done. Lee's actions are open to critical analysis while Jackson's dreams have not undergone the test of battle. Maybe Lee and Davis did blow it by not following Jackson's advice, but I remain unconvinced. I am glad, however, that I read Alexander's brief.
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