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Stonewall of the West: Patrick Cleburne and the Civil War (Modern War Studies) Hardcover – April, 1997

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Born and raised in Ireland, Cleburne was instrumental in organizing a militia company at the beginning of the Civil War known as the Yell Rifles, which elected him their captain. Symonds (Joseph E. Johnston: A Civil War Biography, LJ 2/1/92) delves into the reasons why Cleburne joined the Southern cause and his proposal that slaves be armed to fight for the Confederacy. Much of the book examines Cleburne's growth as a combat leader, from his first major battle at Shiloh to his emergence as one of the war's more effective field commanders. The author also investigates Cleburne's relations with Generals Hardee, Bragg, Johnston, and Hood, resolves the mystery of what happened at Spring Hill, and recounts Cleburne's dramatic charge and untimely death at the Battle of Franklin. This first full-scale critical biography should be in every Civil War collection.?W. Walter Wicker, Emritus, Louisiana Tech Univ., Ruston
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

The heroic story of an outstanding divisional commander for the Confederacy in the Army of Tennessee. Symonds (History/US Naval Academy; Joseph E. Johnson: A Civil War Biography, 1992) combines well researched narrative history and biography with a highly readable style in exploring the life of this exceptional man. Cleburne was, as the narrative demonstrates, reliable, cool, and reserved under extreme hardship but passionate in battle. Leaving his starving homeland, Ireland, in the bitter year of 1849 after service in the British Army, Cleburne emigrated to the US and became a hard-working member of the frontier community in Helena, Ark. When the Civil War started, this accidental Southerner joined the Confederate forces and soon distinguished himself as an inspirational leader, displaying both courage and judgment. Symonds describes his gallantry in such battles as Shiloh, Chickamauga, and Kenasaw Mountain. Even though Jefferson Davis called him ``the Stonewall of the West,'' and Robert E. Lee described him as a ``meteor shining from a clouded sky,'' Cleburne, being foreign-born and an outspoken critic of ineffective officers (including his own commander), was often passed over for promotion. He also stirred controversy when he proposed abolishing slavery and enlisting ex-slaves in the army. Despite his disappointments, he achieved a superb record as an innovative division commander and was faithful to the Southern cause. After the capture of Atlanta, though the war had clearly been lost, the army's new commander fought on, rashly expending lives. Cleburne, though aware of the likely outcome, stayed with his troops and was killed at the Battle of Franklin at the age of 36. A fine addition to Civil War literature and a deserved tribute to a remarkable career. (20 photos, 11 maps) (History Book Club main selection) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Series: Modern War Studies
  • Hardcover: 328 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas (April 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0700608206
  • ISBN-13: 978-0700608201
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #520,344 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Craig L. Symonds is Professor Emeritus at the United States Naval Academy where he taught naval history and Civil War History for thirty years.
A native of Anaheim, California, Symonds earned his B.A. degree at U.C.L.A., and his Masters and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Florida where he studied under the late John K. Mahon. In the 1970s he was a U.S. Navy officer and the first ensign ever to lecture at the prestigious Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. After his naval service, Symonds remained at the War College as a civilian Professor of Strategy from 1974-1975.
He came to the Naval Academy in 1976, and during his thirty-year career there he became a very popular professor whose Civil War classes were always over-subscribed. He was named teacher of the Year in 1988, and the Researcher of the Year in 1998, the first person ever to win both awards. He chaired the History Department from 1988 to 1992. He also chaired the Naval Academy Self Study for institutional accreditation, the Curriculum Reform Committee, and served on the Naval Academy Admissions Board. In addition to the Meritorious Civilian Service Medal, he was awarded the Civilian Meritorious Service Medal three times. From 1994 to 1995 he served as Professor of Strategy and Policy at the Britannia Naval College in Dartmouth, England.
Symonds is the author of twelve books and the editor of nine others. In addition he has written over one hundred scholarly articles in professional journals and popular magazines as well as more than twenty book chapters in historical anthologies. Five of his books were selections of the Book-of-the-Month Club, and six have been selections of the History Book Club. His books have won the Barondess Lincoln Prize, the Daniel and Marilyn Laney Prize, the S.A. Cunningham Award, the Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt Prize, and the John Lyman book Prize three times. In 2009 he shared the $50,000 Lincoln Prize with James M. McPherson. He also won the "Annie" Award in Literary Arts given by Anne Arundel County, Maryland.
Symonds was a Trustee of the Society of Military History, and serves on the Executive Committee of the Lincoln Forum, and the board of Directors of the Admiral Nimitz Foundation. He was a member of the Lincoln Prize Committee and chaired the Jefferson Davis Prize Committee. He is a member of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Committee. From 2005 to 1007 he was Chief Historian of the USS Monitor Center at the Mariners' Museum in Newport News, Virginia, helping oversee the opening and promotion of that exhibit.
Now retired, Symonds is much in demand around the country as a speaker on Civil War subjects. He has spoken at Civil War Round Tables in twenty-seven states and two foreign countries, given tours of battlefields and other historical sites, and helped conduct leadership workshops based on the life of Abraham Lincoln. Craig and his wife, Marylou, live in Annapolis, Maryland.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 36 people found the following review helpful By M. Smith on December 10, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Quite simply, one of the finest biographies it has ever been my pleasure to read. Craig Symonds does a magnificent job in re-telling a story that all Civil War followers, particualry those of a Southern persuasion, should read.
After serving a short term in the British Infantry, Patrick Ronayne Cleburne travelled over from his native Ireland (to correct one earlier reviewer's mistake - Cleburne was an Irish Protestant, not Catholic!) to settle in Arkansas and make a successful life for himself. He became a high-ranking member of the local masonic institute and did extremely well in business. When his adopted state seceded and went to war he did the only thing his conscience would allow and volunteered to fight alongside his friends and neighbours.
His talent was quickly recognised and he would eventually reach the rank of Major General. He would (and should ) have gone even higher but his call for the south to free and arm its slaves won him many enemies. In time even Robert E. Lee would come to agree with what Cleburne had earlier advocated but by then it was too late for the Confedracy.
The one thing that comes shining through in this excellent book is Cleburne's practical battleground genius. He inspired confidence in his men and never failed them. His division performed consistently in fight after fight and must be considered to be one of the very best that saw conflict in the entire war. History does not treat bad commanders well and it is a measure of Cleburne's reputation and stature that so many have called him the "Stonewall of the West".
I thoroughly enjoyed Symonds' style of writing.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Tom Robinson on February 7, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is a terrific bio of Cleburne. It is well-written, informative, and a joy to read. It follows Cleburne from childhood to his death at Franklin. I was very happy to see that Symonds focused on what Cleburne and his troops were doing at each of the various battles they were at rather than writing on what the army as a whole was doing. Also there have been other bios of Civil War generals in which I thought the background info was kind of boring, but in this case that is very different. Symonds' description of Cleburne's days in Ireland, emigrating to the U.S., and his days living in Arkansas before the outbreak of the war were very interesting. To summarize I would just say this is a well-written, interesting, informative read. With this book and Symonds' bio of J.E. Johnston, I think Symonds has cemented himself as one of the best Civil War biography writers today.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Fred M. Blum on March 17, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Symonds' book is a fine biography of one of the better Confederate generals. It focuses on the life of Cleburne, from his early years to his wasteful death at the battle of Franklin. This is the strength of the book, but also its weakness. This would be a difficult read for someone who does not already have some background in the history of the Army of Tennessee. Symonds, in concentrating on Cleburne and the soldiers fighting under his command at times fails to give sufficient historical perspective in order to provide an understanding of why or how certain events occurred.
At times the failure to give perspective limits the impact of Cleburne's accomplishments. One prime example is the siege at Chattanooga and Cleburne's defense of Missionary Ridge. Cleburne faced what was thought to be the cream of the Union's western forces in Sherman's Corp. While Cleburne was able to soundly defeat these forces while being outnumbered, the rest of the Confederate forces, fighting from what were thought to be impregnable positions, collapsed. Cleburne then acted as the rear guard, inflicted hard blows on the Union Army, and literally saved the Army of Tennessee from destruction.
Cleburne is a fascinating historical character for numerous reasons and Symonds does a fine job of describing who he is. His early life in Ireland and Arkansas is particularly interesting. In describing Cleburne's roots, Symonds helps answer why so many non-slave owners gave their lives for the Confederacy. Given Cleburne's background, he believed that he owed his position in life to those in Arkansas who helped him get there. His loyalty was thus to his state rather than to a nation. It is a hard concept to understand in this century, but it was not unusual in Cleburne's.
This is a good book and a worthwhile read. It is a fine complement to a general history of the Army of Tennessee.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By L. CHALFANT on May 19, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is a very good book. Patrick Cleburne is my favorite civil war general, and this volume gives a very even-handed discussion of his life, from Ireland to Franklin, Tenn. In particular, it gives considerable space to his growth as a leader. The discussions of Shiloh and Franklin are very good, and understandable. The book gives attention to the General's private life, especially his tragic engagement to Miss Tarleton. In depth but not dry or overwhelming, STONEWALL OF THE WESTis a great introduction to this Commander of the often overlooked western theater!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Theo Logos on August 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Had Patrick Cleburne fought in the Army of Northern Virginia instead of the Army of Tennessee, we surely would be overwhelmed with biographies of his greatness as a general. Because he was a general officer in the Army of Tennessee - the army most Southern writers have traditionally ignored and treated as the red headed step child of the Confederacy, there are far fewer books on him than his accomplishments would seem to warrant. Fortunately, Mr. Symonds has written an excellent biography of the general which puts his impressive accomplishments into perspective and begins to give this extraordinary fighting general his due.

The main focus of Symonds' work is on Cleburne the general, but he gives enough background of his youth in Ireland and his migration to and adoption of America as his new home to sketch what shaped his character and what motivated him to fight in the Southern cause. Cleburne emerges as an immigrant eager to assimilate and make the customs and mores of his new home his own; a man grateful for the opportunities and acceptance he received in Arkansas, and genuinely, if uncritically, committed to fighting for the cause of his adopted home.

Symonds also addresses Cleburne's role within the morass of intrigue that plagued the command structure of the Army of Tennessee. He shows Cleburne to have been one of the anti Bragg cartel, not as a primary mover, but because of his loyalty to his friend and mentor General Hardee (a principle Bragg opponent), and perhaps even more so because of his habit of candor that showed little regard for political expediency. This was damaging to his career, and perhaps among the principle reasons why he was never promoted above division commander, despite the fact that he was the brightest shining star in the army.
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