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Fighting for the Confederacy: The Personal Recollections of General Edward Porter Alexander (Civil War America) Paperback – March 2, 1998
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From Library Journal
Georgia native and West Point graduate Alexander was involved in nearly all of the significant battles in the Eastern theater of the Civil War and came into frequent contact with the highest command of the Army of Northern Virginia, including Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and James Longstreet. His perspective on such personalities and on the events unfolding around him is a most valuable one. Alexander's memoirs lay virtually untouched for some eight decades until rescued by Gallagher, who has done a splendid job of editing: unobtrusive; the annotation not merely a rehash of that which can be readily found in other Civil War sources. An excellent index and illustrations and maps from the original manuscript complement the text. Recommended for Civil War and military history collections. History Book Club selection.
- Jason H. Silverman, Winthrop Coll., Rock Hill, S.C.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
This book is destined to become a classic. It is simply "must" reading.
"Blue and Gray"
[A]ltogether livelier and more irreverent than anything in Grant's and Sherman's books.
"[A] new landmark in Civil War historiography, one that no historian of the period can afford to ignore.
"Journal of Southern History""
"Alexander's new memoirs are relaxed and engaging, lacking the self-importance that mars the memoirs of a good many soldiers.
The publication of "Fighting for the Confederacy" constitutes the most important addition to Confederate historiography in years.
"Civil War History"
ÝA¨ltogether livelier and more irreverent than anything in Grant's and Sherman's books.
ÝA¨ new landmark in Civil War historiography, one that no historian of the period can afford to ignore.
"Journal of Southern History"
Alexander's new memoirs are relaxed and engaging, lacking the self-importance that mars the memoirs of a good many soldiers.
[A] new landmark in Civil War historiography, one that no historian of the period can afford to ignore.
"Journal of Southern History"
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Fighting for the Confederacy: The Personal Recollections of General Edward Porter Alexander
Military Memoirs of A Confederate
If you haven’t read his "personal" memoir, “Fighting for the Confederacy,” I highly recommend it! I’m finding it fascinating. These memoirs were never published, and were “lost” until discovered and then published in1989. Alexander wrote much of it while away on business in South America, and lonely enough that he had time to sit and write - and write with relish he did. He wrote for his children, who had been nagging him to capture his memories in writing, and he never intended for his personal memoirs to be published. He didn’t have lots of reference material with him, so he drew upon his memory and strongest personal recollections, and felt free to express lots of personal opinions, which make the book a pleasure to read and illuminate the history wonderfully.
The act of writing his personal story drew him in. He had been carrying his “assessment” of the different battles in his mind for years (this was 1894), and wanted to focus on the military “chess game” that was being played by the generals on both sides. So after he finished his personal memoirs for his family, he started again and rewrote his memoirs in a more formal, “detached” and analytic manner, this time with the intention of publishing them. This is how the second book (Military Memoirs of a Confederate) came about, and also why the first set of memoirs were never published. They sat in a pile of their family's papers, most subsequent archivists assuming that they were early drafts of the second book, until it was finally realized that they were an entirely separate and earlier personal work.
I haven’t read the second book yet - but skimmed it a bit. I decided to read the personal history first — as I thought it would be more interesting, and perhaps I’d then have a lot more context to help me through the second book’s “analysis” of the battles.
I’m surprised at how much I “relate” to this man — not only as a person but in the events that he participated in. I find that because I’ve read enough Civil War material over the years, and also have visited places like Harper’s Ferry, Bull Run, Antietam, Richmond, Fredericksburg, (etc etc.), that I’m surprisingly familiar with a lot that he’s writing about. His writing “rings a bell” so to speak - and that is a pretty cool feeling to have considering he is writing about things from 150 years ago.
Two quick anecdotes. First, while he expresses zero regret for fighting as hard as he did against the Federal army, he is really very glad that the Confederacy was defeated in the end. His description of why that is almost feels like he's sitting in our seats and looking back at the last 150 years, and his description feels prophetic. Second, he describes how Stonewall Jackson might have ended the war early in 1862, with a crushing victory for the South, but for his religious “trust in the will of the Lord, and follow his commandments” mindset that caused him to avoid fighting on the Sabbath (Sunday). Apparently Jackson eventually got over his hangup about that - but the tremendous opportunity was lost forever. Thank God! ;-)
This and many more great anecdotes - including a number about Gen. Robert E. Lee that reveal somewhat more of him - and thus make him more accessible as a real person than some ancient mythically heroic figure - than I'd read about before.
Can't recommend this enough.
Like the Military History (they have much in common, btw, I'd say about 1/2 of the book is exactly the same) it is very insightful about the actual operations of the Confederacy (and of the Union). Alexander is never shy about giving his opinion (typically very well thought out, and almost always in the know as to how decisions were made) of a strategic or tactical move, but he is not mean or disrespectful - just friendly and sincere. He does not protect anyone, but he is not taking sides either.
Where I find this book original and delightful, though, is the very large amount of personal recollections in the book. He truly succeeds in sharing the colors of the day and impressions of the time to a degree that is unusual in its directness. He is full of anecdotes and fun (a couple of them twice repeated:-), and several of his vignettes had me laughing aloud - not bad for a Civil War memoir...
I have known almost all of his characters for many years - but after reading the recollections several times, I now have a much more human view of several of them, in particular Longstreet, Jackson, Stuart and, of course, R.E. Lee. There are very few books that I rank as high as the Personal Recollections when it regards the Civil War. He and Moxley Sorrell (At the Right Hand of Longstreet: Recollections of a Confederate Staff Officer) are able to truly impart some of the atmosphere in the Army of Northern Virginia. I wish there were equivalent personal memoirs for the Army of the Potomac!