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Lee's Last Stand: Sailor's Creek, Virginia, 1865 Hardcover – November 30, 2004
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Top Customer Reviews
The largest battle - in terms of numbers engaged as well as in acreage involved - was the battle of Sailor's Creek, fought on April 6, 1865. Sailor's Creek was an unmitigated disaster for Robert E. Lee's army, costing him 7,700 casualties he could ill afford, and prompting him to say, "My God! Has the army been dissolved?" His son, Maj. Gen. George Washington Custus Lee, was among the prisoners taken, as was Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell.
Other than the fine work by Chris Calkins, the tactical aspects of the battle of Sailor's Creek have received scant attention from historians.
Derek Smith has written a study of Sailor's Creek that promises much more than it delivers. Smith, a journalist by profession, has a smooth and easy writing style, meaning that the book is readable and pleasant enough, if a bit lightweight. If these were the only criteria by which books are reviewed, it would receive a stellar review. Sadly, though, many more factors come into play. Once those other factors are brought into the equation, this book's many weaknesses become obvious.
First, and foremost, the author did virtually no research of his own. A review of his endnotes indicates that he relied almost exclusively on secondary sources. A review of the bibliography indicates that he did almost no primary source research of his own, and no primary source manuscript research at all.Read more ›
Mr. Smith has written a very readable, intelligent account of the events leading up to the battle. His coverage of the battle is clear, allowing us to follow event easily with a minimum of confusion. The impact of the battle on the campaign and the men involved is well covered. The aftermath for the Confederates taken prisoner is very interesting. Overall, this is a very readable battle history but it could be improved.
My two objections are;
1) Maps. Publishers need to understand that battle histories need them. This book has far to few maps and far to many Illustrations. This is not problem unique to this book, publishing houses need to reconsider the lack of maps in battle histories.
2) Bias. Both sides were very brave, tired and hungry. Members of the AoNV had it worse than the men in the AOP but courage and dedication were not unique to either side. Mr. Smith overly emphasizes the out numbered scarecrows in butternut facing the blue clad hordes. Some of it is true but to often detracts from the story.
Overall, I like the book and feel it is a good value. It could be better but it is a good book and you will gain an understanding of this battle including the questions about the name.