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Richard S. Ewell: A Soldier's Life (Civil War America) Hardcover – April 27, 1998

4.3 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Confederate general Richard Ewell has never received the attention he deserves, according to his biographer Donald C. Pfanz. Ewell's many impressive military achievements have gone largely unnoticed, and his few failures--among them arguably blowing an opportunity to turn Gettysburg into a Southern victory--have often served as reasons to blame Confederate losses on anybody but its more revered generals, such as Robert E. Lee. Ewell's greatest accomplishment, suggests Pfanz, was leading third-rate troops in defense of Petersburg when Federal soldiers broke through at Fort Harrison. "Had [Stonewall] Jackson been in charge rather than Ewell, historians would have touted the battle as a military masterpiece. But ... the episode was forgotten. Historians have all but ignored it since." Despite such assessments, Richard S. Ewell: A Soldier's Life is no hagiography; Pfanz cites shortcomings in both Ewell's personality (bad temper) and judgment (at Spotsylvania, for instance). Still, this book is mainly a robust defense of a second-tier general who deserves better than what he's received from other historians.

From Library Journal

Civil War historian Pfanz (The Petersburg Campaign: Abraham Lincoln at City Point, March 20-April 19, 1865) presents a favorable biography of Confederate General Richard S. Ewell. Although covering the full span of Ewell's life, Pfanz focuses most heavily on his Civil War years. He fills the lacunae regarding Ewell, reassessing the command and operations of the man who was Stonewall Jackson's right arm and who was an important, if underrated, military leader, succeeding Jackson to lead the Second Corps at Gettysburg, among other engagements. The author draws upon a number of primary sources and concludes that, overall, Ewell was a capable and successful general. Pfanz successfully conveys the personality, but more social and political contextualization would have been welcomed. Recommended for libraries with large collections of Civil War military history and biographies.?Charles L. Lumpkins, Pennsylvania State Univ., State College
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Series: Civil War America
  • Hardcover: 680 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press (April 27, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807823899
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807823897
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,411,307 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
There are three impressive aspects of this work. First, it is quite readable. The battle scenes and other events are as lively as a full color film. The historic characters are full dimensional figures who inhabit the book rather than being referred to. Even minor Ewell family members are brought to life realistically.
Second, the terrain is imaginatively and graphically depicted. The author has a real sense of the places and the climate of the times. This is also supported by good made-to-order maps of important locales.
Third, practically every assertion in the book is backed up by solid primary and secondary historical sources. This is done with no intrusion on the readability of the text. No judgment is made without balancing all extant points of view. A real work of moderm scholarship.
Finally, I was surprised at how much I learned about historical personages and battles with which I though I was familiar.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a refreshing and informative look at Richard Ewell, before, after and of course during the Civil War. Often described as a failure after succeeding Jackson and becoming leader of the Lee's new 2nd Corp, Ewell has suffered severe criticism for the first day of Gettysburg and for his emotional response to the breach at Spotsylvania. Pfanz provides a fair and colorful look at the dependable soldier that fought the second half of the war with a wooden leg and overall served much better than superficial history would lead you to believe. Pfanz profiles Ewell's early life efficiently noting that Ewell's family as a whole were eccentric and Ewell himself a very thin and balding man who spoke with a lisp. Although lacking in military forbearance, Ewell completes West Point and serves gallantly as a dragoon officer in the west occasionally fighting Indians with high praise. Pfanz provides a full perspective of Ewell as a brave soldier who initially though Jackson crazy and in a rather amusing historical telling, Pfanz describes how at one point several generals in Jackson's command think each other unbalanced. As Pfanz describes, Ewell fights extremely well for Jackson particularly at Cross Keys and at Winchester. Although literally pegged as an officer that follows explicit orders, Pfanz clarifies that Ewell fought extraordinary well particularly in the initial stages of the Gettysburg campaign in capturing Winchester and marching virtually to Harrisonburg. He also fought brilliantly at the Wilderness and for the most part at Spotsylvania. As Pfanz notes, Ewell saved Richmond during Butler's great onslaught attack in the fall of 1864, which is a little appreciated fact.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
I am not one to read a biography but was told that this was a very good one. I was told by a battlefield guide that this was the book that started her down the road of studying the civil war. She told me that if I wanted to learn about the movements of the Army of Nothern Virginia, this would be a great place to start. And she was right. I was also told by some other friends that this was the best bio of Gen. Ewell going. I have not read any other bios on Gen. Ewell so I can't say if this is the best one, but this was a very good one indeed. I finished this book in a mere 5 days.

Gen. Ewell is a general that is often overlooked as one of the best generals in the Army of Northern Virginia. After all, the Army had Generals Lee, Longstreet, Jackson, Early, and Stuart. Also, Gen. Ewell has the reputation of losing the battle of Gettysburg since he failed to take Cemetery Hill or Culp's Hill on July 1, 1863. This book explains much of that situation and demonstates why the reputation may be misleading. During Gen. Ewell's tenure under the Command of Gen. Jackson, his performance was almost flawless. However, once he took over the Second Corp., it seems as if he became more timid in his decision making.

This book is very well written and is one that will keep your interest. I have a very difficult time with bios as most do not hold my interest but this one held my interest and then some. I learned not only about the man but also about the history of the Army of Northern virginia. In a civil war bio, I did not want a great deal of background but enough to show the context in which the General come to be so high up in the chain of command.
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Format: Hardcover
Gen. Richard Ewell. A figure from history that has been all but ignored until now. While many blame Ewell for the loss at Gettysburg, One finds a different side of the story. The reading flows smoothly. I have really enjoyed reading this book and getting to know Gen.Richard Ewell. The author expolores his background as a Dragoon, fighting Indians and his faithful service to the Confederacy. Also mentioned is his conversion to Christainity as a result of his rubbing elbows with Stonewall Jackson. I suggest you add this book to your library!
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