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
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