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Soldier of Tennessee : General Alexander P. Stewart and the Civil War in the West Paperback – March 1, 2004
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Elliott chronicles a distinguished yet unsung military career, adding usefully to knowledge of the Civil War in the West. A graduate of West Point, Alexander P. Stewart (1821^-1908) spent most of his civilian career as a professional educator. In the war, he went with his native Tennessee and became one of the Confederacy's highest ranking officers, rising from major of artillery to lieutenant general as the last field commander of the Army of Tennessee. His career is scantily documented (e.g., no physical description of him survives), yet he appears to have been a sound tactician, taken good care of his men, and avoided the political backbiting that disfigured the careers of so many other western Confederates. After the war, he returned to teaching as a professor at Ole Miss. Resigning in 1886, he later completed his public career by establishing the Chickamauga Battlefield Park for the National Park Service. A straightforward and useful biography of a straightforward and useful man. Roland Green --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Elliott has given a fresh look at an often ignored but important figure. . . . His book will undoubtedly become the definitive work on Stewart."
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or Joe Johnston but he proved himself at the Brigade and Division levels of command time after time. One could argue that had he and not Hood assumed command of the Aot in July 1864, that there is no doubt that the battles of Franklin and Nashville would not have worked out or even happened as they did.
As other reviewers have already explained when it comes to Lieutenant General Alexander P. Stewart, he may be close to the least known high ranking Confederate officer of the entire Civil War. Stewart was born to a well-to-do Tennessee family who secured him an appointment to West Point, where he graduated close to the top of his class. After graduation, Stewart decided to leave the army and pursue a career as a teacher of mathematics at lowly Cumberland University of Tennessee. Stewart toiled through much of the antebellum period trying to find a career that would afford him the luxury of providing for his growing family, but he also took keen interest in the surrounding political issues of the antebellum period as well. Stewart never favored the path of secession for his beloved Tennessee; however, when war finally came calling there was but little hesitation on his part to enlist and due his entire duty.
Stewart followed Tennessee out of the Union in 1861, fighting almost exclusively in the western theater of the war. Perhaps this alone remains the reason Stewart is little known to most Civil War enthusiasts, but rest assured, he advanced quickly through the ranks from regimental commander all the way to army commander by the end of the war. Stewart led what remained of the once vaunted Army of Tennessee east after the disastrous Tennessee Campaign of 1864, serving with distinction as that army’s commander until final surrender in late April 1865. With the Civil War at an end, Stewart returned to Tennessee to re-enter a career in academics. It was during this calling that he was able to foster and help expand several key Southern universities throughout his post-war career.
Elliot’s book covers every aspect of Stewart’s rather impressive and duty-filled life. The book brings Stewart’s growth as a person and eventual military commander into full view for the reader, all the while offering an objective and balanced assessment of Stewart and his compatriots in the cause. Elliot always seems to have an underlying affection for Stewart and what he accomplished during the war to be certain, but he is always quick to point out what Stewart could/should have done to be more pliable and earned the desired effect of victory. Stewart genuinely seemed like that type of guy that everyone would like and respect, and it is quite easy to see how he stayed out of all the political shenanigans that bloated the Army of Tennessee throughout its existence.
I highly recommend this book to anyone that enjoys Civil War biographies. The writer does a fantastic job of keeping the reader from getting too bogged down in the details, and his style remains fluid and engaging throughout the entire work. If you have any interest at all in the snake-bitten Army of the Tennessee, and why it remained as such, you need nothing more than to read Sam Elliot’s Soldier of Tennessee: General Alexander P. Stewart and the Civil War in the West.
From his birth in Rogersville, Tennessee until his death in St. Louis Stewart always remained at heart a Tennessean and his dedication to his state led him into all of the major battles of the Army of Tennessee. Nobody who studies that army can do so without a study of "Old Straight". This book does a wonderful job of exploring the life, war experences,and post-war work of this deeply religious man.
There are only two small problems with this work. First, Mr. Elliott sometimes goes a little far in defending Stewart. The picture he paints of the political strife in the Army of Tennessee is very clear but on occasion he goes a little out of his way to point out how little Stewart was involved in these political battles. It might be more to Stewart's credit if he had been a little more involved in trying to remove General Bragg before more damage could be done. The other problem is one faced by many writers dealing with war. Most readers get quickly lost as a writer begins to relate how this regiment was placed here and that regiment was placed there. Worse yet is the practice of describing an action in detail with terms like "Jones attacked on Smith's left which was countered by moving Brown......". Soon the reader who often has never heard of these regimental or division commanders becomes confused and is not sure who is fighting who or which side anybody is on. Can it be avoided? I don't know but it does weaken this fine work somewhat.
Still, anyone who hopes to understand the "other" major Confederate army must read this book. Mr. Elliott has made a major contribution to the study of the Army of Tennessee and I thank him.