LOST VICTORIES: The Military Genius of Stonewall Jackson by Bevin Alexander

LOST VICTORIES: The Military Genius of Stonewall Jackson

Email this review


Alexander (Korea, 1986), in a significant and well-argued contribution to the already massive corpus of Robert E. Lee/Stonewall Jackson scholarship, asserts that ""Stonewall Jackson, not Lee, possessed the strategic vision necessary to win key battles""--and perhaps the Civil War. Douglas Southall Freeman's classic Lee's Lieutenants (1942-46) crystallized the scholarly consensus about Lee and Jackson: Lee was a masterly strategist, perhaps the greatest America has ever produced, while Jackson was a brilliant tactician who lacked the stuff of overall command. Here, however, Alexander argues that Lee prevented Jackson from crossing the Potomac to intimidate Washington and demolish northern industries, and stopped him from destroying Pope's Union army. On at least four occasions, Jackson attempted unsuccessfully to convince Lee and Jefferson Davis ""to mount an invasion of the North and to challenge the will of the Northern people to wage war."" In reviewing the amazing, though familiar, story of how Jackson bedeviled vastly superior Union forces in the Shenandoah Valley, Alexander demonstrates the striking aggressiveness and creativity of Jackson's strategic vision, and he speculates that, at Chancellorsville, Jackson was fatally wounded just as he was about to ""destroy all or most of the Army of the Potomac and to leave the North powerless to prevent invasion."" While these speculations about Jackson make for interesting reading, the fact is that Jackson's eccentric and difficult personality marginalized his influence on the strategic planning of the South; moreover, attempted Confederate invasions of the North such as those proposed by Jackson invariably resulted in disaster. Alexander recognizes that neither he nor any other historian can answer the absorbing question of whether the South could have prevailed had Jackson lived, or had it pursued Jackson's more pugnacious strategy, but the author makes a compelling case that Lee's pursuit of limited objectives ultimately assured a Union victory. An enjoyable and thoughtful exercise in ""what if"" history, and a fine reassessment of Jackson's military career.

Pub Date: Nov. 23rd, 1992
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Henry Holt