REBELS FROM WEST POINT by Gerard A. Patterson


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Here a frequent contributor to American History Illustrated and other history magazines examines one of the most cherished themes in military history: the brotherhood of officers--in this case, during the Civil War. More than 300 graduates of West Point served in the armies of the Confederacy during the Civil War. Among them were some who would achieve lasting fame: Robert E. Lee, ""Stonewall"" Jackson, Jeb Stuart. Patterson tells what the decision to ""Go South"" meant to these men, as professionals, as soldiers, and as people who still had warm ties to friends and family in the North. He builds a chronology out of diaries, letters, and memoirs, showing where some of these men were in 1861 (most were officers in the regular US Army stationed on the frontier), describes them taking leave of old army friends who would remain loyal to the Union, and points out that these trained officers who made the Civil War such. a long and bitter affair had very little to do with precipitating that war. But at the center of this human-interest history is the connection between these West Point Confederates and their opponents; their Union counterparts were men they had known since their academy days, or had once served with in the earlier Mexican War. As a consequence, West Point-trained members of the South's officer corps had some insight on how their enemy would behave on the battlefield. Patterson provides many examples of this, as well as numerous anecdotes about war-time meetings between former classmates and old army comrades who found themselves on opposite sides, before concluding with a synopsis of how the South's West Pointers survived the Reconstruction years. An interesting, painless combination of a breezy read with some sound historical research, this book contains no surprises for serious historians, nor unpleasant challenges for general readers--and its most valuable quality may be the human face it puts on an American past that is becoming increasingly stony and distant.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1987
Publisher: Doubleday