CHANCELLORSVILLE by Stephen W. Sears

CHANCELLORSVILLE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 By a master storyteller and leading Civil War historian, the story of Lee's greatest victory, gained in four days of fighting in May 1863. Sears (Landscape Turned Red, 1983, etc.) draws fresh life from combatants' eyewitness accounts, in diaries, memoirs, letters, and regimental histories. He traces the origins of the battle of Chancellorsville to a cabal of Union officers that forced the loser of Fredericksburg, Ambrose Burnside, to resign as commander of the Army of the Potomac. Sears credits Burnside's successor, ``Fighting Joe'' Hooker, with transforming a poorly supplied and ill-paid army marked by low morale and poor discipline into a tougher, more professional army within two months. Hooker promised President Lincoln that his newly shaped-up army would attack Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia soon and end the war. Sears finds Hooker's plans to attack Lee in Virginia sound in concept but poor in execution. Lee, with only half the number of Union troops, violated an old military axiom by splitting his army, using Stonewall Jackson to move a strong assault force around enemy lines to strike the Union's sleepy right flank. Jackson's surprise assault was the key to a brilliant but costly victory; in the confusion Jackson was mortally wounded by his own troops. Sears argues that incompetent corps commanders let Hooker down by failing to execute orders properly, and that Hooker was also compromised by poor intelligence and by a cavalry general who failed in his mission to cut off Lee's supply train. Lee's tactics finally forced the Union troops to abandon the field. Sears believes that, ironically, Lee's victory at Chancellorsville emboldened him to invade Pennsylvania, which resulted in his bloody defeat at Gettysburg. Another definitive book by the skilled Sears--a must for Civil War students and buffs. (16 b&w photos, not seen) (History Book Club main selection)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-395-64317-2
Page count: 588pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1996




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