Getting Right With Robert E. Lee

How to know the unknowable man

In 1905, on a visit to Richmond, the noted man of letters Henry James was struck by the sight of the equestrian statue of Robert E. Lee high atop its pedestal overlooking Monument Avenue.Read more »

Lee’s Greatest Victory

During three days in May 1863, the Confederate leader took astonishing risks to win one of the most skillfully conducted battles in history. But the cost turned out to be too steep.

The ability of Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. (“Stonewall”) Jackson never showed itself more vividly than during three days of battle in May 1863 around a rustic crossroads called Chancellorsville. At the battle’s denouement, which might be considered the highest tide of the Confederacy, the two Virginians capped a reversal of fortunes as dramatic as any recorded in more than three centuries of American military affairs. Read more »

God’s Chosen Instrument

In the Republic’s direst hour, he took command. In the black days after Bull Run, he won West Virginia for the Union. He raised a magnificent army and led it forth to meet his “cautious & weak” opponent, Robert E. Lee. Why hasn’t history been kinder to George B. McClellan?

Gen. George B. McClellan possessed a particular talent for dramatic gesture, and on the afternoon of September 14, 1862, at South Mountain in western Maryland, he surpassed himself. Before him on the smoke-wreathed mountaintop, his army was locked in combat with the Confederate enemy. Nearby artillery batteries added their thunder to the roar of musketry, and columns of reinforcements in Federal blue could be seen winding their way up the mountainside.Read more »

What If?

Conjectural or speculative history can be a silly game, as in “What if the Roman legions had machine guns?” But this historian argues that to enlarge our knowledge and understanding it sometimes makes very good sense to ask …

What if any of the pre-Civil War Presidents had gone mad?

What if Andrew Johnson had been successfully impeached?

What if William McKinley had not been assassinated?

What if there had been no tape-recording system in Nixon’s White House? Read more »

“rocked In The Cradle Of Consternation”

A black chaplain in the Union Army reports on the struggle to take Fort Fisher, North Carolina, in the winter of 1864–65

Hold Fort Fisher or I cannot subsist my army.” So wrote General Robert E. Lee in the waning days of 1864 as he watched one Confederate seaport after another fall to the Union armies. Fort Fisher, the strongest fortification yet built in North America, guarded the approach to Wilmington, Norht Carolina, the last haven of blockade-running supply ships and Lee’s major supply depot. As the noose closed around Lee’s army in Virginia, General Ulysses S.Read more »

The Burning Of Chambersburg

Colonel William E. Peters stared at his commanding officer incredulously. Had he heard the order correctly? On whose authority was it given? he asked. Peters, thirty-five years old and a veteran of three years of fighting, had proved his bravery often enough; he had two wounds to show for it. But there were limits beyond which, even in war, he would not—or could not—go. Read more »

Exit Lines

About to die at the untimely age of forty-four in 1883, Dr. George Miller Beard, a Connecticut physician and pioneer in neurology, remarked: “I should like to record the thoughts of a dying man for the benefit of science, but it is impossible.” And with those words, Dr. Beard passed beyond further speech. Regardless of their inner thoughts, we do at least know what many individuals uttered before giving up the ghost.Read more »

The Marine Tradition

The Corps is supposed to be tough, and is. This often confounds its enemies and sometimes irritates the nation’s other services

The United States Marines are a very ancient fighting corps, covered with battle scars and proud of every one of them—so very proud, indeed, that they have developed an extremely high esprit de corps, which has been defined as a state of mind that leads its possessor to think himself vastly superior to members of all other military outfits.

Crisis At The Antietam

Upon the clash of arms near a little Maryland creek hung the slave’s freedom and the survival of the Union

A whitewashed Dunker chrch without a steeple, a forty-acre field of corn that swayed, head-high and green, in the September sun, an eroded country lane that rambled along a hillside behind a weathered snake-rail fence, and an arched stone bridge that crossed a lazy, copper-brown little creek—these unimpressive features of a quiet Maryland landscape made the setting in which one of the greatest moments of crisis in American history came to a solution on the bloody day of September 17, 1862.

 
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