The Army of Northern Virginia: Lee's Army in the American Civil War, 1861-1865

By Philip Katcher | Go to book overview

Foreword

After four years of service, on April 9, 1865, the Army of Northern Virginia surrendered to the U.S. Army at Appomattox Court House, Virginia. Within days its men had all turned in their arms, been paroled, and headed off on sometimes very long treks home. Although its surrender did not mark the ending of all fighting in the Civil War at that point, most Southerners knew and accepted that their bid to establish an independent nation was over. The army came together as volunteer units in 1861 to defend this new would-be Confederate States of America, and fought a hard-pressed war for that purpose. Yet within days of surrendering no physical trace of the army remained.

The legacy of that army did not die. Famed twentieth-century novelist William Faulkner, son of a regimental commander in the Army of Northern Virginia, suggested that for every Southerner of his generation time would always be stopped at that point just before Lee gambled by sending two divisions straight into Union lines at Gettysburg. Today, thousands of costumed men armed with copies of period weapons throughout the world reenact units and battles of that army. So, too, were the actions fought by the Army of Northern Virginia studied by future military historians and theorists for years thereafter. Lee's army was remarkable in its ability to confuse and defeat superior forces in the field time after time. West Point instructors point to Chancellorsville, where Lee not only had considerably fewer men available to him than did his enemy commander, but he even split that smaller number to obtain a stunning victory, as one of history's most perfect battles.

The Army of Northern Virginia, created out of volunteer civilians with a smattering of trained, professional soldiers in command positions, was by its nature an army of individuals. Therefore this account not only discusses the campaigns and battles of the army, it also stresses the individuals from the wellknown generals such as Lee, “Stonewall” Jackson, “Jeb” Stuart, and the rest, down to the rifleman in the ranks who did not hesitate to offer his opinion on everything the army and his superiors did. There were many controversies within the army's ranks. Who lost the Battle of Gettysburg? Should Lee have struck after the Union army's failed assault at Fredericksburg? Why did Jackson, who had done so well in the Valley of Virginia, behave so sluggishly on the Peninsula? While answers were no clearer then than now, proud Southerners held their positions on them strongly. The top level of command was riddled with feuding generals. A.P. Hill and James Longstreet fell out over press reports after the Peninsula Campaign. Hill also feuded with Jackson, who actually placed him under arrest. Notwithstanding all this, added to generally poor, amateurish staff work for much of the war, the Army of Northern Virginia fought long and well until finally totally overwhelmed and forced to surrender. The army's legacy, however, lives on to this very day.

Philip Katcher,

Devon, Pennsylvania, February 2003

-7-

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The Army of Northern Virginia: Lee's Army in the American Civil War, 1861-1865
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • Key to Maps 6
  • Foreword 7
  • Introduction 8
  • Part I - Creating the Machine 9
  • Background to War 11
  • Recruitment and Training 27
  • Nature of the War 43
  • Logistics 63
  • Part II - The Years of Attack 81
  • The First Manassas Campaign 83
  • Jackson's Valley Campaign 101
  • The Peninsula Campaign 119
  • The Second Manassas Campaign 139
  • The 1862 Maryland Campaign 155
  • Fredericksburg 173
  • Chancellorsville 191
  • Gettysburg 209
  • Part III - The Nature of the Army 229
  • Robert E. Lee 231
  • The Senior Command Structure 245
  • The Rank and File 259
  • The Army and the State Authorities 273
  • Part IV - The Years of Defense 285
  • The Winter of 1863-64 287
  • The Wilderness to Cold Harbor 301
  • Cold Harbor to Petersburg 315
  • The Final Campaign 329
  • Bibliography 345
  • Index 348
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