North with Lee and Jackson: The Lost Story of Gettysburg

Article excerpt

North with Lee and Jackson: The Lost Story of Gettysburg. By JAMES A. KEGEL. Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 1997. xv, 459 pp. $34.95. To that 135-year-old "what if," that anguished hypothetical still stirring in southern memory-What if Jackson had been at Gettysburg?-North with Lee and Jackson supplies an answer: He was. The central premise of James A. Kegel's book is that Thomas J. Jackson, though dead almost two months by the time of the battle, was the catalytic force behind the invasion strategy that led Robert E. Lee's army north into Pennsylvania. More than any other strategist, Jackson wanted to "force the people of the North to understand what it will cost them to hold the South in the Union at the bayonet's point," as Kegel repeatedly reminds the reader in paraphrases (p. 313). Kegel is attempting to readjust historical thinking on Confederate strategy in the war's eastern theater. The invasion that ended at Gettysburg in July 1863 was not an isolated campaign, nor was it a result of the offensive-defensive strategy that many historians believe characterized Confederate war making. Instead, it was the culmination of one grand offensive strategy that had been in development since the beginning of the conflict. Continually frustrated, either by the enemy or by the South's own tepid or distracted tacticians, the plan was Jackson's from start to finish. Lee, the man who carried it out, was also the man who at the war's start "had adopted a strictly defensive strategy" (p. 31).

Central to the plan were the coalfields of Pennsylvania, concentrated in ten counties northeast of Gettysburg. Breaking up rail lines and exploiting political dissidence were also benefits, Kegel maintains. But Pennsylvania coal accounted for more than half of that produced in the country. Were this resource denied or destroyed, southern independence might be won. Coal powered northern industry, and especially the northern ships patrolling the blockade. This study has strengths, not the least of which is its understanding of Jackson's political maneuvering-a feature in Jackson's personality sometimes ignored or undervalued. …