Lee's Miserables: Life in the Army of Northern Virginia from the Wilderness to Appomattox

Lee's Miserables: Life in the Army of Northern Virginia from the Wilderness to Appomattox

Lee's Miserables: Life in the Army of Northern Virginia from the Wilderness to Appomattox

Lee's Miserables: Life in the Army of Northern Virginia from the Wilderness to Appomattox

Synopsis

Never did so large a proportion of the American population leave home for an extended period and produce such a detailed record of its experiences in the form of correspondence, diaries, and other papers as during the Civil War. Based on research in more than 1,200 wartime letters and diaries by more than 400 Confederate officers and enlisted men, this book offers a compelling social history of Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia during its final year, from May 1864 to April 1865.

Organized in a chronological framework, the book uses the words of the soldiers themselves to provide a view of the army's experiences in camp, on the march, in combat, and under siege--from the battles in the Wilderness to the final retreat to Appomattox. It sheds new light on such questions as the state of morale in the army, the causes of desertion, ties between the army and the home front, the debate over arming black men in the Confederacy, and the causes of Confederate defeat. Remarkably rich and detailed, "Lee's Miserables offers a fresh look at one of the most-studied Civil War armies.

Excerpt

We are looking for marching orders every day now and expecting for the Big Fight to open soon. -- 5th Sgt. Marion Hill Fitzpatrick 45th Georgia, to his wife, 29 April 1864

Prologue: Spring 1864

As the winter of 1863 gave way to the spring of 1864, and as the Civil War entered its third year with no clear resolution in sight, there was a sense of anticipation and renewed optimism within the Army of Northern Virginia. The previous year had been one of sharp contrasts for the Confederacy's most successful and most famous army, in which an exhilarating victory at Chancellorsville was followed by a disheartening defeat at Gettysburg. Since late July 1863 the army commanded by Gen. Robert E. Lee had been locked in a stalemate with its old foe, the Army of the Potomac. Though fighting had been infrequent and relatively small in scale, maneuvering had not, but neither the Confederates nor the Federals gained a lasting advantage before both armies went into winter quarters. A new year, a new season, and a new campaign, however, promised dramatic opportunities.

The prevailing opinion, particularly in the Confederacy, was that 1864 would be the last year of the war. Many soldiers in the Army of Northern . . .

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