Fighting for the Confederacy: The Personal Recollections of General Edward Porter Alexander

Fighting for the Confederacy: The Personal Recollections of General Edward Porter Alexander

Fighting for the Confederacy: The Personal Recollections of General Edward Porter Alexander

Fighting for the Confederacy: The Personal Recollections of General Edward Porter Alexander

Synopsis

First published by UNC Press in 1989, Porter Alexander's Fighting for the Confederacy is now considered one of the richest personal accounts of the Civil War. Intended for family and intimate friends, it is an insider's candid and evocative assessment of people and events.

Alexander was involved in nearly all of the great battles of the East and had frequent contact with the high command of the Army of Northern Virginia. A West Point graduate, he also is the author of Military Memoirs of a Confederate (1907), an acclaimed general history of Lee's army.

Excerpt

Brigadier General Edward Porter Alexander sat astride his horse on the south bank of the James River opposite downtown Richmond early on the morning of 3 April 1865. Decisive Federal assaults the previous two days had brought an end to the grueling siege of Petersburg and compelled R. E. Lee to abandon the Confederate capital. Chief of artillery in James Longstreet's First Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, Alexander had just watched the last of his batteries cross the Mayo Bridge on its way out of the city. "It was after sunrise of a bright morning when from the Manchester high grounds we turned to take our last look at the old city for which we had fought so long & so hard," remembered Alexander. "It was a sad, a terrible & a solemn sight. I don't know that any moment in the whole war impressed me more deeply with all its stern realities than this. The whole river front seemed to be in flames, amid which occasional heavy explosions were heard, & the black smoke spreading & hanging over the city seemed to be full of dreadful portents. I rode on with a distinctly heavy heart & with a peculiar sort of feeling of orphanage."

The evocative power of this passage from Fighting for the Confederacy might surprise readers who know Alexander principally through his Military Memoirs of a Confederate: A Critical Narrative. The latter quickly became a classic following its publication in 1907. President Theodore Roosevelt acquired one of the first copies and hastened to write Alexander that "I have so thoro[ugh]ly enjoyed your 'Military Memoirs' that I must write to tell you so." Historian William A. Dunning, who read the volume at least twice in 1907, recommended it to his fellow scholar Frederic Bancroft as a "fascinating book." A reviewer in the Army and Navy Journal labeled it "one of the most valuable of all books on the war." Later opinion echoed these early sentiments. Douglas Southall Freeman considered Alexander's effort "altogether the best critique of the operations of the Army of Northern Virginia." Another prominent historian of the Confederacy char-

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