Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Lee's Army during the Overland Campaign: A Numerical Study

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Lee's Army during the Overland Campaign: A Numerical Study

Article excerpt

Lee's Army during the Overland Campaign: A Numerical Study. By Alfred C. Young III. Foreword by Gordon C. Rhea. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2013. Pp. [xvi], 428. $39.95, ISBN 978-0-8071-5172-3.)

Alfred C. Young III, an independent scholar from Pennsylvania, seeks to provide revised (higher) estimates for the initial strength and losses of Robert E. Lee's army during the Overland campaign of 1864. Young maintains that Confederate casualties in May and June led to the surrender at Appomattox almost a year later. He seems to share "the opinion of some" that "traditional southern writers" have underestimated Confederate losses to make it appear that Lee "fought heroically" but ultimately yielded to overwhelming numbers. The author also seeks to revise Ulysses S. Grant's image as a "butcher" (pp. 3-4).

Young speculates that Lee could have had "almost 66,000 men" at the start of the campaign, or roughly 5,000 more than the old figure of 60,000-62,000 (p. 12). Owing to a lack of reliable Confederate records after 1863, the author devised a mathematical model to justify this increase. The model was partly based on his "assumptions" concerning stragglers and returning wounded "to reflect personnel not actually in the ranks" (p. 11). He wavers when he admits that "actual individual-unit strengths (if ever found) may be around 10 to 50 men higher or lower for each infantry" formation (p. 12).

Young (and Gordon C. Rhea in his foreword) discuss these estimates and their potential historical impact in forty-two pages. The rest of the book consists of casualty tables (108 pages), battle diagrams, and a brigade-by-brigade review with casualty breakdowns. These materials do not effectively support Young's thesis. Young discusses how sparse the records are for each regiment and how he relies on a "patchwork" of sources, including southern newspaper casualty accounts, before estimating upward for casualty figures (p. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.