Book Reviews -- Lee's Adjutant: The Wartime Letters of Colonel Walter Herron Taylor, 1862-1865 Edited by R. Lockwood Tower with John S. Belmont
DeCredico, Mary A., The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography
Lee's Adjutant: The Wartime Letters of Colonel Walter Herron Taylor, 1862-1865. Edited by R. LOCKWOOD TOWER with JOHN S. BELMONT. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1995. xv, 343 pp. $29.95.
MEMOIRS, personal reminiscences, diaries, and published correspondence have long been a staple of Civil War historiography. Editor R. Lockwood Tower adds to this growing body of literature with Lee's Adjutant. Drawing on a series of letters Colonel Walter H. Taylor wrote to his future wife and assorted family members from May 1862 until March 1865, Tower takes us behind the scenes of the Army of Northern Virginia.
The volume begins with a good introduction that details Taylor's life and proceeds to a series of letters written from May 1862 to August 1863. The first substantive discussion of the war deals with the Confederate invasion of Maryland in September 1862. From there, the action shifts to the decisive Confederate victory at Chancellorsville and the ill-fated Gettysburg and Vicksburg campaigns. Interestingly enough, Taylor's coverage of Gettysburg is quite inaccurate, as Tower points out. Taylor's discussion of the climactic battles between R. E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant during the spring and summer of 1864 is cursory at best. Indeed, Taylor does not even mention the bloody Union defeat at Cold Harbor.
What Taylor neglects in military detail is made up in personal and religious matters. We can see, through the course of his correspondence, his deepening spirituality and his budding romance with Bettie Saunders. …