Lee’s Lieutenants: Gettysburg to Appomattox. Vol. III. By Douglas Southall Freeman. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. $5.00. Hanger Mosby. By Virgil Carrington Jones. University of North Carolina Press. $1.50.
Time has done well by Johnny Reb and his generals. Crushed and beaten in 1865, they have come storming back through the pages of history to capture an astonishing amount of interest in both North and South-While not entirely neglected, the Union soldiers have received far less attention from writers and readers in recent years than have those who wore the grey. This may be, in part, the result of greater activity among Southern scholars; it most certainly is due, in part, to the enthusiasm inspired by rare skill and gallant service to a lost cause. It would be difficult to imagine a huge four-volume life of Ulysses S. Grant and three more enormous volumes on his lieutenants attaining the status of best sellers! It would be even more difficult to imagine a steady stream of successful books dealing with Northern officers of similar importance to Morgan, Mosby, Forrest, Pendleton, and Longstreet.
Yet Douglas Southall Freeman has accomplished the first feat with his volumes on Lee and Lee’s lieutenants, while the publication of Virgil Jones’ “Ranger Mosby” again calls attention to the second. The Confederacy seems to have in Abraham Lincoln alone a serious competitor in the literary field.
Freeman’s third and final volume of “Lee’s Lieutenants” carries the story from Gettysburg to Appomattox. Like its predecessors, it is exhaustive in research, fair and balanced in judgments, and surprisingly full of new points of view. Longstreet dominates the early pages, but the central theme is the gradual decline of competent leadership as battle after battle took its toll and men of less ability were pushed forward to take places left vacant by death and wounds. “Stonewall” Jackson was never replaced, and his absence was a major factor in every battle. The loss of Stuart, Ramseur, Pender, and their kind was a price which the Confederacy could not afford to pay for the victories gained. Gradually command simply collapsed. Soldiers who had long done the seemingly impossible now faltered. Ill clothed and half starved, they deserted or surrendered not only because they were greatly outnumbered, but because they were poorly led and physically exhausted.
Longstreet comes off better in this volume than in Freeman’s earlier accounts. He is still a man of great military schemes and he did sulk at Gettysburg when Lee ignored his suggestions; but new evidence regarding what took place on the Federal left wing on the second day of battle proves that Longstreet was right in opposing Pickett’s charge. Moreover, it becomes clear that Lee had not made his own intentions clear enough and that he was asking more of his men than could reasonably have been expected.
“Jeb” Stuart and Gordon and Hampton also gain in standing in this volume. Stuart is not excused for his failure to be early on the field at Gettysburg,—in fact, the volume opens witli the story of Stuart’s love of display and the disaster it portended. But his ability to develop and train other men for leadership is rated above that of any other man in the army. Gordon and Hampton, in spite of their lack of professional military training—a thing which Freeman thinks was almost an essential to success—are credited with growth and real ability. Ewell, who faltered after a good start, and Early, who might have done better had he appreciated fully the value and proper use of cavalry, are left about where they have been placed by earlier critics.
There is more of the Confederate soldier in this volume than in the earlier ones where great leaders dominated. There is an introduction which is, in reality, a set of conclusions and lessons to be learned. There is much of humor and more of brave and daring men whose loss in battle impoverished a section and a nation as well.
It is hardly necessary to say that with this volume Dr. Freeman has completed what is unquestionably the greatest contribution to military history made by an American scholar. It is, indeed, an enduring monument to the Army of Northern Virginia.
Virgil Jones’ excellent study of Mosby and “his rangers is overshadowed by Freeman’s larger work but it nevertheless adds something to the story of the Army of Northern Virginia not told there. It is the story of mounted irregulars who operated through and behind the Union lines, gathering information, plundering supplies, and harassing Northern picket lines. They spread terror to the point of having prices placed on their heads, and in one case of having captured rangers publicly hanged. They would sweep down on a railroad train or creep silently upon an unsuspecting outpost. Once they pulled a Union officer out of his bed and carried him away through his own picket lines. They became the eyes of an army and often the opening wedge to a successful drive. They used methods that were then unorthodox, but which now appear to have been surprisingly modern. They added something spectacular and romantic to the more regular activities of the Confederate Army. Thus they received more attention and acclaim than they deserved; but the potential nation needed that, and Mosby’s contribution may, even now, be considered substantial.
The author has told his story well. He has kept it balanced and restrained. He has set forth another “Johnny Reb” in fashion attractive enough to continue and forward the interest and enthusiasm of Americans for the soldiers of the “lost cause.”