Robert E. Lee and The Fall of the Confederacy, 1863–1865 (The American Crisis Series: Books on the Civil War Era)

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9780742551268: Robert E. Lee and The Fall of the Confederacy, 1863–1865 (The American Crisis Series: Books on the Civil War Era)

The generalship of Robert E. Lee, the Confederacy's greatest commander, has long fascinated students of the American Civil War. In assessing Lee and his military career, historians have faced the great challenge of explaining how a man who achieved extraordinary battlefield success in 1862–1863 ended up surrendering his army and accepting the defeat of his cause in 1865. How, in just under two years, could Lee, the Army of Northern Virginia, and the Confederacy have gone from soaring triumph at Chancellorsville to total defeat at Appomattox Court House?

In this reexamination of the last two years of Lee's storied military career, Ethan S. Rafuse offers a clear, informative, and insightful account of Lee's ultimately unsuccessful struggle to defend the Confederacy against a relentless and determined foe. Robert E. Lee and the Fall of the Confederacy describes the great campaigns that shaped the course of this crucial period in American history, the challenges Lee faced in each battle, and the dramatic events that determined the war's outcome.

In addition to providing readable and richly detailed narratives of such campaigns as Gettysburg, Bristoe Station, Spotsylvania, and Appomattox, Rafuse offers compelling analysis of Lee's performance as a commander and of the strategic and operational contexts that influenced the course of the war. He superbly describes and explains the factors that shaped Union and Confederate strategy, how both sides approached the war in Virginia from an operational standpoint, differences in the two sides' respective military capabilities, and how these forces shaped the course and outcome of events on the battlefield.

Rich in insights and analysis, this book provides a full, balanced, and cogent account of how even the best efforts of one of history's great commanders could not prevent the total defeat of his army and its cause. It will appeal to anyone with an interest in the career of Robert E. Lee and the military history of the Civil War.

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About the Author:

Ethan S. Rafuse is associate professor of military history at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff college at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. His previous books include McClellan's War: The Failure of Moderation in the Struggle for the Union, George Gordon Meade and the War in the East, and A Single Grand Victory: The First Campaign and the Battle of Manassas.

Review:

Controversial and compelling from first page to last, Robert E. Lee and the Fall of the Confederacy achieves a trifecta. It affirms Lee's stature as a perceptive strategist who understood Confederate independence could only be achieved by breaking the Union's will in battle, it demonstrates the Army of the Potomac as a fighting force and its successive generals as competent commanders, and it establishes Rafuse in the front rank of a new generation of scholars applying fresh perspectives to the Civil War.

(Dennis E. Showalter, Colorado College; author of Patton and Rommel: Men of War in the Twentieth Century)

Is it really possible there's anything new to say about Robert E. Lee, who probably has had more written about him than any other Civil War military figure? Ethan Rafuse clearly thinks so, and in [this book] he argues his case. . . . Rafuse brings impeccable credentials to his quest. (America's Civil War)

Ethan Rafuse . . . has written one of the most objective, balanced, and perceptive accounts of Lee's strategy and tactics that one could wish for. It is a masterful blend of narrative and analysis. (Civil War News)

[A] clear, solidly researched, and stimulating book full of sensible, balanced judgments wholly free from the polemical self-indulgence bequeathed to this subject by the late Thomas L. Connelly. Rafuse is thus able to explore controversial issues in a no-nonsense fashion. (Journal of American History)

Rafuse's book contains many provocative passages and his thesis about Lee's inability to win Southern independence may well be valid. (Blue & Gray Magazine)

Combining lucid writing, judicious analysis, and refreshing common sense, this new study of Robert E. Lee's generalship shows once again why Ethan S. Rafuse is one of the finest Civil War military historians at work today. (Mark Grimsley, The Ohio State University, author of And Keep Moving On: The Virginia Campaign, May–June 1864)

The author achieved a fresh perspective in this campaign study by structuring his analysis within the framework of the current Army typology of the levels of war: strategic, operational, and tactical. . . . This well researched book is one of the more significant contributions to the historiography of the Civil War in the past decade. (The Journal Of Military History)

This is an important book for young people who are just starting to learn about our American Civil War. . . . I highly recommend this book as a learning tool for our young people who are studying our nation's history. (The Lone Star Book Review)

Rafuse's study thus reflects a reasonably stable scholarly consensus with regard to the high operational quality of Lee's generalship. . . . Rafuse also shows that some historians have too easily conflated a preference among McClellan's successors for the Peninsula as a line or operations with the earlier general's irresolute behavior on the battlefield. (Journal of Southern History)

This study of Lee’s war is a great companion volume to Refuse's works on George B. McClellan and Meade, and builds on the scholarship of historians like Steven E. Woodworth. It asks interesting questions and, at times, offers surprising answers and interpretations about the Civil War in the Virginia theater. Military and Civil War scholars will benefit from its insightfulness, while ‘buffs’ will enjoy another look at how the leaders in blue and gray fought the American Iliad. (Army History)

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