STEPHEN W. SEARS is the author of many award-winning books on the Civil War, including Gettysburg and Landscape Turned Red. A former editor at American Heritage, he lives in Connecticut.
An acknowledged Civil War authority studies Robert E. Lee's greatest victory‘which led inexorably to his final defeat.
Chancellorsville was one of the Civil War's pivotal campaigns, a great victory for the South that, however, led directly to the death of top Confederate general Stonewall Jackson. It hasn't generated the amount of literature devoted to most major Civil War battles, largely because John Bigelow's 1910 classic, The Campaign of Chancellorsville, seemed for years to offer the last word. But Sears, employing a mix of published and unpublished primary accounts to buttress secondary studies, manages to offer more than one new word in a thoroughly engaging text. Most notable is his use of Union military intelligence reports to show how General Joseph Hooker was fed a stream of accurate information about Robert E. Lee's troops; conversely, Sears points out the battlefield communications failures that hampered the Union army at critical times. He also examines the roles of Hooker and his corps commanders, finding that half of the latter badly served their commander in the campaign. On the Confederate side, Sears analyzes Lee's faulty intelligence and his relationships with his subordinates. Throughout, he highlights Lee's marvelous good luck, as well as his army's fighting capability. One of the book's three appendices explores several of the battle's "romances"‘e.g., Jackson's wounding, Alfred Pleasonton's false stories‘while two other appendices present orders of battle and casualties. A model campaign study, Sears's account of Chancellorsville is likely to remain the standard for years to come. Maps and photos not seen by PW. (Nov.)
Definitive - A must. Kirkus Reviews