Friday, July 18, 2008

Book review - They Called Him Stonewall

Finished up They Called Him Stonewall last night. This biography of Thomas Jonathan Jackson was written by Burke Davis and published for the first time in 1954.

The book focuses on Jackson's wartime career and is a good read. Davis does a good job of balancing the personal life and professional accomplishments of Jackson. Using primary sources, eyewitness accounts, and Jackson's own reports; he covers Stonewall's initial Confederate commissioning, his subsequent rise to the upper levels of command, and his fatal wounding at a critical junction in the war.

Davis clearly thinks highly of Jackson but he does not attempt to whitewash the General's failings. While praise is included there are also some critiques when needed. Jackson is portrayed as a devout man who possessed a great military mind.

While an electrifying commander, Jackson did clash with his subordinates on occasion. Davis admits that the clashes were not all one-sided and that Jackson contributed. One notable incident involved General A.P. Hill. General Lee had just assigned Hill to Jackson's command and wrote him a note with advice on the best way to handle Hill. Lee urged Jackson to inform Hill of his plans. He stated that, should Jackson do so, he would would find Hill to be a superior officer. Old Jack ignored Lee's counsel and stuck with his habitual secrecy. The officers used to him played along but not Hill. The spark was struck and only death would end the feud.

All in all a good book. Written before the current trend of historical revision, the book manages to humanize Jackson without trivializing him. Whether a Civil War buff or a newcomer to the field, you will enjoy it and find it interesting.

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