Lee's Lieutenants, a Study in Command – Volume 1 Manassas to Malvern Hill
by Joshua Horn
book by Douglas Southall Freeman
Lee's Lieutenants is a three volume work written by Douglas S. Freeman. It is biography of Lee's lieutenants: the generals of the Confederate army during the American Civil War. It is a biography of all of them – how they led their troops, interacted with each other, and how they fought battles. I started reading this book January 17, 2008 and finished March 13, 2008. This book is 731 pages of reading, not including the Appendix.
Even though it was intended to be about the generals under Robert E. Lee, it starts at the beginning of the war, when Lee was not in command, to give a background of the characters who where under Lee. When the book beginnings, P. T. Beauregard, the hero of Fort Sumter, comes to take command of the Army in Virgina. He has a tendency to make great plans, but not be able to do them. He takes command of the army, and fights his first battle. This battle was the first battle of Manassas, called by the Unions the first battle of Bull Run. Joseph E. Johnson was really in command in this battle, but Beauregard pretended that he was in command. Even though Manassas was a Confederate victory, it was not well planed by Beauregard. He sent out many conflicting order which confused the generals under him.
After Manassas, Beauregard was moved to a different arena of war because of his conduct as Manassas, and Johnson remained in command. Johnson was from the United States Army, and he had a bad relationship with President Jefferson Davis and the Secretary of War. Johnson retreated before the Union army twice, and was criticized for destroying stores when he should have brought them with him. Finally, Johnson was trying to hold of the Unions just a few miles away from Richmond. He had to prevent two Union Armies from joining up. He attacked a part of the Union army that was stationed at Seven Pines. He needed to overpower them before they could receive reinforcements. Johnson's plan was very complex, and his subordinates made mistakes. The most important thing that happened in the battle was that Johnson was wounded. He could no longer command the army, so Robert E. Lee was put in command.
During this time, General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and Richard Ewell had been campaigning in the Shenandoah Valley. Jackson fought several battles, and did very well. Then he and his army moved to Richmond to drive back the Unions from before the capital. This series of battles in driving the Unions back was called the Seven Days Battles, and occurred from June 25 to July 1, 1862. Lee, Jackson, Longstreet, and several other subordinates, developed a plan where the army currently before Richmond would attack from the front and Jackson would attack the Union's rear. Jackson's troops did not march fast enough, because of muddy roads. The Unions got news of the plan and began to retreat. The Confederate army began to pursue them. Here is what Freeman says of this campaign:
“The strategic aim of the campaign had been achieved despite bad-co-ordination, worse tactics and the worst imaginable staff work: Richmond had been relieved. McClellan no longer was at the city's gates.”1
The bad tactics of the generals resulted in two of them being removed from their place in the Army of Northern Virgina.
There are many characters in this book. One is Robert E. Lee. Before he became the commander of the Army of Northern Virgina, he was a military adviser to the President. One of his strong points was keeping the peace between generals. He knew the President well after working with him, and so he had a better relationship with him than Johnson did.
Stonewall Jackson is another important character. After commanding the First Brigade, he was appointed commander of the “Army of the Valley” in the Shenandoah Valley. During this campaign he did very well, and he used his infantry, artillery and calvary together better than any other general. He was very strict in disciple, and kept his plans well hidden. Sometimes he created problems by not telling his generals what the plans where.
I think this book is useful to learn about the Confederate generals who served under Lee and his predecessors. It does not provide an overview of the Union side, or different fronts in the war, but it does do a good job of speaking of the battles and commanders in Virgina. I like the way the author wrote it, and I am looking forward to finish the other two volumes.
1Douglas Southall Freeman, Lee's Lieutentants, a Study in Command (New York, NY: Charles Scribner's Sons) volume 1, p. 604
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