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Fighting for the Confederacy: The Personal…
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Fighting for the Confederacy: The Personal Recollections of General Edward… (1989)

by Edward Porter Alexander

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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195692,529 (4.34)11
Originally published by UNC Press in 1989, Fighting for the Confederacy is one of the richest personal accounts in all of the vast literature on the Civil War. Alexander was involved in nearly all of the great battles of the East, from First Manassas through Appomattox, and his duties brought him into frequent contact with most of the high command of the Army of Northern Virginia, including Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and James Longstreet. No other Civil War veteran of his stature matched Alexander's ability to discuss operations in penetrating detail-- this is especially true of his description of Gettysburg. His narrative is also remarkable for its utterly candid appraisals of leaders on both sides.… (more)

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This is as close as we will come to an unbiased perspective of the Confederacy. Critical portraits of everyone from Lee on down. Some strategic thinking about the war over all. Written in a very easy to read style. I highly recommend it. ( )
  mrpotter | Feb 20, 2013 |
What I enjoyed most about this book were the easy style that revealed the personality of the author and the personal reminisces that revealed the personalities of the protagonists of the story. No other civil war history i have read so captures the spirit and emotion of the war. ( )
  denmoir | Dec 2, 2011 |
DAYAA
  JohnMeeks | May 16, 2009 |
Porter Alexander was one of the most famous artillerymen in both armies. Starting off as an engineer, he was Lee’s head of ordnance for the Army of Northern Virginia, and then a colonel of artillery in Longstreet’s First Corps; he soon was promoted to Brigadier General, to become the First Corps’ Chief of Artillery. Highly talented and intelligent, an outstanding engineer and artillerist, Porter served in all the campaigns of the First Corps. After the war, he wrote two sets of manuscripts: one, a military analysis of the battles of the Army of Northern Virginia, was published in 1907 as Military Memoirs of a Confederate: A Critical Narrative. The other manuscript, written at the urging of his children, was a far more personal memoir of his participation; never originally meant for publication, it lay unnoticed for decades. Unlike the Military Memoirs, Alexander includes a great deal of description of the places he saw and personal observations and impressions of a great many people, both civilians and military. Given his rank and position, Porter gives quite candid personal sketches of figures such as Lee, Longstreet, Stuart and others. Unlike just about every other former Confederate who wrote after the war, Porter was critical of Confederate icons such as Lee and Jackson; he questions decisions made by Davis and by Lee, for example, that he felt contributed to the loss of the war, and Longstreet comes in for his share of criticism as well.

Alexander writes in a very easy style that is correct but easily accessible by a modern reader. He records dialogue as he remembers it, stories of camp life, of the hardships endured by the army. He also comes across as arrogant at times and a typical Southerner (Georgian) of his period, who talks casually about ‘darkies’ and clearly never felt that slavery was wrong. He records without censure the fact that after the Union began using African-American troops in battle, Confederates went after them with a vengeance, killing them when they would have taken white troops as prisoners. It doesn’t seem to bother him. Typical of many ex-Confederates, as you read, you do get the feeling that the Army of Northern Virginia never lost a battle and that somehow the Yankees won despite their stupid blunders and the brilliancy and unmatched heroism of the Southern army. There are times when this is so blatant that you want to shake him and yell, “But YOU lost!” At the end, describing Sherman’s march to Savannah, he says that Sherman carried all the slaves away with him, implying that somehow the Union army took away reluctant African-americans who really wanted to stay with their ol’ massas. The truth is that thousands of ex-slaves followed Sherman’s army,and he gave orders to try to keep them away since he could not feed or take care of the hordes that greeted him with joy at every stop--so much so that he got into political hot water back in Washington with the radical Republicans. Through three-quarters of the book, you get the feeling that the Union armies suffered terrible losses while the Confederates due to innate superiority hardly lost a man. Only towards the end in the fighting that led to the siege of Petersburg does he talk about the tremendous losses suffered by Lee’s army.

He does retain a good deal of objectivity as far as military leadership is concerned. There was plenty to criticize on both sides, but he gives unstinting praise to Grant, whom he obviously admires. He was unstintingly admiring of Lincoln and recognized that Lincoln was indeed the South’s best friend in the North; he, like other Confederate military leadership, understood immediately that Lincoln’s assassination was a disaster for the South.

As far as the military side is concerned, Alexander gives a great many details of how the various campaigns were planned and how they were carried off, particularly from the point of view of the artillery. These are fascinating, since the general histories, even such excellent ones such as Shelby Foote’s 3 volume narrative, can’t go into such detail. One example is the defense of Petersburg, where his accounting of the digging of the trenches, the placement of artillery, and the increasingly desperate tactics used by Lee to defend the ever-lengthening fortifications with his dwindling army is absorbing. In one section of the narrative, Alexander describes life in the trenches; it was a misery of never being able to stand up, of vermin, of baking in the sun. It’s quite graphic.

His maps are in reality sketches, and they are excellent, far surpassing in quality and relevance many of the maps included in modern books on the war that are computer-generated by professionals. Also included are portraits--they appear to be lithographs--of many of the Confederate high-ranking officers, such as Braxton Brag, Nathan Bedford Forrest, John Bell Hood, Jubal Early, John Gordon and others; it’s about the only book, though, with which I’m familiar that does no have the nearly obligatory portrait of lee, which is just as well. The frontispiece is a portrait of Alexander himself, in uniform.

The book is really the published manuscript with some editing. Since Porter wrote it while serving in Nicaragua for the US government in the late 1890s, he left many blanks for dates, casualties, names, etc. which he intended to fill in when he returned home to his plantation in South Carolina. He never did. The book remains faithful o the manuscript in that respect; the notes “fill in the blanks” and are quite informative. The text is 552 pages, which means that there were quite a few times when I had to use the index to place a particular officer or civilian whose name cropped up later on.

Fighting For The Confederacy is not a book for the casual reader of the US Civil War, but neither is it simply for buffs and specialists. Alexander's personal reminiscences of the life he led while serving in the army as well as his recollections of the engagements in which he fought are extremely well-written and easy to follow. I certainly would recommend it to anyone who enjoyed, for instance, Sam Watson’s Co. Aitch; it’s Sam on a higher level of the military heap.

Highly recommended for those with something more than a passing interest in the US Civil War. ( )
  Joycepa | Feb 4, 2009 |
This is the book that wasn't supposed to be shared. E Porter Alexander wrote the book for his children. His other work "Miltary Memiors of a Confederate Officer" was the public book. There is more intimate personal information in this one and many stories with less battle detail. ( )
  dhughes | Apr 14, 2007 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Edward Porter Alexanderprimary authorall editionscalculated
Gallagher, Gary W.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For my parents, William and Shirley Gray Gallagher,
whose influence on me has been far greater than they imagine --
and for my son, William Paul Gallagher,
who is a great joy in my life.
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INTRODUCTION
Brigadier General Edward Porter Alexander sat astride his horse on the south bank of the James River opposite downtown Richmond early on the morning of 3 April 1865.
EDITOR'S NOTE
The editorial goal of this project was to prepare an accurate, unabridged, and annotated text of the manuscript Alexander wrote while in Greytown, Nicaragua.
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Originally published by UNC Press in 1989, Fighting for the Confederacy is one of the richest personal accounts in all of the vast literature on the Civil War. Alexander was involved in nearly all of the great battles of the East, from First Manassas through Appomattox, and his duties brought him into frequent contact with most of the high command of the Army of Northern Virginia, including Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and James Longstreet. No other Civil War veteran of his stature matched Alexander's ability to discuss operations in penetrating detail-- this is especially true of his description of Gettysburg. His narrative is also remarkable for its utterly candid appraisals of leaders on both sides.

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