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BOOK REVIEWS Fighting for the Confederacy: The Personal Recollections of General Edward Porter Alexander. By Edward Porter Alexander. Edited by Gary W. Gallagher. (Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 1989. Pp. xxvii, 664. $34.95.) The publication of Fighting for the Confederacy constitutes the most important addition to Confederate historiography in years. E. P. Alexander 's Military Memoirs of a Confederate (published by Charles Scribner 's Sons in 1907) has long been considered a classic by Civil War scholars because of Alexander's remarkable objectivity, analytical skill, and willingness to criticize his comrades-in-arms, including Robert E. Lee. Serving as a signal officer, ordnance officer, and finally as chief of artillery for the First Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, Alexander witnessed most of the campaigns in the eastern theater and became acquainted with many of the South's most important leaders. In his introduction to the 1977 Morningside Bookshop reprint of Military Memoirs, Maury Klein noted the existence of an earlier set of recollections which Alexander had considered too private and personal for publication. Gary W. Gallagher has edited the long-neglected first version of Alexander's manuscript, bringing it to print under its original title. Gallagher's introduction ably summarizes the differences between the two versions of Alexander's recollections. Fighting for the Confederacy lacks much of the polish of Military Memoirs, and is not without errors, partly because Alexander began his work writing largely from memory while sojourning in Nicaragua in 1897. It devotes far less space to events prior to the battle of Gettysburg, and far more to events that followed it, than does Military Memoirs. But the early drafts now brought to light contain a wealth of information concerning Alexander's marriage and antebellum career, together with pithy comments and outright gossip about famous Civil War personalities which he cut prior to publication. Alexander's original writing is in almost every sense more personal. Military Memoirs ends with a tribute to Lee; Fightingfor the Confederacy ends poignantly with the surprise reunification of husband and wife at war's end: ". . .she knew the rush of my feet up the stairs the moment 168erra WAR HISTORY that she heard it, & as I opened the door she was in the middle of the room advancing to meet me" (552). Fighting for the Confederacy reveals more of Alexander's personality and character than does Military Memoirs, but not always in a manner likely to please modern readers. He displays no guilt about owning slaves and admits openly that some black troops were killed after surrendering to Confederates. Paternalistic at best, Alexander's writing about his own slaves perpetuates the "happy darkey" myth in a fashion reminiscent of Joel Chandler Harris. He also displays a cold professional detachment toward war, mixed with tremendous enthusiasm for the technical aspects of his trade. These qualities made Alexander perhaps the best artillerist in the Confederacy, but it can be disturbing to read his frank glee in discovering more effective ways to kill and the joy he expresses whenever helpless targets appear in his sights. Conversely, Fighting for the Confederacy discloses more Alexander's great warmth, particularly in connection with his first wife, Bettie Mason, who was a tremendous source of emotional support during the war. He displays fond affection for a veritable multitude of wartime comrades, sometimes halting his narrative to trace their postwar careers. Military Memoirs and Fighting for the Confederacy stand out from other Civil War reminiscences because of Alexander's willingness to censure friend and foe alike as he sees fit. In the latter work this criticism is generally more severe, as his treatment of "Stonewall" Jackson demonstrates . In both books, his high praise for Jackson is tempered by severe criticism of his lethargic performance during the Seven Days battles in 1862. In Military Memoirs, Alexander writes that Jackson was "under a spell" (Morningside edition, 116). In Fighting for the Confederacy , he bluntly identifies that spell as Jackson's dislike of conducting military operations on the Sabbath and a fatalistic dependence on Divine Providence to provide victory "without overexerting himself & his men" (97). In Military Memoirs, Alexander laments Jackson's performance in terms of opportunities missed, but only...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 167-169
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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