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Five Forks

Waterloo of the Confederacy

Robert Alexander

Publication Year: 2003

The Battle of Five Forks was one of the the last battles of the American Civil War. A week later, Lee surrendered. Two weeks later, Lincoln was dead. In this meditation on that battle, Alexander juxtaposes the story of the battle, which he tells through narrative, letters, and journal entries, with his own impressions, viewing the South through Northern eyes. In addition, he views contemporary American society through the story of the Civil War and specifically through the story of Five Forks. If it is true that we meet our past coming to us out of the future, then, Alexander posits, America is still grappling with issues unresolved by the Civil War. Those issues are not just the obvious ones of race and class, or of North vs. South, but also the more ephemeral issues surrounding the mythos Americans live by.
     Alexander is not a historian, and this is much more a literary work than a battle story. However, the immediacy with which Alexander tells his tale leads the reader to experience Five Forks—the land, the smells, the cries—as if present there in 1865. Thus, he does not just describe a battle; he captures the spirit of all battles, all wars.

Published by: Michigan State University Press

Title Page, Frontispiece, Copyright, Dedication, Quotations

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pp. ix

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pp. xiii

THE BATTLE OF FIVE FORKS was fought in a few hours, but this book has taken me more than a decade to complete. In the process, my marriage has dissolved (a "civil war" of a different sort), and I find myself, along with the rest of the planet, embarking on a new century-indeed, as we like to tell ourselves, a new millennium. So this story has the quaintness to me of a period piece, something dressed up in lavender and lace, something you might find up in the attic on a rainy afternoon...

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1: Springtime in Virginia

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pp. 3-16

IN GRADUATE SCHOOL, years ago, a couple of friends and I met once a week at Sonny's to eat pizza and drink red wine and talk about Shakespeare. Across the street the concrete tower of the English department stood motionless as winter ebbed into spring. One afternoon Gordon talked about the history plays. Gordon had been reading Heidegger...

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2: A Cocked Hat

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pp. 17-54

IT's A SHORT DRIVE from Washington to Richmond down 1-95, once you get away from the city-across the Potomac, away from the Pentagon and National Airport-and assuming you're going at a time when there's not much traffic, say late morning, perhaps. "Richmond and Points South," the green sign reads over the freeway. This time of year the hillsides and forests are just beginning to come alive. The woods are...

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3: The Fighting Has Just Begun

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pp. 55-90

CHARLES K. MOSER: In the spring of 1908, while I was an editorial writer on the Washington Post, through the recommendation of Colonel John S. Mosby, late guerrilla leader of the Confederacy, or perhaps through his son, John S. Mosby, Jr., I received the manuscript attached hereto entitled "Five Forks: The Waterloo of the Confederacy, or the Last Days of Fitz Lee's Cavalry Division," from General Thomas T. Munford,...

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4: Five Forks

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pp. 91-128

Munford has told Fitz Lee that Yankee infantry has been spotted in the vicinity of the White Oak road, and Fitz Lee tells Munford to take his troops and go check it out. But he doesn't tell Munford where he can be found later. When Munford sees an opportunity to use artillery against the massing Fifth Corps, he requests the detachment of a couple of guns from Matt Ransom, who's...

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5: Calhoun's Monument

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pp. 129-140

CHARLES C. COFFIN: "We have only to resolve that we will never surrender, and it will be impossible that we shall ever be taken," said the Sentinel, in its issue of Saturday morning, April 1st, the last paper ever issued from that office. The editor was not aware of the fact that on Friday evening, while he was penning this paragraph, Sheridan was bursting open the door at the Five...


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pp. 141-150


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pp. 151-156


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pp. 157-158

E-ISBN-13: 9781609174552
E-ISBN-10: 1609174550
Print-ISBN-13: 9780870136719
Print-ISBN-10: 0870136712

Page Count: 172
Publication Year: 2003

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Subject Headings

  • Five Forks, Battle of, Va., 1865 -- Fiction.
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Fiction.
  • Historical fiction. -- gsafd.
  • War stories. -- gsafd.
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