Embattled Rebel

Embattled Rebel

Jefferson Davis as Commander in Chief

Book - 2014
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From the Pulitzer Prize - winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom , a powerful new reckoning with Jefferson Davis as military commander of the Confederacy History has not been kind to Jefferson Davis. His cause went down in disastrous defeat and left the South impoverished for generations. If that cause had succeeded, it would have torn the United States in two and preserved the institution of slavery. Many Americans in Davis's own time and in later generations considered him an incompetent leader, if not a traitor. Not so, argues James M. McPherson. In Embattled Rebel , McPherson shows us that Davis might have been on the wrong side of history, but it is too easy to diminish him because of his cause's failure. In order to understand the Civil War and its outcome, it is essential to give Davis his due as a military leader and as the president of an aspiring Confederate nation. Davis did not make it easy on himself. His subordinates and enemies alike considered him difficult, egotistical, and cold. He was gravely ill throughout much of the war, often working from home and even from his sickbed. Nonetheless, McPherson argues, Davis shaped and articulated the principal policy of the Confederacy with clarity and force- the quest for independent nationhood. Although he had not been a fire-breathing secessionist, once he committed himself to a Confederate nation he never deviated from this goal. In a sense, Davis was the last Confederate left standing in 1865. As president of the Confederacy, Davis devoted most of his waking hours to military strategy and operations, along with Commander Robert E. Lee, and delegated the economic and diplomatic functions of strategy to his subordinates. Davis was present on several battlefields with Lee and even took part in some tactical planning; indeed, their close relationship stands as one of the great military-civilian partnerships in history. Most critical appraisals of Davis emphasize his choices in and management of generals rather than his strategies, but no other chief executive in American history exercised such tenacious hands-on influence in the shaping of military strategy. And while he was imprisoned for two years after the Confederacy's surrender awaiting a trial for treason that never came, and lived for another twenty-four years, he never once recanted the cause for which he had fought and lost. McPherson gives us Jefferson Davis as the commander in chief he really was, showing persuasively that while Davis did not win the war for the South, he was scarcely responsible for losing it. Praise for James M. McPherson's Tried By War Winner of the 2009 Lincoln Prize 'Few historians write as well as McPherson, and none evoke the sound of battle with greater clarity . . . McPherson draws on almost fifty years research to present a cogent and concise narrative of how Lincoln, working against enormous odds, saved the United States of America.' Jean Edward Smith, The New York Times Book Review 'The definitive portrait of Lincoln as war leader.' Michael F. Bishop, The Washington Post Book World 'It is hard to do justice in a short review to how convincingly and compellingly McPherson narrates Lincoln's simultaneous mastery of the political, strategic and moral challenge of his historical moment.' Tim Rutten, Lost Angeles Times 'Once again he does not disappoint, as Tried by War brims with fascinating details and great insight . . . McPherson's superb new book is destined to become a classic.' Jay Winik, The Boston Globe 'From our generation's finest Civil War historian comes yet another masterpiece-a beautifully written and stunningly original account.'
Publisher: New York, New York :, The Penguin Press,, 2014.
ISBN: 9781594204975
Characteristics: xiv, 301 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm


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" Davis asked how many additional men would be necessary for the contemplated offensive. Another 20000, the generals responded, and they must be well-trained troops, not raw recruits."

Nov 09, 2015

If you are someone like myself who has seen the excellent PBS series "The Civil War" and has read several books on Generals Grant and Sherman, then this book is a terrific way to complete your understanding of the conflict. It is a very good discussion of the politics, strategies, and internal conflicts and insurmountable barriers to victory that the Confederacy had to deal with. I am still struck by the strength of conviction of Davis around the need for the war, though feel very sad for the Confederate States for having undertaken such a stupid and immoral adventure. This books helps explain the mindset of the leading members of that community. A great read.

Nov 25, 2014

Looking forward to reading this book. NYT Book Review wrote that this is a good read: " McPherson is not interested in comparing Davis and Lincoln or in building a case against Davis for treason or anything else. Rather, he is interested in the challenge of transcending his own convictions and understanding Davis as a “product of his time and circumstances.” "

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