General Stonewall Jackson was like no one anyone had ever seen. In April of 1862 he was merely another Confederate general with only a single battle credential in an army fighting in what seemed to be a losing cause. By middle June he had engineered perhaps the greatest military campaign in American history and was one of the most famous men in the Western World. He had given the Confederate cause what it had recently lacked: hope. In four full-scale battles and six major skirmishes in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, Jackson had taken an army that never numbered more than 17,000 men and often had far less, against more than 70,000 Union troops whose generals had been ordered specifically to destroy him. And he had humiliated them, in spite of their best efforts, sent the armies reeling backward in retreat. He had done it with the full knowledge that he and his army were alone in a Union-dominated wilderness and surrounded at all times. He had even beaten a trap designed by Lincoln himself to catch him.
How did he do this? Jackson marched his men at a pace unknown to soldiers of the era. He made flashing strikes in unexpected places, and assaults of hard and relentless fury. He struck from behind mountain ranges and out of steep passes. His use of terrain reminded observers of Hannibal and Napoleon. His exploits in the valley rank among the most spectacular military achievements of the 19th century.
Considered one of our country’s greatest military figures, a difficult genius cited as inspiration by such later figures as George Patton and Erwin Rommel, and a man whose brilliance at the art of war transcends the Civil War itself, Stonewall Jackson’s legacy is both great and tragic in this compelling account, which demonstrates how, as much as any Confederate figure, Jackson embodies the romantic Southern notion of the virtuous lost cause.
©2014 S. C. Gwynne (P)2014 Simon & Schuster Audio
This is my third Jackson biography. S.C. Gwynne offers great insight into his subject - that, and clarity of narrative. The book is appealingly organized. Whether one is new to the life of this extraordinary man or a student of his exploits, this iteration does not disappoint...a very good read.
( Note: Occasional internet forays into battle maps are useful - one of the few downsides to listening rather than reading. Some notion as to the geography of the Shenandoah Valley is essential.)
This biography was well written. Cotter Smith did a great job with the narration. While like all biographies, its primary focus was on the life of one man- Jackson- I enjoyed the fact that it also brought into focus some of the other Civil War soldiers who had a major impact on Jackson's life as a commander- namely George McClellan, Joseph Johnston, PGT Beauregard, Robert E. Lee as well as some of the other not so known characters such as Nathanial "Commisary" Banks, John Pope, Richard Ewell, AP Hill, Turner Ashby and the unfortunately maligned Richard B. Garnett. The biography is presented in a non-chronological format. It starts out focusing on Jackson's initial command in the Civil War and then folds back into his service in the Mexican War and his VMI teaching career. We are never really understand how Jackson receives his appointment to West Point until about midway through the book. In listening to the book, I feel as if I have a better understanding of Jackson than I did before- but I still feel as if there are aspects of his life (his mercurial behavior) that I will never understand and probably no one ever will since there is not a plethora of information available. Nevertheless I believe that this is an excellent book and well worth the listen
I am an avid eclectic reader.
There have been a few biographies of Civil War Generals lately and this book can be added to the list. Everyone knows that little fazed General Thomas J. Jackson, at the first battle of Bull Run came the famous quote “Yonder stands Jackson like a stone wall.” S.C. Gwynne writes a very detailed and most readable biography of Jackson.
The Virginian born Jackson went to West Point and fought in the Mexican-American War. Jackson was a professor of physics at the Virginia Military Institute when the Civil war started. Jackson was religious and was not proslavery but chose to fight for his State of Virginia rather than the Union.
Jackson’s strategic innovations shattered the conventional wisdom of how war was waged; he was so far ahead of his time that his techniques would be studied generations into the future. The author shows that Jackson was a master of deception and movement. Jackson’s army could out march, outflank, out maneuver the Union Army. He was always outnumbered but he racked up victory after victory. The author delves deep into Jackson’s private life, including the lass of his first wife and his regimented personal habits.
The book is written with the swiftly vivid narrative that is Gwynne’s hallmark and is rich in battle lore, biographical detail, and intense conflict between historical figures. The author’s battle scenes are marvels of description and action. The book is meticulously researched. Gwynne used both primary documents and highly respected secondary sources. Gwynne maintained his objectivity and presents an unbiased biography. One minor annoyance was the fact the author provided more information about the war and other people, he needed to stay more focused on his subject Stonewall Jackson.
The author points out that Jackson went from obscurity to fame in twenty-four months in the Civil war. Jackson had a stunning effect on the course of the War. In 1863 at the Battle of Chancellorsville Jackson was shot by one of his sentries. His tragic death caused both the South and North to grieve. If you are interested in Civil War history you will enjoy this outstanding biography of one of the War’s greatest Generals. Cotton Smith narrated the book.
I am not sure what force made me click the express pay button, but I am sure glad I did! While I do love history, my bailiwick is usually English history. However, taking my daughter to college in Massachusetts for four years, I used to drive the I-81 corridor with all the battlefield signs and I have been to the charming town of Lexington, so I decided after listening to the sample, why not?
I only had a very basic knowledge about the Civil War. This is a great book to use as a spring board. It is written well, the author is straight forward and paints the world of the old south and T.J. Jackson's early life engagingly. Jackson goes from being an awkward, taciturn man and quite possibly the most boring teacher EVER to the hero of the south. He even gets better looking as he grows into his reputation! (Hence, my entry of his picture to My Daguerrotype Boyfriend (dot) blogspot. ) When the war starts, Jackson decides he must go the way Virginia goes and even though he is certainly a somewhat reluctant slave owner, like his contemporaries, he is accepting of the institution.
And so, we are off the races, so to speak. Who knew the Federal Union soldiers were so timid? As you read this book, you realize the Union had the fancy equipment, but the Rebels had the motivation. It's amazing the North won the war! The author uses Jackson's own words as culled from the many letters he left behind and I am convinced Stonewall must have sounded like Cotter Smith, who was FABULOUS. I would like to ask Audible to have him re-record John Adams and and unabridged version of Undaunted Courage!
I want to reiterate that I have never read a book about the Civil War but this book has made me want to read more, I might move on the Ulysses S. Grant next and then visit every battlefield on I-81 and Stonewall's house in Lexington! I will also be on the look out for more books by S.C. Gwynne.
This book does a beautiful job of showing the man, his motivations, and his significance to our history. The narrator's performance is top-notch.
I typically never listen to a book twice but this time I might make an exception. The length of this book ( every minute enjoyable ) is the only reason not to do it over.
This Stone Wall Jackson was clearly the greatest Civil War General. He made mistakes but all of the leaders did. Communications or the lack of them were often at fault. As a kid I read all of the Civil War stuff that I could get my hands on. Jackson's leadership abilities can not be understated. I was moved by the way the author portrayed Jackson's final days.
Cotter Smith was the perfect performer for this wonderful novel. Everyone should listen to this one. Why not get educated about Civil War history. Our kids know nothing about our past as the schools are failing to let all everywhere learn about America. You will be glad you listened to this book when it ends.
Mesmerized, astounded, and fully engaged. Can't remember the last book I really hated to stop. This is a book where you will not want to stop driving, trust me!!!! One of the most engaging and gut wrenching books I've listened to.
The author presents a thorough and balanced story of the life of Thomas J. Jackson. The tactical genius of "Stonewall" is related in the description of many battles. Had he not died at Chancellorsville the outcome at Gettysburg may have been different and a possible negotiated peace could have shortened the war and saved many lives and perhaps a political settlement to the end of slavery achieved. This placing that national disgrace in the trash heap of history where it belongs. Generals Lee and Jackson, as well as the average Confederate soldier realizing by this time they are on the wrong moral side of slavery and are fighting to preserve an aristocratic plantation way of life that benefits a few at the expense of many. This in a country that was founded for the very purpose of greater equality. The Confederates may have thought they were fighting back against Northern Aggression but the average soldier surely had no interest in fighting to preserve a class system. The carnage of the Civil War well described in this book. Too bad some of it was not avoided and perhaps some of the persistent wounds today would be better healed by now with better leadership at that time. Of course, if you look at our present politicians, the leadership in 1860 looks fantastic in comparison.
This is an excellent book that gives a vivid portrayal of Stonewall Jackson, one of the great generals in the Confederacy and perhaps in American history. Both as a military leader and as an individual, Stonewall Jackson was a remarkable character. The narration is also excellent.
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