The vast majority of my Civil War reading has been either objective or from the Union perspective. I decided to read a book from the Confederate perspective in General Lee’s Immortals: The Battles and Campaigns of the Branch-Lane Brigade in the Army of Northern Virginia, 1861-1865 by Michael C. Hardy.
It took a bit of an adjustment to view the war from the Confederate perspective, but the writing helped with the transition. With a few editing issues, the book is excellently written. Although written in a straight narrative of events, Hardy writes in a manner that is easy to read. He easily incorporates direct quotes from the participants into the text.
Hardy shines a much-needed light on the deeds of the Branch-Lane Brigade. The officers and men made their mistakes during the war, but in a number of battles their actions saved the Confederates from a crushing defeat. Unfortunately, the Brigade is best known for a crippling blow to the Confederacy – the wounding of General Jackson. Men from the Brigade accidentally fired the shots that wounded Jackson (although Hardy makes it clear that it was not the Brigade’s fault).
Another strength of the book is Hardy’s intermixing in the narrative various chapters on a soldier’s life. Hardy addresses issues that many unit history’s do not discuss – medical care, plight of prisoners, and crime and punishment. Most people know that medical care greatly improved as the Civil War progressed, but it was still poor compared to modern standards. More men died from disease and infections than from battle. As part of this discussion, Hardy looks at the Brigade’s dearth in qualified medical personnel. This deficiency caused undue hardships to the men of the brigade.
As with most good war books, Hardy includes plenty of maps and photographs of the men who served in the Brigade. The maps are especially helpful so that the reader can easily follow the action described in the text.