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Confederate General R.S. Ewell: Robert E Lee’s Hesitant Commander, by Paul Casdorph

Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2004. Pp. xii, 440. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $39.95. ISBN:0-8131-2305-4.

One of the more interesting trends over the past twenty years has been the spate of Confederate biographies that have appeared, especially dealing with the major figures of the Army of Northern Virginia. One of those figures was Richard Ewell, the subject of a biography by Donald Pfanz, published in 1998. Now Paul Casdorph has weighed in with his own biography of Ewell. Pfanz noted in his biography of Ewell that when writing on the Army of Northern Virginia, one has to escape the shadow of Douglas Southall Freeman.

Casdorph’s book is in many ways a retreat back into the shadow of Freeman. He takes a very traditional view of Ewell, often relying on Freeman’s well-known judgments of Ewell as someone who was ill suited to corps command, although he could function as a division commander executing Stonewall Jackson’s explicit orders.

Although Casdorph’s research is better in this book than in his previous major effort, the truly awful Lee and Jackson: Confederate Chieftains, and the book is reasonably well written, his views on Ewell do not differ much if at all from those set forth sixty years earlier by Freeman. The recommendation of this reviewer is that people should read Casdorph’s book, then read Pfanz’s book on Ewell and decide for themselves.

Reviewer: Richard Di Nardo    

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