Friday, October 5, 2018

Book News: The Great Partnership

Though Grant-Sherman adherents would surely beg to differ, I think you could make a strong argument that the close collaboration between Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson (as short-lived as it proved to be) overcame a rocky beginning during the Seven Days to become the war's premier command partnership. The news that Christian Keller's The Great Partnership: Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and the Fate of the Confederacy (Pegasus Books, July 2019) will be released next summer prompted me to consider what the current standard work on the topic might be. Standalone Lee books and Jackson books abound but the number of modern titles devoted solely to examining their relationship seems very limited. The description of Keller's upcoming book mentions that it will be the first joint study to appear in over two decades, which leads me to believe that the predecessor referred to is Paul Casdorph's celebratory Lee and Jackson: Confederate Chieftains (1992), which I haven't read. Is there something else that I'm missing?

Keller's previous scholarship is of a different sort, but I like everything he's done so far. The Great Partnership will attempt to answer big questions like "Why were Generals Lee and Jackson so successful in their partnership in trying to win the war for the South? What was it about their styles, friendship, even their faith, that cemented them together into a fighting machine that consistently won despite often overwhelming odds against them?"

More from the description: "The Great Partnership has the power to change how we think about Confederate strategic decision-making and the value of personal relationships among senior leaders responsible for organizational survival. Those relationships in the Confederate high command were particularly critical for victory, especially the one that existed between the two great Army of Northern Virginia generals."

2 comments:

  1. Drew: I'm not familiar with his past work. This looks like an interesting approach. As usual, however, pre-publication hype leaves me with some skepticism:

    "consistently won despite often overwhelming odds against them"

    Lee and Jackson "successfully" combined in three operations: 2BR (where Jackson's pre-battle maneuvering certainly set the stage but his actual battle performance was below that); Fredericksburg (where Jackson was fortunate to skate from a potentially serious flaw in his alignment); and Chancellorsville (the first day but not the ultimate victory). Antietam was not "successful" and Jackson contributed virtually nothing to the "success" of the Seven Days. I hope that the analysis is more nuanced than the publisher's release suggests.

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    Replies
    1. He's best known for his military and cultural scholarship surrounding ethnic German soldiers, which has proved highly influential. I thought his "Chancellorsville and the Germans: Nativism, Ethnicity, and Civil War Memory" was one of that year's best books. The Lee-Jackson study seems to represent his first foray into more popular history. I'm looking forward to reading it.

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