Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Booknotes: The Great Partnership

New Arrival:
The Great Partnership: Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and the Fate of the Confederacy by Christian B. Keller (Pegasus Bks, 2019).

Of course we'll never know how the relationship would have evolved over the second half of the war, but while it lasted R.E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson clearly formed the South's most dynamic and feared combination of army commander and principal subordinate. Christian Keller's The Great Partnership: Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and the Fate of the Confederacy attempts to answer many relevant questions about the high command pairing, including "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?"

Keller's Civil War scholarship has always impressed me. Though this latest book, unlike his others, looks on the face of it to be designed for popular appeal, I'm still pretty confident that there will be enough analytical heft in it to grab my interest.

More from the description: "It has been over two decades since any author attempted a joint study of the two generals. At the very least, the book will inspire a very lively debate among the thousands of students of Civil War history. At best, it will significantly revise how we evaluate Confederate strategy during the height the war and our understanding of why, in the end, the South lost."


  1. Drew: I look forward to your review. The publisher's spin gives me caution. The vaunted Jackson-Lee "partnership" didn't work too well in the Seven Days or on the second day at Second Bull Run. likewise, there were deficits in handling the Confederate Right on December 13, 1863. Hopefully the analysis is more objective and balanced than the spin suggests.

  2. I always roll my eyes when I hear people talk about the Lee Jackson partnership. Without James Longstreet in the mix, there would have been no brilliant Lee-Jackson partnership. The successful command structure was a trifecta partnership. Old Pete is too often ignored, and we also tend to forget that after Lee had a chance to assess both generals on several fields, when he promoted them to Lieutenant General, he listed Longstreet first. That meant that Longstreet would have assumed command of the army if Lee had died or been somehow incapacitated.

  3. Drew: I'm approaching this one with caution as well. When I first read about its upcoming publication I asked Bob Krick, who I thought would certainly have been consulted by the author as a source for ANV/Jackson/Chancellorsville material, what he knew of it. He hadn't been consulted and knew nothing of it. That alone raised the caution flag for me.
    Phil LeDuc

    1. Phil: That fact certainly adds to my caution about this one. There is a lot of mythology surrounding Jackson which clouds the real character of this loose "partnership". And Ted makes a valid point about Old Pete. Lee inflicted a defeat on Pope because of Longstreet's assault on the Union left on Day 2 of Second Bull Run. Kudos to Stonewall for "holding on" against the Union right but when it came time to follow up on Longstreet's success Jackson was largely MIA. I'll refrain from a discussion of who was and was not implementing Lee's plans on June 30, 1862 against McClellan.


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