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Confederate General R.S. Ewell

Confederate General R.S. Ewell: Robert E. Lee's Hesitant Commander

Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 496
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    Confederate General R.S. Ewell
    Book Description:

    Richard Stoddert Ewell is best known as the Confederate General selected by Robert E. Lee to replace "Stonewall" Jackson as chief of the Second Corps in the Army of Northern Virginia. Ewell is also remembered as the general who failed to drive Federal troops from the high ground of Cemetery Hill and Culp's Hill during the Battle of Gettysburg. Many historians believe that Ewell's inaction cost the Confederates a victory in this seminal battle and, ultimately, cost the Civil War.

    During his long military career, Ewell was never an aggressive warrior. He graduated from West Point and served in the Indian wars in Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, and Arizona. In 1861 he resigned his commission in the U.S. Army and rushed to the Confederate standard. Ewell saw action at First Manassas and took up divisional command under Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley Campaign and in the Seven Days' Battles around Richmond.

    A crippling wound and a leg amputation soon compounded the persistent manic-depressive disorder that had hindered his ability to make difficult decisions on the battlefield. When Lee reorganized the Army of Northern Virginia in May of 1863, Ewell was promoted to lieutenant general. At the same time he married a widowed first cousin who came to dominate his life -- often to the disgust of his subordinate officers -- and he became heavily influenced by the wave of religious fervor that was then sweeping through the Confederate Army.

    InConfederate General R.S. Ewell, Paul D. Casdorph offers a fresh portrait of a major -- but deeply flawed -- figure in the Confederate war effort, examining the pattern of hesitancy and indecisiveness that characterized Ewell's entire military career. This definitive biography probes the crucial question of why Lee selected such an obviously inconsistent and unreliable commander to lead one-third of his army on the eve of the Gettysburg Campaign.

    Casdorph describes Ewell's intriguing life and career with penetrating insights into his loyalty to the Confederate cause and the Virginia ties that kept him in Lee's favor for much of the war. Complete with riveting descriptions of key battles, Ewell's biography is essential reading for Civil War historians.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6171-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Maps
    (pp. viii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Chapter 1 BEGINNINGS
    (pp. 1-22)

    The untimely death of Stonewall Jackson in May 1863 paved the way for Major General Richard Stoddert Ewell to join a select group of Confederate fighting men. “I agree with you in believing that our army would be invincible if it could be properly organized and officered,” a shaken Robert E. Lee told a subordinate officer upon Jackson’s misfortune at Chancellorsville. “But there is the difficulty—proper commanderswhere can they be found?” As Lee cast about for Jackson’s replacement in the interval between Chancellorsville and the ill-fated Pennsylvania campaign, it is puzzling in retrospect that he should have settled upon...

  6. Chapter 2 DRAGOON
    (pp. 23-52)

    While spending the customary leave upon graduation from West Point with friends and relatives in Prince William County, Richard S. Ewell received orders in late July directing him to Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania. His sister Rebecca accompanied him to Washington on his way north, and according to post returns, he “reported for instruction” on September 28, 1840. As he awaited his first regimental berth, Ewell was subjected to a rigorous training regimen designed to turn the academy graduate into an accomplished cavalryman. “I am working harder than I ever did in my life having to be in the stable from...

  7. Chapter 3 INDIAN FIGHTER
    (pp. 53-74)

    Although Ewell returned from Mexico a first lieutenant, he was soon promoted to captain and placed in command of Company G, First Dragoons, detailed to New Mexico. The thirteen-year period between the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo and outbreak of Civil War found him almost constantly in the saddle chasing Apaches and other Indians across the Southwest. He remained a bachelor throughout the 1850s, but his correspondence suggests that a relationship developed with his cousin Mrs. Lizinka Brown while he served on the frontier. Besides his distinguishing baldness, “Ewell was full of eccentricities, chief of which was the fancy that he suffered...

  8. Chapter 4 FORT BUCHANAN
    (pp. 75-99)

    The warmth of home and the allure of eligible belles as well as the prospect of profitable land purchases came to a halt in the first weeks of March 1856. The thirty-nine-year-old Ewell was reassigned to further frontier duty when Governor David Meriwether specifically asked that he be detailed to accompany him from Fort Leavenworth to Santa Fe. “The Secretary of War has accepted his request and you will accordingly repair to Carlisle Barracks, Pa, on or before the 25th instant and take charge and conduct to Fort Leavenworth a detachment of mounted service recruits,” the adjutant general wrote on...

  9. Chapter 5 THE LOST ORDER
    (pp. 100-126)

    The entire country, even faraway New Mexico Territory, was in an uproar as Ewell made his way from Albuquerque to Virginia. “Everyone here is on tenterhooks of impatience to know what the Southern States will do,” he had written to his sister Elizabeth before leaving. Even on the frontier, talk of national disruption and eventual war was already in the air in the aftermath of Lincoln’s election to the presidency. “I look to business with particular dread because every cent I have in the world may be lost in the distress and trouble of civil war and disunion, “Ewell added....

    (pp. 127-152)

    While Ewell remained at Sangster’s Crossroads and Centreville, numerous visitors called at his bivouac, including Mary Lee, youngest daughter of Robert E. Lee. Lizinka Brown, who stayed with her Ewell relations at nearby Stony Lonesome through the fall of 1861, continued to call at Ewell’s headquarters with her eighteen-year-old daughter, Harriet. “Just before my mother left Stony Lonesome to return to Nashville she told me of her engagement to Genl. Ewell,” Campbell Brown relates. Although he was “very glad” to hear the news, Brown added: “I do not believe they would have married, had it not been for his wound.”...

  11. Chapter 7 IN FRONT OF RICHMOND
    (pp. 153-174)

    After the round of fighting with Shields and Fremont, the Valley Army, including Ewell’s division, lay encamped around Weyer’s Cave—an old time watering place for Virginia aristocrats, near the Port Republic battlefield. Although this bivouac was short-lived, Richard Taylor emphasizes that he renewed many pleasant chats with his old comrade but says Ewell was eccentric as ever. It was time to talk around the campfire, Taylor continues, because his brigade and indeed the division “in twenty days marched over two hundred miles, fought in five actions, of which three were severe, and several skirmishes, and, though it had suffered...

  12. Chapter 8 JACKSON’S MAN
    (pp. 175-196)

    On the very day that Robert E. Lee opened the Seven Days campaign at Mechanicsville, Abraham Lincoln, always searching for a suitable commander—or at least one who would fight—lifted the notorious John Pope to command. While McClellan waited and fumed at Harrison’s Landing, the Yankee president not only found a new general, but he also created a new Army of Virginia composed of disparate forces under Major Generals Franz Sigel, Nathaniel P.Banks, and Irvin McDowell—altogether nearly forty thousand men. Lincoln’s earlier choices of an army generalissimo, McDowell and McClellan, had ended in failure. Now the forty-year-old Pope...

    (pp. 197-219)

    Following Kettle Run, Ewell withdrew his division between Broad Run and Manassas Junction on the night of August 27, as Jackson, who knew that Lee and Longstreet were closing fast through Thoroughfare Gap with the rest of the army, prepared to spring the trap on Pope. The resultant battle, known as the Second Manassas, or Bull Run, had little to do with the set-to of July 1861 other than its near proximity to the latter. “The stream itself, Bull Run, played a minor role . . . except as a terrain feature for reference purposes,” writes historian Edward J. Stackpole....

  14. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  15. Chapter 10 THE MARCH NORTH
    (pp. 220-242)

    As Ewell lay recuperating from his wounds and pursued his beloved Lizinka, Robert E. Lee, always the supreme offensive tactician, was quietly hatching a scheme to take the Army of Northern Virginia into Federal territory. Even today some scholars contend it was a logical extension of a stratagem to force the war upon the enemy developed by Lee and Jackson during 1862. Although the Pennsylvania campaign was approved by Jefferson Davis and the Confederate cabinet before Ewell’s promotion to lieutenant general, the Northern invasion was nearly thwarted by critics in both army and governmental circles before its inception. Once Lee...

    (pp. 243-266)

    In late June 1863 Ewell had driven his men farther into enemy territory—at least in the Virginia sector—than any other Confederate commander. Here, a good thirty-five miles north of the Mason-Dixon Line, within sight of the Pennsylvania capital, he sought to govern a hostile foe and to keep his troopers from the wanton destruction of Yankee property. At the same time, a Harrisburg newspaper reported “twenty-nine rebel deserters . . . mostly from Ewell’s division” had surrendered to the Federal provost marshal as the Second Corps remained about Carlisle and York. In spite of the headaches that result...

  17. Chapter 12 “POOR EWELL—A CRIPPLE”
    (pp. 267-290)

    While the army remained inactive except for minor engagements at Bristoe Station, Rappahannock Station, and Mine Run until the Wilderness campaign opened in May 1864, Ewell was a man trapped in a paradox; he was basking in the joys of a new and successful marriage even as he suffered continued ill health in the aftermath of his amputation. And he had to contend with persistent whispers throughout the ranks that his performance at Gettysburg had been lacking. Mrs. Ewell and her nineteen-year-old daughter, Harriet (Hattie), joined him almost immediately after his encampment on the Rapidan, which evoked another outcry against...

  18. Chapter 13 “LAID ON THE SHELF”
    (pp. 291-312)

    Although Ulysses S. Grant labeled May 5 and 6, 1864, the worst fighting ever in the Americas, he remained possessed with the capture of Richmond and the destruction of Lee’s army. By his own account he disengaged from the Wilderness for two reasons: He was fearful lest Lee would somehow crush the force under Massachusetts politician-turned-general Benjamin F. Butler before he could succor him from the north. As part Grant’s multipronged push, Butler commanded a sizeable army in the Bermuda Hundred—that region south and slightly east of Richmond bounded by the Appomattox and James Rivers. Butler offered no immediate...

  19. Chapter 14 THE LAST MARCH
    (pp. 313-337)

    When forty-seven-year-old Lieutenant General Richard Stoddert Ewell took over the defense of Richmond in mid-June 1864, he found not only a city crumbling from four years of constant warfare but also a national capital facing a worsening military situation. Since the summer of 1861, Abraham Lincoln’s war machine had targeted Richmond for capture and destruction. This jewel of the Southland had become—at least in the Northern psyche—the great symbol of Southern nationhood, and now with Grant’s armies poised within sight of city spires, Ewell was summoned to save it from annihilation. Although Lee had intended Richmond as a...

  20. Chapter 15 “NOT MY WILL, BUT THINE BE DONE”
    (pp. 338-360)

    When Ewell was captured at Sailor’s Creek along with six other general officers—J. B. Kershaw, G. W Custis Lee, Eppa Hunton, Seth W Barton, Dudley M. DuBose, and Montgomery D. Corse—as well as Commodore John Randolph Tucker, he was taken to Grant’s headquarters. General Gouverneur K. Warren told him that his force had been surrounded by thirty thousand Federals, which served to bolster his spirits—he had been right in his decision to surrender his hopelessly outnumbered contingent. After a miserable, snowy night near the battlefield, Ewell and his compeers caught up with Grant “at Nottoway Junction—the...

  21. NOTES
    (pp. 361-414)
    (pp. 415-440)
  23. INDEX
    (pp. 441-474)