The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992 Page: 287

Book Reviews

is a sobering thought for conclusion of this fine book, but as useful as we have
learned to expect Lewis Simpson's work to be.
Univer sy of Dallas M. E. BRADFORD
Fzghteng for the Confederacy: The Pe.sonal Recollections of Edzwaa d Poi et Alexander.
Edited by Gary W. Gallagher. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina
Press, 1989. Pp. xxvii+664. Acknowledgments, introduction, editor's note,
notes to pages, index, illustrations. $34.95.)
Edward Porter Alexander long has enjoyed a good reputation as a writer
about the Civil War. Historians have praised the judiciousness and integrity ap-
parent in his Military Memo s of a Confedezate. More than most former generals
writing on the Lost Cause, he had a sense of humor. More than most people, he
retained an active curiosity and a capacity to learn throughout his life. He had a
retentive memory, as well as the honesty to say what he had missed or failed to
recall or not understood. All these qualities are evident in the recollections he
wrote for his family, beginning in 1897. Gary W. Gallagher has separated the
text of these from the papers used in preparing Military Memoirs and has given
us a rare thing-a new memoir of the war, mainly the doings of the Army of
Northern Virginia, at several levels of command.
Alexander was an engineer and an artillery othcer, rising to the position of
James Longstreet's chief of artillery. He wanted to distinguish himself in these
"scientific" branches of warfare; like other Confederate artillerymen, he envied
the Federals their superior weapons and ammunition but took pride in the fire
he could deliver with lesser resources. In his battle narratives, Alexander often
acknowledges that he has relied on books written after the war to achieve a co-
herent picture of the whole battle. He tries scrupulously to distinguish his eye-
witness recollections, with his then limited perceptions of events, from his later
reconstruction of the larger story. Alexander was a good storyteller in his old
age, and many anecdotes in this book have a pacing and polish obviously de-
rived from previous repetition'. He gives new glimpses of many episodes and of
several leaders; he is especially effective when writing about R. E. Lee. Admir-
ers of Lee the man and critics of Lee the general will find supporting evidence
for their views here.
Alexander shows little sign of having been much disturbed by the war. His
account of the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, for example, is mainly con-
cerned with the formation of the Federal Second Corps in assault and with the
configuration of Confederate entrenchments-interesting technical problems.
Whether he took a youthful equanimity into the war or acquired an equanimity
in old age that shaped his memory, he portrays himself adapting readily both to
fighting for the Confederacy and to living with defeat. If his matter-of-fact ac-
count has a moral, it might be this reflection on secession and on his joining
that cause: "I did not then as fully realize, as I now do, how inexorable are the
consequences of mistakes-that sins may be repented of, &, we hope, forgiven,
but mistakes laugh at repentance & go on piling up the consequences" (p. 26).


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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992, periodical, 1992; Austin, Texas. ( accessed August 18, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Texas State Historical Association.