By Bevin Alexander
When questioned many people may not know who Thomas Jonathan Jackson is, but nearly everyone recognizes the name of the revered Confederate General Stonewall Jackson. In truth they are one in the same. Jackson, the man, is himself an enigma, a devout Christian, and highly skilled military man, who wrote tender love letters to his esposita, and who did not shed a tear over the men killed under his command, but openly wept at the death of a little girl.
Stonewall Jackson’s military successes are legendary. He drove the soldiers who served underneath him hard, and accomplished what many believed was not possible. How he did this is the subject of Bevin Alexander’s book “Such Troops As These: The Genius and Leadership of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson.”
Though Mr. Alexander does begin his book with Jackson’s early life and ends it with his death, it is far from a cradle to grave biography. It is really not a biography at all, but rather a study of the military strategy and tactics of Stonewall Jackson during the Civil War. Battle by battle the author demonstrates Jackson’s superior generalship with his strategy of rapid troop movements and fighting defensively on the enemy’s front while making an attack on his flank.
While correctly pointing out the error of frontal assaults against strongly fortified enemy positions and against the rapidly evolving weaponry of the mid 19th century, Mr. Alexander does come off as somewhat of a Jacksonian sycophant, claiming Jackson’s strategy superior to that of any other Confederate General, including that of Robert E. Lee. Jackson’s biggest flaw, namely being the secrecy of his plans, is briefly dealt with, but had the author treated Jackson’s flaws with equal weight compared to Jackson’s greatness he would have had a much stronger book.
Mr. Alexander’s linear narrative is clear and easily read. Thumbing through its bibliography and endnotes, gives one the impression that Mr. Alexander leaned too heavily on 19th century memoirs, and secondary sources, and I am always skeptical when an author sites himself as a source in an end or foot note. “Such Troops As These” is a well written and adequately researched book. Civil War scholars and students will likely take away from it a greater understanding of Jackson’s strategy and tactics.
ISBN 978-0425271292, Berkley Hardcover, © 2014, Hardcover, 336 pages, Maps, End Notes, Selected Bibliography & Index. $26.95. Click HERE to purchase this book.