Thursday, November 3, 2011
Sears, Stephen W. Chancellorsville. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin Co., 1996.
I had occasion recently to turn to Sears’ fine treatment of General Lee’s greatest victory to check some facts. Not having read the book, nor having the time to do so, a few things struck me about it nonetheless. First, Sears took the time to evaluate the various reports of casualties and produce I think the best statement and analysis of the casualties available. Second, his Appx. III, “Romances of Chancellorsville,” is a thorough examination of several of the fabrications, misrepresentations, and hoary myths that have encumbered the historiography of the battle. Not surprisingly, it begins with an assessment of “systematic” liar Gen. Alfred Pleasonton’s various statements and writings on the battle, the source of so much mischief over the years (and of course not limited to Chancellorsville). And, it continues with several other “romances,” including debunking the myth that Hooker was drunk and an entertaining look at the sources of Stephen Crane’s classic, The Red Badge of Courage.