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The Battle of Glendale: Robert E Lee's Lost Opportunity by Douglas Crenshaw

Book Reviewed by Ryan Diamond

I am going to start with my conclusion - this is one of the best battle narratives I have read on the Civil War in years. I enjoyed it immensely. Crenshaw's style and prose appeals to me. He recounts the masterplan for the closely co-ordinated attack of units under Hill, Holmes, Huger, Jackson, Longstreet and Magruder, and how its falls apart. Poor timing, lack of experience, non-existent staff work, and an unwieldy pre-corps division system mean that only Longstreet's and Hill's troops make attacks and these are mistimed and disjointed. Even though only 20,000 rebel troops of a potential 70,000 make the attack it's a rough day for the Union Army. McCall is captured, Meade is horribly injured multiple times, and John Reynolds replacement, Simmons, is killed. The Union is saved by the performance of the actors on the flanks, Phil Kearny and Joe Hooker. His Glendale performance is probably the pinnacle of Kearny's military career. Crenshaw's description of the confused but determined fighting in thick woods and appalling terrain, and particularly his description of the see-saw fighting over the Union batteries in the centre really gives a sense of the visceral struggle at Glendale. You get some idea of the horror and barbarity of close quarters infantry versus artillery fighting from Crenshaw's descriptions.

This is a first-class contribution to a much neglected campaign of the Civil War and I heartily commend it to you.


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