Chancellorsville: The Battle and its Aftermath, edited by Gary W. Gallagher, University of North CarolinaPress, Chapel Hill, N.C., $29.95.
Mention the Battle of Chancellorsville to a group of Civil War buffs and a kaleidoscopic series of images will immediately flash through their minds: Robert E. Lee’s greatest victory, the mortal wounding of Stonewall Jackson, and the disastrous mistakes of Union General Joseph Hooker. Only those who have studied the battle in depth will have visions of such topics as Maj. Gen. Jubal Early’s rear-guard action at Salem’s Church or the court-martial of Confederate Colonel Emory F. Best.
Yet those are exactly the types of topics that are explored in Chancellorsville: The Battle and its Aftermath. The third volume in the Military Campaigns of the Civil War series contains essays from eight prominent Civil War historians on the battle that marked the beginning of the end of “Fighting Joe” Hooker’s brief yet eventful stint as commander of the Army of the Potomac.
This volume meets the high standards set by the previously published volumes in this series. A good mix of such noted historians as Dr. James I. Robertson, Jr., Robert K. Krick and John J. Hennessy has produced an insightful look at some of the lesser-known facets of the battle. While the essays included are excellent, this book is not for those who are looking for a casual history of the Chancellorsville campaign. If you do not already know your way around the battle, the essays may prove a trifle obscure. But don’t let that discourage you. If you are not already knowledgeable about Chancellorsville, first pick up a copy of one of the several excellent general histories of the battle, then take the enjoyable plunge into Chancellorsville: The Battle and its Aftermath. It will be time and effort well spent.
By B. Keith Toney