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The Civil War Generals: Comrades, Peers, Rivals in Their Own Words

 Robert I. Girardi, Zenith Press

Drawing from memoirs, diaries, letters and interviews, Robert Girardi offers a nuanced portrait of more than 400 generals and an occasional admiral and commander in chief, in the views of those who fought alongside and against them.

Here’s a description of George Custer by Theodore Lyman, from Maj. Gen. George Meade’s head- quarters: “This officer is  one of the funniest-looking beings you ever saw, and looks like a circus rider gone mad!” To his friend, Nelson Miles, however, Custer was “one of the most enterprising, fearless cavalry leaders the great war produced.”

Of Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, artillerist John Morton observed that “He cared nothing for tactics further than the involvement of twos or fours in column…dismounting, charging and fighting….” But to Union General William T. Sher man, Forrest was “the very devil, and I think he has some of our troops under cower.”

Girardi sympathizes with his subjects, writing, “Commanding Civil War armies was a difficult  task under the best of circumstances.” You’ll probably start by flipping to his entries on your  favorites, but end up, as I did, reading from cover to cover.


Originally published in the August 2014 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.