From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom, a powerful new reckoning with Jefferson Davis as military commander of the Confederacy
“The best concise book we have on the subject… McPherson is… our most distinguished scholar of the Civil War era.” —The New York Times Book Review
History has not been kind to Jefferson Davis. Many Americans of his own time and in later generations considered him an incompetent leader, not to mention a traitor. Not so, argues James M. McPherson. In Embattled Rebel, McPherson shows us that Davis might have been on the wrong side of history, but that it is too easy to diminish him because of his cause’s failure. Gravely ill throughout much of the Civil War, Davis nevertheless shaped and articulated the principal policy of the Confederacy—the quest for independent nationhood—with clarity and force. He exercised a tenacious hands-on influence in the shaping of military strategy, and his close relationship with Robert E. Lee was one of the most effective military-civilian partnerships in history.
Lucid and concise, Embattled Rebel presents a fresh perspective on the Civil War as seen from the desk of the South’s commander in chief.
In 1865, Confederate Ordnance Chief Josiah Gorgas lamented the leadership of President of the Confederacy Jefferson Davis, wondering "where could we get a better or a wiser man?" Pulitzer Prize and Lincoln Prize winner McPherson (Tried by War) refuses to answer such a question, but his examination of Davis as a military commander suggests that perhaps there was not one. Davis has had many harsh critics over the years, an inevitable fate for a leader who "went down to a disastrous defeat and left the South in poverty for generations." McPherson, however, presents Davis in a relatively sympathetic manner as he explores the Confederate president's accomplishments and undertakings. McPherson places Davis's actions, which are delivered in chronological order and garnished with a dose of opinion, in the larger contexts of the war, his health and personal life, his politics, and his relationships with other major historical players. Despite the biography's dry, yet light presentation and relatively singular focus, Davis is most redeemed not by justifications for his decisions, but through an empathetic, simple understanding of his motives: namely, an admirable (if in hindsight horribly misguided) passion for the Confederacy. Maps & illus.
Customer ReviewsSee All
For the love of one’s state
Davis was a racist.
He loved America - but he loved his state of Mississippi more.
He served his country as a soldier and as a Congressman. But his higher loyalty was to the Southern way of life.
He didn’t want the Civil War, but he wanted to keep slavery more.