Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category


Passionate Civil War buffs, like anyone with a genuine love for a particular period of history, eventually reach a point where they know their events, places, and people well enough to teach a 200-level college course on them from memory. Yet having a passion means wanting more, and that is where many a self-taught student turns to primary sources or the pursuit of a more intimate knowledge. For students of Stonewall Jackson, Mathew Lively’s Calamity at Chancellorsville is an invaluable boost in taking that next step.

In recounting the events of Jackson’s last days of active service, his wounding, and his decline and demise, Lively paints a vivid picture of Jackson’s final days and the decisions behind his famed flank attack at Chancellorsville. This picture not only provides a clear understanding of Jackson’s actions, but also of his character and style, as well as his relationships with Robert E. Lee and his own military family.

The other side of Calamity at Chancellorsville are the historical disagreements surrounding Jackson’s wounding and death. Lively ably dissects these disagreements, combining both his insight as a physician and the skills of a historian to produce a persuasive case. His exercise goes to the heart of what good history is about: dispelling misinformation based on old and often repeated errors. The Civil War was less than two centuries ago, but a great deal of misinformation has crept into the body of knowledge. Lively cuts to the heart of that by asking over and over again who said what about Jackson’s death and wounding, and just how credible those individuals were.

Calamity at Chancellorsville presents a persuasive, well-sourced argument, but in the kind of approachable, easy-reading prose that makes swallowing the book a pleasant weekend read. Any Jackson fan should put it on their must-read list.