Robert E. Lee and His High Command

Course No. 8557
Professor Gary W. Gallagher, Ph.D.
University of Virginia
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Course No. 8557
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Course Overview

Few events have captivated students of American history like the Civil War. Its battles are analyzed repeatedly, studied and "what-ifed" by professional tacticians and tireless amateurs. Its profoundly dramatic implications and moments have no parallels in our history, whether it be friend fighting friend, the end of slavery, or an entire society and way of life burned away, sometimes literally. The war's most striking personalities seem somehow magnified—and few among those personalities have ever held our attention like General Robert Edward Lee.

An Embodiment of the Confederacy Itself

With his Army of Northern Virginia, he came to embody the cause of the Confederacy itself, inspiring a commitment from troops and civilians that eventually overshadowed even those given to its political leaders and institutions.

How did this come to pass?

In a war that produced no other successful Confederate armies, how was Robert E. Lee able to create and inspire an army whose achievements resonated not only across the Confederacy but also in the North, as well as in foreign capitals such as London and Paris?

Answers to the Most-Asked Questions about Lee

This course addresses and answers the most-asked questions about Robert E. Lee and the men he chose to serve under him:

  • What was Lee actually like?
  • Was he someone whose character and ideas—as some have claimed—were mired in the past?
  • Was he really an "old-fashioned" general who was too much of a traditionalist and gentleman to fight the kind of modern, ruthless war demanded by the times?
  • Or was he a brilliant and aggressive strategist and tactician who understood exactly the kind of war he would need to wage, the size of his window of opportunity, and the kind of senior officers he would need if his strategy was to succeed?
  • How did he choose those officers, and what personal and tactical characteristics did they share?
  • What experiences shaped them?
  • Why did they succeed or fail?
  • How did what happened on the war’s extraordinarily bloody battlefields influence public opinion on the home fronts of both the Confederacy and the Union?
  • And how did that opinion, in turn, shape the actions of Lee and his officers?

Gain a New Understanding of How the War Unfolded

This course addresses these and other issues with an approach designed to appeal to everyone who wants to understand more about the Civil War and why it unfolded as it did:

  • It’s a course that will appeal whether your interest is in the strategy and tactics underlying its major battles or in the broader context within which those battles took place.
  • If you’re relatively new to exploring this conflict, these lectures offer a refreshingly balanced starting point.
  • And if you’re already knowledgeable, this course will deepen your appreciation of the decisions made by Lee and his generals and the implications they had both on and off the battlefield.

Perhaps more than anything else, you gain a tremendous depth of insight into how those decisions were a function of the individuals who made them. You learn how Lee’s choices in elevating these 15 men to high command influenced, for better or worse, the course of the war.

Guiding you through this human and strategic drama is Professor Gary W. Gallagher, whose 48-lecture course on The American Civil War remains one of our most popular.

Professor Gallagher’s teaching, writing, and research skills have made him one of the most respected Civil War authorities in the world.

Meet the Men Who Waged the Confederacy’s War

As you would expect, these lectures contain vivid portraits of the men whose names are familiar to anyone with even a passing curiosity about this great conflict:

  • Lee himself, whose striking appearance undoubtedly helped contribute to the almost mystical aura with which many authors have endowed him but whose experiences serving under the famous Winfield Scott in the war with Mexico taught him invaluable practical lessons about modern warfare.
  • Lee’s skill at managing military resources and his awareness that audacity and ruthless aggressiveness can contribute to victory against a more powerful opponent threatened to disrupt the Union war effort more than once.
  • "Stonewall" Jackson, whose dogged purpose and initiative helped forge, with Lee, a military partnership second only to that of Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman.
  • "Jeb" Stuart, the great cavalryman whose flamboyant battle dress, complete with scarlet-lined cape, yellow sash, and an ostrich plume in his hat, belied his superb skills at reconnaissance and screening, the crucial responsibilities of Civil War cavalry
  • James Longstreet, whom Lee warmly greeted as "my old war-horse" and who served as Lee’s senior subordinate throughout Lee’s tenure at the head of the Army of Northern Virginia.

And you’ll meet others as well, from the profane and acerbic Jubal A. Early, a West Pointer who had chosen law over the military before joining the Confederate forces, to a fascinating group of younger officers.

You also learn how Lee’s officers were often distinguished by extraordinary aggressiveness and courage on the battlefield, often at great personal cost.

A Human-Sized Look At the War

Among them was a young general named Stephen Dodson Ramseur, who was mortally wounded at the Battle of Cedar Creek.

The retreating medical wagon carrying him from the battlefield was captured by Union forces. And Professor Gallagher paints a deeply moving scene of several Union officers who had been cadets with Ramseur at West Point—including George Armstrong Custer—coming to sit with him through the night until he died.

This West Point connection was not an isolated incident.

With a wealth of officers who had been trained at West Point—Lee himself had been superintendent—along with those who had come from prestigious academies such as the Virginia Military Institute and The Citadel, the Confederacy had a distinct advantage in the depth of its officer corps.

This was especially evident during the first two years of the war, when many young Union officers were still gaining experience in military basics.

The Confederacy’s Extraordinary Problem of Attrition

Ramseur’s death also illuminates the extraordinary problem of attrition faced by Lee.

You learn that in this last war in which generals actually commanded from the front, attrition among the Confederacy’s generals sometimes exceeded 25 to 30 percent in a single campaign.

The struggle to replace them forms a leitmotif throughout the history of Lee’s army.

Examine the Idea of the "Lost Cause"

Professor Gallagher concludes the course with a highly critical look at the body of post-war writings embodying the viewpoint that came to be known as the "Lost Cause."

This viewpoint, much of it orchestrated by Jubal Early, shunted aside the issue of slavery and used States’ rights and other arguments to defend the Confederacy’s actions. It emphasized Lee’s greatness and the Union’s massive advantage in men and other resources.

You learn that although most modern historians have long abandoned it, the "Lost Cause" continues to be evident in popular conceptions of the war.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia
    Professor Gary W. Gallagher begins by examining the factors that helped make Lee and his army the most important national institution in the Confederacy long before the end of the war. x
  • 2
    The Making of a Confederate General
    Robert E. Lee's early military career affords him a range of experiences and highlights disparate talents that will influence his role as the Confederacy's most famous field commander, even though many would not have predicted success. x
  • 3
    Lee’s Year of Fabled Victories
    Lee's first year in command of the Army of Northern Virginia catapults him to a position of unequaled fame and popularity, cementing a remarkable bond with his soldiers that would endure during the trying times ahead. x
  • 4
    Lee From Gettysburg to Appomattox
    Lee and his army continue to carry the hopes of the Confederacy on their bayonets through the remainder of the war. His surrender to Grant represents the practical end of the war. x
  • 5
    Was Lee an Old-Fashioned General?
    This lecture examines one of the most common portrayals of Lee—as a throwback to an earlier style of warfare, far different from the modern approach attributed to the Union's Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman. x
  • 6
    The Making of the Mighty “Stonewall” Jackson
    With this lecture, focus shifts to Lee's most famous subordinate, a once-obscure military instructor whose battlefield record won him renown as Lee's "right arm." x
  • 7
    Stonewall Jackson as Lee’s “Right Arm”
    Lee and Jackson form a legendary partnership, with Lee developing strategic plans that often place Jackson in the role of a semi-independent commander. x
  • 8
    James Longstreet’s Road to Prominence
    James Longstreet stands next to Jackson as one of Lee's two premier lieutenants. With the loss of Jackson at the war's midpoint, he stands unchallenged as Lee's most important subordinate and the Confederacy's best corps commander. x
  • 9
    Longstreet’s Later Confederate Career
    The last two years of Longstreet's Confederate career include more negative than positive experiences, though at the time of surrender, none of Lee's senior subordinates stand higher in his estimation. x
  • 10
    The Rise of Jubal Anderson Early
    Experienced as a lawyer rather than a soldier, this West Point graduate's ability to function in a semiautonomous manner impresses Lee and sets him apart from most of his peers in the army. x
  • 11
    Early’s Path to Defeat
    This lecture examines operations in 1864 and 1865, during which Early justifies Lee's confidence in his abilities yet suffers a series of defeats that eventually brings his removal from command. x
  • 12
    “Jeb” Stuart as Soldier and Showman
    The gaudy trappings affected by this superb officer cannot obscure his superior record as a cavalryman whose skills at reconnaissance and screening—the crucial tasks of Civil War cavalry forces—are unexcelled on either side. x
  • 13
    One Promotion Too Many—A. P. Hill
    We shift our focus to the first of two famous commanders who never fulfilled their early promise and stand as examples of soldiers promoted beyond their levels of competence. x
  • 14
    Forced from Center Stage—Richard S. Ewell
    Richard Stoddert Ewell's record, like that of A. P. Hill, marks him as one who cannot make the transition from division to corps command. x
  • 15
    A Straight-Ahead Fighter—John Bell Hood
    Though few so personify the type of offensive spirit Lee seeks in his officer corps, John Bell Hood's lack of the administrative and political skills needed for high command make failure the dominant feature of his record. x
  • 16
    Could Robert E. Lee Make Hard Decisions?
    Though both historians and Lee's own contemporaries have accused him of being too much of a gentleman to make hard personnel decisions, the historical record suggests otherwise. x
  • 17
    The Problem of Attrition
    With battlefield attrition among generals sometimes exceeding 25-30 percent in a single campaign, Lee's efforts to replace officers wounded or killed forms a leitmotif throughout the history of his army. x
  • 18
    Younger Officers I—Robert Emmett Rodes
    This is the first of four lectures examining a group of talented junior commanders who climb rapidly to positions of considerable authority and directly control much of the most successful fighting in the army's history. x
  • 19
    Younger Officers II—Stephen Dodson Ramseur
    Stephen Dodson Ramseur shares a number of characteristics with Rodes and other successful young officers, including aggressiveness on the battlefield, conspicuous bravery that inspires his soldiers, and a habit of getting wounded that ultimately costs him his life. x
  • 20
    Younger Officers III—John Brown Gordon
    Though entering Confederate service with no formal military training, John Brown Gordon's record compares favorably to those of all but a handful of the most accomplished Confederate generals in the eastern theater. x
  • 21
    Younger Officers IV—Edward Porter Alexander
    "One of a very few whom General Lee would not give to anybody," this young artillerist's eye for ground, grasp of artillery tactics, and overall brilliance places him in a position to affect the battles of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. x
  • 22
    Gifted but Flawed—J. E. Johnston and Beauregard
    Though they consider themselves Lee's peers—if not his superiors—as field commanders, the records of Joseph E. Johnston and P. G. T. Beauregard reveal an absence of the key attributes that helped fuel Lee's accomplishments. x
  • 23
    Drama and Failure—Magruder and Pickett
    The careers of both John Bankhead Magruder and George Edward Pickett reveal much about what Lee required in his senior leadership. x
  • 24
    Before the Bar of History—The Lost Cause
    This final lecture critically examines an interpretation of the war that remained influential for many decades afterward and continues to be evident in popular conceptions of the war. x

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Your professor

Gary W. Gallagher

About Your Professor

Gary W. Gallagher, Ph.D.
University of Virginia
Dr. Gary W. Gallagher is the John L. Nau III Professor in the History of the American Civil War at the University of Virginia. He graduated from Adams State College of Colorado and earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in History from The University of Texas at Austin. Prior to teaching at UVA, he was Professor of History at The Pennsylvania State University. Professor Gallagher is one of the leading historians of the Civil War. His...
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Robert E. Lee and His High Command is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 97.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Robert E. Lee and His Motley Crew Professor Gallagher of UVA has a unique approach to the study of the Civil War: he integrates the outcome of the many Civil Wsr battles with the varied personalities and erratic behaviors of Lee’s high level officers. His last lecture brings the Civil Warnal the way to the 21st Century as the influence of the Confederacy is slowly waning but not without a fight. A glossary, biographical notes, timelines, and 2 maps of important sites help someone with minimal knowledge of the Civil War follow the presentation
Date published: 2020-02-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Highly Informative and Engaging Lectures Prof. Gallagher gave me a new perspective on the American Civil War by bringing out the strengths and all-too-human weaknesses of General Lee's top commanders. This put the story in a new light for me and increased my admiration of General Lee for going on as long as he did. Prof. Gallagher's lecturing style is bound to make anyone interested in the subject. One cannot fail to note his passion, as it instills some of the same in the viewer, and he makes the stories and accounts come alive with many interesting details.
Date published: 2020-01-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting material and wonderful professor I devoured this course and The American Civil War course by Dr. Gallagher. After each lecture I was always tempted to start the next one. But the evening was over after a few lectures in a row and I had to wait. Great speaker and presenter of information - I just can't recommend this course enough!
Date published: 2019-12-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A tremendous learning opportunity, Even an informed student of the American Civil War will, at the conclusion of the course, have to admit of the volume of new, or newly interpreted and explained information pertaining to those who served in command positions under Robert E. Lee. As with all great courses of study, the fog of the past seems to fade away and the reality come into better focus.
Date published: 2019-11-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The professor is excited and so are we Southern generals have been a topic of interest to us for decades. This course has helped immensely. Professor Gallagher's enthusiasm, admittedly falling on friendly ears,is contagious and would probably affect even the mildly interested. He distinguishes between fact and his personal opinions. While we have 6 lectures to go, he has so far been objective.
Date published: 2019-04-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great! And Now for the Union I quite liked Professor Gallagher’s section in the “History of the United States” and gave his course on the Civil War five stars across the board. Therefore I had high expectations regarding this course. And those expectations were met. Dr. Gallagher’s delivery is smooth and for me he does not push the pace, although some other reviewers have found him to be occasionally rushed. His delivery conveys a confident competence as to the subject matter and in his interpretation of each General’s abilities, triumphs and failings. Often Dr. Gallagher, when stressing a point where some others disagree with his assessment says “well they must not have read …”. At other times he allows for some considerable diversion of opinion. The course itself is laid out in terms of individual analysis of each selected General, with Lee getting by far the largest number of lectures devoted to him as well as the numerous references during the other lectures. Key subordinates Stonewall Jackson, James Longstreet and Jubal Early each get two lectures, while the other selected Generals get one lecture each and in some cases share a lecture with another General. Dr. Gallagher takes time for an occasional detour from the biographical approach to devote a lecture to a topic such as “Was Lee an Old-Fashioned General” or “The Problem of Attrition”. Included in these side topics is the last lecture on “The Lost Cause”, perhaps my favorite lecture of them all. In this course Professor Gallagher takes a slightly differing and more direct approach than the slightly more nuanced one in the concluding lecture on the Civil War. Here he hits the nail on the head, countering the apologists who claim that the war was not about the slavery issue. And it is not surprising that this concluding lecture has been set up in preceding lectures that included the positions taken by some of the various Generals both before and during the war. The portraits of General Lee and his generals are finely drawn. Even for those about whom I thought that I knew quite well, there were a few surprises and in every case I felt that I had a better understating of the General as a man—warts and all. I thought that the discussion as to what Lee expected from his subordinates and what he was willing to tolerate and what he was not, I found particularly enlightening (at one point Dr. Gallagher compares Lee’s difficulties in having to deal with prima donna Generals to General Eisenhower waking up each morning and realizing that he still had both Patton and Montgomery in the same army). I learned the most about the younger officers, whose names and (some of their) actions I had known, but was completely clueless about their lives and views. In the spirit of full disclosure, I have a long-held interest in the war and that likely colors my review. Still, get the course. I took it in audio and that seemed sufficient. Those who don’t have a sense of Civil War battles and geography may like to opt for the video version. And along with many other reviewers, I am still waiting for a course on the Union Generals.
Date published: 2019-02-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Balanced and insightful Prof Gallagher speaks of Gen Lee as a truly superior person, which is how almost everyone who knew Lee seemed to think of him. I gained new insights from this course. The Lost Cause writings of the post-War period elevated Lee into a godlike figure, which happens from time to time. People and nations do this because they seem to need a figure that rises above all others. Certainly this elevation occurred in the national perception of George Washington in the 1820's. He became larger than life because the nation needed a unifying figure. More recently, in the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal became Ataturk, "Father Turk" after he transformed the former Ottoman culture into the modern nation it is today. His people needed him to be larger than life. So too with R.E. Lee. The crushed South needed his legend to give form and purpose to the mind-numbing devastation, death, and destruction that resulted from the War. But what was the purpose of that War? All my life, I have thought there were two purposes based on where people lived--Emancipation at the north, and States' Rights in the South. Prof. Gallagher has helped me see that there really was only one cause, and that cause was slavery. Makes sense. Follow the money. He points to the 1860 and 1861 speeches of Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens, both of whom emphatically declared they were going to war to preserve slavery and the way of life supported by slavery. Another thing Prof Gallagher taught me. I have never thought that Gettysburg was the turning point of the War. It's just not that simple, but I never understood why. Gettysburg was the last opportunity for the Confederacy to win the War by military prowess, but the last opportunity to lose the war came in the summer and fall of 1864, culminating in the national Presidential election. In that election, the United States reaffirmed President Lincoln's policies and sealed the Confederacy's fate. The election could have easily swung the other way for the Peace candidacy of George McClellan. Thus, there were two turning points, and I thank Prof Gallagher for helping me understand all this.
Date published: 2018-10-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Accurate description of material I found this series of lectures to be very informative. I have only 1 area of disagreement. The professor stated that Stonewall Jackson's tactics were weak. If this was the case, why has our Armor school at Ft. Knox, Ky. made his tactics a lmportant part of their officer's training coures for Lt's, Majors, Colonels, and General's. I had the privilege to attend two of these. I also portray him for the W.Va History Alive! and have done extensive reseach on him for the passed eight years. I will admit that he had some faults and made a few misjudments; however to state he was tactically weak or unsound is blatantly wrong. That made me question whether there were errors made about other subjects in the lecture that I was not that familiar with?
Date published: 2018-04-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Leadership During Chaotic Times! This course is well written, presented with enthusiasm and entertaining for the listener! I immensely enjoyed Dr. Gallagher's presentation style and the thoroughness of his research. Not only does the professor describe and define the very details of General Lee's uniform and horse, he vividly paints a picture of the battle scenes to place the listener within the chaotic battle. By examining the history and experiences of most of General Lee's leadership corp, one can, easily, gain an understanding of the flaws and strengths of each general. Too many of the generals were indecisive at critical points of battle or we would be a separated nation to this day. The time invested in this course will pay dividends for years to come! I am a fan of this era of U.S. History and was facing difficulty stopping the course to gain some sleep. Excellent course and one that will be enjoyed by any person who truly wants to understand history.
Date published: 2018-04-04
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Worthwhile Being a big fan of The Great Courses, most of my reviews are strong endorsements for courses that have been particularly impressive which I would like recommend to others. True, there have also been a couple of strongly negative reviews for courses that seemed to miss the mark and in my opinion were best avoided. This is my first ‘middling’ review - it was good, glad I listened, but could have been better. I imagine that most listeners look for the same things from a Great Course that I do - some deep insights that give us a new perspective, some interesting ‘nuggets’ of the ‘take home message’ variety, and some entertainment. Prof. Gallagher’s overall main insight is very interesting - that during the course of the Civil War there were only three men - Stonewall Jackson, James Longstreet, and Jubal Early, from all the officers available to the Army of Northern Virginia, capable of command at the corps level. Many others did quite well as divisional commanders but were found wanting when they were promoted. Part of this was undoubtedly the structure of the army, which was divided into only two, then three corps. At Gettysburg, for example, the 90,000 Union troops were in seven corps, the 70,000 confederate troops were in three. Expecting one general to control a corps of 25,000 to 30,000 men was apparently a mistake. Paradoxically, the Union army could never find a good commanding general of the army, but developed several very solid commanders for their smaller corps. Most readers with knowledge of the Civil war are aware of this, but the fact that only three men arose who could handle the task is a valuable insight. The course is divided into several sections - Lee’s generalship, Jackson and Longstreet, the corps commanders who didn’t get the job done, and promising younger commanders who might have been promoted. The section on Jackson and Longstreet, easily the most interesting, is very repetitive. Prof Gallager’s main point is that Jackson was better at independent command while Longstreet was the better battlefield tactician under Lee’s direct supervision. Honestly, this oft repeated argument is not convincing. The case against Jackson is made based on deficiencies in the Seven Days Battles and Fredericksburg, in both of which Jackson was successful. Yes, it is true Longstreet bungled badly in his one true independent command, the Knoxville campaign against Burnside, but by far Longsteeet’s best performance was at Chickamauga, where he was virtually an independent commander. Given their personalities and relationship, one can hardly imagine Longstreet would take any orders from Braxton Bragg more specific than ‘ Put your Corps in the right flank.’ The sections on Early, and on Rhodes, Ramseur, Gordon and other promising younger generals, are largely confined to the second Shenandoah campaign - (not “Jackson’s” but “Sheridan’s”. )You will learn a LOT about this campaign and, honestly, having occurred after Gettysburg, the Wilderness etc etc, where the issue of the war had already been decided, this is a bit of an afterthought. Had any of the younger generals proven themselves worthy of corps command, (almost all were killed), it would not have mattered as there was little left to command. All in all a good listen, an interesting comparison of the eccentric Jackson and the stolid Longstreet and how Lee attempted generally with great success, until Jackson’s death, to utilize the talents of each, but with a bit too much ‘dead space’ to rank with the best of The Great Courses’ offerings.
Date published: 2018-01-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very good presentation. Exposed to much detail previous unknown reference Confederacy.
Date published: 2017-12-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Strengths and Weaknesses An in-depth account of the strengths and weaknesses of the command structure of the Army of Northern Virginia.
Date published: 2017-10-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of America's most tragic figures I bought this last year when the statue controversy started to heat up and wanted to know more about the man. Great history,so sorry to see Americans no longer learn this tragic story /
Date published: 2017-10-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Content and Careful Analysis I thought this was an outstanding series. It is chocked full of information, original sources, extra nuggets, clear chronology, and careful analysis by Professor Gallagher. He seems careful to be fair and objective. He discusses both sides of things debated. You can make up your own mind about those. His style is the same as his larger series, American Civil War, which is truly outstanding, too.
Date published: 2017-08-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Lectures I bought the Gallagher's set on the Civil War. It was an outstanding series of lectures. This set on Lee is too. Very informative.
Date published: 2017-07-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Intense Presentation I am happy that I bought this series. Mr. Gallagher brings us the men with their honors and faults. It is interesting to make me sit and listen to something for the whole half hour when I usually get up and move around for TV.
Date published: 2017-05-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved the Course - Gained New Perspective! Professor Gallagher's course provides a great overview of the challenges facing the CSA as well as a very detailed and informative look at the leaders available to the South. The lectures focus on one or two military leaders, providing both a solid biography and a detailed battlefield accounting for each. I have a much better appreciation of the opportunities and challenges facing the Confederacy, thanks to this course. I highly recommend it.
Date published: 2017-01-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from In depth review of Confederate Office Corps Thoroughly enjoyed this in depth presentation of Lee's high ranking officers and their roles in various key battles. Lee's command style was well covered and explained. Excellent presentation of both sides of numerous issues and possible misconceptions. I especially liked his discussion of the "Lost Cause" post war writers and their motivation. Well done.
Date published: 2016-12-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Even-Handed Evaluation of Lee and His Generals In this course Dr Gallagher provides sketch profiles of the sixteen most important generals of the Army of Northern Virginia and evaluates the performance of each. He spends considerable time on Gen Lee (obviously) with extended discussions on his best corps commanders: Jackson, Early and Longstreet. Nearly all lectures deal with infantry operations in the Eastern theater. But he considers the cavalry with showman Jeb Stuart in Lecture 12 and the artillery with the brilliant and perceptive Edward Porter Alexander (Lecture 21). Prof Gallagher critiques other Civil War historians' claims that Lee was indecisive in the field or unwilling to discipline his subordinate generals in one lecture and then address Lee's never-ending problems of finding competent replacements in the next one (Lectures 16 and 17). In Lectures 18-21 Prof Gallagher describes the many talents of four outstanding young officers who were eventually promoted to a general rank and played huge roles in pivotal battles. In two late lectures Gallagher describes four generals who had few fine performances but were overall disastrous field commanders. In the final lecture he describes the two stages of the "Lost Cause" interpretation of the war and how it influences our understanding of the War Between the States to this very day. I watched the video version, which displayed many battle maps during the instructor's discussions plus occasional photos of the many generals. I found these helpful in following along. Gallagher's vocal delivery was strong, enthusiastic and very occasionally a bit rushed. He sometimes reads lecture notes from the lectern but usually speaks away from it. The course guidebook contains fine summaries of each lecture, plus a timeline and short glossary. After finishing this course I have concluded that In my opinion James Longstreet was overall Lee's best corps commander and Stonewall Jackson was overrated. If you want an understandable explanation of major campaigns in Virginia, a better understanding of military events on the Confederate side and factual, dispassionate evaluations of the major players in the most important national institution in the Confederacy (i.e. the Army of Northern Virginia) then this course is indispensable. Top recommendation.
Date published: 2016-12-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Lee's Command An excellent course that expands the knowledge base of even grizzled Civil War buffs.
Date published: 2016-12-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent review Excellent review of General Lee and others in his high command. The most enjoyable of the 8 courses that I have purchased. I found the material was presented masterfully and i honestly did not want the series to end. I have learned from General Lee's style of command and would recommend anyone in a position of authority to do the same. Easy to listen to in the audio format and is perfect for the car. I doubt I missed much from not having the video. Don't pass this one up if you have interest in the civil war!
Date published: 2016-11-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Civil War_Deep Cuts Professor Gallagher's passion is contagious. Some great insights and context offered on General Lee's key Generals. Fantastic course for anyone wanting a deeper understanding of the Civil War.
Date published: 2016-10-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very thorough and thoughtful Civil War coverage I loved Prof Gallagher's course on the American Civil War. This course on Robert E Lee and his generals is an excellent complement (though it stands alone, and one does not need to cover the entire Civil War to enjoy this course). Most people with an interest in US history will know something about the main generals covered here: Lee himself, Stonewall Jackson, Jubal Early, Pickett, etc. The course also covers some much lesser-known Confederates. Gallagher gives real insights into their personalities, tactics, and how they fit into the overall war. He ends with a very compelling discussion of how the 'Lost Cause' myth developed in the South. The course is terrific.
Date published: 2016-09-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I found the information about the lesser known generals the most interesting part of the course
Date published: 2016-09-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Much more than a course on Lee Professor Gallagher is a well-known civil war historian. His presentations are well thought out and well presented. Though this is a course about RE Lee, it's actually a course about the entire command of the CSA with lectures about many of Lee's top generals. I heartily recommend it to anyone interested in the Civil War from the Confederate perspective.
Date published: 2016-09-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Supplement to Civil War Course This course is an excellent supplement to Professor Gallagher’s course on the American Civil War. In his Civil War course, Professor Gallagher does an excellent job of describing the events, the preconditions, and the consequences of various battles. However, Professor Gallagher does not have time to explain all of the reasons for why certain items happened in his Civil War course. This course on Robert E. Lee and his High Command provides this additional information and insights. One of the key lessons from this course is that Robert E. Lee sometimes did not have a choice. As discussed in this course, there were several high ranking military commanders in the Confederate Army who were not suitable for their positions. The problem that Robert E. Lee faced was that he did not have any alternatives to put in those positions. The expectations of the soldiers and the civilians on both sides is that the commanders of the regiments, battalions, divisions, corps, etc. would lead their soldiers into battle. This resulted in a high level of attrition in the command structure due to mortal wounds or devastating injuries. Consequently, Robert E. Lee had a very limited pool of officers to place in the higher command positions. In this course, Professor Gallagher does an excellent job of explaining history of Robert E. Lee from childhood to the command of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. There were other armies within the Confederacy but the citizens and the international observations considered the Army of Northern Virginia to be the keystone to the success of the Confederacy. Professor Gallagher explains why Robert E. Lee was the right person for this position and how he was able to accomplish so much with the resources that were available to him. This course also discusses the strengths and fallacies of over a dozen other key high ranking generals in the Confederacy Army.
Date published: 2016-09-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Succesion planning of the confederates This is the third course I have heard given by Professor Gallagher on the Civil war: in “History of the United States” he gives a quick, mostly military battle account of the civil war. This is a rather short survey of the war and does not go into great detail. “American Civil War” provides a wonderful, multidimensional, beautifully structured analysis of the stakes for the two opposing sides, their strategies for victory, their resources, and most of all – the narratives of the battles themselves. In this course, Professor Gallagher chose to focus on the military talent available to the South. As is made clear in all of his courses, Grant’s strategy for winning the war against the South was to starve the South of resources, be they physical or human in a war of attrition. One of the most important resources that was targeted was the military leadership. In this survey, we first get familiar with General Lee himself, but then we survey many of the Generals under his command and their qualities. We learn that many were great leaders, but many were not, and Lee ended up promoting many of them simply for lack of choice. Professor Gallagher provides to us a glimpse for understanding how absolutely crucial succession issues were in Lee’s high command. As in all of the courses I have heard given by Professor Gallagher, I found him to be a first rate presenter and I have nothing but praise in this regard. The course provided an interesting, detailed, and comprehensive analysis of the leadership resource dynamics and succession planning in the South – a central theme in a war of attrition. This echoes the general perspective of Professor Gallagher concerning the way the war was won by the North; by choking the South of many different types of resources. All in all, this has been a very interesting course for me but I believe it is targeted for the highly interested audience and not for someone with just a casual interest, as the scope is really quite narrow.
Date published: 2016-08-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Lots of new information here. In this course, Professor Gallagher takes a similar approach to Douglas Southall Freeman's famous book, "Lee's Lieutenants," but he focuses more on some of the junior officers who either shone or failed under Lee's command structure. Longstreet, Jackson, A.P. Hill, and Jeb Stuart all get a full and fair treatment from Gallagher. I was somewhat surprised to agree with his thesis that Stonewall Jackson had probably risen about as high as he could have in Lee's army. The loss of the sainted Jackson at Chancellorsville still has appeal for some history buffs as the *real* reason the South lost the war. This is nonsense, of course, although the case will always be there for whether the Confederates could have inflicted a stinging defeat on Meade on the first day of Gettysburg if only Ewell had taken the hill as Lee ordered, and as his predecessor Jackson surely would have. Still, Gallagher presents Jackson with his faults and eccentricities in view and makes the case that as a corps commander he was perfectly assigned. Yet, if given command of a full army would probably have alienated every subordinate and spent his time bringing them up on meaningless charges. He was that kind of guy. Other officers who survived the war and several killed in its latter stages get overdue treatment, particularly John B. Gordon, Robert Rodes and Dodson Ramseur. Jubal Early, too, comes in for favorable treatment, with Gallagher arguing he should have been promoted to corps command except for more senior officers above him. The wunderkind artillerist Porter Alexander also gets a strong boost as one of the war's best thinkers and for the perceptiveness his diaries showed to future historians. My only quibble with the course is that at times Gallagher suggests there were no strong commanders in the western theater, which while true at the army and corps level overlooks the battlefield genius of Nathan Bedford Forrest, who like Gordon was self-taught in military matters and managed to beat Union forces far larger than his own, repeatedly. But the course is about Lee and his subordinates, so that is a minor concern. Professor Gallagher is also accessible via his University of Virginia email and answered questions about the course for me while I was going through it. This highlights two overlooked features of The Great Courses -- they retain ongoing relationships with their professor partners and that their choice of lecturers is so good that they are happy to hear from customers about their course material long after the course is published. Recommend for all Civil War buffs and students of military and American history.
Date published: 2016-06-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course, really enjoyed it I enjoyed this course and can recommend it to anyone interested in the subject. One surprise was that Confederate generals had a much higher casualty rate than Federal generals. This is covered in lecture 17, “The Problem of Attrition”. Brigadier generals were at the front of attacks, a most dangerous place to be. Division and even corps commanders were killed or wounded. Why was it more dangerous to be a Confederate general than a Federal general? I asked my friend google and got some interesting results for generals killed or mortally wounded in battle. Both sides had one Army commander killed (Albert Sidney Johnston at Shiloh, James McPherson at Atlanta). Both sides lost three corps commanders (Jackson, Polk, A. P. Hill Confederates, Mansfield, Reynolds, and Sedgwick for Federals.) The Confederates lost seven division commands and the Federals lost fourteen division commanders. These are somewhat different from the numbers given in the course because those combine killed, wounded, or captured, and furthermore also include brigadier generals, who had the most casualties. It may be, as Mark Twain thought, that the south was much more influenced by the novels of Walter Scott than the north. These novels romanticize medieval violence, and present the knights of those times in the best possible light, and as worthy objects of emulation. We know now how grim the Middle Ages were for the great majority of people. At first I was puzzled by the stories of men who were incredibly brave and selfless in battle, but careerists otherwise. Then I realized that honor was (probably) their highest value. They really did practice “death before dishonor”. This however was personal honor. Once off the battlefield and seeking promotion they did not think “what is best for the army, who among us would be most effective?” but rather “How can I get this promotion?” This paragraph sounds critical, so I want to end it by stating that everyone admires courage, and these men were off the scale brave.
Date published: 2016-04-06
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Glorifies sociopaths in their quest for promotion. Thinking about the 300,000+ confederate human beings who died because of the poorly conceived battle plans, plans which never considered or counted casualties, but only the pre--determined goal of the colorfully ribboned lieutenants far removed from the front line, it's hard to understand the tone of the professors lectures. These are leaders that declare "victory" if 80% of the soldiers died. I find the professor's focus on the glory-seeking, egotistical sociopathic "commanders" that Lee chose to eagerly lead naive 20 year olds' to their deaths disgusting. I've listened to this course 2 times, and each lecture angers me more and more, because the professor treats these lieutenants and colonels as the only significant actors in these slaughters, offhandedly remarking about the "divisions" who were "lost" because of the poorly thought out, impulsive decisions of their conscienceless leaders. Human casualties are remarked upon in the same offhanded way as number of boots worn through. This course assumes "victory" is winning a battle, regardless of casualty rate, and charts the success of the leaders as whether Lee promoted or demoted them, and not on their willingness to argue for battle plans that result in less confederate lives lost. My problem is the the professor does not communicate any hint of disgust at John Bell Hood or AP Hill or the many others who cared only about their reputation for winning. The professor doesn't find any details to indicate that these leaders were horrified or burdened by the role they played in slaughtering tens of thousands of human beings. Instead, the entire war is communicated like a battle of market share between Apple Computer and Microsoft. The professor paints many portraits of selfish monsters, and it seems to me, he paints these men as sociopaths without even seeing or implying what terrible non-creative, selfish men are the ones most likely to volunteer to lead others in times of war.
Date published: 2016-03-23
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