Chancellorsville, by Stephen Sears ****

chancellorsvilleSears won the Fletcher-Pratt award for his retelling of the battle of Chancellorsville, which is meticulously researched. In fact, about 100 of the 600 pages of this mighty tome are footnotes and Index.

If you are waiting for the excitement to start, don’t hold your breath. For one thing, if you are sufficiently interested in the American Civil War to read 500 pages about just one battle, you already know how this one ended, so there is no magic in terms of waiting for the end. The value here is for the die-hard researcher or military theorist, who either wants to examine why the battle turned one way or another, what could have prevented it, etc. Picking apart the miniscule parts of each battle and seeing how they are different in the eyes of one historian from another (usually in small ways) is interesting, for those of us sufficiently obsessed.

In a nutshell, if you are interested in the most minute details of this particular battle, having had your fill of books on Gettysburg and Antietam, this man has done a good job of putting it all together. Sometimes it is compelling, even amusing, and other times dry, but there was no time when I did not feel he had carefully laid the groundwork for what he was describing.

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