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General A.P. Hill

de James I. Robertson Jr.

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1863110,012 (3.83)1
"A.P. Hill, whose name was on the lips of both Lee and Jackson as they lay dying, but whose highly important military career has been neglected by biographers, has been brought brilliantly to life in this book. With much new material, Dr. Robertson has created an unforgettable portrait of one of the great Confederate generals." He was known as Little Powell, and at West Point was a classmate of such future Civil War generals as Jackson, McClellan, and Burnside. He rose to command a corps in the famous Army of Northern Virginia and was a central figure in virtually every major engagement in the vital eastern theater. He possessed what a fellow soldier called "an unquenchable thirst for battle." His "Light Division" was the largest and became the most famous division in all the Confederate armies. Hill spearheaded Lee 's counteroffensive against McClellan in the Peninsular Campaign. He was also at Mechanicsville and Gaines's Mill, Cedar Mountain, Second Manassas, Harper's Ferry, Antietam (his savage flank attack in midafternoon remains one of the most dramatic events in American military history), Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Bristoe Station (the most stunning defeat of his career), the Wilderness, Cold Harbor--and, of course, he became "the abiding strength and dependence of Lee's army" in the siege of Petersburg. Yet in the years since this hero of the Confederacy has remained relatively obscure. Based upon years of research, a previously undiscovered cache of Hill's papers, and never-published letters and memoirs by men who fought under him, this biography by a distinguished scholar at last restores to history the dauntless Light Division commander who, "as much as anyone, symbolized the Southern Confederacy: its enthusiasm, its pride, its incongruity, its sacrifice." A.P. Hill was killed in the last moments of the war by a Federal soldier whose surrender he had just demanded.--From dust jacket.… (més)

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Straightforward biography of one of Lee’s division and corps commanders. A. P. Hill figured in the last words of both Lee (“Tell Hill he must come up. Strike the tent.”) and Jackson (“Order A.P. Hill to prepare for action! Pass the infantry to the front rapidly! Tell Major Hawks… Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees.”) Hill himself didn’t have much chance for last words, as he was shot through the heart will reconnoitering at Five Forks.


Hill’s pre-Civil War career had not be terribly distinguished – he fought the Mexicans, the Seminoles, and served as an Army liaison to the Coast Survey. When the war started, he quickly rose, acquiring a reputation as a fighting general – sometimes with the Union, sometimes with his own superiors, as he had long-standing feuds with both Jackson (although he cradled Jackson in his arms after Jackson took his fatal wound at Chancellorsville) and Longstreet (once challenging Longstreet to a duel). Lee had to intervene a couple of times to calm things down. His aggressiveness was a mixed blessing; at Antietam he came up and deployed without any reconnaissance and saved the day, but did something similar at Bristoe Station and got chopped up by a Union ambush. Author James Robertson doesn’t make the direct comparison but Hill might possibly be the Confederate counterpart of Ambrose Burnside (even sharing a first name); both were estimably competent division commanders but somewhat overmatched when promoted.


Robertson is clearly a southern sympathizer, and also clearly sympathetic to his subject even at the expense of other Southern heroes (notably Jackson). However, he doesn’t shy away from criticizing Hill for his loses, and also doesn’t mind presenting a fact that would earlier authors would have suppressed as tarnishing Southern honor: Hill contracted venereal disease as cadet at West Point – “while on furlough in New York City”, according to the surgeon’s report. Well, I expect that still happens, but in 1844 it was considerably more of a medical problem if no less a moral one. Untreated (well, futilely treated) gonorrhea caused Hill lifelong pain, causing urinary tract strictures and eventually developing into prostatitis and (according to Robertson) uremia, which eventually would have been fatal even if Hill hadn’t taken a bullet at Five Forks. Robertson blames some of Hill’s poor judgment and quiescence in later battles on increasing debility; noting that several of his officers commented on Hill’s increasing ill-health. (Robertson seems interested in medical problems, as he also suggests Robert E. Lee’s poor performance at Gettysburg was due to a developing cardiac condition. Not unreasonable but I’ve never heard anyone else suggest it).


Well done for this sort of thing; the pro-Southern attitude is noticeable but not obstreperous. Fine maps and adequate notes and bibliography. ( )
  setnahkt | Dec 2, 2017 |
This books was signed for Brian Scheulen
  chestergap | Sep 19, 2016 |
Good single-volume account of Virginian A.P. Hill and his role in the American Civil War. ( )
  Richard7920 | Dec 29, 2008 |
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"A.P. Hill, whose name was on the lips of both Lee and Jackson as they lay dying, but whose highly important military career has been neglected by biographers, has been brought brilliantly to life in this book. With much new material, Dr. Robertson has created an unforgettable portrait of one of the great Confederate generals." He was known as Little Powell, and at West Point was a classmate of such future Civil War generals as Jackson, McClellan, and Burnside. He rose to command a corps in the famous Army of Northern Virginia and was a central figure in virtually every major engagement in the vital eastern theater. He possessed what a fellow soldier called "an unquenchable thirst for battle." His "Light Division" was the largest and became the most famous division in all the Confederate armies. Hill spearheaded Lee 's counteroffensive against McClellan in the Peninsular Campaign. He was also at Mechanicsville and Gaines's Mill, Cedar Mountain, Second Manassas, Harper's Ferry, Antietam (his savage flank attack in midafternoon remains one of the most dramatic events in American military history), Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Bristoe Station (the most stunning defeat of his career), the Wilderness, Cold Harbor--and, of course, he became "the abiding strength and dependence of Lee's army" in the siege of Petersburg. Yet in the years since this hero of the Confederacy has remained relatively obscure. Based upon years of research, a previously undiscovered cache of Hill's papers, and never-published letters and memoirs by men who fought under him, this biography by a distinguished scholar at last restores to history the dauntless Light Division commander who, "as much as anyone, symbolized the Southern Confederacy: its enthusiasm, its pride, its incongruity, its sacrifice." A.P. Hill was killed in the last moments of the war by a Federal soldier whose surrender he had just demanded.--From dust jacket.

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