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Professor Gary Gallagher (a very highly decorated, nationally renown history professor at the University of Virginia) delivers a fast-paced review of Robert E Lee, Confederate principal generals, fast rising young generals and context miliary leadership in the Confederacy. Each bio is carefully presented with both strengths, flaws and outstanding performances coupled with failures. Dr. Gallagher turns these historical figures into real people. His perspective is particularly insightful in that he points out that virtually all Civil War Generals were essentially untrained and unready for their responsibilities. Many succeeded at a lower level and then failed with promotion to wider commands. Few truly met the measure of what was needed. The overwhelming number of deaths and wounding of Southern key generals made rapid replacement with overwhelmed promoted subordinates a recurring issue.
This lecture series gives you context on the literature of the Civil War, wonderful biographies and a blazing pathway through the campaigns. Professor Gallagher has a pleasant, interesting and engaging voice. He delivers his lectures with a fast pace, understandable and with interesting vocal emphasis. He does not get lost in jargon. I found this series of lectures immensely entertaining as well as informative. Each general is either a lecture or two or three (Lee). Some generals were so interesting I found myself listening to their lecture over and over. I highly recommend this lecture series for someone interested in the Civil War, regardless of prior background and study. This series brings these Confederate generals to life.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
I have enjoyed several offerings of the Great Courses Lectures on Historical events and this was one of the more interesting ones.
Professor Gallagher has done an excellent job in detailing all of these interesting leaders within Lee’s high command. I especially like the balance he utilizes in showing both the strengths and weaknesses of the individuals. With very few exceptions the assessments are even handed, although there are one or two officers that his take seems to be more of a personal like or dislike than one of looking simply at the facts. A few things in the book really stuck out – first was the incredible attrition rate of the officers in the Army of Northern Virginia due to deaths/wounding in battle. There were rarely back to back battles in which the same command structure was actually in place, other than Lee himself. There was a constant need to reshuffle leadership following the engagements. Another interesting analogy made by Professor Gallagher was his comparison of Lee’s role with that of Dwight Eisenhower, who also had to deal with strong, aggressive and competitive personalities of subordinates such as Patton and Montgomery, with Lee that role was even a greater necessity as a large number of his Senior Leaders seemed to stay in perpetual conflict with each other. On numerous occasions there were officers arresting other officers for what seemed to be more out of a competition than any real military error. Lastly, it was really amazing to see how successful many of the officers were at one level, then as they gained rank they become ineffectual or only marginally successful – the Peter Principle.
If you are interested in the make-up of the officers in the book then you will really find the book interesting. I will say though, if you are more interested in details of their actions taken in famous battles; this book may not be what you would be looking for. The Battles are only described in the most general of terms.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Where does Robert E. Lee and His High Command rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?
It was middle of the road for me. The high marks came from the fact that, should you like Confederate/Civil War history (turns out I don't), this is one of the best overviews of Robert E. Lee and His High Command and indeed the war effort I've yet come across. If you really want an intermediate level lecture series on the Civil War, get it on.
What was one of the most memorable moments of Robert E. Lee and His High Command?
Touching on the lost cause (or any of the bits regarding the greater ramifications)
Which character – as performed by Professor Gary W. Gallagher – was your favourite?
But seriously, he's a great lecturer.
If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?
Robert E. Lee and His High Command: The tale of Robert E. Lee and His High Command
If you could sum up Robert E. Lee and His High Command in three words, what would they be?
Profound, dispassionate, engaging.
What did you like best about this story?
The course is didactic without being pedantic.
What does Professor Gary W. Gallagher bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?
His clear and obvious enthusiasm for his subject.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
No, because one needs time to consider and digest each lecture.
Any additional comments?
The Civil War continues to divide the United States and Prof. Gallagher is American, therefore attuned and involved in the continuing debate. To foreigners the debate is much more clear cut, the Civil War was the true American Revolution.
Lee is seen abroad as a great captain, no doubt about that, but one with feet of clay and Gallagher sees him in the soft focus that is commonplace in the US. However, he is generous to Longstreet which is nice to hear.