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Richard Stoddert Ewell is best known as the Confederate General selected by Robert E. Lee to replace "Stonewall" Jackson as chief of the Second Corps in the Army of Northern Virginia. Ewell is also remembered as the general who failed to drive Federal troops from the high ground of Cemetery Hill and Culp’s Hill during the Battle of Gettysburg. Many historians believe that Ewell’s inaction cost the Confederates a victory in this seminal battle and, ultimately, cost the Civil War.
During his long military career, Ewell was never an aggressive warrior. He graduated from West Point and served in the Indian wars in Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, and Arizona. In 1861 he resigned his commission in the U.S. Army and rushed to the Confederate standard. Ewell saw action at First Manassas and took up divisional command under Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley Campaign and in the Seven Days’ Battles around Richmond.
A crippling wound and a leg amputation soon compounded the persistent manic-depressive disorder that had hindered his ability to make difficult decisions on the battlefield. When Lee reorganized the Army of Northern Virginia in May of 1863, Ewell was promoted to lieutenant general. At the same time he married a widowed first cousin who came to dominate his life—often to the disgust of his subordinate officers—and he became heavily influenced by the wave of religious fervor that was then sweeping through the Confederate Army.
In Confederate General R.S. Ewell, Paul D. Casdorph offers a fresh portrait of a major—but deeply flawed—figure in the Confederate war effort, examining the pattern of hesitancy and indecisiveness that characterized Ewell’s entire military career. This definitive biography probes the crucial question of why Lee selected such an obviously inconsistent and unreliable commander to lead one-third of his army on the eve of the Gettysburg Campaign.
Casdorph describes Ewell’s intriguing life and career with penetrating insights into his loyalty to the Confederate cause and the Virginia ties that kept him in Lee’s favor for much of the war. Complete with riveting descriptions of key battles, Ewell’s biography is essential reading for Civil War historians.
Honorable Mention for 2005 Peter Seaborg Award for Civil War Scholarship given by the George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War
Paul D. Casdorph is the author of several books, including Lee and Jackson: Confederate Chieftains and Prince John Magruder: His Life and Campaigns.
"Casdorph unveils Ewell's fascinating life in crisp, businesslike prose. . . . Adduces plenty of the rich body of evidence about his subject's gallantry, bravery, and attractive qualities."—America's Civil War
"A challenging and informative biography. . . . Brings to life a key figure in Civil War history. This book will stir the debate on the true nature of Ewell's legacy."—Civil War News
"Deserves the attention of those mighty legions still refighting the battles of the eastern theater."—North & South
"A very thorough and definitive biography about one of the Confederacy's most contrary commanders."—Armor
"A highly readable biography that examines such diverse topics as the effect of the amputation of Ewell's leg on his subsequent command decisions and the role of Ewell's wife in stifling his battlefield initiative."—Army Magazine
"An excellent contribution to Civil War scholarship. Presenting a strong argument for his thesis that Ewell was 'a flawed commander who could not, or would not, act at the critical moment,' Casdorph's work is thoroughly researched and fascinating to read. Exploring the relationship between Ewell and Robert E. Lee, discussing significant topics such as the effects on Ewell of losing a leg, as well as the man's religious concepts, and paying due respect to the whole of the general's life, Casdorph has developed the finest Ewell biography that is likely to be written."—James Lee McDonough, Professor Emeritus, Auburn University
"Casdorph's well-written biography is rich in psychological analysis and operational detail. . . . A dramatic portrait of a career steeped in failure and controversy."—Journal of American History
"Casdorph has produced a very readable narrative of Ewell's life."—Journal of Southern History
"Deserves praise for an impressive research effort and for producing a well-written narrative of Ewell's life and career."—Parameters
"A thoroughly researched biography."—Signal Flag
"Civil War history stays alive because of biographies of its key figures, their fights, and foibles. R.S. Ewell is an intriguing study of command."—Southern Scene
"A fine and much-needed biography of one of the crucial protagonists of the Civil War."—Virginia Magazine of History and Biography
"Extensively researched biography. . . . Casdorph pulls no punches in detailing his subject's shortcomings."—Washington Times
"Answers, or attempts to answer, some of the major questions and problems of the Civil War. . . . Casdorph does an excellent job of presenting the factors and people influencing this controversial Civil War officer."—West Virginia History
The University Press of Kentucky
Place of Publication
R. S. Ewell, Richard Stoddert Ewell, Confederate generals, United States Civil War, American Civil War
Casdorph, Paul D., "Confederate General R.S. Ewell: Robert E. Lee's Hesitant Commander" (2014). Military History. 25.