Embattled Rebel (Hardcover)

Jefferson Davis as Commander in Chief

By James M. McPherson

Penguin Press, 9781594204975, 301pp.

Publication Date: October 7, 2014

Other Editions of This Title:
Digital Audiobook (10/6/2014)
Paperback (9/15/2015)
Compact Disc (10/7/2014)
Hardcover, Large Print (3/25/2015)

List Price: 32.95*
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From the Pulitzer Prize winningauthor of Battle Cry of Freedom, a powerful new reckoning withJefferson Davis as military commander of the Confederacy
History has not been kind to Jefferson Davis. Hiscause went down in disastrous defeat and left theSouth impoverished for generations. If that causehad succeeded, it would have torn the UnitedStates in two and preserved the institution ofslavery. Many Americans in Davis's own time and inlater generations considered him an incompetentleader, if not a traitor. Not so, argues James M.McPherson. In Embattled Rebel, McPherson shows usthat Davis might have been on the wrong side ofhistory, but it is too easy to diminish him because ofhis cause's failure. In order to understand the CivilWar and its outcome, it is essential to give Davis hisdue as a military leader and as the president of anaspiring Confederate nation.
Davis did not make it easy on himself. Hissubordinates and enemies alike considered himdifficult, egotistical, and cold. He was gravely illthroughout much of the war, often working fromhome and even from his sickbed. Nonetheless, McPherson argues, Davis shaped and articulatedthe principal policy of the Confederacy with clarityand force: the quest for independent nationhood.Although he had not been a fire-breathingsecessionist, once he committed himself to aConfederate nation he never deviated from thisgoal. In a sense, Davis was the last Confederate leftstanding in 1865.
As president of the Confederacy, Davis devotedmost of his waking hours to military strategy andoperations, along with Commander Robert E.Lee, and delegated the economic and diplomaticfunctions of strategy to his subordinates. Daviswas present on several battlefields with Lee andeven took part in some tactical planning; indeed, their close relationship stands as one of the greatmilitary-civilian partnerships in history.
Most critical appraisals of Davis emphasizehis choices in and management of generals ratherthan his strategies, but no other chief executive inAmerican history exercised such tenacious hands-oninfluence in the shaping of military strategy.And while he was imprisoned for two years afterthe Confederacy's surrender awaiting a trial fortreason that never came, and lived for anothertwenty-four years, he never once recanted thecause for which he had fought and lost. McPhersongives us Jefferson Davis as the commander in chiefhe really was, showing persuasively that whileDavis did not win the war for the South, he wasscarcely responsible for losing it.

About the Author

James M. McPhersonis the George Henry Davis 86 Professor of History Emeritus at Princeton University.He is the bestselling author of numerous books on theCivil War, includingBattle Cry of Freedom, which won thePulitzer Prize, Tried by War, andFor Cause and Comrades, bothof which won the Lincoln Prize."