by Brigadier-General G. Moxley Sorrell, of the Army of Northern Virginia. 1905
The author’s reflections in this book represent my absolute favorite type of book—one written by a person who was actually on the scenes about which he/she writes.
As a history buff of sorts, I have accumulated a goodly number of this type of book. While researching a fairly extensive paper on General Longstreet, I came across this little gem. Recollections of a Confederate Staff Officer by General Moxley Sorrel, a personal aide to General Longstreet during most of the War Between the States. In his remembrances Sorrel gives a lot of personal insight in the preparations, actions, and after action analysis of the many of the major engagements during the War. What was it like to sit at the table with the highest ranking officers in the Confederacy and make plans for, execute, and evaluate the military actions that occurred during this time? Sorrel’s unique and advantageous position gave him special knowledge of these workings. I particularly enjoyed his commentaries on the Gettysburg campaign. There has been a great deal written about this particular “High Tide of the Confederacy,” but Sorrel’s perspective was new to me and could not have been written by someone who was not there.
Whereas, some of his style is the stilted and formal way of writing of his era, this book reads well and draws the reader into his story quite effectively. He was fiercely loyal to Longstreet, and therefore, has a bias which almost—but not quite—leads him to overlook some of Longstreet’s most serious character flaws. In the research I did on General Longstreet, I found that many blamed him for the loss at Gettysburg and excoriated him for some of his actions after the war. Sorrel would have none of it, of course.
Sorrel’s description of the Wilderness campaign, which resulted in a nearly mortal wound for General Longstreet, is covered in a great deal of detail as well.