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Chancellorsville: Lee’s Greatest Battle by Edward J. Stackpole

Last week I ran out of current reading material.  This does not often happen but occassionally and then I reach for an older book from my bookcase.  I have several great volumes that I was given by my old business friend, Dick Slover, from Houston, Texas.  Dick inherited the books from his uncle who was an avid Civil War enthusiast. 

The Chancellorsville book from 1958 has been on the bottom shelf for too many years and discovering it was like finding a lost jewel.  The book is nicely written, that is to say it is clear, concise and historically correct in a style that is easy to read.  It also has lots and lots of maps.  Great maps!  I realized a long time ago that military history books without maps are sadly lacking in impact on the true student.  One of the techniques I learned was to study the maps and color the rivers light blue, highlight the opponents in red and blue and mark strategic points in yellow or orange.  The Union is always in blue.  Confederates in red. This is in conformance with military tradition.  I find that this is like walking the ground and tend to reinforce the spacial relationships. All too often roads and streams and rivers can blend into a spaghetti bowl.  My technique brings the picture into focus.

Long ago my mother told me that books are friends and not to spoil them by writing in them.  Well, Mom, I beg to disagree.  All my books have marginal notes in pencil and beautifully colored maps. I still, however, cannot bring myself to fold a corner or lay a book on its face.

I wondered why Stackpole’s books, he has written several of the Civil War, are so nicely populated with maps.  Well I learned that Edward Stackpole, the noted publisher, had a significant military background.  Serving in WWI and WWII he retired as a Lieutenant General (three stars), had been a cavalry and infantry division commander, had been wounded twice and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, our second highest award for heroism, and the Legion of Merit.  Not a shabby resume!

The book, published  in 1958, by Stackpole Books, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania is a treat to read and a joy to contemplate,  His other books include They Met at Gettysburg, The Fredericksville Campaign, From Cedar Mountain to Antietam, and Sheridan in the Shenandoah, all great reads. 


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