General William Dorsey Pender: A Military Biography

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The talented William Dorsey Pender is a prime example of the advantage held by the Confederacy in junior-level commanders during the opening months of the Civil War. The inability of the Southern forces to adequately replace Pender after his death at a young age also demonstrates the ultimate lack of depth that the Confederacy had at the command level.Pender was born in North Carolina and graduated in the top half of the West Point class of 1856. He was one of the first Southern-born officers to offer his services to the Confederacy and soon found himself a colonel, a rank he might not have attained during a full career in the pre-War army. Pender first came to prominence during the Seven Days' Battles, when a number of junior Confederate officers took bold action to counter the battlefield errors of some of their better-known superiors. Pender soon developed a reputation as Robert E. Lee's favorite brigade commander.After further capable work at Antietam, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, Pender was raised to divisional command. Arriving at Gettysburg on the first day of the battle, Pender's troops from Georgia, South Carolina and his own North Carolina played a major role in driving the veteran Union I Corps from the town. Unfortunately, Pender sustained what at first seemed a minor wound later in the battle and died of complications after the Confederate retreat back to Virginia. The inability of the less-populous Confederacy to replace key figures such as Pender was an important cause of the ultimate Southern defeat.Edward G. Longacre has previously done ground-breaking research for his acclaimed biographies of John Buford, George Armstrong Custer, and Joshua Chamberlain. His study of William Dorsey Pender is both a gripping narrative and a major contribution to our understanding of Civil War principles of command.

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