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Beyond the Book

488 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 9 illus., 4 maps, notes, bibl., index

Civil War America

ISBN  978-0-8078-5414-3
Published: August 2002

Lee's Miserables

Life in the Army of Northern Virginia from the Wilderness to Appomattox

By J. Tracy Power

Awards & Distinctions

Second Place, 1999 Lincoln Prize, Lincoln and Soldiers Institute

1999 Jerry Coffey Memorial Book Award, Grady McWhiney Research Foundation

1998 Jefferson Davis Award, Museum of the Confederacy

1998 Richard Barksdale Harwell Award, Atlanta Civil War Roundtable

Never did so large a proportion of the American population leave home for an extended period and produce such a detailed record of its experiences in the form of correspondence, diaries, and other papers as during the Civil War. Based on research in more than 1,200 wartime letters and diaries by more than 400 Confederate officers and enlisted men, this book offers a compelling social history of Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia during its final year, from May 1864 to April 1865.

Organized in a chronological framework, the book uses the words of the soldiers themselves to provide a view of the army's experiences in camp, on the march, in combat, and under siege--from the battles in the Wilderness to the final retreat to Appomattox. It sheds new light on such questions as the state of morale in the army, the causes of desertion, ties between the army and the home front, the debate over arming black men in the Confederacy, and the causes of Confederate defeat. Remarkably

rich and detailed, Lee's Miserables offers a fresh look at one of the most-studied Civil War armies.

About the Author

J. Tracy Power is a historian with the South Carolina Department of Archives and History.


"Power's research is voluminous and his conclusions sensible and thought-provoking. The result is a major and welcome addition to the literature of how armies are made and how they die."
--Steven E. Woodworth, Blue & Gray Education Society Newsletter

"Exhaustively researched, and thoroughly documented, Lee's Miserables traces the human side of the war through the men who fought it and not through the historians' contemporary lens. It is a marvelous and, at times, an overwhelming volume as soldier after soldier speaks directly to the reader from his diary or letters. . . . A candid appraisal of one of the most famous armies in military history."
--Civil War Courier

"A landmark book. . . . When the end came, the men of the Army of Northern Virginia passed into legend. Power’s important study brings a large measure of reality back to their story.”
--American History

"Lee's Miserables is one of the finest works ever written on the Army of Northern Virginia and belongs on the bookshelf of anyone interested in that command or the Civil War’s eastern theater."
--Civil War History

"A marvelous book. It will be read with relish by scholars and by buffs. It possesses an authenticity about war . . . that all will appreciate."
--Maryland Historical Magazine

"This excellent and readable study should be in all college libraries."

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