Searching for Stonewall Jackson: A Quest for Legacy in a Divided America

Twelve: Grand Central. Jul. 2019. 384p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781455535804. $30; ebk. ISBN 9781455535798. BIOG
Historian Cleary’s debut is part reverent tribute to Confederate Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and part vacation diary of visits to historic sites associated with the Southern Civil War hero. The author’s admiring account of Jackson’s campaigns also documents his own reactions, as he follows the general’s path from Manassas, VA, through the Shenandoah Valley to his mortal wounding at the Battle of Chancellorsville. Cleary’s sources for the historical narrative reflect traditional takes on Jackson’s successes and setbacks. What distinguishes this book from others is the author’s juxtaposition of Jackson’s exploits with his own hagiographic reflections. Besides recording his efforts to follow Jackson’s route, Cleary opines that contemporary lack of appreciation for the sort of Southern valor that Jackson represented decries the demise of historical knowledge and preservation of Civil War history. Cleary’s discursive commentary includes quirky remarks about popular culture and occasional condescending observations about people he encounters. He mentions the nation’s current racial and social divisions and expresses his disappointment that more people do not revere Jackson as much as he does.
VERDICT Although the book may appeal to devoted fans of this hero of the Confederacy, it fails to provide new insight into Jackson’s character or accomplishments.
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