Civil War Book Review: Rashness of That Hour

by James Durney on February 22, 2011 · 1 comment

Rashness of That Hour: Politics, Gettysburg, and the Downfall of Confederate Brigadier General Alfred Iverson
by Robert Wynstra

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Savas Beatie (November 19, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 193271488X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932714883

Politics over performance?

Rashness of That Hour: Politics, Gettysburg, and the Downfall of Confederate Brigadier General Alfred Iverson by Robert WynstraIn the 1800s, the Spoils System is in power.  Politics controls Civil Service with elections causing massive personnel changes.  People expect favoritism and nepotism objecting only if their supporter cannot deliver.  Performance is secondary with political favors and personal considerations the major reasons to place a person.  The Confederate States of America heighten considerations of an individual’s state in this already nasty mixture.  Founded on the idea of “State’s Rights”, the CSA made things worse by building brigades by state.  In or out of an army, Americans had definite ideas about their individual rights.  They demanded respect for these ideas and very good reasons for any violations.  Military policy and procedure considered this and made real efforts to accommodate these feelings.

In 1861, Alfred Iverson is 32 years old.  A veteran of the War with Mexico, he served in the 1st Cavalry on the western frontier in the 1850s.  Alfred enjoyed a privileged childhood, was an indifferent student and possesses an average record as an army officer. His father a U.S. Senator from Georgia and a leading states-right figure has excellent connections.  This results in a commission in the Confederate army with a requiting assignment in North Carolina.  A series of events gives Georgia’s Brigadier General a brigade of North Carolinians and plenty of problems.

This book is a look a politics, influence, favoritism and rights in one brigade of Lee’s army.  It is a fascinating picture of disputes that never are resolved.  It is a look proud men standing on principles and refusing to comprise their rights.  The names and the issues are well presented and explained.  Some of the issues just would not occur to us but the author shows why these men considered them important.

This brigade is memorable due to Gettysburg. On July 1, Iverson managed to slaughter his brigade north of the town.  He was not present on the field while him men marched into a trap taking almost 850 casualties in one action.  The author handles the military war as well as he handles the political one by keeping the action understandable and personal befitting a brigade history.  A series of excellent well-placed maps answer all questions.

We know about Iverson’s attack, what happens afterward is as interesting as the attack, influence that promotes can protect.   An Epilogue insures a full look at Iverson and his later life.

This book is contains a full set of footnotes, ten maps, illustrations, a bibliography and full index.   Two appendixes cover the organization and losses for Iverson’s Brigade at Gettysburg.  This is an informative and pleasurable read for any student of Lee’s Army and/or the Battle of Gettysburg.

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TOCWOC readers may also enjoy Fred Ray’s review of The Rashness of That Hour from earlier this year.


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