Mathew W. Lively
Savas Beatie, 2013, 191 pp., $27.50
Image courtesy of goodreads.com
The life of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson has often been fascinating to Civil War historians and his abilities on the battlefield have created many “what if” moments in the realm of alternate history. During studies of the Battle of Chancellorsville, historians tend to focus on the wounding of the commander and then moving on to the other aspects of the battle. Little has been done on the minute by minute and day by day analysis of the death of Jackson once he had contracted pneumonia after the amputation of his arm. In Calamity at Chancellorsville, Mathew W. Lively gives readers the definitive account of the last days of Jackson.
Matthew W. Lively is a practicing physician along with being a Professor of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at West Virginia University School of Medicine. He has two masters’ degrees along with a medical degree. He has been active in teaching of medical students and residents for the past fifteen years. Along with being active in the medical realm, he has been a lifelong student of the Civil War especially in the case of the medical history. He has authored many other scientific works in scholarly journals and periodicals. Calamity at Chancellorsville is his first major work and his medical prowess shines in his historical narrative.
When a work emerges about the Battle of Chancellorsville, there is usually a quick reference to the action which took place upon the wounding of Jackson then he is carted off to Guinea Station. From there, the usual narrative focuses on the rest of the battle including General Stuart taking over for Jackson along with the Fredericksburg front involving General Sedgwick. After the battle narrative is over, the authors generally focus on the death of Jackson, but Lively is different. Lively gives us a step by step narrative about the battle which Jackson took a part in, then his wounding and his slow decline in health unto his death. This is the first major day by day, hour by hour account of Jackson’s death which I have come across. One thing which I found to be incredibly helpful was the introduction labeled Dramatic Personae giving the readers who are unfamiliar with some of the major players a showcase to those who they would read about greatly in the pages to come. Lively does not go into detail about the battle tactics which took place after the wounding and focuses solely on Jackson. In his narrative about the slow decline in health, Lively’s expertise with the medical world, especially medical history, is second to none. What can be said about this book is that it should be hailed as the best narrative of the last days of Jackson.
This book is highly recommended to the Civil War reader, both new to the study and the trained experts on the conflict. Those who are looking for a more detailed narrative of what happened to Jackson as the rest of the Battle of Chancellorsville occurred will find what they need in this book. The narrative is flowing and the presentation of the work is aesthetically pleasing. Any Stonewall Jackson aficionado should have this work on their bookshelf. Highly Recommended!