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About this Book
From First Manassas in 1861 to Third Winchester in 1864, Robert Rodes served in all the great battles and campaigns of the legendary Army of Northern Virginia. Jedediah Hotchkiss, Stonewall Jackson’s renowned mapmaker, expressed the feelings of many contemporaries when he declared that Rodes was the best division commander in Lee’s army. A combat officer of this stature deserves a complete and deeply researched biography, and now he finally has one in Major General Robert E. Rodes of the Army of Northern Virginia: A Biography.
A graduate of the Virginia Military Institute and a prewar railroad engineer, Rodes was one of only a handful of officers in the Confederate army to rise so high without the benefit of a West Point education. That fact that he did so speaks to his well-earned reputation as a courageous and inspiring leader who routinely delivered hard-hitting attacks and stout defensive efforts. His greatest moment on the field came at Chancellorsville in the spring of 1863, when he spearheaded Stonewall Jackson’s famous flank attack that crushed the left wing of General Hooker’s Army of the Potomac. But like all men, he was not perfect. In his next fight at Gettysburg, Rodes faltered, turning in a curiously disjointed and apathetic performance that to this day raises questions that remain only partially answered.
But he was much more than just a combat leader. Rodes’ prewar life, which has been left largely unexplored, shaped the general he was destined to become. The native of Lynchburg, Virginia, was a VMI instructor, a hard working engineer, a loving husband, a loyal friend, and a very complex man. The strict disciplinarian entered the conflict with a deep yearning for recognition and glory, coupled with an indifferent attitude toward religion and salvation. When he was killed at the height of his combat career at Third Winchester on September 19, 1864, a trove of prayer books and testaments were found on his corpse.
Based upon exhaustive new research that puts flesh and blood on the man and the general, Darrell Collins’ new biography breathes life into this largely overlooked man of the South. Although Rodes’ widow consigned his personal papers to the flames after the war, Collins uncovered a substantial amount of firsthand information to complete his compelling portrait of the life, mind, and combat career of one of Robert E. Lee’s most dependable field generals.