Book Review: General David S. Stanley, USA: A Civil War Biography


by Dennis W. Belcher

Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2014. Pp. x, 272. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $39.95 paper. ISBN: 0786476451

A Forgotten General and His War

The author of The 11th Missouri Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War and other works on the war, Belcher here gives us an insightful biography of one of the best second tier Union commanders. Today largely forgotten, Ohioan Stanley (1828-1902) started out to study medicine, but then entered West Point (Class of 1852) and served on the frontier. On the outbreak of the war, Stanley was a captain in the 2nd Dragoons, serving in the Indian Territory.

Serving in the West, Stanley rose quickly to brigadier general, and later to major general, doing well whether commanding infantry or cavalry, and often with distinction. Leading from the front, Stanley fought his way from Wilson’s Creek through the several campaigns in Tennessee, performing well at Corinth, while commanding cavalry during the Tullahoma Operation and at Chattanooga. Appointed to corps command, he served during the opening phases of the Atlanta Campaign, and during Hood’s invasion of Tennessee he turned in an outstanding performance at Spring Hill and later fought at Franklin. At the end of war he commanded a corps on the Mexican Border, and went on to see active service in the Indian Wars.

Belcher recounts all of this well, often in some detail, while giving us numerous insights into ante bellum West Point, the Old Army and the Volunteer Army, life in mid-century America, service politics, religion, command in wartime, and more. Although at times a tad repetitious, and often needing more detail in the maps, this work brings to our attention one of the ablest of Union's second tier of generals and is a very useful addition to the literature of the war.

Note: General David S. Stanley is also available as an ebook, ISBN 978-1-4766-1624-7


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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