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Confederate General William Dorsey Pender

The Hope of Glory

Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War

344 pages / 6.00 x 9.00 inches / 11 halftones, 8 maps

ebook available

Civil War

  Hardcover / 9780807152997 / November 2013

During the Civil War, North Carolinian William Dorsey Pender established himself as one of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia’s best young generals. He served in most of the significant engagements of the war in the eastern theater while under the command of Joseph E. Johnston at Seven Pines and Robert E. Lee from the Seven Days to Gettysburg. His most crucial contributions to Confederate success came at the battles of Second Manassas, Shepherdstown, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. After an effective first day at Gettysburg, Pender was struck by a shell and disabled, necessitating his return to Virginia for what he hoped would be only an extended convalescence. Although Pender initially survived the wound, he died soon thereafter due to complications from his injury.

In this thorough biography of Pender, noted Civil War historian Brian Steel Wills examines both the young general’s military career and his domestic life. While Pender devoted himself to military service, he also embraced the Episcopal Church and was baptized before his command in the field. According to Wills, Pender had an insatiable quest for “glory” in both earthly and heavenly realms, and he delighted in his role as a husband and father. In Pender’s voluminous correspondence with his wife, Fanny, he shared his beliefs and offered views and opinions on a vast array of subjects. In the end, Wills suggests that Pender’s story captures both the idealistic promise and the despair of a war that cost the lives of many Americans and changed the nation forever.

Brian Steel Wills is the director of the Center for the Study of the Civil War Era and professor of history at Kennesaw State University. He is the author of numerous books about the Civil War, including George Henry Thomas: As True as Steel, The War Hits Home: The Civil War in Southeastern Virginia, and A Battle from the Start: The Life of Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Praise for Confederate General William Dorsey Pender

“Brian Steel Wills . . . masterfully returns to biography and does not disappoint in this new exploration of William Dorsey Pender. . . . Wills deftly navigates many sources and provides an excellent narrative, shedding light on a Confederate officer whose early death might have doomed him to relative obscurity. The author’s combination of Pender’s personal and military life renders this a vital work for scholars focusing on the Civil War’s eastern theater.”—Civil War History

“[Wills’s] economic descriptions, vivid writing, and judicious selection of sources provide more than enough detail. . . . The focus on [Pender’s] letters makes this excellent book much more than a traditional biography.”—Journal of American History

“Biographer Brian Wills shows intelligence and great literary dexterity in weaving Pender's story. His prose flows substantially above the current norm, making his depiction of an interesting life decidedly worth owning and reading. . . . Unquestionably the best biography yet available.”—Civil War Times

“[An] insightful new biography. . . . Wills’s treatment fits this series’ stated mission well by exploring the highly successful Confederate commander’s personal Civil War journey. . . . It is Pender’s dichotomous nature, as revealed in his letters to his wife, that has made him an attractive subject for the author and should resonate with readers.”—Civil War Book Review

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