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The Last Confederate General: John C Vaughn and His East Tennessee Cavalry Hardcover – 24 Apr 2009

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Zenith Press (24 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0760335176
  • ISBN-13: 978-0760335178
  • Product Dimensions: 22.1 x 16.5 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,667,918 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Larry Gordon is a graduate of the Armed Forces Staff College and Army War College; and a veteran of the Vietnam War, with many years of service in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the United States. Mr. Gordon, who works at the Institute for Defense Analyses, and has long been an interpretive volunteer at Manassas National Battlefield Park.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Interesting read about a little known Confederate General. The book covers his early life and ultimate demise focusing on his military experiences, easy to read, broken up into 'bite size' chapters its a good book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 18 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Excellent Study of the Peter Principle 31 Mar 2009
By Eric Weiss - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have read a lot of Civil War Histories, but The Last Confederate General provides a different perspective. First, it is well researched and well written. (OK, that is not a different perspective.) Second, it looks at a leader who never made it into our history books until Larry Gordon decided to write about Brigadier General John Vaughn. Most Civil War histories ignore Vaughn and concentrate on Grant, Lee, Jackson, McClellan and the others we all know. The role of the second level leaders like Vaughn is easy to overlook these days, but back in the 1860s with poor intelligence and poor communications, the ability of all officers to lead their troops was probably more important than today. While the top leaders in war or business are important, having competent second level leaders is necessary. I wish Gordan had explored that more.

Some have said that Vaughn was basically an incompetent, but Gordon shows him to be a better--but flawed leader than that simple assessment. Vaughn was a great example of someone who was elected colonel by the volunteers that he recruited. He led them well and was promoted over his head to the rank of brigadier general. Vaughn had no training as an officer, but he made the best of what he knew. He never learned how to command a brigade to get ammunition, food, transportation, strategy, tactics, and those other details that can win the battle. Gordon tells the story of the various battles that Vaughn was with and makes them very interesting.

The Last Confederate General brings out the atmosphere in a border state. There was no law and order. Union and Confederate supporters tried to burn down each others homes. Civilians were physically attacked for their political beliefs. Vaughn's family was arrested by the Union and sent to prison for their/his support of the Confederacy. I wish Gordon had explored the conditions back home more.

Another interesting question that Gordon could have explored more is how generals learn their craft. Vaughn never went to West Point. Maybe if he had like Lee and many of the other successful leaders on both sides, he would have been able to succeed, but for many of us learning by doing makes it difficult to expand on the lessons that we should have learned. Of course many incompetent generals in the Civil War went to West Point (and more recently).

So Vaughn was an example of the Peter Principle: someone who was good as a colonel, and was promoted over his head.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
The Last Confederate General 29 Mar 2009
By Roy - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I've just finished reading Mr. Gordon's book "The Last Confederate General" and found it to be very well written. Mr. Gordon covers General Vaughn's prewar life in East Tennessee to his service during the Mexican War. During the Civil War, the reader follows Vaughn as he recruits troops for his regiment, later to be designated the 3rd TN Infantry. During the Battle of First Manassas, Vaughn and his regiment distinguished themselves very well, and from that point, we follow Vaughn as he is promoted to brigadier general, and commands a brigade in Mississippi during the Vicksburg Campaign.

After the Vicksburg surrender, and when Vaughn and his brigade is paroled, he mounts his brigade and serves in East Tennessee fighting lawless bushwhackers, and Federal troops in the area. Late in the war, part of Vaughn's brigade serves in Virginia and later returns to East Tennessee. After the fall of Richmond, and Lee's surrender, General Vaughn escorts Jefferson Davis as he attempts to flee Federal authorities.

After the war, Vaughn settles in Thomaston, Georgia where he eventually remarries after the death of his first wife. He briefly returns to East Tennessee to serve in the state legislature, but prior to his death returns to Thomaston. In my opinion, this is a very well written book.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A Heart Touched With Fire... 24 Jun 2009
By James D. Miller - Published on
Format: Hardcover
In 1990 Ken Burns opened his 11 hour PBS documentary, "The Civil War," with the tale of Wilmer McClean, on whose farm in July of 1861 the newly formed Union and Confederate armies converged in the first major battle of the Civil War, Bull Run. Afterwards, McClean moved his family out of harms way, to the small cross roads town of Appomattox Courthouse, southwest of Richmond, and there, in his living room, three and a half years later, Lee surrendered to Grant, "and Wilmer McClean could rightfully say, `The war began in my front yard, and ended in my front parlor."

Though it is hard to find a person whose story better arcs the full four, battle bloodied years of the American Civil War, author Larry Gordon has found just such a person in Brigadier General John Crawford Vaughn of the Confederacy.

In his book, "The Last Confederate General: John C. Vaughn and his East Tennessee Cavalry," Beginning with his ancestry and early life, Mr. Gordon's linear narrative follows this all but forgotten east Tennessean's life from the Mexican War and the Civil War to his death.

What makes the story of John C. Vaughn fascinating is that he seems to have been, at least from a historian's perspective, at the right place at the right time, for some of the most crucial events of the Civil War. Tennessee's secession from the United States was ratified by the voters of the state on June 8, 1861, making it the last state to leave the Union. But even before the state's separation Vaughn and recruited and organized the 3rd Tennessee Infantry and was elected as its Colonel. The regiment then boarded a train bound for Manassas, Virginia and the First Battle of Bull Run, in what would be the first use of a railroad to move troops to a battlefield.

East Tennessee, known for its pro-Unionist sentiment during the war, was much like any of the other Border States. Mr. Gordon does an admirable job of painting a picture of a society where distrust lay everywhere; neighbor turned on neighbor, and where often there was localized violence. The Vaughn family, an island of secessionist in a sea of unionists, became themselves, pawns in the chess game of war. Vaughn's, father, wife and family were arrested and taken north to prison.

Promoted to the rank of Brigadier General after the Battle of Lexington, Kentucky, Vaughn & his East Tennesseans were sent to Mississippi, where they made an unsuccessful attempt to block Grant's westerly march at Big Black River Bridge, and retreated into the defenses of Vicksburg. After a forty-seven day siege Vicksburg was surrendered and Vaughn and his troopers paroled.

Later Vaughn & his command returned to the Eastern Theater and were a part of General Grumble Jones' forces that were routed at Piedmont. Controversy has for years swirled around Vaughn's action in this battle, and frequently Vaughn has been blamed for the Confederate defeat. Mr. Gordon does an exemplary job in demonstrating that Vaughn was in no way to blame for the loss.

Being a part of Jubal Early's Corps, Vaughn's brigade also took part in Early's raid on Washington, D.C., and even after Lee surrendered to Grant, Vaughn & his troops continued to serve the Confederacy as an escort to its fleeing president, Jefferson Davis. Vaughn left Davis shortly before his capture and was the last Confederate general in the field. He surrendered his troops a month after Lee's capitulation.

Mr. Gordon ends his narrative with a brief summary of John C. Vaughn's life and political career after the war until his death in 1875.

With but a limited cache of Vaughn's personal writings, Gordon does an admirable job of piecing together the life of John C. Vaughn, and giving us a sense of who the man was. Mr. Gordon's is a narrative well researched, and written in an easy manner. He has done well to bring to light the story of the Last Confederate General that might have otherwise been left to the dustbin of our history.

Wilmer McClean may have claimed that the war started in front yard and ended in his front parlor, but John C. Vaughn experienced the war in all of its horrors from the Confederacy's birth and first cry of victory at Bull Run to its last gasp of breath at its death.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
"The Last Confederate General: John C. Vaughn and his East Tennessee Cavalry" by Larry Gordon 4 May 2009
By Wesley C. Anderson - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This was a very unique read from several angles and the ways it hits you, from first impression to the final page it is also unique. First I was drawn to the book by its simple and elegant cover, but upon opening it up for a glance the small type, a lot of pages and maps, it made me wonder what I was getting into.

I started the book and was surprised that I was engrossed enough not to have noticed three hours had elapse. I for one want and like stories that flow and while I am a historian, in my pleasure reading I do not want a ton of statistics thrown at me. It is supposed to be fun right?

Larry Gordon seemed to have nailed both recreational reading and historically accurate statistics in one read. For me the story flowed well and I found I could keep the story and go back later to get the statistics. It was written so that the main story was not broken or bogged down with the later. It was very simple to navigate and with the titles and topics clearly defined it was unbelievably easy to go back and study the material from an educational stand point.

The book drew me in because not only was it a fascinating story of courage, determination and self worth, but it spoke of dignity , sacrifice, love and hope as well. It tells the personal story of someone who we all aspire to be in terms of standing for what we believe and have the convictions to carry on even when it is not the popular choice.

From John C. Vaughn's ideas of adventure when young, to his actual adventures in Mexico and California the story does not disappoint. You can see the transformation yourself in this story as the youth turns to adulthood and a very hard and rough time during combat and banishment in the later years.

Truly the Forest Gump of the Civil War John C. Vaughn was indeed everywhere and had a hand it seems in almost everything. "The Last Confederate General: John C. Vaughn and his East Tennessee Cavalry" is a fine read for anyone: Action, adventure, love, drama, war and perseverance. What more can you ask for in a book. Five stars for Larry Gordon for a job well done.

Craig Anderson
Our History Project
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
The Last Confederate General: John C. Vaughn and His East Tennessee Cavalry, By Anthony F. Gaudiano 21 Mar 2009
By Anthony F. Gaudiano - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I have just finished reading "The Last Confederate General" by Larry Gordon. Before writing this review, I looked for reviews that others had written about Gordon's work. The only review that I found was by Charles B. Sabin. I will not go into the intricate depths of the book, as did Sabin, for I do not possess his eloquence, or his apparent knowledge of military history. I suggest that you read his review for a thoroughly factual appraisal of Gordon's work from a military historian's point of view.

Larry Gordon's opus is as thrilling to me, a military historian "want-to-be", as the many Shaara' works that I have read. But Gordon's tome is totally factual, not laced with smatterings of what I perceive to be author's prerogative, as are much of the Shaara books. While most of my interest in military history has involved World War II and also the battles for Texas Independence, I have also read a great deal about the War Between the States. However, my interest in the War Between the States had previously only followed the major battles, and the notable Generals that fought them. Having early in my military career visited Gettysburg and Antietam (later in life to Appomattox and Manassas); my interests were based around the battles fought in these geographic areas. Until Gordon's book, I gave little thought to East Tennessee, and do not recall previously reading about John Crawford Vaughn.

One of the things that the book's jacket describes about Larry Gordon is that "he has long been a park volunteer at Manassas National Battlefield." I have been on a tour of Manassas Battlefield with Gordon as my guide. His narration of the battles at Manassas (First and Second) gives you the feeling that you are there at the time of the conflicts. You can readily visualize CSA Brigadier General Bernard Bee rallying his troops by pointing toward General Thomas J. Jackson, and saying, "There stands Jackson like a stonewall!" My interaction with Gordon, and his in-depth knowledge of the Manassas battles piqued my interest to purchase and read "The Last Confederate General: John C. Vaughn and His East Tennessee Cavalry". I was not disappointed.

Kudos to Larry Gordon for writing a very well researched and finely presented piece of military history. I especially appreciated the interweaving of Vaughn's personal life with his military prowess ... or lack thereof.
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