Met all the expectations of the reviews and a definitive and fascinating work and one which re balanced the previous rather stereotypical views one had of the campaign as an unmitigated failure by the Army of the Potomac and a glorious victory by the AVN. Fighting Jo Hooker was not as bad as he was painted and rather like Lee at Gettysburg it was the failures of subordinates and of the weaknesses of the staff system - on both sides - that were the real story. An essential book for anyone who wants to study this conflict.
As a newbie to the readings of the civil war (3yrs worth) I wanted to learn more about the individual battles, I read so many reviews as to how good a certain book is that it's hard to miss that accounts are copy pasted book to book. However, this book is actually very good if you have a very keen interest. No so if you are not into actual detail of what took place. This account is very well written, objective and easy to understand. Like all war the book sets the scene of luck and misfortune on both sides which could have turned the battle...
I have reviewed one or two books on Amazon and, as an enthusiast, have given a couple "five stars". The problem with this is when you hit a book like this one. Five stars just aren't enough. This is the best battle history I've ever read; it's probably the best work of military history I've ever read (and there's been a few). Sears takes you into the mind of the combatants during Chancellorsville and explains lucidly why they did what they did. This battle has had a few volumes on it - mostly sharply critical of the Union commander Joe Hooker, mostly based on some well-chosen phrases from disgruntled Union officers. Sears unpicks that carefully woven fabric of falsehood, though also shows why Hooker failed. Perhaps the emphasis is more on the North with Robert E Lee shown as a courageous commander whose splitting of forces and flank attacks are, really, more to the Union plan than his own. This is not to belittle Lee, but does provide some well-needed balance from the hyperbole of many writers about Chancellorsville. Buy it
Stephen Sears is, in my opinion, a master of bringing complex characters and events to life. He turns the likes of "Stonewall" Jackson, Robert E. Lee and "Fighting Joe" Hooker into real people and helps to understand what it must have been like for the private soldier to endure the absolute horror of the Civil War.