The Bravest of the Brave

The Bravest of the Brave: The Correspondence of Stephen Dodson Ramseur

Edited by George G. Kundahl
Foreword by Gary W. Gallagher
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 344
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    The Bravest of the Brave
    Book Description:

    Born in Lincolnton, North Carolina, in 1837, Stephen Dodson Ramseur rose meteorically through the military ranks. Graduating from West Point in 1860, he joined the Confederate army as a captain. By the time of his death near the end of the war at the Battle of Cedar Creek, he had attained the rank of major general in the Army of Northern Virginia. He excelled in every assignment and was involved as a senior officer in many of the war's most important conflicts east of the Appalachians.Ramseur's letters--over 180 of which are collected and transcribed here by George Kundahl--provide his incisive observations on these military events. At the same time, they offer rare insight into the personal opinions of a high-ranking Civil War officer. Correspondence by Civil War figures is often strictly professional. But in personal letters to his wife, Nellie, and best friend, David Schenk, Ramseur candidly expresses beliefs about the social, military, and political issues of the day. He also shares vivid accounts of battle and daily camp life, providing colorful details on soldiering during the war.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0402-2
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-x)
  3. Foreword (pp. xi-xii)

    NEARLY THIRTY YEARS have elapsed since I first encountered the Stephen Dodson Ramseur Papers at the Southern Historical Collection in Chapel Hill. I had chosen Ramseur as the subject of my doctoral dissertation, planning to examine his Confederate career as a case study of how able young officers rose to prominence in Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. I knew that Douglas Southall Freeman, whose books on Lee and his army stood as monuments in the field of Civil War military history, had characterized the letters as “a large, fine series.” Freeman’s description led me to believe the collection...

  4. Editorial Method and Letter Sources (pp. xiii-xviii)
  5. Introduction (pp. 1-6)

    “WHENEVER YOU CAN SEND THEM, we shall be more than glad to get your father’s letters. I know there will be much material in them that will be very helpful to students of Confederate History.”¹ So wrote D. H. Hill, the general’s son who served as secretary of the North Carolina Historical Commission, to the daughter of Stephen Dodson Ramseur. Hill had not personally known the writer but his father had, both from instructing Ramseur in mathematics at Davidson College in the mid-1850s and while serving with him during the Civil War. Maj. Gen. Daniel Harvey Hill would have observed...

  6. 1 The Formative Years, 1837–1855 (pp. 7-16)

    BORN ON MAY 31, 1837, the eldest son of Lucy and Jacob Ramsour,¹ Stephen Dodson Ramseur was known throughout his life as “Dod” or “Dodson,” his mother’s maiden name. Dod took a special interest in nurturing his brother, David, who was two years younger. From the frequent, endearing correspondence between them, he also seems to have been very close to his sister Lucy, or “Luly,” six years his junior. Sallie, born between David and Luly, assumed special importance by marrying Dod’s best friend, David Schenck.

    Dod’s was the third generation of his paternal family to live in Lincolnton, a town...

  7. 2 Wearing the Military Uniform of the United States The West Point Years and Service as an Army Officer, 1855–1861 (pp. 17-74)

    IN THE YEARS BEFORE THE CIVIL WAR, the U.S. Military Academy was the nation’s premier engineering school with a curriculum designed to prepare its graduates to build the river and harbor works, lighthouses, canals, and railroads needed by a burgeoning nation. It also served to prepare topographical and military engineers for times of war. The institution had been founded early in the nineteenth century, patterned after Sandhurst and St. Cyr, its counterparts in England and France.

    In the wake of Napoleon’s campaigns across Europe, the French influence was especially strong in military strategy and tactics. Two of the academy’s stalwarts...

  8. 3 Confederate Artillery Officer, 1861–1862 (pp. 75-88)

    UPON SUBMITTING HIS RESIGNATION from the U.S. Army, Ramseur headed for the capital of the nascent confederacy in Montgomery, Alabama. Before departing Lincolnton, on April 16, 1861, Ramseur applied for a commission in the new Confederate army.¹ On the way south, Ramseur stopped to see his mentor, Daniel Harvey Hill, who was concluding his tenure as superintendent at the North Carolina Military Institute in Charlotte.² Ramseur quickly received an appointment as first lieutenant. On the way to his posting in the Department of Mississippi, however, he was offered a more attractive opportunity. Knowing of Ramseur’s departure from “the old army,”³...

  9. 4 Regimental Commander, April–October 1862 (pp. 89-104)

    IN THE SPRING OF 1862, the counties around Lincolnton raised a unit that was mustered into service as the Forty-ninth North Carolina Infantry. Its members elected Dodson Ramseur as their colonel. Over the next six months, they would fight only once under his command, at Malvern Hill. Ramseur’s correspondence is silent concerning that engagement. Instead, his letters provide insight into Ramseur’s thoughts about himself and his views on the war. As a new regimental commander untested in combat, Ramseur was naturally apprehensive about his first pitched battle lying ahead.


    I have appointed Mr. James W. Wilson,² Quarter Master of...

  10. 5 Brigade Commander (I), November 1862–October 1863 (pp. 105-174)

    THE WOUND SUFFERED by Ramseur at the conclusion of the Peninsula campaign was so severe he had to be evacuated to North Carolina, where he remained for much of the remainder of 1862. Meanwhile, the Army of Northern Virginia engaged in two of its famed battles, at Second Manassas and Sharpsburg on Antietam Creek. In the latter engagement, Brig. Gen. George B. Anderson, another North Carolinian, was mortally wounded. Lee selected Ramseur as the new commander of Anderson’s brigade, consisting of four North Carolina regiments: the Second, Fourth, Fourteenth, and Thirtieth infantries.¹ On November 5, orders were published promoting Ramseur...

  11. 6 Brigade Commander (II), November 1863–May 1864 (pp. 175-226)

    THE NEWLYWEDS spent the next month in the embrace of their families in Milton and Lincolnton, and in the mountains of western North Carolina. Only reluctantly did Ramseur return to military duties. He found that in his absence his brigade engaged in a skirmish on November 7 at Kelly’s Ford, losing a quarter of its men. The Thirtieth North Carolina regiment showed poorly, with almost 300 soldiers surrendering to the Yankees.

    My Own Darling Wife,

    We arrived here safely last night. I am sorry to say that I find my Brigade reduced more than I expected by the fight at...

  12. 7 Division Commander, May–October 1864 (pp. 227-290)

    AS FIGHTING PROGRESSED during May, Ewell’s precarious health declined. It was said that he could no longer continue to campaign without respite. Early assumed temporary control of Lee’s Second Corps, and Ramseur was selected to succeed him as division commander. Ramseur’s first trial under fire as a senior commander ensued quickly on May 30, the eve of his last birthday. He was promoted to the rank of major general at the age of twenty-seven years and one day, the youngest West Pointer to achieve this rank in the Confederate army.

    Grant’s flanking movements advanced toward the Chickahominy River and to...

  13. 8 Death and Aftermath (pp. 291-306)

    SHERIDAN’S MISSION was to destroy the military value of the Shenandoah Valley to Lee’s army. Early’s orders were to threaten Maryland and Pennsylvania in order to engage the largest possible Federal force—troops who otherwise would be available for Grant’s disposition outside Richmond. So when Sheridan turned north in early October and began moving down the Valley, burning it as he went, Early followed closely behind, alert to any opportunity to strike a blow at the invaders. On October 14, the Federals halted at Middletown, encamping south of town on Cedar Creek while Sheridan rode back to Washington, D.C., for...

  14. Appendix Abbreviated Family Tree of Stephen Dodson Ramseur (pp. 307-310)
  15. Bibliography (pp. 311-316)
  16. Acknowledgments (pp. 317-318)
  17. Index (pp. 319-324)


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