Biography

Civil war leader who needs to be understood better

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A leader of the Civil War who needs to be understood better

The Civil War, by far the most deadly armed conflict in our nation, used up men so quickly that in their 20s some officers became generals. One was Thomas Lafayette Rosser of the Confederacy, who at 28 was a major general, mirroring the same achievement — at just 25—by his fellow pupil at West Point and Federal foe George Armstrong Custer. Rosser has compiled an impressive if checked career as a cavalry officer and deserves to be better known, as this interesting biography shows.

Rosser had the virtues and faults of some other young officers of the Civil War. He was courageous and dashing, a fierce warrior. But he often showed a lack of discretion, found fault with his subordinates, and insulted in perceived slightness. Sheridan R. Barringer of Newport News takes a clear-eyed look at the Confederate Cavalryman in this thorough, well-researched biography and sums up his Civil War service: “He was a capable Regimental Commander and an adequate Brigade Commander. But his division leadership was less effective. Rosser lacks the larger perspective expected of a effective division commander. “However, he performed well enough to be dubbed the” Savior of the [Shenandoah] Valley “and to be asked to assume command of all Virginia troops that could be mobilized after the Confederate surrender at Appomattox (only about 500).

The civil war hero

Rosser was born in 1836, near Rustburg, the second of seven children in central Virginia. In 1849 his father moved the family to Texas because of legal and financial difficulties. Partly through Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, Rosser, a black-haired, brown-eyed young man who finished at 6 feet 2. He went to West Point and would have graduated in the spring of 1861 if he had not resigned. Like several dozen other cadets, to fight for the Confederacy.

Barringer, the biographer of Rosser, is a graduate of Virginia Tech, and retired NASA engineer and project manager. His first book, “Fighting for General Lee: Confederate General Rufus Barringer and The North Carolina Cavalry Brigade”. It Focused on one of his ancestors. Also won the 2016 Douglas Southall Freeman History Book Award. And won the 2016 North Carolina Society of Historians History Book Award. Barringer used several original sources as well as numerous secondary sources for his Rosser biography. And rare photographs from descendents of the general. The book is generally good despite a few typos. Although the book contains some of the light drawings, maps and photos.

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