Monday, June 27, 2011

Book Review: The Class of 1846 by John C. Waugh

The Class of 1846: From West Point to Appomattox: Stonewall Jackson, George McClellan and Their Brothers
John C.Waugh
copyright 1994
Warner Books

I finished this fine book a couple of weeks ago and though I regret I cannot do a full review of it, I do want to offer at least a small review of it.

It is a good book, but long. At over 500 pages, it did take me quite a while to read it (outside distractions kept me from reading it as quickly as I wished), but that is not a bad thing. It is well-written and easy to read, so the length is not a major issue. 

This book serves almost as a mini-biography of several of the future soldiers, but especially McClellan and Jackson, for whom it describes their youth and their lives in between their time at West Point and the Civil War. They - the two most prominent members of the class - are certainly the two dominant figures in this book.

I enjoyed sketches of others as well though. I wish they had talked a bit more about A.P. Hill (though he was moved back to the class of 1847, he did start in the 1846 class), especially in the final days of his life. The same can be said about George Pickett.

At one point, the book had a nice discussion about Ambrose Burnside replacing McClellan late in 1862 and when the chapter ended, I was disappointed that the discussion about Burnside stopped too. Then I realized he was not part of this class, not even temporarily like Hill.

Waugh discusses their time at West Point, with the spartan lifestyle and he describe many of the teachers under whom the cadets studied. He mentions Benny Havens, of course, and the trouble associated with that tavern and related activities. He also describes the Mexican War, and the role many of these young men played in it.

Overall, I found this to be an enjoyable book, a pleasant read and an informative description of several future well-known Civil War generals.

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