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Excerpt from The Last Full Measure by Jeff Shaara, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Last Full Measure

by Jeff Shaara

The Last Full Measure by Jeff Shaara X
The Last Full Measure by Jeff Shaara
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  • First Published:
    Jun 1998, 560 pages

    Paperback:
    May 1999, 560 pages

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war.

In December 1862, at Fredericksburg, Virginia, his army maintains the defensive and completely crushes poorly planned Federal assaults. In May 1863, at Chancellorsville, Lee is outnumbered nearly three to one, and only by the utter audacity of Stonewall Jackson does the huge Federal army retire from the field with great loss. But the battle is costly for Lee as well. Jackson is accidentally shot by his own men, and dies after a weeklong struggle with pneumonia.

Lee and Davis continue to believe that a move northward is essential, that with weakened confidence and inept commanders, the Federal army need only be pushed into one great battle that will likely end the war. In June 1863, Lee's army marches into Pennsylvania. He believes that a great fight might not even be necessary, that just the threat of spilling blood on northern soil will put great pressure on Washington, and the war might be brought to an end by the voice of the northern people. The invasion of the North will serve another purpose: to take the fight into fertile farmlands where Lee might feed his increasingly desperate army.

Some in Lee's army question the strategy, raising the moral question of how to justify an invasion versus defending their homes. Others question the military judgment of moving into unfamiliar territory, against an enemy that has never been inspired by fighting on its own ground. There are other factors that Lee must confront. Though he is personally devastated by the death of Jackson, Jackson's loss means more to his army than Lee fully understands. As the invasion moves north, Lee is left blind by his cavalry, under the flamboyant command of Jeb Stuart. Stuart fails to provide Lee with critical information about the enemy and is cut off from Lee beyond the march of the Federal army, an army that is moving to confront Lee with uncharacteristic speed. The Federal Army of the Potomac has yet another new commander, George Gordon Meade, and if Lee knows Meade to be a careful man, cautious in his new command, he also knows that there are many other Federal officers now rising to the top, men who are not political pawns but in fact hard and effective fighters.

The two armies collide at a small crossroads called Gettysburg, a fight for which Lee is not yet prepared, and the fight becomes the three bloodiest days in American history. As costly as it is to both armies, it is a clear defeat for Lee. He had believed his army could not be stopped, and begins now to understand what Jackson's loss might mean--that as the fight goes on, and the good men continue to fall away, the war will settle heavily on his own shoulders.


Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

Born in 1828 near Brewer, Maine, he is the oldest of five children. He graduates Bowdoin College in 1852, and impresses all who know him with his intellect, his gift for words and talent for languages. He is raised by a deeply religious mother, whose greatest wish is that he become a man of the cloth, and for a short while Chamberlain attends the Bangor Theological Seminary, but it is not a commitment he can make. His father's ancestry is military. Chamberlain's great-grandfather fought in the Revolution, his grandfather in the War of 1812. His father serves during peacetime years in the Maine Militia and never sees combat. It is family tradition that his son will follow the military path, and he pressures Chamberlain to apply to West Point. When Chamberlain returns to the academic community, a career for which his father has little respect, the disappointment becomes a hard barrier between them.

He marries Frances Caroline (Fannie) Adams, and they have four children, two of whom survive infancy. Fannie pushes him toward the career in academics, and his love for her is so complete and consuming that he likely would have pursued any path she had chosen.

Considered the rising star in the academic community, Chamberlain accepts a prestigious Chair at Bowdoin, formerly held by the renowned Calvin Stowe, husband of Harriet Beecher Stowe. Her controversial book, Uncle Tom's Cabin, inspires Chamberlain, and the issues that explode in the South, so far removed from the classrooms in Maine, reach him deeply. He begins to feel a calling of a different kind.

Copyright© 1998 by Jeffrey M. Shaara. All Rights Reserved.

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