During the Civil War, North Carolinian William Dorsey Pender
established himself as one of the Confederate Army of Northern
Virginia's best young generals. He served in most of the
significant engagements of the war in the eastern theater while
under the command of Joseph E. Johnston at Seven Pines and Robert
E. Lee from the Seven Days to Gettysburg. His most crucial
contributions to Confederate success came at the battles of Second
Manassas, Shepherdstown, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville.
After an effective first day at Gettysburg, Pender was struck by a
shell and disabled, necessitating his return to Virginia for what
he hoped would be only an extended convalescence. Although Pender
initially survived the wound, he died soon thereafter due to
complications from his injury.
In this thorough biography of Pender, noted Civil War historian
Brian Steel Wills examines both the young general's military career
and his domestic life. While Pender devoted himself to military
service, he also embraced the Episcopal Church and was baptized
before his command in the field. According to Wills, Pender had an
insatiable quest for "glory" in both earthly and heavenly realms,
and he delighted in his role as a husband and father. In Pender's
voluminous correspondence with his wife, Fanny, he shared his
beliefs and offered views and opinions on a vast array of subjects.
In the end, Wills suggests that Pender's story captures both the
idealistic promise and the despair of a war that cost the lives of
many Americans and changed the nation forever.
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