Cover Image: Searching for Stonewall Jackson

Searching for Stonewall Jackson

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

I didn't know much about the Civil War or Stonewall Jackson before reading this book. It's a pretty thorough accounting of Jackson and the parts of the war he was involved in. The writing was clear, sometimes a bit dry, but engaging. I enjoy learning about different aspects of history, even though Jackson was on the wrong "side", he was undoubtedly a great military leader.  I would recommend this book to people wanting to know about him or the war itself. 

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the copy in exchange for an honest review!
Was this review helpful?
An interesting read! I wasn't sure what to expect as this is far from my usual read, but I really enjoyed this look at history and the way this book was written.
Was this review helpful?
I’m not a huge history buff; curiosity attracted me to this book more than anything else. How, in these times of ultra-sensitivity, could a (brace yourself and excuse me of my crassness here) white man, yes, a Caucasian Homo sapiens, dare to put pen to paper and discuss at great length such a vile subject as an officer of the Confederate States of America? I fan my face furiously as I write this. But, I digress.
As it turns out, I don’t think anyone else on this green earth (did you catch my inclusion for all in that modification?) could have done a more sensitive yet engaging historical account of Stonewall Jackson. The sections dwelling quite deeply into the footsteps of the soldiers were interspersed with present-day excursions by Ben as he followed along, building a bridge of understanding across all of the lost years. What Ben sees and describes today’s resulting atmosphere is so eloquent, with hope and faith in humankind. I enjoyed the sections attributed to the history of Jackson’s commanding ability, but the breaks where Ben brings us to today is refreshing, not shaming. They’re hopeful, not nihilistic. 
This is an eye-opening and endearing biography. Readers who would benefit the most aren’t the Civil War buffs, already set in their mind frame of what is right and wrong, but curious readers like me.
Thanks to NetGalley and Twelve Books for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
I enthusiastically read many  books about the Civil War. I find Stonewall Jackson a fascinating character. I  enjoy personal reflections. I like Ben Cleary. And yet.......... Let me go back and start with my comment about Mr Cleary. I know nothing about him except what I read in the pages in the book. That said, I find him an interesting and intelligent man, with a loving, caring (and patient) wife, who is a good writer and who is genuinely someone who I believe I would enjoy knowing.  I can easily imagine sitting on his front porch, drinking a glass of lemonade and discussing the history that quite literally walked right by his front yard. Given all of this I really (I mean really) wanted to love this book. But it was not to be. I enjoyed the first third of the book, but the further along I got the more I struggled. I became less satisfied with both reading about Stonewall Jackson and about Mr Cleary's efforts and travels. Frankly I have read other biographies about Jackson and found little new here. Similarly, while Mr Cleary is a good writer I have read other equally (if not more) compelling personal narratives.  I lost focus (and the interest) I couldn't hold on to the point of it all. Now, this may reflect a lacking on my part, but there it is.  The best analogy I can come up with is to say that after a while the book became like the Chevrolet El Camino. Perhaps I am showing my age, but the El Camino was a curious mashup of a car and a pickup. At first you think "cool" but then  you start to get confused about what you are looking at and that it is either both a car and a truck or neither a car nor a truck, but either way I think I will pass and go for the Plymouth Duster --- it might not be great but at least I know what I have got. All of this aside, this book is well-written and I thank Netgalley for sharing a copy of it with me in exchange for this review. I am sure that many people will enjoy it.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you Net Galley

Read just for history's sake you will enjoy

History is what it is, don't erase it or change it; rather try to learn from the events and people who made it.

The author does this well I thought.
Was this review helpful?
Ben Cleary did a excellent job on the life of "Stonewall Jackson".. As he wrote this book,he traveled to some of the places where these battles of this war happened and did a excellent job in explaining about the battle,why there was the battle,who was in these battles on both the North and South..Ben tried to tell both sides as he went through the story. I am a Southern by birth and as I don't believe in slavery I am still proud to a Southern.  It has a personal touch to this story. Step back in time where "The War Between the States" is going on and follow Stonewall Jackson in his life as a Confederate soldier and how he commanded his men and the battles that were fought ,how he got his name and how he died and where. Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond ,Va. I know very well,I have family buried there,my mother's family ,as I was there to bury my grandmother and mother there and so many of my father's family dating back to the 1600's.. It's a wonderful historical cemetery that if you ever make it to Richmond, Va. You should go by there and get a piece of history of men that fought in a war that some southern believed in and some didn't but they fought because they loved the South and they loved Virginia. You will get a sense of all of this in this book!  Received from Net Gallery!
Was this review helpful?
I have been interested in General Jackson for many years, and more so after moving into a home that is close to the battlefield, which was his last. 

General Jackson was someone who found himself on the field of battle, who thrived and flourished under the hardships of war. He was not a great teacher but had taught at the Virginia Military Institute for several years. Students made fun of him, but many failed to know the man. 

This portrayal of Jackson made me sit back and wonder how often we, as historians, fail to see the human behind the story, and how often we go only know what we are told, rather than searching deeper to understand the person behind the legends and portrayals we see on movies and fond stories that are shared. This book was a refreshing take on Jackson as a person, the soldier, and the many conflicting sentiments that he struggled with throughout his short life.
Was this review helpful?
This is a very interesting look into the life of Stonewall Jackson and his roll in the Civil War.  Written by someone who lives in the area where Jackson fought.  He traveled to the battlegrounds, and researched a lot and it shows.  I have read another book about Stonewall Jackson and this one was both more informative and more enjoyable to read.

It had a few slower parts which is my only criticism, but overall it was a very well written, researched, and present work on Jackson.  

4 Stars!
Was this review helpful?
As a White man who came of age in the turbulent '60s I engaged fully with the author's search for the true history of Confederate figures of Virginia's past. The nuance and complexity of any man's life is difficult to put in a few words and certainly Thomas Jonathan Jackson was a man of many parts. Indeed, like most men, Jackson was not only one thing. He was a mostly self taught orphan, aggressive soldier, husband, father and an outstanding leader of men in war. He was intelligent, superstitious, ignorant, brilliant, rash and brave.  The author describes his journey of discovery of this eccentric man and reveals as much about our time as that of Jackson's era. 
Thoughtful and engaging this is a fine contemplative history.
Was this review helpful?
Date reviewed: August 4, 2020

When life for the entire universe and planet turns on its end and like everyone else you "have nothing to do" while your place of work is closed and you are continuing to be in #COVID19 #socialisolation,  superspeed readers like me can read 250+ pages/hour, so yes, I have read the book … and many more today. And it is way too hot to go outside, so why not sit in from of the blasting a/c and read and review books??  BTW - stay home and save lives!!!!!!!! No tan is worth dying for.

I wanted to read this book via #NetGalley - as I had already read it at my book club last year, and since I was approved to read it, I am copying over my review here and on my various social media accounts.

From the publisher, as I do not repeat the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it as they do it better than I do 😸.

Historian Ben Cleary takes readers beyond the legend of Stonewall Jackson and directly onto the Civil War battlefields on which he fought, and where a country once again finds itself at a crossroads.

Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson was the embodiment of Southern contradictions. He was a slave owner who fought and died, at least in part, to perpetuate slavery, yet he founded an African-American Sunday School and personally taught classes for almost a decade. For all his sternness and rigidity, Jackson was a deeply thoughtful and incredibly intelligent man. But his reputation and mythic status, then and now, was due to more than combat success. In a deeply religious age, he was revered for piety that was far beyond the norm. How did one man meld his religion with the institution of slavery? How did he reconcile it with the business of killing, at which he so excelled?

In SEARCHING FOR STONEWALL JACKSON, historian Ben Cleary examines not only Jackson's life but his own, contemplating what it means to be a white Southerner in the 21st century. Now, as statues commemorating the Civil War are toppled and Confederate flags come down, Cleary walks the famous battlefields, following in the footsteps of his subject as he questions the legacy of Stonewall Jackson and the South's Lost Cause at a time when the contentions of politics, civil rights, and social justice are at a fever pitch.

Combining nuanced, authoritative research with deeply personal stories of life in the modern American South, SEARCHING FOR STONEWALL JACKSON is a thrilling, vivid portrait of a soldier, a war, and a country still contending with its past.

The only thing I knew about Stonewall Jackson before reading this book was that news Anchor Stone Phillips was related to him - we do not learn American History, per se, in Canada until it is an optional credit in Grade 12/OAC/whatever they are calling it now.

This was our history book club pick and we were very divided on our feeling for Jackson in the end - although all in all, we mostly liked the books. Jackson was the king of "DO NOT practice what you preach" and the book, although very well written, ticked us off as we all wanted to go back and shake some sense into Stonewall.   He decidedly will NOT be the next subject of a Lin-Manuel Miranda musical as Stonewall was a bit of a jackass ... and I can say that without any hesitancy after reading Mr. Cleary's excellent book.


As always, I try to find a reason to not rate with stars as I love emojis (outside of their incessant use by "Social Influencer Millennials" on Instagram and Twitter) so let's give it 🗽🗽🗽🗽
Was this review helpful?
Interesting, wonderful read. Absolutely fascinating book. I great book to keep you occupied during quarantine and these scary times we’re living in. Do yourself a favor and get lost in this book! You won’t regret it.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.  I am a big fan of Thomas 'Stonewall' Jackson and this book to be an enjoyable read of his life and times. Tge emphasis here was Cleary's journey into the research necessary for this book. It seemed to me that Jackson's story was secondary.
Was this review helpful?
A unique look at Stonewall Jackson, told from a different perspective. Reading about the modern impact from the authors point of view was interesting and a fresh look for this genre. I learned a lot about Stonewall Jackson that I didn’t know about before, and I’ve read a lot of books about the Civil War. Very readable, doesn’t get bogged down in a lot of dates.
Was this review helpful?