David Eicher presents his Readers Guide of the ten best and most influential Confederate memoirs in the new issue of Civil War Times. Heading the list is Edward Porter Alexander's Fighting for the Confederacy: The Personal Recollections of General Edward Porter Alexander which lay dormant and "undiscovered" for almost eighty years before being brought to life in 1989 under the editorial guidance of Gary W. Gallagher. Alexander was a Georgia native and West Point graduate who was active in nearly all of the Eastern theater's important battles and as Longstreet's Chief of Artillery came into frequent contact with the highest command of the Army of Northern Virginia, including "Marse Robert" and Stonewall Jackson. His perspective on such personalities and on the events unfolding around him is a most valuable one.
The book lay unseen by the public for so long because this version of Alexander's recollections was intended solely for family and close friends, as opposed to his Military Memoirs of a Confederate, published in 1907 by Scribners and which was his public history of time spent in the Army of Northern Virginia. In fact, Gallagher writes in his wonderful introduction to Fighting that it was actually written several years prior to Military Memoirs when Alexander was employed as an arbitrator in Greytown, Nicaragua. Each title though stands as a strong complement to the other. According to Eicher, Military Memoirs is a "superb history of Robert E. Lee's army" while Fighting is an excellent personal narrative with some analysis heaped in. Apparently Alexander pulled no punches in his private narrative, for as Gallagher writes, the author "completely avoided the ritual humility and saccharine praise of friend and foe alike," and even opted not to excise profanities when recalling conversations.
The first edition of Fighting was published by the University of North Carolina Press in 1989 and featured grey boards with gold letters on a half black spine. A mammoth undertaking at around 700 pages in length, it went on to win numerous prestigious awards. Being as relatively new as it is, first editions are not difficult to find. Collectors should note however that the book was heavily printed by the various book clubs. These editions may be easily confused with the publisher's trade edition. Make sure the copy you're examining has the full number row present on the copyright page, beginning with the #1.