Author: Joseph Glatthaar

Stephenson Distinguished Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is the author of numerous books on the Civil War including General Lee's Army: From Victory to Defeat (2008)

Army of Northern Virginia

The Army of Northern Virginia was the most successful Confederate army during the American Civil War (1861–1865). With Robert E. Lee at its head, Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson commanding one of its corps, and J. E. B. Stuart leading its cavalry, the army won important victories at Fredericksburg (1862) and Chancellorsville (1863) while the Union Army of the Potomac shuffled through a series of commanders and crises of morale. Lee’s army numbered 90,000 at its strongest and was organized into state-specific regiments and brigades, with about 55 percent of its men coming from the Upper South. Most of these soldiers were farmers and the vast majority had direct contact with slavery. By implementing a strategy of aggressively confronting Union armies and inflicting casualties, the army itself suffered high casualties, with more than 30,000 killed in action. In part because of this high toll, which placed it at the center of the South’s fight for independence, the Army of Northern Virginia—like its battle flag and its commander—became a symbol of the Confederate nation. One woman lamented, after the army’s surrender on April 9, 1865, that “we have depended too much on Gen Lee[,] too little on God, & I believe God has suffered his surrender to show us we can use other means than Gen Lee to affect his ends.”