Confederate Combat Commander

The Remarkable Life of Brigadier General Alfred Jefferson Vaughan, Jr.

  • Author(s): Peterson, Lawrence K.
  • Series:
  • Imprint: Univ Tennessee Press
  • Publication Date: 2013-08-15
  • Status: Active
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Known as one of the most aggressive Confederate officers in the Western Theater, Brigadier General Alfred Jefferson Vaughan Jr. is legendary for having had eight horses shot out from under him in battle—more than any other infantry commander, Union or Confederate. Yet despite the exceptional bravery demonstrated by his dubious feat, Vaughan remains a largely overlooked Civil War leader.

In Confederate Combat Commander, Lawrence K. Peterson explores the life of this unheralded yet important rebel officer before, during, and after his military service. A graduate of Virginia Military Institute, Vaughan initially commanded the Thirteenth Tennessee Infantry Regiment, and later Vaughan’s Brigade.  He served in the hard-fought battles of the western area of operations in such key confrontations as Shiloh, Perryville, Stones River, Chickamauga, Chattanooga, and the Atlanta Campaign.

Tracing Vaughan’s progress through the war and describing his promotion to general after his commanding officer was mortally wounded, Peterson describes the rise and development of an exemplary military career, and a devoted fighting leader. Although Vaughan was beloved by his troops and roundly praised at the time—in fact, negative criticism of his orders, battlefield decisions, or personality cannot be found in official records, newspaper articles, or the diaries of his men—Vaughan nevertheless served in the much-maligned Army of Tennessee. This book thus assesses what responsibility—if any—Vaughan bore for Confederate failures in the West.

While biographies of top-ranking Civil War generals are common, the stories of lower-level senior officers such as Vaughan are seldom told. This volume provides rare insight into the regimental and brigade-level activities of Civil War commanders and their units, drawing on a rich array of privately held family histories, including two written by the general himself.

Lawrence K. Peterson, a retired airline pilot, worked as a National Park Service ranger and USAF officer. He is the great-great grandson of Brigadier General Alfred Jefferson Vaughan Jr.