Lee's Tar Heels

The Pettigrew-Kirkland-MacRae Brigade

By Earl J. Hess

456 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 30 illus., 4 tables, 20 maps, appends., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-2722-9
    Published: July 2015
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-6028-1
    Published: April 2003
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-7176-3
    Published: April 2003

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The Pettigrew-Kirkland-MacRae Brigade was one of North Carolina's best-known and most successful units during the Civil War. Formed in 1862, the brigade spent nearly a year protecting supply lines before being thrust into its first major combat at Gettysburg. There, James Johnston Pettigrew's men pushed back the Union's famed Iron Brigade in vicious fighting on July 1 and played a key role in Pickett's Charge on July 3, in the process earning a reputation as one of the hardest-fighting units in Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Despite suffering heavy losses during the Gettysburg campaign, the brigade went on to prove its valor in a host of other engagements. It marched with Lee to Appomattox and was among the last Confederate units to lay down arms in the surrender ceremony.

Earl Hess tells the story of the men of the Pettigrew-Kirkland-MacRae Brigade, and especially the famous 26th North Carolina, chronicling the brigade's formation and growth under Pettigrew and its subsequent exploits under William W. Kirkland and William MacRae. Beyond recounting the brigade's military engagements, Hess draws on letters, diaries, memoirs, and service records to explore the camp life, medical care, social backgrounds, and political attitudes of these gallant Tar Heels. He also addresses the continuing debate between North Carolinians and Virginians over the failure of Pickett's Charge.

About the Author

Earl J. Hess is Stewart W. McClelland Chair in history at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee. He is author, most recently, of Pickett's Charge--The Last Attack at Gettysburg and Kennesaw Mountain: Sherman, Johnston, and the Atlanta Campaign.
For more information about Earl J. Hess, visit the Author Page.


"Based on comprehensive research and combining a clear and vivid narrative with a penetrating analysis, Lee's Tar Heels is a definitive history of this brigade but much more than that. The nuanced and compelling way in which Earl J. Hess traces individual soldiers' lives throughout further humanizes the static blocks on battle maps and the cold numbers on casualty and other statistical lists. In doing so, Hess reminds us once again that this war-like any other war-can be remembered and interpreted not only as a historical event but also as an immense and powerful collection of human triumphs and tragedies. Lee's Tar Heels is one of the best Civil War unit histories ever written, and it show us what military history can be and should be."--Journal of American History

"Hess's writing is eloquent and simple, and he brings a generous and critical spirit to his portrayal and assessment of the Tar Heels' remarkable contribution to the Confederate cause."--Civil War Book Review

"Lee's Tar Heels: The Pettigrew-Kirkland-MacRae Brigade is a fine example of a history of a military organization. Earl J. Hess's book rightfully joins the ranks of other modern Confederate brigade histories."--Civil War History

"A welcome corrective. . . . Transcends mere combat narrative to offer a comprehensive survey of camp life, home front interactions, logistical needs, desertions, political inclinations, and postwar fates. . . . A richly textured study and a long overdue tribute to its subject."--Journal of Military History

"Hess's writing is crisp, clear, and captivating, and the book is a worthwhile addition to any Civil War library."--Military Review

"Hess has done his homework impressively and constructed a lively history of a fighting regiment."--Blue & Gray Magazine

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