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Gilbert Moxley Sorrel
G. Moxley Sorrel
Born (1838-02-23)February 23, 1838
Died August 10, 1901(1901-08-10) (aged 63)
Place of birth Savannah, Georgia
Place of death Roanoke, Virginia
Place of burial Laurel Grove Cemetery
Savannah, Georgia
Allegiance United States United States of America
Confederate States of America Confederate States of America
Years of service 1861 - 1865 (CSA)
Rank File:CSAGeneral.png Brigadier General
Commands held Sorrel's Brigade, Mahone's Division
Chief of Staff, First Corps, Army of Northern Virginia

American Civil War

Other work Historian

Gilbert Moxley Sorrel (/sɒˈrɛl/;[1] February 23, 1838 – August 10, 1901) was a Confederate States Army officer and historian of the Confederacy.

Early life

Sorrel was born in Savannah, Georgia, the son of one of the wealthiest men in the city, Francis Sorrel. He was the brother-in-law of William W. Mackall, who was a Confederate general and chief of staff to Braxton Bragg.[2]

Civil War

In 1861, Moxley left his job as a Savannah bank clerk, taking part in the Confederate capture of Fort Pulaski as a private in the Georgia Hussars.

With letters of introduction from Colonel Jordan, from Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard's staff, and a friend of his father, he reported to Brig. Gen. James Longstreet at Manassas, Virginia, on July 21, 1861, serving as a volunteer aide-de-camp. Longstreet wrote that his young aide "came into the battle as gaily as a beau, and seemed to receive orders which threw him into more exposed positions with particular delight."[3]

On September 11, 1861, Sorrel received his commission as captain, and was assigned as General Longstreet's chief of staff. He was promoted to major on June 24, 1862, and lieutenant colonel on June 18, 1863. He served under Longstreet until October 1864 when he was appointed brigadier general. Sorrel then commanded Sorrel's Brigade of Maj. Gen. William Mahone's division at Petersburg and Hatcher's Run, being wounded in both battles.

Richard L. DiNardo wrote "Even Longstreet's most virulent critics have conceded that he put together the best staff employed by any commander, and that his de facto chief of staff, Lieutenant Colonel Moxley Sorrel, was the best staff officer in the Confederacy." [4]

Postbellum life

After the Civil War, Sorrel returned to Savannah and was an executive for the Ocean Steamship Company, and served on the board of the Georgia Historical Society. When Robert E. Lee visited Savannah months before his death in 1870, Sorrel led the Savannah delegation, greeting General Lee at the train station, and escorting him around the city. Sorrel wrote Recollections of a Confederate Staff Officer, which was published in 1905 after his death. Historian Douglas Southall Freeman considered Sorrel's book to be one of the best accounts of the personalities of the major players in the Confederacy, characterized by "a hundred touches of humor and revealing strokes of swift characterization."[5]

Sorrel died in Roanoke, Virginia, and is buried in Laurel Grove Cemetery, Savannah. The Sorrel Weed House, where he grew up, is one of the finest examples of Greek Revival architecture in the United States. Designed in 1836 by Charles Clusky, it was one of the first two houses in Georgia to be designated a state landmark. The house is open to the public for tours in Savannah.

In popular media

Sorrel was played by Kieran Mulroney in the film Gettysburg.

Sorrel is also a minor character in the Pulitzer Prize-Winning novel, The Killer Angels detailing the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg, where he reports to Lieutenant General James Longstreet.


  1. Quigley, Robert D., Civil War Spoken Here: A Dictionary of Mispronounced People, Places and Things of the 1860's, C.W. Historicals, 1993, ISBN 0-9637745-0-6.
  2. Eicher, p. 501.
  3. Blair, p. 192.
  4. DiNardo, Richard L., "Southern by the Grace of God but Prussian by Common Sense: James Longstreet and the Exercise of Command in the U.S. Civil War." The Journal of Military History 66. 4 (2002), pp. 1011-1032.
  5. Blair, p. 193.


  • Blair, William Alan, "Gilbert Moxley Sorrel", The Confederate General, Vol. 5, Davis, William C., and Julie Hoffman (eds.), National Historical Society, 1991, ISBN 0-918678-67-6.
  • Eicher, John H., and Eicher, David J., Civil War High Commands, Stanford University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.

External links

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