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About Gary W. Gallagher
Gary W. Gallagher is the John L. Nau III Professor in the History of the American Civil War at the University of Virginia. The author or editor of numerous books, most recently The Union War (2011) and Becoming Confederates: Paths to a New National Loyalty (2013), he has also participated in more than three dozen television projects in the field, and is the recipient of the University of Virginia's highest teaching award.
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In the seventy-three succinct essays gathered in The Enduring Civil War, celebrated historian Gary W. Gallagher highlights the complexity and richness of the war, from its origins to its memory, as topics for study, contemplation, and dispute. He places contemporary understanding of the Civil War, both academic and general, in conversation with testimony from those in the Union and the Confederacy who experienced and described it, investigating how mid-nineteenth-century perceptions align with, or deviate from, current ideas regarding the origins, conduct, and aftermath of the war. The tension between history and memory forms a theme throughout the essays, underscoring how later perceptions about the war often took precedence over historical reality in the minds of many Americans.
The array of topics Gallagher addresses is striking. He examines notable books and authors, both Union and Confederate, military and civilian, famous and lesser known. He discusses historians who, though their names have receded with time, produced works that remain pertinent in terms of analysis or information. He comments on conventional interpretations of events and personalities, challenging, among other things, commonly held notions about Gettysburg and Vicksburg as decisive turning points, Ulysses S. Grant as a general who profligately wasted Union manpower, the Gettysburg Address as a watershed that turned the war from a fight for Union into one for Union and emancipation, and Robert E. Lee as an old-fashioned general ill-suited to waging a modern mid-nineteenth-century war. Gallagher interrogates recent scholarly trends on the evolving nature of Civil War studies, addressing crucial questions about chronology, history, memory, and the new revisionist literature. The format of this provocative and timely collection lends itself to sampling, and readers might start in any of the subject groupings and go where their interests take them.
Was the Confederacy doomed from the start in its struggle against the superior might of the Union? Did its forces fight heroically against all odds for the cause of states’ rights? In reality, these suggestions are an elaborate and intentional effort on the part of Southerners to rationalize the secession and the war itself. Unfortunately, skillful propagandists have been so successful in promoting this romanticized view that the Lost Cause has assumed a life of its own. Misrepresenting the war’s true origins and its actual course, the myth of the Lost Cause distorts our national memory. In The Myth of the Lost Cause and Civil War History, nine historians describe and analyze the Lost Cause, identifying ways in which it falsifies history—creating a volume that makes a significant contribution to Civil War historiography.
“The Lost Cause . . . is a tangible and influential phenomenon in American culture and this book provides an excellent source for anyone seeking to explore its various dimensions.” —Southern Historian
Gallagher’s portrait highlights a powerful sense of Confederate patriotism and unity in the face of a determined adversary. Drawing on letters, diaries, and newspapers of the day, he shows that Southerners held not only an unflagging belief in their way of life, which sustained them to the bitter end, but also a widespread expectation of victory and a strong popular will closely attuned to military events. In fact, the army’s “offensive-defensive” strategy came remarkably close to triumph, claims Gallagher—in contrast to the many historians who believe that a more purely defensive strategy or a guerrilla resistance could have won the war for the South. To understand why the South lost, Gallagher says we need look no further than the war itself: after a long struggle that brought enormous loss of life and property, Southerners finally realized that they had been beaten on the battlefield.
Gallagher’s interpretation of the Confederates and their cause boldly challenges current historical thinking and invites readers to reconsider their own conceptions of the American Civil War.
Using a host of contemporary sources, Gallagher demonstrates the remarkable faith that soldiers and citizens maintained in Lee's leadership even after his army's fortunes had begun to erode. Gallagher also engages aspects of the Lee myth with an eye toward how admirers have insisted that their hero's faults as a general represented exaggerations of his personal virtues. Finally, Gallagher considers whether it is useful--or desirable--to separate legitimate Lost Cause arguments from the transparently false ones relating to slavery and secession.
The eight essays here assembled explore aspects of the background, conduct, and repercussions of the fighting in the Wilderness. Through an often-revisionist lens, contributors to this volume focus on topics such as civilian expectations for the campaign, morale in the two armies, and the generalship of Lee, Grant, Philip H. Sheridan, Richard S. Ewell, A. P. Hill, James Longstreet, and Lewis A. Grant. Taken together, these essays revise and enhance existing work on the battle, highlighting ways in which the military and nonmilitary spheres of war intersected in the Wilderness.
--Peter S. Carmichael, 'Escaping the Shadow of Gettysburg: Richard S. Ewell and Ambrose Powell Hill at the Wilderness' --Gary W. Gallagher, 'Our Hearts Are Full of Hope: The Army of Northern Virginia in the Spring of 1864' --John J. Hennessy, 'I Dread the Spring: The Army of the Potomac Prepares for the Overland Campaign' --Robert E. L. Krick, 'Like a Duck on a June Bug: James Longstreet's Flank Attack, May 6, 1864' --Robert K. Krick, ''Lee to the Rear,' the Texans Cried' --Carol Reardon, 'The Other Grant: Lewis A. Grant and the Vermont Brigade in the Battle of the Wilderness' --Gordon C. Rhea, 'Union Cavalry in the Wilderness: The Education of Philip H. Sheridan and James H. Wilson' --Brooks D. Simpson, 'Great Expectations: Ulysses S. Grant, the Northern Press, and the Opening of the Wilderness Campaign'
The contributors are William A. Blair, Peter S. Carmichael, Gary W. Gallagher, Robert E. L. Krick, Robert K. Krick, William D. Matter, Carol Reardon, and Gordon C. Rhea.
The twelve pieces in Lee and His Generals in War and Memory explore the effect of Lost Cause arguments on popular perceptions of Lee and his lieutenants. Part I offers four essays on Lee, followed in Part II by five essays that scrutinize several of Lee’s most famous subordinates, including Stonewall Jackson, John Bankhead Magruder, James Longstreet, A.P. Hill, Richard S. Ewell, and Jubal Early. Taken together, these pieces not only consider how Lost Cause writings enhanced or diminished Confederate military reputations but also illuminate the various ways post–Civil War writers have interpreted the actions and impacts of these commanders.
Part III contains two articles that shift the focus to the writings of Jubal Early and LaSalle Corbell Pickett, both of whom succeeded in advancing the notion of gallant Lost Cause warriors. The final two essays, which contemplate the current debate over the Civil War’s meaning for modern Americans, focus on Ken Burns’s documentary The Civil War and on the issue of battlefield preservation. Gallagher adeptly highlights the chasm that often separates academic and popular perceptions of the Civil War and discusses some of the ways in which the Lost Cause continues to resonate.
Lee and His Generals in War and Memory will certainly attract those interested in Lee and his campaigns, the Army of Northern Virginia, the establishment of popular images of the Confederate military, and the manner in which historical memory is created and perpetuated.