Sunday, January 6, 2019

Recent Acquisitions to My Library

I was able to catch Barbara Gannon's talk at Pamplin Historical Park's annual Symposium in person this past October. I was both impressed with her talk, and intrigued by her research topic. The Won Cause: Black and White Comradeship in the Grand Army of the Republic is the result of that research. The G.A.R. rose to increasingly political importance at roughly the same time that Jim Crow segregation was gaining ground. What effect would this have on the veteran's organization and its black and white members? With the fall lecture whetting my intellectual appetite, I'm looking forward to getting a fuller meal with this book. 

I've mentioned on here several times that I don't read much historical fiction, but I happened to hear about a novel titled The Good Lord Bird by James McBride. It is apparently about an African American boy who seems to be mistaken as a girl by John Brown during an 1857 raid on the Kansas-Missouri borderlands and is taken along on a grand adventure ending up at Harper's Ferry. Being that the story involves John Brown, I couldn't help myself from wanting to see how this particular story plays out and how the author depicts Brown.   

Too often I get drawn into purchasing a book by its title. That is, after all, partly the intention of the author and publisher. While this is not necessarily the reason I obtained Jason Phillips's Looming Civil War: How Nineteenth-Century Americans Imagined the Future, you have to admit it is a title that piques the interest. We often look at history with hindsight, not as the people at the time experienced the present and hoped for the future. If Looming Civil War is of the same high quality as Phillip's previous work, Die Hard Rebels: The Confederate Culture of Invincibility, I will certainly be pleased with adding it to my library. 

Just as I sometimes buy books based on their titles, I often seek out new works to read by authors whose previous publications I enjoyed. The Calculus of Violence: How Americans Fought the Civil War by Aaron Sheehan-Dean is receiving a number of positive reviews. Like Jason Phillips's previously mentioned book, I too enjoyed reading Sheehan-Dean's earlier work, Why Confederates Fought: Family and Nation in Civil War Virginia, which was published a little over a decade ago. I'm obviously looking forward to getting the author's interpretive take on the whether the Civil War was a limited conflict or a total war; something historians have seemingly been arguing since the guns went silent.

I've been trying to sprinkle my scholarly-focused readings with occasional drops of soldiers' letters. And, after enjoying part of my recent honeymoon in Vermont, I've been interested in learning more about that state's soldiers' experiences. It seems that Voices from the Attic: The Wiliamstown Boys in the Civil War by Carleton Young lets me kills two birds with one stone. Young builds his book around a discovered cache of two brothers' letters. These war-time missives help him tell the story of the Vermont Brigade's Civil War experience, and promises to provide an educating read.

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