Gettysburg Heroes: Perfect Soldiers, Hallowed Ground

Gettysburg Heroes: Perfect Soldiers, Hallowed Ground

Gettysburg Heroes: Perfect Soldiers, Hallowed Ground

Gettysburg Heroes: Perfect Soldiers, Hallowed Ground

Synopsis

The Civil War generation saw its world in ways startlingly different from our own. In these essays, Glenn W. LaFantasie examines the lives and experiences of several key personalities who gained fame during the war and after. The battle of Gettysburg is the thread that ties these Civil War lives together. Gettysburg was a personal turning point, though each person was affected differently. Largely biographical in its approach, the book captures the human drama of the war and shows how this group of individuals-including Abraham Lincoln, James Longstreet, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, William C. Oates, and others-endured or succumbed to the war and, willingly or unwillingly, influenced its outcome. At the same time, it shows how the war shaped the lives of these individuals, putting them through ordeals they never dreamed they would face or survive.

Excerpt

In the wake of the Republican national convention that nominated him as the party’s presidential candidate in 1860, Abraham Lincoln learned that a publishing house was planning to issue an unauthorized biography of him. Lincoln reassured a fellow prominent Republican that “wholly [on] my own, I would authorize no biography, without time, and opertunity to carefully examine and consider every word of it; and, in this case, in the nature of things, I can have no such time and opertunity.” As a result, he refused to approve the book. Lincoln rightly feared the benefits that might befall his opponents if hundreds of pages of unauthorized text appeared about him in the public domain. Since 1860, hundreds of Lincoln biographies have been published, most of which have added steadily to his lustrous reputation, so in that light, and as far as the judgment of posterity is concerned, his worries seem to have been unfounded. Indeed, Civil War biographies in general are a popular genre, and this book, in its own way, adds to the long shelf of works devoted to the lives and careers of those Americans who participated in the nation’s worst—and bloodiest— cataclysm. I even have something to say about Lincoln, and not all of it is necessarily complimentary, although my esteem for him—the greatest of all American presidents—remains unalterably high, as these pages make plain.

The essays collected here, most of which have been previously published in magazines and journals (although I have revised each of them and brought them all up to date), reflect my own interest in biography and how it enhances our understanding of the Civil War era. “The whole value of history, of biography,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1838, “is to increase my self- trust, by demonstrating what man can be and do.” Emerson comes close to expressing my own view of the usefulness of biography, for I have learned a great deal from the individuals I have studied and written about. Many of those life lessons, in fact, have little to do necessarily with the Civil War or my focal point, the battle of Gettysburg. Instead, I have delighted in coming to know these figures from the past—some great, some obscure, but all of whom have revealed themselves to be very human . . .

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