The Journals of Josiah Gorgas, 1857-1878

The Journals of Josiah Gorgas, 1857-1878

The Journals of Josiah Gorgas, 1857-1878

The Journals of Josiah Gorgas, 1857-1878


Josiah Gorgas was best known as the highly regarded Chief of Confederate Ordnance. Born in 1818, he attended West Point, served in the US Army, and later, after marrying Amelia Gayle, daughter of a former Alabama governor, joined the Confederacy. After the Civil War he served as President of the University of Alabama until ill health forced him to resign. His journals, maintained between 1857 and 1878, reflect the family's economic successes and failures, detail the course of the South through the Civil War, and describe the ordeal of Reconstruction. An added dimension is the view of Victorian Family life as Gorgas explored his feeling about aspects of parental responsibility and transmission of values to his children - a rarely documented account from the male perspective.


Frank E. Vandiver

Josiah Gorgas's journals rank among the better sources in southern history. Most famous as a soldier in the "Old Army" and later in the Confederate Army, Gorgas had an unusual career in the United States Ordnance Department, as Chief of Confederate Ordnance, and after the war in business and higher education. Well educated and widely read, Gorgas had a lively outlook on his world. a Pennsylvanian, he married Amelia Gayle, daughter of one of Alabama's governors, and began a lifetime devotion to her and the South she loved.

Sarah Woolfolk Wiggins has done much more than present a well- edited version of Gorgas's diaries and journals; she has interpreted them in full Gorgas family context and in the perspective of the times they cover. She offers biographical sketches of family members and friends. Her devoted efforts give point and meaning to Gorgas's lengthy recollections of a life that spanned sixty-five busy years, 1818-1883; years filled with travel, duty, war, and an especially touching family life. Wiggins informs with the sort of editorial notes expected of a careful scholar, but she enlightens with wide knowledge of American and southern history.

She sees, for instance, the importance of social networking in the Old and New South and uses the Gorgas family closeness to illustrate the value of "connexions." She sees, too, the significance of Gorgas's careful record keeping for an unusual sweep of history. Careful to preserve the fullness of the Gorgas tale, Wiggins is at pains to present as complete a book as possible, with the result that Josiah Gorgas speaks for himself in his clear, unpuffed prose. His opinions are crisp, his eye sharp, his prejudices fairly typical for his era and presented without apology.

His journals have long intrigued me. in the 1940s I became interested . . .

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