Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

General Gordon Granger: The Savior of Chickamauga and the Man Behind "Juneteenth."

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

General Gordon Granger: The Savior of Chickamauga and the Man Behind "Juneteenth."

Article excerpt

General Gordon Granger: The Savior of Chickamauga and the Man Behind "Juneteenth." By Robert C. Conner. (Philadelphia and Oxford, Eng.: Casemate, 2013. Pp. viii, 239. $32.95, ISBN 978-1-61200-185-2.)

Robert C. Conner provides an overdue biography of General Gordon Granger, as the subtitle advertises, "the savior of Chickamauga" (along with George Thomas) and the authority behind the order announcing freedom to Texas slaves, thus spurring the Juneteenth celebration. Granger may be little known to Civil War students, though some may recall his irascible temper, proficient profanity, and fondness for deploying artillery--despite his background in leading mounted troops. At several key wartime junctures Granger appeared in a critical role (starting at Wilson's Creek, in John Pope's Mississippi River campaign, and then at Corinth), suggesting he may indeed have been overlooked.

Conner is not an academic historian, but his study of Granger is quite scholarly and based on careful research. While he relies mostly on published sources, some of which are rather dated, he should be commended for engaging these older accounts in seeking to clarify Granger's controversial career. Conner typically defends Granger's soldierly decisions, which allowed for "fog of war" conditions, while highlighting his personal foibles and occasional lapses. Conner's account is balanced and (mostly) favorable; his positive assessments of Granger's battlefield commands are supported by substantive testimony or evidence. Despite the general's gruff nature, the reader may sympathize with Granger while appreciating the challenges of command and the pitfalls of military politics.

An undistinguished West Point graduate. Granger served in Mexico and on the frontier before and after the Civil War. Unlike other generals he remained in the military all of his adult life, partly due to nagging health issues. His blunt, cynical nature contributed to his slow advance in rank; he ended up on the wrong side of both General Ulysses S. …

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