Academic journal article Pennsylvania Literary Journal

The Biography of a Civil War Villain

Academic journal article Pennsylvania Literary Journal

The Biography of a Civil War Villain

Article excerpt

The Biography of a Civil War Villain Sam Davis Elliott. John C. Brown of Tennessee: Rebel, Redeemer, and Railroader. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2017. Hardcover. ISBN: 978-1-62190-287-4. 386pp.

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A biography of a Confederate general from Tennessee, who might have also been a leader of the Ku Klux Klan. Given the current racially tense climate in the South, this is a fitting book for the times. History that isn't researched is doomed to be repeated. Some of the best history books are written about villains like Hitler or Stalin. Understanding tyrants and others who fought on the wrong side is a primary objective for any historian. The author, Sam Davis Elliott, explains that John C. Brown played a role in major Confederate battles and that his biography is necessary to understand these larger events. Brown went on to become the president of the 1870 constitutional convention, and served as governor.

The cover uses a wonderfully painted, dramatic portrait of Brown. It's better than most available paintings of Lincoln, so clearly Brown was fiscally successful enough to afford a top portrait painter. There are some good photos and other graphic images in the book's interior, but not too many. The book is organized chronologically. The first chapter covers the first thirty-four years of Brown's life up to 1861. Then, the narrative slows down, so that only a year is covered in each of the following four chapters: each focusing on a different set of campaigns in the Civil War. Then, there's a chapter on Brown's role in the Reconstruction. The final chapters are about his governorship and his role in running the railroad. …

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