Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Reaching People Drew Him from Capitol to UNF; He's since Crafted Several Books and Maps on the Civil War

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Reaching People Drew Him from Capitol to UNF; He's since Crafted Several Books and Maps on the Civil War

Article excerpt

Byline: CHARLIE PATTON

When he graduated from Northwestern University in 1992, Aaron Sheehan-Dean thought his future lay in government.

He went to work as a legislative aide to U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, who represented Sheehan-Dean's home state, Michigan.

But during his four years in Washington, Sheehan-Dean realized his favorite part of the job was conducting tours of the Capitol for constituents - tours he punctuated with tales from history, many of them about the Civil War period.

Having studied history as well as political science at Northwestern, Sheehan-Dean decided he wanted a different kind of career.

"You can reach people teaching in a way I didn't feel I could do as a legislative aide," said Sheehan-Dean, 38, an associate professor of history who joined the faculty at University of North Florida in 2003.

MAPPING OUR HISTORY

Earlier this year, Oxford University Press published the second book Sheehan-Dean has written about the Civil War, "Concise Historical Atlas of the U.S. Civil War." In a couple of weeks, the University of North Carolina Press will publish the paperback edition of the first book he wrote, "Why Confederates Fought: Family and Nation in Civil War Virginia." He also has edited two collections of Civil War essays.

"Why Confederates Fought," published in hardcover in 2007, is a slight revision of the doctoral thesis Sheehan-Dean wrote while at the University of Virginia, from which he earned a doctorate in history in 2003.

While at Virginia, Sheehan-Dean worked on an online project called Valley of the Shadow, which compared and contrasted two similar counties, one in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, one in the Pennsylvania's Cumberland Valley.

Sheehan-Dean worked on some of the maps for the project, in the process learning how to use Geographic Information Systems software - which is why Oxford University Press asked him to write the text for the Civil War entry in its Concise Historical Atlas series.

Originally the publisher's plan was that Sheehan-Dean would pick the subject matter and do the research for the book's maps, but that a professional illustrator would be hired for $10,000.

Sheehan-Dean volunteered to do it himself, partly for the extra money but also for the experience. …

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