A Really Good Gettysburg Book

I’ve commented on a number of occasions on just how much I like Margaret Creighton’s recent study, The Colors of Courage: Gettysburg’s Forgotten History. There is an excellent review of the book in the most recent issue of the American Historical Review (February 2006) by Barbara Cutter of the University of Northern Iowa. Here is a paragraph from that review which continues the recent string of posts on expanding the way we think about the military history of the Civil War.

“The idea that women, African Americans, and immigrants are central actors in American history is certainly not new, but what is important about this book is the long overdue application of this idea to Civil War military history. Although scholarship especially in the last ten years, has proliferated on women, immigrants, and African Americans in the Civil War, the history of the battles themselves has hardly changed; a few heroic women, perhaps a regiment of brave immigrants or African Americans has been added, but the story remains fundamentally the same. By taking diverse groups seriously, Creighton has altered and enlarged the story of Gettysburg. One might have wished she had gone even further and used her evidence to complicate some common understandings of gender, race, and ethnicity in the Civil War era. For example, the fact that so many of Gettysburg’s white men were willing to leave female family members alone to face Confederate occupation suggests that gender relations between white men and women and gendered notions of power were far more complex in this period than scholars have generally suggested. Nonetheless, this well-researched and engaging book makes a key contribution to the field by integrating social history and military history in an intriguing new fashion.” (p. 180-81)

I am going to follow this up hopefully over the weekend with a post on the “cult of manliness” and the Civil War. Stay tuned.

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