A number of my Civil War historians friends have been commenting over on Facebook about the job announcement to replace University of Virginia Professor Gary Gallagher, who is set to retire. It is an endowed chair and will almost certainly go to a senior scholar in the field. That certainly narrows the field of possible candidates.
While it will be interesting to see who gets the job, I am much more interested in what the choice reveals about his/her scholarly focus. From what I understand, John L. Nau’s original proposal to endow a chair in Civil War history at the University of Virginia came with the stipulation that the candidate’s primary field of interest should be military history.
I raise this in light of the controversy surrounding the scope and place of military history within the broader field of Civil War history that emerged in recent issues of Civil War History and The Journal of the Civil War Era.
Regardless of who gets the job, replacing Gallagher will be a very tough act to follow. UVA will not simply be replacing a talented scholar. I first met Professor Gallagher at a summer seminar specifically for high school teachers at UVA in 2000. During my tenure teaching in Charlottesville I invited Professor Gallagher to my class multiple times, which is a testament to his commitment to the importance of history education at all levels.
Just as important is his commitment to engaging the general public, whether it is on a battlefield tour or in the pages of a popular Civil War magazine. This is someone who is deeply engaged in American history and wants others to be as well. Tough shoes to fill indeed.