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A House Divided
Posted at 06:40 PM ET, 06/29/2011

Waite Rawls: Given a month off, which Civil War sites would you visit and what books would you read?

As your readers can imagine, I read a lot of Civil War books. I choose some of them because of the topic, others because of the original research that went into them, and some because of the respect that I have for the author. The next two books on my reading list both get an A+ on all three counts and are brand new.

George C. Rable is the Charles G. Summersell professor of History at the University of Alabama and his newest book is “God’s Almost Chosen Peoples: A Religious History in the American Civil War”. Annually, the Museum of the Confederacy gives its Jefferson Davis Award to the most outstanding book on the era of the Civil War and Rable’s new book is this year’s winner. Many Americans of the mid-19th century were devoutly religious but their reading of the same bible led them to different conclusions on the subject of slavery and split several of the Protestant denominations in America. Southern figures like Robert E. lee or Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson were famous for their devotion and the religious meetings and conversations of the men of the armies had a tremendous impact on morale and determination. Less well know, but very important, were the impact and importance of Jewish leaders in the South.

I have read several of Rable’s other books, but more to the point, I read the accolades that the referees of this year’s book award wrote about his latest. I cannot wait to have the time to jump into this book.

Gary W. Gallaghers is the John L. Nau Professor of History at the University of Virginia and his newest book is “The Union War.” I heard him speak about the book at a recent lecture, where he called the Union the true “lost cause” of the Civil War. Lincoln’s Number One motivation was the preservation of the Union; the Number One motivation of the Northern volunteers was to preserve the Union, and the most significant outcome in the eyes of at least the white participants was the fact that the Union was saved. Yet, today, the public narrative focuses principally on slavery and emancipation and the war to save the Union is almost forgotten. Gary brings our attention back to the overarching theme.

Gary does tough original research. He casts new light on good subjects and he writes extremely well. I have read a lot of his books and I cannot wait to have the time to read this one also.

By Waite Rawls  |  06:40 PM ET, 06/29/2011

 
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