Cover image for Leaders of the American Civil War : a biographical and historiographical dictionary
Leaders of the American Civil War : a biographical and historiographical dictionary
Ritter, Charles F., 1937-
Publication Information:
Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 1998.
Physical Description:
xxxiv, 465 pages ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E467 .L43 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Non circulating

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Covering both the great military leaders and the critical civilian leaders, this book provides an overview of their careers and a professional assessment of their accomplishments. Entries consider the leaders' character and prewar experiences, their contributions to the war effort, and the war's impact on the rest of their lives. The entries then look at how history has assessed these leaders, thus putting their longtime reputations on the line. The result is a thorough revision of some leaders' careers, a call for further study of others, and a reaffirmation of the accomplishments of the greatest leaders.

Analyzing the leaders historiographically, the work shows how the leaders wanted to be remembered, how postwar memorists and biographers saw them, the verdict of early historians, and how the best modern historians have assessed their contributions. By including a variety of leaders from both civilian and military roles, the book provides a better understanding of the total war, and by relating their lives to their times, it provides a better understanding of historical revisionism and of why history has been so interested in Civil War lives.

Author Notes

CHARLES F. RITTER is Professor and Chairperson of History at the College of Notre Dame in Maryland. He is coauthor, with Jon L. Wakelyn, of American Legislative Leaders, 1850-1910 (Greenwood, 1989).

JON L. WAKELYN is Professor of History at Kent State University. He is the author of several books, including Biographical Dictionary of the Confederacy (Greenwood, 1977), Web of Southern Social Relations (1985), and Southern Pamphlets on Secession (1996).

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

This volume presents biographical essays on 47 men and women for whom the Civil War was "the major event in their lives." Each person is shown to have had an impact on the war, one that has heretofore been overlooked in some cases. Military leaders such as Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee have naturally been included, but so have political leaders, politicians, civilian leaders, businessmen, bankers, and manufacturers. Civilians who had an important effect on morale, from either side, and the women who were in "key positions to counsel and provide support" for others are also included as leaders. Among the nonmilitary figures covered are Clara Barton, Henry Ward Beecher, Varina Davis, Frederick Douglass, and Walt Whitman. The entries, arranged alphabetically, are around 10 pages in length. Close attention is paid to influences on each leader's early life; in fact, all chapters include a discussion of whatever forces were in play during the subject's formative years. Likewise, the question of their activities after the war has not been overlooked. However, those who have been included devoted some of their greatest energies to the war, and analysis of their wartime experiences and accomplishments is the main purpose of the volume. A second purpose is to consider how the subjects have fared in history. What has been their legacy and how have they been perceived? The evolution of scholarship on each person and the views of modern historians are discussed. Each essay concludes with a bibliography, which cites primary and other source materials. Although the title of this work refers to it as a dictionary, the lives are not treated cursorily but at some length, much as in an encyclopedia. The contributors, like the editors, are professional historians or have historical training. The essays are accurate, objective, and authoritative. More words have been written about many of these persons, and certainly about President Lincoln, than almost any other American leaders, so it is not surprising that the editors have plowed again some well-worn ground. But the scope of the entries, the particular context provided by focusing on the war, and the readabilty of the prose mean that the volume will be a useful addition to public and academic libraries.

Library Journal Review

Civil War buffs will welcome this biographical dictionary, edited by Ritter (Coll. of Notre Dame) and Wakelyn (Kent State Univ.), which includes 47 articles on outstanding military and civilian Union and Confederate leaders as well as entries for other significant figures, including Frederick Douglass, Clara Barton, Dorothea Dix, and even Walt Whitman (a volunteer nurse in Washington). Missing, however, is Admiral David Farragut, the Union's most successful naval officer. Each article discusses prewar and wartime careers as well as postwar activities. A valuable feature is an extended commentary and analysis of some of the outstanding items of the vast historiography about the Civil War. For Civil War collections in academic and larger public libraries.¬ĎHarry Frumerman, formerly with Hunter Coll., New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Thousands of books published every year on the American Civil War bear witness that after 130 years, Americans are still obsessed with this conflict. Jumping into this crowded field is this reference title. It includes brief biographical sketches of military leaders, politicians, and authors, both Confederate and Union. The usual Civil War celebrities are included, along with a few lesser-known individuals such as Thomas Bocock and Raphael Semmes. All contributors are academics specializing in the Civil War. Each essay has a short bibliography. This not a bad book but it offers libraries little that is new; it is only for libraries with comprehensive Civil War collections or those with few or no holdings in this area. R. Dyson; Kutztown University of Pennsylvania

Table of Contents

Historiography and the Making and Meaning of Greatness BiographiesJoseph Reid Anderson and Clara Barton Henry and Ward BeecherPierre and Gustave Toutant Beauregard and Judah Philip Benjamin and Thomas Stanley Bocock and Braxton Bragg Joseph and Emerson Brown Joseph and Lawrence Chamberlain Salmon and Portland Chase Jay and Cooke Charles Anderson and Dana Jefferson Finis and Davis Varina Howell and Davis Dorothea and Lynde Dix Frederic and Douglass Josiah Gorgas and Ulysses Simpson Grant and Henry Wager Halleck and John Bell Hood and Robert Mercer and Taliaferro Hunter Thomas and Jonathan Jackson Andrew and Johnson Joseph Eggleston and Johnston Robert Edward and Lee Abraham Lincoln and James Longstreet George and Brinton McClellan Steven and Russell Mallory George and Gordon Meade Christopher and Gustavus Memminger Oliver and Perry Morton Benjamin and Morgan Palmer Edward and Alfred Pollard David and Dixon Porter James and Alexander Seddon Raphael and Semmes William Henry and Seward Philip Henry and Sheridan William Tecumseh and Sherman Edwin McMaster and Stanton Alexander Hamilton and Stephens Thaddeus Stevens and Charles Sumner George and Henry Thomas Walt and Whitman Louis and Tresevant Wigfall