Monday, April 20, 2009

Calling All Biographers. . .

This Wednesday, I have a four-hour-long private hike/tour at Antietam focusing on the Confederate actions in and around the Sunken Road. My main focus, of course, will be on the divisions of Generals Daniel Harvey Hill and Richard Heron Anderson. While the story of Hill's men--his two brigades under Rodes and George B. Anderson--is well known, that of R.H. Anderson's brigades is not. Indeed, despite heavy losses incurred in Anderson's Division at Antietam, the actions of these Confederate soldiers remain as almost an afterthought in the traditional interpretation of the battle, something along the lines of "Around 10:00 a.m., Hill's outnumbered and beleagured Confederates in the Sunken Road were reinforced by elements of R.H. Anderson's Division. . . ."
But this is a story for another day. . .
While preparing for this hike, it dawned on me that the time is long overdue for new biographies of D.H. Hill and R.H. Anderson, both of whom would rise to the rank of lieutenant general in the Confederate army by war's end. This thought got me thinking. . .which other Civil War figures, whether military or political, need their story told, either for the first time or anew?
Send me your thoughts. Whose life story would you like to see covered? Whose biography do you believe is missing from the vast annals of Civil War historiography?

28 comments:

Harry said...

I think someone is working on a new DH Hill bio, but to be honest I wasn't too excited when I heard who was doing it.

I'd love to see Charles Griffin or Adelbert Ames. Both Union men, I know, but pretty much every Confederate who led more than two men in battle has had a 500 page bio written already. Right?

Jim Rosebrock said...

John
I agree that DH Hill deserves a full biography. Lee's Maverick General by Hal Bridges does a good job as far as it goes but I wish he would have told the whole story. I think that Edwin Vose Sumner deserves a complete biography. Father Father Stanley Crocchiola did a biography of Sumner in the late 1960s but I have not been able to find it at a reasonable price and I do not know how good it is. Alpheus Williams also gets my vote for a biography of his own. His own letters in From the Cannon's Mouth are a good start but the man fights throughout the entire Civil War and never gets his due. Jist a few off the top of my head!

Regards
Jim

FortyRounder said...

A new bio of Joe Hooker, encompassing "new" (post-1940) scholarship is sorely needed.

FortyRounder said...

Harry Smeltzer has mentioned on his blog that Irvin McDowell has never been the subject of a bio.

John David Hoptak said...

All excellent choices. . .Yes, McDowell is in need, and I'll agree with a new Hooker bio. . .
Jim, Williams was an interesting fellow. . .
How about some 9th Corps fellas? Willcox, Sturgis, John Parke. . .

markerhunter said...

How about Emory Upton? I'm not aware of any new work with him as a subject.

Eric Wittenberg said...

John,

I had breakfast with my old friend Chris Hartley today, as he was in town from North Carolina on business. During breakfast, Chris told me that he's decided to do a bio of D. H. Hill and that he's getting started on the research. It's coming.

Eric

John David Hoptak said...

Eric
Good news. Thanks. . .

Dan said...

Cadmus Wilcox? Did anyone ever do a biography of him?

John David Hoptak said...

Dan. . .
Yes.
Gerard Patterson, From Blue to Gray: The Life of Confederate General Cadmus Wilcox.

Haven't read it yet; but it is on my list.

FortyRounder said...

I second the Emory Upton nomination. Fascinating character: very driven, brilliant and became rather dark.

Chris Evans said...

I think Braxton Bragg needs a good 600-800 page book written on him. I have thought about just going ahead and trying to write it myself. I know Mcwhiney wrote one volume but didn't finish because he supposedly hated Bragg and let Hallock finish Volume 2. Volume 2 is just not up to snuff and does not cover the important Tullahoma, Chickamauga, and Chattanooga campaigns in proper detail. Also his work with Jeff Davis in 1864 needs to be examined more closely and his actions at Wilmington and Bentonville. If people can finish writing a 1000 page book on hated people such as Hitler and Stalin, a similar size book could certainly be written on Bragg and really shed some important light on the Western theater. I think Bragg could be judged fairly. I really can't belive McWhiney didn't just finish Volume 2 but we certainly could use an update anyway as his book is going on 40 years.
Thanks,
Chris

Jim Rosebrock said...

In the Ninth Corps, I think Parke would be a good subject as well. While were there Reno is also an interesting character.

Jim Rosebrock said...

Also Lafayette McLaws is in need of a biography. His letters are published but there is next to nothing about Antietam in his letters.

TPS said...

John, Pass up the Wilcox biography. It is, perhaps, the worst biographical study published in the past couple three decades. It is one long glossy magazine article fleshed out to (barely) book length. I could have written a better one from my home office resources. I reviewed it for a magazine (don't recall which).

tps

John David Hoptak said...

Ted. . .thanks for the advice.

Jim. . .I'll agree with you on McLaws and Reno.

Chris Evans said...

I also believe George Meade is due for a good, solid, readable biography. I think I read somewhere that Christopher Stowe was working on a two volume biography. If so, that has a chance of being pretty definitive.

I think William Rosecrans deserves a new detailed biography also even though I have great respect for Lamers 1961 biography and I think Phil Sheridan could be looked at in more detail improving on the good work that Morris, Wittenberg, and Hutton did on the different parts of his life and times.

Thanks,
Chris

Anonymous said...

I agree with Chris Evans, Meade is somebody that definitely needs a full blown biography. I'd like to add William Mahone as another who needs a new biographer. The 1935 William Nelson Blake biography focused more on Mahone's postwar political career. John Gibbon needs a biographer as well.

John C. Nicholas

Eric Wittenberg said...

Jeff Wert proposed a Meade bio a couple of years ago, and his publisher turned it down flat, saying Meade was boring and the book wouldn't sell. Too bad.

Eric

John David Hoptak said...

Eric
Although I could not stand the fact that Meade did all he could to run Burnside out of the army in 1864 and "threw him under the bus," so to speak, for the Crater fiasco, I will hardly say he was too boring. . .
that is too bad.

Chris Evans said...

I agree that the idea of Meade as boring is totally absurd. He was a great character! His temper and some of his conversations with Grant and Sheridan during the Overland Campaign are priceless.

A biography of him could depict some pretty close in fighting that the men under his command did in 1862-1863. Then you have the incredible drama of the Gettysburg campaign told from Meade's perspective and then you could talk in more detail about the fall campaigns of the Army of the Potomac in 1863 and then the complications of working with Grant in 1864-65. It is a great and fascinating story! Certainly not boring and very revealing and instructive instead.

Thanks,
Chris

Anonymous said...

Haven't seen a bio about Pleasonton.

Larry Freiheit

John David Hoptak said...

Pleasonton, certainly. It seems there is a lot of interest in AOP fellas. . .which I am pleased about. I am looking forward to Jim Hessler's forthcoming Sickles bio and Eric's bio of Dahlgren.
Alas, no mention of Gen. Nagle. I'm still committed to it, though.

Chris Evans said...

I also wonder if Gary Gallagher will ever complete his book on Jubal Early? He has been working on it for over twenty years. I really would like to see what he does with the subject and it would seem that it would have to be pretty definitive. I would hope that it would cover his campaigns in some detail and his post war activities and be around 600-700 pages. I like Osbourne's book on Early from around 1994 but I don't believe it has to be the final word on a very interesting person.
Chris

Anonymous said...

And how about Jacob Dolson Cox?

Larry Freiheit

Salvatore said...

Greetings: I second the call for an Upton Bio. my first book, entitled "Upton's Regulars" is due out June 11 and Upton is sorely in need of a modern biography. Am glad to hear that at least two other folks think this is needed. If there are others, I would like to hear from them.
Sal Cilella, CEO, Atlanta Historical Society, Atlanta GA

Chris Evans said...

That looks like a great book coming out on the 121st New York and Upton. I had no idea such a large book was being released on the subject. Looking forward to it,
Chris

B. Forbush said...

This is a bit late but I think General McDowell deserves a biography. I also read somewhere that the best biography of G.K. Warren was an unpublished master's (?) dissertation.