Perfect Soldiers, Hallowed Ground
Publication Year: 2008
The Civil War generation saw its world in ways startlingly different from our own. In these essays, Glenn W. LaFantasie examines the lives and experiences of several key personalities who gained fame during the war and after. The battle of Gettysburg is the thread that ties these Civil War lives together. Gettysburg was a personal turning point, though each person was affected differently. Largely biographical in its approach, the book captures the human drama of the war and shows how this group of individuals -- including Abraham Lincoln, James Longstreet, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, William C. Oates, and others -- endured or succumbed to the war and, willingly or unwillingly, influenced its outcome. At the same time, it shows how the war shaped the lives of these individuals, putting them through ordeals they never dreamed they would face or survive.
Published by: Indiana University Press
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In the wake of the Republican national convention that nominated him as the party’s presidential candidate in 1860, Abraham Lincoln learned that a publishing house was planning to issue an unauthorized biography of him. Lincoln reassured a fellow prominent Republican that “wholly [on] my own, I would authorize no biography, without time, and opertunity to ...
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Gettysburg has many stories to tell. One of my favorite tales, although it must be apocryphal, is about a one- legged tramp who, some time after the Civil War, stopped at a farmhouse in Ohio to beg for dinner. The woman of the house asked him where he had lost his leg. “At Gettysburg,” he replied. “Wait one minute,” said the woman, “I’ll get my husband.”...
1. Lee’s Old War Horse
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One of the Confederacy’s perfect heroes, James Longstreet, should have been honored by the South for all his great feats on the battlefields of the Civil War, but it was his fate to become an object of scorn and ridicule in the postwar era. What set his fellow Southerners off against him was the inconstancy that formed a pattern in his life. There was something about ...
2. Frank A. Haskell: Tragic Hero of the Union
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If James Longstreet’s inconstancy set a pattern in his life, just the oppo-site was true of Lieutenant Frank A. Haskell, a Union offi cer who watched as Longstreet’s butternut ranks streamed toward Cemetery Ridge on the afternoon of July 3, 1863. Haskell, a studious lawyer from Vermont by way of Wisconsin, who served as an aide to Union Brigadier General John Gib-...
3. Becoming Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain
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When it comes to Gettysburg heroes, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain out-shines all the rest. Although he was hardly the perfect soldier, modern Americans have come to see him as one. In the minds of many, he stands as the ultimate model of what a military hero should be. Yet Chamberlain’s reputation was made over time; it did not spring forth fully formed, ...
4. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and the American Dream
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An air of expectation fi lled the Boston Music Hall as the audience waited for Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, the incumbent governor of Maine and “the Hero of Little Round Top,” to be introduced. Chamberlain was going to speak on one of his favorite subjects, “The Left at Gettysburg,” and his skill as a public orator had already brought him considerable fame ...
5. Finding William C. Oates
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Little Round Top was a place where heroes could be found in abundance on July 2, 1863, although in recent times it seems almost as if Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain fought on that hill by himself and against an amorphous foe. Yet, as I’ve shown, there were men engaged in that fight who did not agree with Chamberlain’s account of the battle, including men in ...
6. An Alabamian’s Civil War
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For William Calvin Oates, as we have already seen, the Civil War lasted a very long time. It began for him, as it did for all Americans, with the fall of Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor in April 1861. It reached its zenith on the afternoon of July 2, 1863, when Oates and his brave regiment failed to dislodge the 20th Maine from the slopes of Little Round Top at Gettys-...
7. Hell in Haymarket
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Perhaps one reason the Civil War would not end for William C. Oates was because its human cost was so high. As we have seen, the loss of his brother at Gettysburg haunted him for the rest of his life. There were other human losses, too, particularly early in the war, long before the 15th Alabama fi red any shot in anger at an enemy or participated in any combat ...
8. William C. Oates and the Death of General Farnsworth
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If nothing else, William C. Oates was a superb lawyer. Having served his law apprenticeship with the famous firm of Pugh, Bullock, and Buford in Eufaula, Alabama, during the late 1850s, he had acquired great skills in re-searching, filing, and presenting his cases. He earned a tidy sum of money working at his profession before the Civil War, and in the postwar years ...
9. Mr. Lincoln’s Victory at Gettysburg
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By the spring of 1863, as the Civil War cast a dark shadow across the land, it became more and more evident to soldiers and civilians alike that the ter-rible conflict between North and South had grown into a behemoth that no one could successfully control or constrain— a leviathan, like Melville’s great white whale, that set its own course and moved at its own speed and ...
10. Lincoln and the Gettysburg Awakening
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All of our roads lead to Gettysburg. Tragedy and eloquence draw us back to that special place, that crossroads town, and much of what it means to be an American seems to intersect there. We are drawn back by the distant call of trumpets and by the echoes of noble purpose. It is where our greatest gods of war clashed for three days and decided the nation’s fate; ...
11. Memories of Little Round Top
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If Lincoln’s Address at Gettysburg not only brought forth a call for a “new birth of freedom,” but also set the sacrifice of the Union soldiers who died there within the emotional context of the nation’s “political religion,” it was the veteran soldiers who actually shaped how subsequent generations of Americans would comprehend what took place in the Civil War’s most ...
12. Ike and Monty Take Gettysburg
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Ghosts walk the land at Gettysburg, and anyone who visits the battlefi eld must come to grips with the fact that the place belongs to the spirits of the past. Nearly forty years ago, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Bernard Law Montgomery, two old generals— perfect heroes in their own right— who had won their own terrible war in Europe, toured the Gettysburg fi eld to-...
13. The Many Meanings of Gettysburg
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Perhaps it is enough to say that Gettysburg has captured the American imagination because the battle brought forth, in one monstrous moment of violence, a great victory and a great defeat. But does that fully explain why nearly 2 million Americans annually visit the battlefield? Does it really tell us why so many books are written about the battle every year, why ...
14. Feeling the Past at Gettysburg
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Something that Bruce Catton wrote many years ago about Gettysburg comes to mind every time I visit the battlefield. “The battle was here and its presence is felt,” Catton said, “and you cannot visit the place without feeling the echoes of what was once a proving ground for everything America believes in.”1 Although I’ve long wondered about Catton’s curious ...
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Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2008