It was 150 years ago this month that the American Civil War began. To commemorate the sesquicentennial, we’ve launched a new website this week: UNCPressCivilWar150.com, where we feature our Civil War books (including a cool interactive timeline), authors, and other anniversary-related information and links. Next week we’ll be featuring the first of many guest posts to come from our Civil War authors. This week, editor-in-chief David Perry kicks things off with a short history of the development of the Press’s Civil War publishing program. We’re crossposting that history here and hope that you’ll continue to check in over at UNCPressCivilWar150.com for future posts.–ellen
The recent history of publishing on the Civil War at UNC Press starts in the mid 1980s with Matthew Hodgson, director of the Press from 1970 to 1992, and Gary Gallagher, now at the University of Virginia but in those days at Penn State University. Hodgson and Gallagher became acquainted during the Press’s consideration of Gallagher’s biography of Stephen Dodson Ramseur, and Hodgson enlisted Gallagher as an adviser to the Press.
Gallagher’s book on Ramseur, published in 1985, was followed by Gettysburg park historian Harry Pfanz’s Gettysburg–The Second Day (1987); an edition of Edward Porter Alexander’s private memoir, Fighting for the Confederacy: The Personal Recollections of General Edward Porter Alexander (1989), edited by Gallagher; and Alice Rains Trulock’s In the Hands of Providence: Joshua L. Chamberlain and the American Civil War (1992). In a stroke of good fortune, all three were published around the time of revived interest in the war associated with the 125th anniversary of the conflict (1986-1990) and the premier of Ken Burns’s documentary series “The Civil War,” which drew forty million viewers for its five-night run on PBS in 1990. Both Alexander and Chamberlain figured prominently in Burns’s retelling of the war.
With the success of these books and the contributions of several others, Hodgson and Gallagher decided to bring the Civil War acquisitions of the Press under a series umbrella and the Civil War America series was founded. The series has since become known for its broad gathering-in of Civil War-related scholarship, featuring analyses of military campaigns and battles, biographies of major figures, and examinations of issues relating to the politics, culture, social history, and memory of the war. We’ve now published upwards of 100 volumes in the series, which has been a bulwark of the Press’s list.
In addition to the volumes in Civil War America, the Press also published a number of edited volumes as part of the Military Campaigns of the Civil War series, edited by Gallagher. Books in that series featured original scholarship on little-known and understudied elements of major battles.
Looking ahead to the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, the Press joined with the Littlefield Fund for Southern History at the University of Texas-Austin in 1997 to plan a bookshelf of major new works, sixteen altogether, on important topics on the war, all to be published during the sesquicentennial period. Books in this series, edited by Gallagher and Michael Parrish of Baylor University, draw on the wealth of scholarship on the war that has appeared since the centennial celebration and point to new directions in the study of the war as we look beyond the current commemoration.
Studies by Howard Jones, Elizabeth Varon, Shearer Davis Bowman, and George Rable have already been published and cover topics such as diplomacy during the war, the surprising force of the idea of “disunion” in antebellum America, the United States on the eve of secession, and religion and the Civil War. Books by Mark Neely on the Constitution in wartime and Earl Hess on the war in the Western Theater will be published in fall 2011 and spring 2012, respectively.
Finally, in 2004 the Press joined with the George and Ann Richards Civil War Era Center at Penn State to publish books growing out of the Steven and Janice Brose Lectures in the Civil War Era, a three-day series of lectures centered on a particular theme. Distinguished scholars whose lectures have been published by the Press include Mark Neely, Mark Noll, Nina Silber, and Gary Gallagher.
Most recently the Press’s collaboration with the Richards Center resulted in the founding of The Journal of the Civil War Era, the first issue of which appeared in March 2011. The journal is edited by William Blair, director of the Richards Center. While the journal will focus on the topics growing out of the sectional crisis and war, we hope its appearance will serve to define and galvanize the larger field of mid-nineteenth-century history intellectually and professionally.
Assistant Director and Editor-in-Chief