First published seventeen years after the end of the Civil War, Reminiscences of Confederate Service, 1861–1865, by Francis W. Dawson, is the only memoir by a British citizen who saw active service in both the Confederate navy and army.
Dawson utilizes his skill as a journalist to write vivid descriptions of his experiences on the blockade runner Nashville, with the Army of Northern Virginia, and as a prisoner of war at Fort Delaware. He gives an eyewitness account of the wounding of General James Longstreet and of major battles, including those at Fredericksburg and Gettysburg. Included in this edition, edited by the renowned Civil War historian Bell Wiley, are eighteen wartime letters from Dawson to family and friends in England. These personal letters not only help illuminate the relationship between England and the Confederacy from the common Englishman’s point of view but provide the reader with a portrait of a young rebel searching for reason and passion in a time of great change.
After the war Dawson became an American citizen and, as editor of Charleston’s News and Courier, a leading spokesman for New South industrialism. Married to Sarah Morgan, famed author of A Confederate Girl’s Diary, Dawson left her a widow when he was fatally wounded during an argument involving the honor of his Swiss housekeeper.
This is a bold and imaginative contribution to Civil War and southern history.
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