For countless readers, the books of Bell Irvin Wiley (1906–1980) remain a high-water mark in historical writing on the American Civil War. The Life of Billy Yank, The Life of Johnny Reb, The Road to Appomattox, Southern Negroes, 1861-1865, all are classics in the field, and Wiley’s influence on contemporary Civil War scholarship has been immeasurable. The Bell Irvin Wiley Reader offers for the first time many lesser known and unpublished writings of this eminent historian and provides an intimate portrait of the man Life Magazine once hailed as “the nation's foremost authority of soldier life during the Civil War.”
Culled from a trove of 176 boxes of Wiley’s personal papers at the Emory University archives, the selections in this collection present a broad cross-section of his work, both oral and written, and focus on the professor’s favorite subjects. Among the documents are speeches and articles, such as “The Road to War,” “Lincoln, Plain Man of the People,” “Life on the Confederate Homefront,” “The Collapse of the Confederacy,” “American History and Racial Understanding,” “Historians and the National Register,” and “Why Teach the Civil War?”
Buttressed by an excellent introduction by editors Hill Jordan and J. H. Segars and biographical notations and sections introductions by James I. Robertson Jr.—one of Wiley’s best students—this anthology shows Wiley to be an enigma: a distinguished scholar who enjoyed the company of ordinary people; a staunch advocate for civil rights who would not agree to ease university admission standards for blacks; a master teacher who refused to accept departmental chairmanships. He was, indeed, the uncommon "common man" of which he wrote so often, and his work continues to provide us with a clearer understanding of our great American heritage.
James I. Robertson Jr. is Alumni Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech University and author of, among others, Stonewall Jackson and The Stonewall Brigade.
J. H. Segars is Grants Administrator for the Georgia Department of Education and author or editor of several books, including In Search of Confederate Ancestors, and Andersonville: The Southern Perspective.
James I. Robertson, Jr. , is the author of twelve books, including The Stonewall Brigade and the award-winning Stonewall Jackson: The Man, the Soldier, the Legend. Well known for his lectures across the country and his appearances in television documentaries, he was chief historical consultant for the movie Gods and Generals and is Alumni Distinguished Professor of History at Virginia Tech.
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