John Esten Cooke was a writer, not a soldier, and yet he enjoyed (in every sense of the word) a remarkable and extensive Civil War career that took him from John Brown’s raid to General Lee’s surrender and put him in close touch with some of the greatest commanders in American history, most notably his much-admired cousin-in-law, J. E. B. Stuart. Wearing of the Gray, published in 1867, contains Cooke’s best writing on the war—sparkling vignettes that display an excellent eye for local color and the picaresque, a wry sense of humor, and a quick grasp of character. His unique pairing of advantaged military perspective and authorial talent ”give his wartime sketches a combination of validity and vitality almost unmatched in the literature of the Civil War“ (Civil War History).
Emory M. Thomas is Regents Professor of History at the University of Georgia and author of several books, including The Confederacy as a Revolutionary Experience; The Confederate Nation, 1861-1865; Bold Dragon: The Life of J.E.B. Stuart; and Robert E. Lee: A Biography.
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