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Who, in your opinion, is the foremost living historian of the American Civil War, and why?

Discussion in 'Civil War History - General Discussion' started by CW Watch Collector, Jan 17, 2017.

  1. CW Watch Collector

    CW Watch Collector Sergeant

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    I will split that enormous question in half:

    1. Who is the foremost military historian of the American Civil War?

    And,

    2. Who is the foremost historian of the American Civil War period?

    Your answers to both questions could conceivably be the same, but they needn't be.

    Choose your own definition of "foremost": most influential; most insightful; most knowledgeable, etc. Please give your reasons for your choice.

    I look forward to reading the opinions.
     
    Waterloo50 likes this.

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  3. RebelHeart

    RebelHeart Corporal

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    This is a difficult one to address because, in my humble estimation, a lot of the better historians have passed away.

    That-said, Dr. James I. "Bud" Robertson, Jr., was among the best and easily my favorite. His research was thorough and exhaustive which resulted in his providing accurate and relevant accounts.
     
  4. CW Watch Collector

    CW Watch Collector Sergeant

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    Thanks for your response. I am not familiar with Mr. Robertson.
     
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  5. zburkett

    zburkett Corporal

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    I vote for this forum. On it I have gotten everything from personal family history to information of the proper markings on an Enfield rifle. Then, if you pay attention, you get every different view point.
     
  6. frontrank2

    frontrank2 1st Lieutenant Forum Host

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    I'm going to cast my vote for Ed Bearrs. He's written about a dozen books, appeared in the Ken Burns PBS series on the Civil War, and is a Historian Emeritus for the National Park Service. And at 93, he's still plugging along.

    edbearss_0081c.jpg
     
  7. MHB1862

    MHB1862 Private

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    Military historian = Bob Krick
    No one individual is more knowledgeable of the ANV than Bob. He has the unique ability to express himself with both erudition and humor.

    Historian of the period as a whole = Gary Gallagher
    Hands down. Gary has a complete grasp of all aspects - politics, military strategy and tactics, the major and minor actors both at the front and at home. His research is impeccable and his writing style draws the reader into the story.
     
  8. ucvrelics.com

    ucvrelics.com First Sergeant Forum Host

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    That's an easy one ME:D Just kidding. I'm going to have to go with Ed as well. I have talked to him on several occasion over the years and he is a walking data base of CW knowledge.
     
  9. cash

    cash Brev. Brig. Gen'l

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    I'm biased. Being a former student of his, my vote HAS to go to Professor James I. Robertson, Jr. He's a terrific scholar and teacher.

    There are other contenders:

    Gary Gallagher of UVa, who has produced so many Ph.D. graduates that his influence on the field will remain for decades.
    Brooks Simpson of ASU, who is a top scholar not only of the military side of the war but also the political side and Reconstruction.
    Carol Reardon of Penn State, who is a top-notch military historian.
    Richard Sommers, who is a military historian par excellence, and if you read the acknowledgements of every major military study in the last thirty years, you'll see the author thanking Dr. Sommers for his invaluable assistance.
     
  10. nitrofd

    nitrofd Major Forum Host

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    There is more to the civil war then the ANV.
     
  11. Folap

    Folap Cadet

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    A few of my favorites in order:

    Prof. Alan Guelzo, great lecturer.
    2nd the vote for Gary Gallagher
    Scott Hartwig
    James McPherson
    Kent Masterson Brown
     
  12. RebelHeart

    RebelHeart Corporal

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    I don't believe that having expertise in the entirety of the military units or the war itself was a prerequisite for candidates.
     
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  13. FarawayFriend

    FarawayFriend Captain Silver Patron Trivia Game Winner

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    I'm absolutely no expert.
    But if I'm allowed to give my non-important opinion, on Youtube I like the videos of Gary Gallagher and James I. Robertson best. Both are able to explain sometimes difficult battles and background to beginners like me without leaving the experts yawning. That is indeed great scholarship.
     
  14. nitrofd

    nitrofd Major Forum Host

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    The original post is who is the best for the civil war not for just part of it.again people think that the war was only fought between Washington and Richmond.
     
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  15. E_just_E

    E_just_E 1st Lieutenant Forum Host

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    Exactly the reason why the answer to the OP question, could not be a single name...

    For example, if someone is interested in CS (full) General Edmund Kirby Smith and his Trans-Mississippi Department that was ran pretty much as an independent country after the fall of Vicksburg (really fascinating story,) good luck finding a living Historian who is an expert on the subject.
     
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  16. Pat Young

    Pat Young Colonel Forum Host

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    I like Brooks Simpson, George Rable, Carol Reardon, Earl Hess, Elizabeth Varon, Gary Gallagher, David Blight. Sorry, I could not really narrow it more.
     
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  17. Jamieva

    Jamieva 2nd Lieutenant Forum Host

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    Wow could not believe we got all the way to @Pat Young before we get an Earl Hess mention. Right now, today, he's my #1. he's cranking out books at an epic level. I don't know when he sleeps.

    But to pick just 1 is asking too much. Gallagher and Robertson have to be in that group as well for me.
     
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  18. Bruce Vail

    Bruce Vail First Sergeant

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    I am going to have to think about this for a while.

    But it has been my impression for several years now that James McPherson is considered the pre-eminent Civil War historian in America today.

    Any agreement out there?
     
  19. LibertyAndUnion

    LibertyAndUnion Private

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    1. Ed Bearss, who is in a class by himself. I hope he makes it to 150! A walking living library of the Civil War, he is peerless. I helped wish him a happy birthday at Gettysburg College in 1998. He thanked the large crowd, then said, in his wonderful comedic style and with his powerful voice, "There are very few Sons of B*&^%es here." Hartwig is second. His Antietam Campaign work will never be equaled, even though he works at Gettysburg.
    2. Shelby Foote, whose folksy writing and speaking style invites the public at large to study and think about the war. There are a lot of good writers out there today, but Foote was a people's historian without equal, not just a historian's historian.
     
  20. Eric Wittenberg

    Eric Wittenberg Sergeant Major Forum Host

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    Shelby Foote's been dead for about ten years. The question asked about those who are alive...
     
  21. SharonS

    SharonS Private

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    Thanks for including Carol Reardon and Elizabeth Varon. Yes, women can write Civil War history, even--particularly in the case of Reardon--nuts-and-bolts military history.
     
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