Saturday, January 10, 2009

The South to Posterity--early Confederate writing defines historiography as the body of literature dealing with historical matters. Douglas Southall Freeman deals with early Confederate historiography is his work The South to Posterity An Introduction to the Writing of Confederate History. First published in 1939 in many ways this work seems outdated based upon the mountains of research that has been published since. That being said Freeman is considered one of the gods of Civil War writing considering his legendary 4 volume biography of Robert E. Lee for which he was award a Pulitzer Prize and his equally masterful 3 volume work Lee's Lieutenants. Not a Civil War buff check out Freeman's massive 7 volume biography on George Washington. Freeman knows his sources and we would be foolish to not pay attention to what he says.

Freeman was writing in a time before many of the great standards of Civil War literature were available. Much of what he deals with are accounts from those who were on the battlefields. It is from these first hand accounts that much of later written history is derived. For those of us with an interest in Confederate history we should search out these titles that are recommended. Many are available as relatively cheap reprints or for free at a local library. Of course what could beat owning your own set of Official Records which clocks in at a mere 128 volumes and nearly 14,000 pages.

Freeman was ahead of his time in many ways. His writing is clear and easy unlike some scholarly work that is dull and difficult. He realized the value of women's writing and the morale building it did to soldiers. He understood the importance of these letters and how it depicted life at home. He feared few of these letters survived. While most did not many more have surfaced than he believed. Freeman also included a chapter on what he felt had yet to be written. This includes several subjects he felt deserved more writing and also biographies that were needed.

This is certainly only a starting point for those of us interested in the Civil War and Confederate history in particular. Of course that is why the word "introduction" is in the title. As for me I'm in search of reading copies of the R. E. Lee A Biography series.

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