Just published, on November 4, 2014 . . .

 

An interview ran on publication day at Examiner.com.

Southern Living has cited the book as one of the fall’s best illustrated books.

I’m on my way shortly to Atlanta, Charleston, and Savannah to begin the promotion for the book, with other events in the coming weeks in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, New York, and Washington, D.C.

The current issue of Tufts Magazines has an essay of mine, “Private Lives of the Civil War.”

Earlier, we received some enthusiastic words from Civil War Experts:

“As a historian, I am acutely conscious of the importance of place as well as time in our understanding of the past. One must walk the battlefields of the Civil War to know and appreciate what happened there. The same is true of historic houses, which take on the character of the people who lived there. This splendid narrative and photographic tour of homes inhabited by obscure as well as important figures in the Civil War era offers enlightenment as well as entertainment.”            — James M. McPherson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of  Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era

“This book is a gem!  Author Howard and photographer Straus provide an unusual perspective on the Civil War era by focusing on houses associated with some two dozen actors and actresses in that great drama.  The famous – Lincoln, Davis, Grant, and Lee – are here as are John Brown and Frederick Douglass, but also the little known like Rowland Robinson and Mary Moore.  The writer and the photographer weave houses and personal histories into a fascinating story of Americans caught up in a mighty conflict.”         — William Cooper, author of Jefferson Davis, American & Boyd Professor at LSU

“The Civil War proved Lincoln’s warning that a ‘house divided against itself cannot stand.’ However, many of the actual houses of that roiling period withstood not only the war, but the test of time since—and it is a revelation to see them as they look today, and learn about the families who then and since have dwelled in and preserved them. This book literally opens a window into nineteenth-century domestic and cultural history, and brings us a giant step closer to the life and times of the families who survived and endured.”            —Harold Holzer, author of Lincoln and the Power of the Press

 

 

I’d be happy to come and talk to your group or institution. I can be reached at hhoward@taconic.net

The year 2014 has been — and continues to be a busy one — with talks at the Mount Vernon Symposium, the quadrennial presidential conference conducted by the American Association of State and Local History (this years’s edition was in Little, Rock), as well as talks at both FDR’s and TR’s homes. But the Civil War is still very much on my mind.

Photo credit: G.M. Howard

I have thought long and hard about the “Lost Cause,” its cultural meaning and historical significance. I’ve learned much about the reality — and the mythology — of the Underground Railroad. At places like Natchez’s Longwood (pictured above) I contemplated what the war meant to Southerners who didn’t want disunion and saw their world implode when it happened. I enhanced my knowledge of Abraham Lincoln’s pragmatic character; I discovered that Jefferson Davis cannot be dismissed as a simple villain. I’ve concluded that Ulysses S. Grant was a better general than the decline of his reputation in the twentieth-century suggests, and that Robert E. Lee probably wasn’t quite the saintly figure some would have us believe. I admire all these men and women — in their moments, in their settings, along with Sherman and Beauregard, the Shakers of South Union, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Forging acquaintances, I found, with Clara Barton, John Brown, John Calhoun, and Cassius Clay offered surprising rewards.

The Civil War is a rich, complex story, one that has many shadings and as many meanings as there are students of its events. Despite the vast existing Civil War literature, over-simplified or partisan views are commonplace; I would like to think the site-oriented approach of Houses of Civil War America, with its mix of architecture, artifacts, biography, and narrative, will permit new understandings.

Gazing back at the mid-nineteenth century with a new intensity, I have found much to muse upon. And, of course, I’m always delighted to talk about many aspects of the American past — of founding fathers or presidents in general (Houses of the Founding Father, Houses of the Presidents) or, in particular, George Washington (The Painter’s Chair), Thomas Jefferson (Dr. Kimball and Mr. Jefferson), or James and Dolley Madison (Mrs. and Mrs. Madison’s War). 

Lecture requests? Questions?  Email me at hhoward@fairpoint.net.