I received the following email today about a new release from LSU Press. This looks like an interesting book but maybe not one for those who worship Stonewall Jackson. Hard to tell what the outcome will be but this is a novel approach if nothing else.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 24, 201
Contact: Erin Rolfs
Inventing Stonewall Jackson Illuminates the Making of Legendary Confederate General
Wallace Hettle Examines How Historical Narratives Shaped the Myth of Stonewall Jackson
Baton Rouge, LA— In Inventing Stonewall Jackson: A Civil War Hero in History and Memory, Wallace Hettle offers an innovative and distinctive approach to interpreting legendary Confederate General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson by examining the lives and agendas of those authors who shape our current understanding of Jackson. As Hettle demonstrates, historians’ attempts to understand Jackson have proved uneven at best and often contentious.
Inventing Stonewall Jackson follows the narratives of newspaper reporters, friends, relatives, and fellow soldiers who first wrote about Jackson immediately following the Civil War. Most of them, according to Hettle, used portions of their own life stories to frame that of the mythic general. Hettle argues that the legend of Jackson’s rise from poverty to power, for instance, was likely inspired by the rags-to-riches history of his first biographer, Robert Lewis Dabney. Many other authors inserted personal values into their stories of Stonewall, perplexing generations of historians and writers.
Hettle contends that subsequent biographers contributed their own layers to Jackson’s myth and eventually a composite history of the general came to exist in the popular imagination. Later writers, such as the liberal suffragist Mary Johnston, who wrote a novel about Jackson, and the literary critic Allen Tate, who penned a laudatory biography, further shaped Stonewall’s myth. As recently as 2003, the film Gods and Generals, which featured Jackson as the key protagonist, affirmed the longevity and power of his image.
Impeccable research and nuanced analysis enable Hettle to use American culture and memory to reframe the Stonewall Jackson narrative and provide new ways to understand the long and contended legacy of one of the Civil War’s most popular Confederate heroes.
Wallace Hettle, professor of history at the University of Northern Iowa, is the author of The Peculiar Democracy: Southern Democrats in Peace and Civil War.
224 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2, 12 halftones