Gettysburg Requiem: The Life and Lost Causes of Confederate Colonel William C. Oates

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William C. Oates is best remembered as the Confederate officer defeated at Gettysburg's Little Round Top, losing a golden opportunity to turn the Union's flank and win the battle--and perhaps the war. Now, Glenn W. LaFantasie--bestselling author of Twilight at Little Round Top--has written a gripping biography of Oates.

Oates was no moonlight-and-magnolias Southerner, as LaFantasie shows. Raised in the hard-scrabble Wiregrass Country of Alabama, he ran away from home as a teenager, roamed through Louisiana and Texas--where he took up card sharking--and finally returned to Alabama, to pull himself up by his bootstraps and become a respected attorney. During the war, he rose to the rank of colonel, served under Stonewall Jackson and Lee, was wounded six times and lost an arm. Returning home, he launched a successful political career, becoming a seven-term congressman and ultimately governor. LaFantasie shows how, for Oates, the war never really ended--he remained devoted to the Lost Cause, and spent the rest of his life waging the political battles of Reconstruction.

Here then is a richly evocative story of Southern life before, during, and after the Civil War, based on first-time and exclusive access of family papers and never-before-seen archives.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A much needed examination of one of the more aggressive and remarkable commanders in the Army of Northern Virginia."--Jennifer M. Murray, The Alabama Review

"LaFantasie's Gettysburg Requiem is superb. It is engaging, informative, and never lacking in appropriate historical context."--Timothy J. Orr, Reviews in American History

"Fantasie has done a terrific job of telling Oates's tale, and of using him as a tool to delve into the greater issues that filled Oates's own life and times.... This fine biography does him the justice denied him in times past."-George C. Bradley, The Civil War Courier

"No one will ever write a more detailed and comprehensive biography of William C. Oates than Glenn LaFantasie. Gettysburg Requiem is the definitive account of the life of the commander of the 15th Alabama Infantry."--John Deppen, The Civil War News

"An engaging biography."--Publishers Weekly

"Exhaustively researched and elegantly written, this captivating biography is a signal contribution to Civil War historiography.... In LaFantasie's penetrating analysis, Oates becomes the avatar of everything both objectionable and laudable in the antebellum and postwar South as well as in the intervening Civil War."-Library Journal (starred review)

"In LaFantasie's absorbing and penetrating account, Oates emerges as an iconic figure to mirror the urbane Chamberlain...offering 'a fascinating--and sometimes unsettling--portrait of Southern manhood and the dynamics of violence, heroism, and memory.'"--Michael Kenney, The Boston Globe

"Until now, Confederate Colonel William C. Oates is remembered--if he is remembered at all--for losing to the celebrated Joshua Chamberlain in the fight for Little Round Top at Gettysburg. Here at last is Oates in full dimension, a fascinating, Faulknerian figure out of the Old South." --Stephen W. Sears, author of Gettysburg

"William C. Oates and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain faced one another in a storied confrontation on Little Round Top at Gettysburg. This fine biography demonstrates that Oates's life fully matched his more famous opponent's in drama and importance. LaFantasie's perceptive narrative uses Oates to explore major themes relating to the Civil War, the turbulent postwar years, and the struggle to shape the memory of the conflict."--Gary W. Gallagher, author of The Confederate War

"Beautifully written and superbly researched...Oates' story is a richly compelling one, set against the most dramatic period in United States history."--Joan Waugh, University of California at Los Angeles

"As Glenn LaFantasie makes clear in this candid and penetrating biography, William C. Oates was a man who reflected, throughout his long life, the violent, tragic, and often self-deceptive world of the American South in the nineteenth century. Lyrically written, challenging in its conclusions, this is an important book about the wartime generation of southerners and how they adjusted to the realities of the post-war South." --Craig L. Symonds, author of Decision at Sea: Five Naval Battles That Shaped American History

"LaFantasie's book is a brilliant example of how diligent research and skillful writing can turn a soldier known mainly for his role on one historic day into a fully rounded character, as movingly depicted as in a Tolstoy novel. William Oates's life, before, during and after the battle of Gettysburg, illustrates his times better than that of grander figures whose public virtues and sins overshadow their inner complexity. But never until now has anyone as talented as LaFantasie taken the pains to do it right." --Ernest B. Furgurson, author of Freedom Rising: Washington in the Civil War and Chancellorsville 1863

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195331318
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 10/29/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 448
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 6.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Glenn W. LaFantasie is the Frockt Family Professor of Civil War History and the Director of the Center for the Civil War in the West at Western Kentucky University. He is the bestselling author of Twilight at Little Round Top. He has also written for several magazines and newspapers, including American History, North & South, MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History, The New York Times Book Review, America's Civil War, Civil War Times Illustrated, and The Providence Journal.

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Table of Contents

Rough and Tumble Days
2. Baptism by Fire
3. An Unchristian State of Mind
4. Ragged Jacks
5. Boulders like Gravestones
6. In the Purple Gloom
7. Gone to Flickering
8. The End of Chivalry
9. Before the Bar
10. The One-Armed Hero of Henry County
11. Striking to Hurt
12. A Soldier in His Heart
13. Stumbling Toward Equality
14. Requiem

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2009

    Pass this one by...

    Glenn LaFantasie; his last name says it all. From his half baked theories of a "collective memory" to fantastic fabrications of what Oates and others "must have felt", to oddly out of place phrases such as "...the war was spinning out of control..." and "...the drums of war kept beating, and no one could stop them..." that are sprinkled throughout the book with no rhyme or reason this book has little for the serious student. Maps are almost non-existent, there are no orders of battle, he portrays the soldiery largely as bewildered knaves lifted from a midevial fairy tale and dropped into hades, ignoring what those men said of themselves in their own words, in their own diaries, written before the war, during the war, and afterwards. He hints broadly of a vast conspiracy of memory (his collective Southern memory theory...) but of course he alone sees through it, and writes this book to correct the historical record. He mentions the Mason-Dixon line; he mentions it in a context that makes me doubt he knows along which state's borders the Mason-Dixon lies. There are two small useful bits; the transfer of Oates' Regiment from Major General G.W. Smith's division to Brigadier General R.S. Ewell's division in October of 1861, then to Evander Law's brigade (Hood's division)in January of 1863 are significant details but flawed by the absence of a full order of battle at these points in time; and, the tactical discussion of Oates' assault on Little Round top is reasonably detailed, although the narrative is flawed by LaFantasie's attempt at prose.

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