The Life and Wars of Gideon J. Pillow

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Overview

One of nineteenth-century America’s most controversial military figures, Gideon Johnson Pillow gained notoriety early in the Civil War for turning an apparent Confederate victory at Fort Donelson into an ignominious defeat. Dismissed by contemporaries and historians alike as a political general with dangerous aspirations, his famous failures have overshadowed the tremendous energy, rare talent, and great organizational skills that also marked his career. In this exhaustive biography, Nathaniel Cheairs Hughes Jr. and Roy P. Stonesifer Jr. look beyond conventional historical interpretations to provide a full and nuanced portrait of this provocative and maligned man.

While noting his arrogance, ambition, and very public mistakes, Hughes and Stonesifer give Pillow his due as a gifted attorney, first-rate farmer, innovator, and man of considerable political influence. One of Tennessee’s wealthiest planters, Pillow promoted scientific methods to improve the soil, preached crop diversification to reduce the South’s dependence on cotton, and endorsed railroad construction as a means to develop the southern economy. He helped secure the 1844 Democratic nomination for his friend and fellow Tennessean James K. Polk and was rewarded after Polk’s victory with an appointment as brigadier general. While his role in the Mexican War earned him a reputation for recklessness and self-promotion, his organization of what would become the Army of Tennessee put him at the forefront of the Confederate war effort. After the disaster at Donelson, he spent the rest of the war directing Confederate conscription in the West and leading Rebel cavalry forces—a role of continuing service which, the authors show, has been insufficiently acknowledged.

Updated with a new foreword by noted Civil War scholar Timothy D. Johnson, The Life and Wars of Gideon J. Pillow portrays a colorful, enigmatic general who moved just outside the world of greatness he longed to enter.

Nathaniel Cheairs Hughes Jr. is the author or editor of twenty books relating to the American Civil War, including Refugitta of Richmond; Brigadier General Tyree H. Bell, C.S.A.: Forrest’s Fighting Lieutenant; and Yale’s Confederates. The late Roy P. Stonesifer Jr. was a professor of history at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Commonly portrayed in Civil War literature as a bungling general who disgraced himself at Fort Donelson, Pillow (1806-78) is given a fresh look by two biographers. They call attention to his prominent role in many of the major conflicts of his day and reveal a colorful, enigmatic man who moved just on the outskirts of the world of greatness he yearned to enter. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781572337558
  • Publisher: University of Tennessee Press
  • Publication date: 5/30/2011
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 504
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Nathaniel Cheairs Hughes Jr. is the author or editor of twenty books relating to the American Civil War, including Refugitta of Richmond; Brigadier General Tyree H. Bell, C.S.A.: Forrest’s Fighting Lieutenant; and Yale’s Confederates. The late Roy P. Stonesifer Jr. was a professor of history at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania.

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Table of Contents

Foreword to the Paperback Edition xi

Preface xvii

Acknowledgments xix

1 A Jacksonian Tradition 1

2 A Friend Indeed 23

3 Tennessee's Own Son 39

4 Hurra for Pa 56

5 Hero of Chapultepec 78

6 Leonidas 105

7 Making Good Democratic Music 122

8 Palace of Fire 141

9 The Provisional Army of Tennessee 156

10 To Aid Our Friends in Missouri 174

11 A Plunge into the Forest 193

12 I Will Die First 209

13 Is This Right? 240

14 A Place He So Exactly Fits 259

15 I Only Want a Respectable Command 276

16 A Bitter Cup 300

Epilogue 323

Appendix 1 And Afterward 329

Appendix 2 Some of Gideon J. Pillow's Staff Officers 333

Notes 335

Bibliography 407

Index 441

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