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When Bell Irvin Wiley's composite portrait of the rank-and-file Confederate soldier was published in 1943, professional historians and general readers alike greeted it enthusiastically. Over a half century later, the book still offers one of the best available accounts of the ordinary citizens who made up the Confederate army. The Life of Johnny Reb does not merely describe the battles and skirmishes fought by the Confederate foot soldier. Rather, it provides an intimate history of a soldier's daily life — the songs he sang, the foods he ate, the hopes and fears he experienced, the reasons he fought. Wiley examined countless letters, diaries, newspaper accounts, and official records to construct this frequently poignant, sometimes humorous account of the life of Johnny Reb. In a new foreword for this updated edition, Civil War expert James I. Robertson, Jr., explores the exemplary career of Bell Irvin Wiley, who championed the common folk, whom he saw as ensnared in the great conflict of the 1860s.
"A fascinating, well-written, stimulating, and valuable book." — Tennessee Historical Quarterly
"[Wiley] has painted with skill a picture of the life of the Confederate private... that is not only by far the most complete we have ever had but perhaps the best of its kind we ever shall have." — Saturday Review of Literature
Bell Irvin Wiley (1906—1980) was a professor emeritus of history at Emory University and one of America's preeminent Civil War historians. He is also the author of The Life of Billy Yank and Road to Appomattox, among other books.
James I. Robertson, Jr., is Alumni Distinguished Professor of History at Virginia Tech University. He is the author of Stonewall Jackson: The Man, the Soldier, the Legend; Soldiers Blue and Gray; and The Stonewall Brigade, among other works.
Wiley offers a rare but complete portrait of the ordinary soldier of the Confederacy during the Civil War, via extensive research of letters, newspaper stories, official records, and excerpts from diary entries.
Posted July 8, 2009
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