Unknown Soldiers

Thomas Carlyle wrote that “History is the essence of innumerable Biographies.”  While that description does not cover all the duties of historianship, it is true in an important sense.  History that becomes too abstract loses its vital connection with the lives of real human beings.  The people of the past were human, and we are human: That is the primary reason that most of us are interested in them.  To know the lives of our past is especially important now, when mainstream American history is dominated by the imposition of theoretical categories engendered by the ethnic and class conflicts of Europe.  Some large proportion of the American population, and an even larger proportion of academic historians, feel no connection to, and often an active hostility toward, the Americans who lived before the 20th century.

It therefore does us good to have this rich biographical collection of the 357 Harvard men (including from the university’s law and medical schools) who fought for the South in the great American slaughter of 1861-65.  The research is wide, deep, and painstaking.  We learn much about the education, careers, westward movement, family connections, and war experiences of several generations of Americans—including, as will astound current trendy vendors of history, a Mexican-American, a Cuban-American, several Jews, and at least 20 Northern-born Confederates.

Professor Trimpi, who...

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