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Gallagher Tackles 'Contested Historical Landscape' for Smith Civil War Lecture

September 29, 2003

[ Gary Gallagher Photo ] DELAWARE, OHIO -- Since the end of the Civil War, both northern and southern Americans have tried to understand the conflict that divided our nation for four years.

Gary W. Gallagher, an award-winning Civil War historian and professor of the American Civil War at the University of Virginia, will offer insight on this War when he gives the talk, "A Contested Historical Landscape: Understanding and Interpreting the Civil War." The lecture is part of The Richard W. Smith Civil War History Lecture Series and will take place on Thursday, Oct. 2, at 7:30 p.m. in Gray Chapel.

"Many people North and South cared passionately about how history would judge their actions in a war that sent more than 3 million men into military service (out of a population of 31.5 million), claimed more than 600,000 lives, and laid waste to the economic and social structures of the 11 seceding states," said Gallagher. "Retrospective explorations of the conflict frequently took the form of heated debate and continue despite the passage of more than 137 years."

According to Gallagher, there are three major interpretive traditions. He said two of the traditions emerged immediately following the conflict; one from the north and one from the south. These two traditions contrasting each other and are still similarly argued today. The third and most recent tradition "eclipsed the others by the end of the 19th century" and is the most dominant tradition today.

"We will examine each of the traditions with an eye toward understanding why each arose, and why the first two have given way to the third in terms of how most Americans view the Civil War," Gallagher said.

The Civil War historian has received numerous awards for his research, such as the Fletcher Pratt Award and the Nevins-Freeman Award. He is also the author of several books, including Lee and His Generals in War and Memory, The Confederate War, and Stephen Dodson Ramseur: Lee's Gallant General. He frequently gives Civil War lectures to Universities as well as general audiences and is currently the editor of the Civil War America series (36 titles) and the Military Campaigns of the Civil War series (eight titles) at the University of North Carolina Press. He also helped found and is the current president of the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites, currently boasting a national membership of 12,000 individuals.

The lecture is free and open to the public. For more information, call 740-368-3321.