Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Passing Of Alan Nolan

I just learned about the death of Alan Nolan, who was an attorney by trade as well as an accomplished Civil War author and historian. I refer you first to Kevin Levin's Civil War Memory blog, which is a premier ACW blog, for more information.
I first came upon Mr. Nolan's work in my studies of The Lost Cause, as his essays are featured in Gary Gallagher's collections. His discussions are provocative to say the least, but important in that they pull back the cloak on the mythology that has long veiled an accurate conception of the war. Of particular interest to Mr. Nolan was the deification of Robert E Lee, which he addressed in his book "Lee Considered". This text is next up on my reading list and will be reviewed here shortly.
It was given its intriguing name because, as Mr. Nolan said, Lee had never been properly and accurately considered despite the hundreds of books about him, thus it would be inaccurate to have titled it "Lee Reconsidered" Delicious! Needless to say, such efforts have vigorous detractors, some of whom are notable ACW historians, and there is probably truth in both views. The value of Nolan's efforts is in the novelty; these are the beginnings of a revisitation of true and accurate historiography, and it is important for old notions to be challenged. I suspect that in a few years, especially when the Civil War sesquicentenials start, Mr. Nolan's effort will be looked at with growing importance.
Along with these efforts, Mr. Nolan was known for a noteworthy history on the Iron Brigade, one the most famous units in the Army of the Potomac. His works are examples of how to both research and write history as well as challenge old notions and ideas. The field of ACW history is diminished by his passing.

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