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Here then is a richly evocative story of Southern life before, during, and after the Civil War, based on first-time and exclusive access to family papers and never-before-seen archives.

There is a tradition in the mythologizing of the War Between the States of introducing the tragedy of one brother going to one side and another to the other. This was not the case in the Oates family as William’s younger brother, John, fought alongside him at Gettysburg. John was wounded, taken prisoner by the north and died of blood poisoning in a filthy field hospital twenty three days after the battle. There was a proud tradition of Southern families fighting together that is perhaps best epitomized by the story of Robert E. Lee and his youngest son – nineteen at the time – during the Battle of Antietam on the 17th of September 1862.

“Are you going to send us in again?” Rob asked his father.

“Yes, my son,” Lee answered, “You all must do what you can to help drive these people back.”

And that, in essence, is the story of the Lost Cause. Americans attempting to protect their homes – to drive these people back – and preserve the freedoms of the founders against the forces of a new industrial empire. Most were not dedicated to slavery, Oates wanted to free slaves and enlist them in the Southern army, but they were lifelong opponents of what McClellan referred to as, “an offensive exhibition of boorishness and vulgarity,” – which is as fair a definition of northern culture as any rendered – and of any attempt to limit the sovereign rights of their own states.

Gettysburg requiem : the life and lost causes of Confederate Colonel William C. Oates    Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2006 Glenn W. LaFantasie Confederate States of America. Army. Alabama Infantry Regiment, 15th, Oates, William C. (William Calvin), 1835-1910 Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xxxi, 414 p., [15] p. of plates : ill., ports. ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [367]-396) and index.  Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text.  VG/VG  

William C. Oates is best remembered as the Confederate officer defeated at Gettysburg’s Little Round Top, losing a golden opportunity to turn the Union’s flank and win the battle – and perhaps the war. Now, Glenn W. LaFantasie, author of Twilight at Little Round Top, has written a gripping biography of Oates, a narrative that reveals, for the first time, the compelling and sometimes astonishing dimensions of this remarkable individual.

Oates was no moonlight-and-magnolias Southerner. Raised in the hard-scrabble Wiregrass Country of Alabama, he ran away from home as a teenager, roamed through Louisiana and Texas – where he took up card sharking – and finally returned to Alabama, to pull himself up by his bootstraps and become a respected attorney. During the war, he rose to the rank of colonel, served under Stonewall Jackson and Lee, was wounded six times and lost an arm. Returning home, he became wealthy investing in land and cotton, married a woman half his age, and launched a successful political career, becoming a seven-term congressman and ultimately governor. LaFantasie shows how, for Oates and many others of his generation, the war never really ended – he remained devoted to the Lost Cause, and spent the rest of his life waging the political battles of Reconstruction.

 

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