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Top-ranked historian to share new interpretation of legendary commander-and how he became a Confederate nationalist

 Gary W. Gallagher will discuss his new book, due in stores this May.
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Date published: 1/24/2013


Why did Robert E. Lee resign from the U.S. Army and take Virginia's side in the Civil War?

His decision was one of the most consequential of the conflict.

Tonight, one of the nation's leading Civil War historians will share his fresh analysis of Lee's loyalties to Virginia, the United States, the South and the Confederacy.

Gary W. Gallagher's 7 p.m. lecture in the Central Rappahannock Regional Library headquarters theater is sponsored by the Lee-Jackson Educational Foundation and the library.

It is the second in a series of annual lectures, offered free to the public, featuring noted authors discussing their books on Lee's life and military achievements. Last year, biographer Elizabeth Brown Pryor, who wrote "Reading Lee," spoke at Kenmore.

Gallagher will stress the need to think of Lee as a complex person whose loyalty to Virginia did not always guide his actions.

He had a range of allegiances, according to Gallagher, whose interpretation varies from the usual depiction of Lee as a reluctant convert to the Confederacy.

His talk stems from Gallagher's most recent research for "Becoming Confederates," a book coming this spring from the University of Georgia Press.

In it, he explores how three men--Lee, Stephen Dodson Ramseur and Jubal A. Early--became ardent Confederate nationalists. All three were also prominent officers in the Army of Northern Virginia.

Each walked a different path to loyalty to the Confederacy, with generational differences among them. Ramseur, the youngest, embraced the new coalition. Early combined bits of Lee's and Ramseur's reactions. A Unionist, he reluctantly accepted Virginia's secession from the United States. Later, he personified Confederate nationalism to his dying day. Appreciating their perspectives "makes it difficult to argue that the Confederacy should not be deemed a nation," Gallagher says.

Their thoughts and actions illuminate crucial contours of our history, as 19th-century Americans juggled multiple, often conflicting, loyalties. Southern whites' identity was preoccupied with racial control transcending politics and class, he says.

Dr. Gallagher is the John L. Nau III Professor in the History of the American Civil War at the University of Virginia. His books will be on sale at the library. His most recent works are "The Union War" and "Causes Won, Lost, and Forgotten: How Hollywood and Popular Art Shape What We Know About the Civil War."

There will be a pre-lecture reception with Gary Gallagher at 5:30 p.m. at The Happy Clam, 1017 Sophia St., Fredericksburg. $20. 434/203-1239.

Clint Schemmer: 540/368-5029
Email: cschemmer@freelancestar.com