Unforgettables: Winners, Losers, Strong Women, and Eccentric Men of the Civil War Era

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John C. Waugh
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Trade paper, 6 x 9
40 images, 228 pp.
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About the Book

Personalities. Characters. History. John C. Waugh, the author of the popular and award-winning The Class of 1846, presents forty of the most memorable and impactful individuals he has come across during his three decades of researching and writing about the American Civil War—or as he calls them, his “Unforgettables” in the aptly titled, Unforgettables: Winners, Losers, Strong Women, and Eccentric Men of the Civil War Era.

Waugh’s unique pen and spritely style bring to life a mix of the famous and the infamous, the little-known and the unremembered. He reintroduces us to Abraham Lincoln the writer, Jefferson Davis the losing president, and their fascinating and influential wives Mary and Varina. Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, and Daniel Webster (“three for the ages”) are juxtaposed with Presidents Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, and James Buchanan—four chief executives who failed to avert the coming war. Military personalities include U. S. Grant and Robert E. Lee with a nod toward their mentor, the nearly forgotten General Winfield Scott.

The author cast a wide net to include “the seekers of equality,” African Americans Sojourner Truth and Lincoln’s friend Frederick Douglass, a half dozen women like Maria Mayo, Kate Chase, and Anna Dickinson who helped shape our understanding of cultural issues, and influential media mavens Horace Greeley and Adam Gurowski.

Poet and political activist Muriel Rukeyser once wrote, “The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.” She was right. Had she elaborated, she might have added that these stories are driven by the passions of their characters and are what history is all about. “My hope,” explains the author in his Preface, “is that these sketches and word portraits rekindle that passion and hook a few non-believers on the undeniable drama that is history.”

Advance Praise

“John Waugh provides a wonderful collection of some of the most colorful characters of the Civil War. We know the names of many of these people, but Waugh gives us sketches that bring them to life in new, colorful ways that serve as excellent reintroductions. But Waugh also surprises us with some names less-well-known, and those characters prove equally delightful. I loved this collection when I first read it, and I love it more every time I revisit it. Huzzah to John Waugh for helping us see the familiar in new, interesting, and engaging ways!” — Chris Mackowski, Ph.D., editor-in-chief, Emerging Civil War (www.emergingcivilwar.com)

“Jack Waugh never fails to delight, intrigue, entertain, educate, and make us think. No one is more qualified to take on this striking collection of the Civil War’s most memorable characters.” — Steven Woodworth, author of Grant’s Lieutenants: From Cairo to Vicksburg

“Every person who is depressed over the condition of our beloved nation should read this book. It is a scintillating march through history—full of panache and a primer of the good, bad, and ugly by a great historian and journalist.” — Frank Williams, founding Chair of The Lincoln Forum and retired Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court

“John Waugh’s latest is (as usual) the rewarding product of vast reading, perceptive analysis, and stylish writing. In these vignettes, the leading figures of the Civil War era—and a few obscure ones, too—come vividly to life, as if Waugh is introducing them to us over a drink or for a chat. As an introduction to, or refresher course in, the colorful men and women who changed 19th-century history, this treasure trove is highly recommended, and its cast of characters—well, unforgettable.” — Harold Holzer, winner of the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize

"Engaging, profusely illustrated, well-researched, cogently crafted, and based on sound scholarship, Waugh’s book is informative, entertaining, and thought-provoking. Although the book is geared toward general audiences, seasoned historians should likewise find value in this book as a quick refresher about some of the Civil War era’s most significant and intriguing characters."

-- Jonathan Noyalas, Director of Shenandoah University’s McCormick Civil War Institute


Civil War historian John C. Waugh was for seventeen years a staff correspondent and bureau chief for the international newspaper, The Christian Science Monitor. He followed that with three years on the senior staff of former Vice President Nelson Rockefeller in Washington. Later for six years he was the press secretary for New Mexico’s Jeff Bingaman in that U. S. senator’s first term. An historian at heart, Waugh has spent the last three decades, with occasional lapses, writing thirteen published books on the American Civil War era, including the best-selling The Class of 1846: From West Point to Appomattox—Stonewall Jackson, George McClellan and Their Brothers. He has also authored various articles for numerous national periodicals. Waugh attended Tucson, Arizona, public schools and graduated from the University of Arizona in 1951 with a major in journalism and a minor in history. He is the father of two children, the grandfather of four, and the great- grandfather of one. He and his wife, Kathleen D. Lively, live in Pantego, Texas.