Publisher’s Weekly Talks with Amanda Foreman

A Narrative Symphony of the Civil War:

Publisher’s Weekly Talks with Amanda Foreman

By Wendy Smith  — Apr 18, 2011

In A World on Fire, bestselling biographer Amanda Foreman traces turbulent Anglo-American relations during the Civil War.

This massive history is very different from your first book, Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire. What drew you to the subject?

Actually, Georgiana was the interloping subject. I’d gone to Oxford to do graduate studies in the history of the slave trade, but I came across Georgiana’s letters, gave up that thesis, and wrote one on her instead. When I learned that Georgiana’s great-nephews supported opposite sides in the American Civil War, I knew this would be the perfect sequel. It was a fascinating microcosm of British attitudes, and it brought me back to something I’d always wanted to finish.

Your father is American, your mother English; you were raised and educated in both countries. Was that dual perspective valuable?

Absolutely! When I started reading British books about Anglo-American relations during the Civil War, I saw this complete disconnect between what historians read on the page—someone’s letters, for example—and the realities of Washington at that time. American histories were the same; they had these mad ideas about how Parliament worked, or what people really meant when they said A, B, or C. All my life I felt simultaneously deracinated and rooted in both places, and now it’s my greatest strength: I’m culturally bilingual.

How did you go about interweaving the individual stories of British volunteers on both sides with the broader history of diplomatic relations and the progress of the war?

That was the most rewarding aspect for me. It was difficult to have multiple viewpoints and keep the narrative moving, but then I thought of how music is written. I tried to construct a narrative symphony with my story lines, so that readers don’t really notice as themes and melodies shift from strings to drums to flute, because the development at all times takes you forward.

Do you think you’re taking a commercial risk with such a long, complicated text?

A massive risk, especially since I took 12 years after Georgiana was such a success! In fact, my first publishers in England fired me because they didn’t want to take that risk. But I was lucky, because I went to Stuart Proffitt at Allen Lane, who’s an outstanding editor. He loved this project, and I worked really hard on it with him and with Susanna Porter at Random House. It worked out extremely well, because they are so different. Susanna’s specialty is historical fiction and female biography, which is why I had her for Georgiana. She would say, “You know what? This is really boring. I’m lost here, and I have no idea what you’re talking about.” While Stuart would say, “You know, I don’t think you followed through very well on your argument about the battle ofGettysburg.” They read it with two different sets of eyes, and you never get that; I am so grateful.

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Booknote: 1861 by Adam Goodheart

From the publisher:

In time for the 150th anniversary of our defining national event: an original and altogether gripping account of how the Civil War began.

1861 is an epic of courage and heroism beyond the battlefields. Early in that fateful year, Americans began to rally around an idea of remaking the country into a morally coherent stronghold of liberty. This second American revolution inspired a new generation to reject their parents’ faith in compromise and appeasement, to do the unthinkable in the name of an ideal.

The book introduces us to a heretofore little-known cast of Civil War heroes—among them, an acrobatic militia colonel, an explorer’s wife, a close-knit band of German immigrants, a regiment of New York City firemen, and a young college professor who would one day become president. Adam Goodheart takes us from the halls of the Capitol to the slums of Manhattan, from the mouth of the Chesapeake to the deserts of Nevada, from Boston Common to Alcatraz Island, vividly evoking the Union at this moment of ultimate crisis and decision.

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Booknote: My Name is Mary Sutter

From the publisher:

In this stunning historical novel, Mary Sutter is a brilliant, headstrong midwife from Albany, New York, who dreams of becoming a surgeon. Determined to overcome the prejudices against women in medicine—and eager to run away from her recent heartbreak—Mary leaves home and travels to Washington, D.C. to help tend the legions of Civil War wounded. Under the guidance of William Stipp and James Blevens—two surgeons who fall unwittingly in love with Mary’s courage, will, and stubbornness in the face of suffering—and resisting her mother’s pleas to return home to help with the birth of her twin sister’s baby, Mary pursues her medical career in the desperately overwhelmed hospitals of the capital.

Like Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain and Robert Hicks’s The Widow of the South, My Name Is Mary Sutter powerfully evokes the atmosphere of the period. Rich with historical detail (including marvelous depictions of Lincoln, Dorothea Dix, General McClelland, and John Hay among others), and full of the tragedies and challenges of wartime, My Name Is Mary Sutter is an exceptional novel. And, in Mary herself, Robin Oliveira has created a truly unforgettable heroine whose unwavering determination and vulnerability will resonate with readers everywhere.

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Booknote: The Civil War: The First Year Told by Those Who Lived It

From the publisher:

After 150 years the Civil War is still our greatest national drama, at once heroic, tragic, and epic-our Iliad, but also our Bible, a story of sin and judgment, suffering and despair, death and resurrection in a “new birth of freedom.” Drawn from letters, diaries, speeches, articles, poems, songs, military reports, legal opinions, and memoirs, The Civil War: The First Year gathers over 120 pieces by more than sixty participants to create a unique firsthand narrative of this great historical crisis. Beginning on the eve of Lincoln’s election in November 1860 and ending in January 1862 with the appointment of Edwin M. Stanton as secretary of war, this volume presents writing by figures well-known-Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, Mary Chesnut, Frederick Douglass, and Lincoln himself among them-and less familiar, like proslavery advocate J.D.B. DeBow, Lieutenants Charles B. Haydon of the 2nd Michigan Infantry and Henry Livermore Abbott of the 20th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, and plantation mistresses Catherine Edmondston of North Carolina and Kate Stone of Mississippi. Together, the selections provide a powerful sense of the immediacy, uncertainty, and urgency of events as the nation was torn asunder. Includes headnotes, a chronology of events, biographical and explanatory endnotes, full-color hand-drawn endpaper maps, and an index. Companion volumes will gather writings from the second, third, and final years of the conflict.

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Booknote: Beaufort 1849

From the publisher’s web site:

After years abroad, Jasper Wainwright returns to Beaufort, South Carolina, home of his unruly youth. Slavery and Sea Island cotton have made this summer seat of plantation owners one of the wealthiest and most cultured cities in America . . . and also the most hotheaded, secessionist city in the South.

Jasper’s cousin, Henry Birch, wants him to marry his niece, Cara, a pianist and the prettiest girl in the county. Believing slavery doomed, Jasper has no desire to settle in the South again and so resists both Henry’s matchmaking and his growing fascination with Cara. Then anonymous letters in The Charleston Courier give Jasper an inkling that maybe the South could change.

Though his freed slave, Jim, who travels with him, is antsy to leave, Jasper lingers in Beaufort. Amid a whirl of parties, waltzes and duels, Cara is never far from his eyes or his thoughts. As cries for secession grow louder, Jasper works desperately to convince Beaufort planters that gradual emancipation and transition to a wage-based economy could avert the coming storm of war. Will Beaufort be another Pompeii, its civilization disappearing in a cataclysm it refuses to foresee?

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Booknote: This Great Struggle

From the publisher’s web site:

Referring to the war that was raging across parts of the American landscape, Abraham Lincoln told Congress in 1862, “We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope on earth.” Lincoln recognized what was at stake in the American Civil War: not only freedom for 3.5 million slaves but also survival of self-government in the last place on earth where it could have the opportunity of developing freely.

Noted historian Steven E. Woodworth tells the story of what many regard as the defining event in United States history. While covering all theaters of war, he emphasizes the importance of action in the region between the Appalachians and the Mississippi River in determining its outcome. Woodworth argues that the Civil War had a distinct purpose that was understood by most of its participants: it was primarily a conflict over the issue of slavery. The soldiers who filled the ranks of the armies on both sides knew what they were fighting for. The outcome of the war-after its beginnings at Fort Sumter to the Confederate surrender four years later-was the result of the actions and decisions made by those soldiers and millions of other Americans. Written in clear and compelling fashion, This Great Struggle is their story-and ours.

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Booknote: The Grand Design by Donald Stoker

From the publisher’s web site:

Of the tens of thousands of books exploring virtually every aspect of the Civil War, surprisingly little has been said about what was in fact the determining factor in the outcome of the conflict: differences in Union and Southern strategy.

In The Grand Design , Donald Stoker provides a comprehensive and often surprising account of strategy as it evolved between Fort Sumter and Appomattox. Reminding us that strategy is different from tactics (battlefield deployments) and operations (campaigns conducted in pursuit of a strategy), Stoker examines how Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis identified their political goals and worked with their generals to craft the military means to achieve them–or how they often failed to do so. Stoker shows that Davis, despite a West Point education and experience as Secretary of War, failed as a strategist by losing control of the political side of the war. His invasion of Kentucky was a turning point that shifted the loyalties and vast resources of the border states to the Union. Lincoln, in contrast, evolved a clear strategic vision, but he failed for years to make his generals implement it. At the level of generalship, Stoker notes that Robert E. Lee correctly determined the Union’s center of gravity, but proved mistaken in his assessment of how to destroy it. Stoker also presents evidence that the Union could have won the war in 1862, had it followed the grand plan of the much-derided general, George B. McClellan.

Arguing that the North’s advantages in population and industry did not ensure certain victory, Stoker reasserts the centrality of the overarching military ideas–the strategy–on each side, showing how strategy determined the war’s outcome.

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Booknote: The Civil War: a Visual History

From the publisher’s web site:

Produced with the Smithsonian Institution and released in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of the start of the war, The Civil War is a unique visual history to one of the most defining moments in our country’s history.

As the sesquicentennial anniversary of the war approaches, the key events of the conflict retain a vivid resonance in the popular memory. Gettysburg, the Bloody Angle at Spotsylvania, and the Crater at Petersburg have become bywords for brutality and suffering, but also for courage and resilience.

The casualty toll of the Civil War still exceeds that of every other American war, before and since, put together. Race and states’ rights remain potent issues to this day, making the story of the Civil War as gripping today as it was when it divided the nation 150 years ago.

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Booknote: A World on Fire by Amanda Foreman

From the publisher’s web site:

Acclaimed historian Amanda Foreman follows the phenomenal success of her New York Times bestseller Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire with her long-awaited second work of nonfiction: the fascinating story of the American Civil War and the major role played by Britain and its citizens in that epic struggle.

Even before the first rumblings of secession shook the halls of Congress, British involvement in the coming schism was inevitable. Britain was dependent on the South for cotton, and in turn the Confederacy relied almost exclusively on Britain for guns, bullets, and ships. The Union sought to block any diplomacy between the two and consistently teetered on the brink of war with Britain. For four years the complex web of relationships between the countries led to defeats and victories both minute and history-making. In A World on Fire, Amanda Foreman examines the fraught relations from multiple angles while she introduces characters both humble and grand, bringing them to vivid life over the course of her sweeping and brilliant narrative.

Between 1861 and 1865, thousands of British citizens volunteered for service on both sides of the Civil War. From the first cannon blasts on Fort Sumter to Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, they served as officers and infantrymen, sailors and nurses, blockade runners and spies. Through personal letters, diaries, and journals, Foreman has woven together their experiences to form a panoramic yet intimate view of the war on the front lines, in the prison camps, and in the great cities of both the Union and the Confederacy. Through the eyes of these brave volunteers we see the details of the struggle for life and the great and powerful forces that threatened to demolish a nation.

In the drawing rooms of London and the offices of Washington, on muddy fields and aboard packed ships, Foreman reveals the decisions made, the beliefs held and contested, and the personal triumphs and sacrifices that ultimately led to the reunification of America. A World on Fire is a complex and groundbreaking work that will surely cement Amanda Foreman’s position as one of the most influential historians of our time.

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Civil War Books and Resources due out in the first half of 2011

Civil War Books Coming out from Jan – Jun

May be considered ‘new’ if the paperback verion is coming out, after the hardback was published earlier.

A Western Theater slant.

Some eBooks on Kindle too; as cheap as .99 cents.


Gone for a Sojer Boy: The revealing Letters and Diaries of Union Soldiers in the Civil War as they endure the Siege of Charleston S.C., the Virginia Campaigns … and Captivity in Andersonville Prison by Neal E. Wixson (Jan 1, 2011)

The Southern Home Front of the Civil War (Why We Fought: the Civil War) by Roberta Baxter (Jan 1, 2011)

The Great Schism: The Dividing of Virginia during the American Civil War by John A. Cowgill (Jan 4, 2011)

From Battlefields Rising: How The Civil War Transformed American Literature by Randall Fuller (Jan 3, 2011)

The Great Heart of the Republic: St. Louis and the Cultural Civil War by Adam Arenson (Jan 3, 2011)

“Out of the Mouth of Hell”: Civil War Prisons and Escapes by Frances Harding Casstevens (Jan 6, 2011)

History of the Seventh Indiana cavalry volunteers, and the expeditions, campaigns, raids, marches, and battles of the armies with which it was connected, … and other officers of the regiment; (1876) by Thomas Sydenham Cogley (Jan 7, 2011) – Kindle eBook

General Braxton Bragg, C.s.a. by Samuel J. Martin (Jan 12, 2011)

Sister States, Enemy States: The Civil War in Kentucky and Tennessee by Kent Dollar, Larry Whiteaker, and W. Calvin Dollar (Jan 11, 2011)

Personal recollections and experiences concerning the Battle of Stone River (1889) by Milo S Hascall (Jan 13, 2011) – Kindle eBook

The Regular brigade of the Fourteenth army corps, the Army of the Cumberland, in the battle of Stone River, or Murfreesboro’, Tennessee, from December … 3d, 1863, both dates inclusive (1883) by Frederick Phisterer (Jan 13, 2011) – Kindle eBook

“Co. Aytch” Maury Grays, First Tennessee Regiment or, A Side Show of the Big Show (Civil War) by Sam R. Watkins (Jan 16, 2011) – Kindle eBook

Grant and Sherman: Civil War Memoirs (Library of America) by Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, Mary D. McFeely, and William S. McFeely (Jan 20, 2011)



The Notorious “Bull” Nelson: Murdered Civil War General by Donald A. Clark (Feb 1, 2011)

Savannah, Immortal City: An Epic lV Volume History: A City & People That Forged A Living Link Between America, Past and Present by Barry Sheehy, Vaughnette Goode-Walker, and Cindy Wallace (Feb 1, 2011)

Upcountry South Carolina Goes to War: Letters of the Anderson, Brockman, and Moore Families, 1853-1865 by Tom Moore Craig and Melissa A. Walker (Jan 31, 2011)

The Civil War: The First Year Told by Those Who Lived It (Library of America #212) by Brooks D. Simpson, Stephen W. Sears, and Aaron Sheehan-Dean (Feb 3, 2011)

The Civil War in Mississippi: Major Campaigns and Battles (Heritage of Mississippi) by Michael B. Ballard (Feb 1, 2011)

Life in Civil War America by Michael J. Varhola (Feb 27, 2011)

Columbia Civil War Landmarks (SC) by Tom Elmore (Feb 18, 2011)

NPR American Chronicles: The Civil War by NPR and Neal Conan (Feb 16, 2011) Audio.

The L&N Railroad in the Civil War: A Vital North-South Link and the Struggle to Control It by Dan Lee (Feb 15, 2011)


Generals South, Generals North: The Commanders of the Civil War Reconsidered by Alan Axelrod (Mar 1, 2011)

The Ideals Guide to American Civil War Places by Julie Shively (Mar 1, 2011)

Shifting Loyalties: The Union Occupation of Eastern North Carolina by Judkin Browning (Feb 10, 2011)

Lincoln Revisited: New Insights from the Lincoln Forum by Harold Holzer, Dawn Vogel, and John Y. Simon (Mar 14, 2011)

Marching Through Georgia: Story of Soldiers and Civilians During Sherman’s Campaign by Lee B. Kennett (Mar 8, 2011) – Kindle eBook

Battlefields of the Civil War: The Battles that Shaped America by Peter Cozzens (Mar 1, 2011)

Civil War America: 1850-1870 by Paul Johnson (Mar 15, 2011)

The Confederate Nation: 1861-1865 by Emory M. Thomas (Mar 15, 2011)

The Civil War: A Visual History by DK Publishing (Mar 21, 2011)

Lincoln on Race and Slavery by Henry Louis Gates and Donald Yacovone (Mar 21, 2011)

The Civil War Vault by Whitman Publishing (Mar 20, 2011)

America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation by David R. Goldfield (Mar 15, 2011)

Daughters of the Union: Northern Women Fight the Civil War by Nina Silber (Mar 31, 2011)

Germans of Charleston, Richmond and New Orleans During the Civil War Period, 1850-1870 by Andrea Mehrlunder (Mar 31, 2011)

Great Civil War Heroes and Their Battles by Walton H. Rawls (Mar 29, 2011)

Slavery in the Upper Mississippi Valley, 1787-1865: A History of Human Bondage in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin by Christopher P. Lehman (Mar 29, 2011)


The Union War by Gary W. Gallagher (Apr 4, 2011)

The Won Cause: Black and White Comradeship in the Grand Army of the Republic (Civil War America) by Barbara A. Gannon (Mar 21, 2011)

Leaving Home in Dark Blue: Chronicling Ohio’s Civil War Experience through Memoirs and Literature by Curt Brown (Apr 1, 2011)

Breaking the Heartland: The Civil War in Georgia by John D. Fowler and David B. Parker (Apr 2011)

Starving the South: How the North Won the Civil War by Andrew F. Smith (Apr 12, 2011) – Kindle eBook

Fort Pillow, a Civil War Massacre, and Public Memory (Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War) by John Cimprich (Apr 8, 2011)

1861: The Civil War Awakening by Adam Goodheart (Apr 5, 2011) – Kindle eBook

This Great Struggle: America’s Civil War by Steven E. Woodworth (Apr 16, 2011)

Andersonvilles of the North: The Myths and Realities of Northern Treatment of Civil War Confederate Prisoners by James M. Gillispie (Apr 28, 2011)

The 11th Missouri Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War: A History and Roster by Dennis W. Belcher (Apr 26, 2011)

Tennessee in the Civil War: Selected Contemporary Accounts of Military and Other Events, Month by Month by James B., Jr. Jones (Apr 26, 2011)

The Civil War Box Set: With American Homer: Reflections on Shelby Foote and His Classic The Civil War: A Narrative by Shelby Foote and Jon Meacham (Apr 19, 2011)

Touring the Carolina’s Civil War Sites (Touring the Backroads) by Clint Johnson (May 1, 2011)

Confederate Naval Forces on Western Waters: The Defense of the Mississippi River and Its Tributaries by R. Thomas Campbell (Apr 30, 2011)


The Dogs of War: 1861 (Pivotal Moments in American History) by Emory M. Thomas (May 13, 2011)

The Seven-Day Scholar: The Civil War: Exploring History One Week at a Time by Dennis Gaffney and Peter Gaffney (May 10, 2011)

The CSS Arkansas: A Confederate Ironclad on the Western Waters by Myron J., Jr. Smith and George E., Jr. Wright (May 31, 2011)

Confederate Generals in the Western Theater, Vol. 3: Essays on America’s Civil War by Lawrence L. Hewitt and Arthur W. Bergeron Jr. (May 30, 2011)

Fugitive Slaves and the Underground Railroad in the Kentucky Borderland by J. Blaine Hudson (May 30, 2011)

The Enemy Within: Fears of Corruption in the Civil War North (A Nation Divided: Studies in the Civil War Era) by Michael Thomas Smith (May 26, 2011)

Colonels in Blue–Michigan, Ohio and West Virginia: A Civil War Biographical Dictionary by Roger D. Hunt (May 25, 2011)

Civil War 150 (Illustrated Living History Series) by Civil War Preservation Trust (May 17, 2011)


Mightier than the Sword: Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Battle for America by David S. Reynolds (Jun 13, 2011)

Albert Taylor Bledsoe: Defender of the Old South and Architect of the Lost Cause (Southern Biography Series) by Terry A. Barnhart (Jun 10, 2011)

Confederate Invention: The Story of the Confederate States Patent Office and Its Inventors (Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War) by H. Jackson Knight (Jun 10, 2011)

Gray and the Blue, The: A Comic Strip History of the Civil War by Charles Hayes (Jun 1, 2011)

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