What makes reading, researching, and writing about the Civil War so interesting? Gould Hagler, a writer for the Civil War News, says it’s the immediacy of it all.
Hagler, author of Georgia’s Confederate Monuments: In Honor of a Fallen Nation, has been devoted to history since his earliest years in school, he says. He would find himself reading articles in a children’s encyclopedia about a myriad of topics ranging across the globe from ancient days to the present. He recalled a time in high school when he surprised a teacher and his classmates simply by knowing the date Constantinople fell to the Turks.
His response: how can you go through life not knowing useful facts like that?
Hagler soon hit his 20s, and finally found his history niche: the Civil War. After his grandfather’s passing, his grandmother opened the family library for Hagler to explore. He walked out with a stack of books in his arms—among them, Douglas Southall Freeman’s Lee’s Lieutenants.
After finishing those three volumes, Hagler itched to know more about the war. His next pursuit became Allan Nevin’s Ordeal of the Union, an eight-volume historical rendition of the war. Since then, Hagler has always been in search of ways to extend his knowledge and understanding of the timeline, people, and politics of the Civil War.
“In books like these you go way past the cursory accounts and get deep into the weeds,” he said, “and the deeper you go the more you realize that you can always go even deeper.”
Hagler spent his whole life reading historical books, so after a 30-year career as an insurance lobbyist in Georgia, he began writing his own. After finishing his first book, a colleague approached him about writing a Civil War News column. The colleague had read his work and jumped at the opportunity to pick Hagler’s mind about his interests in the war. At first, however, Hagler explained his hesitation.
“I just didn’t know if I would have enough to write about,” he said.
But as time went on, Hagler found that there’s a story and a history that surrounds us every day. He explained that he finds little fragments of this almost everywhere he goes. With every book, conversation, and place he stumbles upon comes a new idea for a good story, he said.
His most recent work for the Civil War News includes a three-part column on women during the war. The first part, published in June 2021, tells the stories of southern and northern women who joined together so they could be with their husbands or sweethearts. The second part, published in July, shares the stories of women with different motives. These women were known as the soldiers, spies, sutlers, smugglers, and strumpets.
Hagler’s final part in the exploration of women in the war, published in August, focused on telling the stories of three famous women, Antonia Ford, Pauline Cushman, and Loreta Velazquez.
This short series is based largely on compilations of newspaper items put together by a librarian at the University of Texas at Tyler. This resource covers all kinds of things—from Catholic nuns’ activities in the conflict to paper manufacturing. Hagler had been searching for collection this extensive for months, so researching for this column became one of his favorite ventures to date.
“It’s not just about the generals and the politicians, it’s the story of millions of people and what they did,” Hagler explained.
Although Hagler isn’t a professional historian or scholar, he does whatever he can to share compelling stories about the history that has shaped our nation today.
“This is the history that happened right here and not all that long ago, and it’s important to share it,” he said.
In March 2019, ECW featured the work of several Civil War News columnists, including Gould Hagler. You can read his piece here.