ECW10 Series: Fallen Leaders

Chris Heisey provided another stunning cover photo for the latest Emerging Civil War 10th Anniversary Series book.

Symposium time is right around the corner for Emerging Civil War. I can’t help but think back to one of my favorite ECW symposia, 2021’s “Fallen Leaders.” The event brought together a great line-up of speakers who talked about leaders at all level—from the army level down to the regimental level—who fell during the war. We interpreted the definition of “fallen” broadly, so it covered leaders who were killed and wounded but also those who “fell from grace.”

We complemented that symposium with a series of posts on our blog so that our entire community of authors could chime in with their thoughts. That brought many additional personalities into the discussion, although some leaders inspired comments from multiple authors, which really created a nice “dialogue” that gave readers much to think about.

That Symposium inspired the latest volume in the Emerging Civil War 10th Anniversary Series, Fallen Leaders. Our new hardcover, published by Savas Beatie, features 49 contributions by 29 authors, plus maps by Edward Alexander and Hal Jespersen. Dr. Zack Fry offers a thoughtful foreword.

The collected essays consist of some of the best pieces from that blog series, transcripts of some of the presentations from the “Fallen Leaders” symposium, and a number of original works. We’ve arranged them roughly in the chronological order of their “fall.”

As with other books in this series, our goal was not to offer a comprehensive examination of the topic. We wanted to share some great human interest stories at all levels of command, and we wanted to examine—through those various command lenses—the repercussions that resulted from the sudden absence of key personnel. We also wondered how those stories might help us better understand the idea of leadership and its impact.

We also have a couple neat pieces that offer context and analysis. For instance, one piece looks at senior-most commanders killed in combat over the history of the American warfare and how senior Civil War generals fit into that list. Another looks at a number of seriously wounded Civil War generals and how long it took them to return to service—and how well they performed after their return.

In short, these “favorite stories and fresh perspectives” should prove interesting, illuminating, and, I hope, insightful.

The book is hot off the press. We’ll have it available for sale at this year’s Symposium (Aug. 4-6), and Savas Beatie is taking orders for signed copies on its website (click here).


About the Book:

Fallen Leaders: Favorite Stories and Fresh Perspectives from the Historians at Emerging Civil War recounts the fall of some of the most famous, infamous, and underappreciated commanders from both the North and South.

The Civil War took as many as 720,000 lives and maimed hundreds of thousands more. The fallen included outstanding leaders on both sides, from a U.S. president all the way down the ranks to beloved regimental commanders. Abraham Lincoln, Stonewall Jackson, and John Reynolds remain well-known and even legendary. Others, like Confederate cavalry commander Earl Van Dorn, remain locked in infamy. The deaths of army commanders Albert Sidney Johnston and James McPherson and regimental leader Col. Elmer Ellsworth (the first Union officer killed) left more questions than answers about unfulfilled potential and lost opportunities. Thousands more have faded into historical obscurity. Others “fell” not from death or wounds but because of their own missteps or misdeeds, their reputations ruined forever. Theirs are falls from grace.

This collection of essays by a host of writers brings together the best scholarship from Emerging Civil War’s blog, symposia, and podcast, all of which have been revised, updated, and footnoted. The collection also contains several original pieces written exclusively for Emerging Civil War’s 10th Anniversary Series. Expect new angles on familiar stories about high-profile figures. Meet leaders whose stories you might not know but whose losses were felt as deeply personal tragedies by those around them. This collection sheds new light and insight on some of the most significant casualties of the conflict: the fallen leaders whose deaths, injuries, and disgraces changed the Civil War.



“Fallen Leaders is a good read from its introduction to its last article. One’s attention is caught immediately by the rich background information about the Civil War deaths or downfalls of the mighty and the minor. Because of the short approach of vignettes, this collection may be enjoyed for a few minutes or a few hours as one chooses. Reading it is time well spent.” — Dr. Curt Fields, living historian, General Grant by Himself


“Beyond the engaging human-interest stories about leaders—famous and obscure—that we have learned to expect from Emerging Civil War, Fallen Leaders rewards us with a kaleidoscope of Civil War military history and insights into the nature of leadership, mythmaking, mythbusting, and collective memory.” — John Coski, author of Capital Navy: The Men, Ships, and Operations of the James River Squadron


“The Book of Common Prayer says, ‘Man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live . . . he cometh up, and is cut down, like a flower.’ Many of the leaders featured in this excellent anthology were cut down—physically or politically—in the flowering of their lives. When reading each of these concise works, it is hard not to wonder how things might have been different had they survived the ordeal of our American Iliad. Huzzah to Emerging Civil War for bringing these deeply human stories to life on ground hallowed forever by, as Lincoln said, ‘what they did here.’” — David N. Duncan, president, American Battlefield Trust

1 Response to ECW10 Series: Fallen Leaders

  1. As president of the Nashville CWRT, I write a brief message on our monthly newsletter. This month, after a vacation to Maine, I saw a beautiful colorized photo of Captain Freeman McGilvery, a sea captain from Belfast, Maine. I haven’t read the Fallen Leaders book (yet) but I would hope Captain McGilvery may be included. From captain of the 6th Maine Artillery to command of the 1st Volunteer Artillery Brigade in the Army of the Potomac’s Artillery Reserve, fighting at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. Eventually he was promoted to Chief of Artillery, X Army Corps and at the Battle of Deep Bottom, Virginia (August 16, 1864) he sustained a slight wound to one of his fingers. He ignored this wound, and continued with his duties until an infection caused the need for the injured finger to be amputated. On September 2, 1864, in Petersburg, Virginia, he died suddenly during the surgery from the effects of chloroform. Today in the Gettysburg National Military Park an avenue is named “McGilvery Artillery Avenue” in honor of him and his command. (summarized from Find a Grave and the Penobscot Marine Museum, Belfast, Maine).

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