Entertaining History: The Civil War in Literature, Film, and Song
Chris Mackowski, editor

“Engaging the Civil War” Series
Southern Illinois University Press,

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Popular media can spark the national consciousness in a way that captures people’s attention, interests them in history, and inspires them to visit battlefields, museums, and historic sites. This lively collection of essays and feature stories celebrates the novels, popular histories, magazines, movies, television shows, photography, and songs that have enticed Americans to learn more about our most dramatic historical era.

From Ulysses S. Grant’s Memoirs to Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, from Roots to Ken Burns’s The Civil War, from “Dixie” to “Ashokan Farewell,” and from Civil War photography to the Gettysburg Cyclorama, trendy and well-loved depictions of the Civil War are the subjects of twenty contributors who tell how they and the general public have been influenced by them. Sarah Kay Bierle examines the eternal appeal of Gone with the Wind and asks how it is that a protagonist who so opposed the war has become such a figurehead for it. H. R. Gordon talks with New York Times–bestselling novelist Jeff Shaara to discuss the power of storytelling. Paul Ashdown explores Cold Mountain’s value as a portrait of the war as national upheaval, and Kevin Pawlak traces a shift in cinema’s depiction of slavery epitomized by 12 Years a Slave. Tony Horwitz revisits his iconic Confederates in the Attic twenty years later.

The contributors’ fresh analysis articulates a shared passion for history’s representation in the popular media. The variety of voices and topics in this collection coalesces into a fascinating discussion of some of the most popular texts in the genres. In keeping with the innovative nature of this series, web-exclusive material extends the conversation beyond the book.

Publications in this Series

Chronological List of Works

by Chris Mackowski

Chronological List of Works Discussed in Entertaining History 1885 The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant by Ulysses S. Grant 1890 “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce 1895 The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane 1915 Birth of a Nation directed by D. W. Griffith 1936 Gone With the Wind (novel) […]

Bobby Horton and “The Kennesaw Line”

by Chris Mackowski

by Chris Mackowski For my Entertaining History piece on the song “The Kennesaw Line,” I had the pleasure to interview musician Bobby Horton. I’ve interviewed Bobby before, and he’s always a lot of fun to talk with because it’s obvious he’s having so much fun doing what he’s doing. While I excerpted from that interview […]

God and Generals: A Conversation with Jeff Shaara

by Chris Mackowski

by Chris Mackowski The opening of Gods and Generals had all the hype and excitement for my daughter Steph that the Super Bowl creates. This was The Big Event. Stonewall Jackson on screen, larger than life—as if he weren’t that big already. So on February 21, 2003, we bustle off to the movie theatre in […]

Driving Dixie Down

by Emerging Civil War

By Patrick Vecchio  My most in-depth lesson in American Civil War history began on July 28, 1973, even though I didn’t realize it. That’s the day I heard a band called The Band perform along with the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers Band at the Summer Jam in Watkins Glen, NY. I was there […]


by Emerging Civil War

from Chris Mackowski, ECW editor-in-chief: The genesis of this project began with some research I did as part of my doctoral work on Civil War-related literature. Writer John Vernon—whose novel The Last Canyon I especially recommend—was kind enough to guide my studies and give me wide latitude with the texts I chose to explore. That […]

The Civil War in Music Videos

by Emerging Civil War

by Dan Welch I often hear a refrain that’s probably familiar to most of you: “Children today, younger generations, are not interested in the American Civil War.” However, if pop culture can teach us anything, it is that the blanket statement above is just not accurate. The biggest influencers of popular culture remain movies, music, […]

The Delicious If: MacKinlay Kantor’s If the South Had Won the Civil War and Alternative History

by Emerging Civil War

by Stephen Davis  For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it’s still not yet two o’clock on that July afternoon in 1863; the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are laid out and ready in the woods . . […]

The 2nd South Carolina String Band

by Chris Mackowski

Chris Mackowski [1] Joe Ewers stands on the stage and plucks one of the strings on his five-string banjo. His slouch hat sits at a rakish angle, and a pair of blue tassels, so faded that they look gray, dangle over the broad brim. He plucks, twists a knob to get the instrument in tune, […]


by Emerging Civil War

“The real war will never get in the books.” — Walt Whitman, Specimen Days *     *     * Chris Mackowski: “Gods and Generals: A Conversation with Jeff Shaara“—Web Exclusive Stephen Davis: “The Delicious If: MacKinlay Kantor’s If the South Had Won the Civil War and Alternative History“—Web Exclusive *     *     * ECW […]


by Emerging Civil War

“The biggest event in our history belongs on the biggest canvas humans can devise.” — William C. Davis “The Civil War and the Confederacy in Cinema,” The Cause Lost *     *     * ECW Posts about Civil War Movies: The Conundrum of Missouri Guerrilla Flicks by Kristen Pawlak The Battle of New Market on […]


by Emerging Civil War

“All history proves that music is as indispensable to warfare as money; and money has been called the sinews of war. Music is the soul of Mars.” — New York Herald, 1862 *     *     * Chris Mackowski: “Bobby Horton and ‘The Kennesaw Line,’” an interview and additional resources—Web Exclusive Dan Welch: “The Civil […]