9780140247978 / 0140247971

Conceived In Liberty: William Oates, Joshua Chamberlain, and the American Civil War


Publisher:Penguin Books



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About the book:

The popularity of Michael Shaara's wonderful Civil War novel The Killer Angels left many readers hungry for more information about its real-life protagonist, Joshua Chamberlain, who bravely led the 20th Maine in holding the Union's extreme left flank at Little Round Top on the second day of Gettysburg. This dual biography introduces a new figure, nearly as compelling: William Oates, the man who commanded the Alabama troops opposing Chamberlain's bluecoats. Their parallel lives, captured on these pages, reveal the country's 19th-century sectionalism and allow Perry to write a chronicle of the Civil War and its aftermath through the prism of two engaging personalities.

Chamberlain's story is fairly well known. He was a Bowdoin College professor who left his post to serve in the army, fought well, and went on to a successful postwar political career as the governor of Maine. Oates, like Chamberlain, was the son of a farmer who got caught up in his nation's defining conflict, and then helped it inch along to recovery years later as a pragmatic governor and member of Congress. Perry refuses to canonize either--Chamberlain was an overbearing husband and Oates stuffed ballot boxes--yet his treatment of these two admirable but flawed men provides a refreshing new way to read about the Civil War. --John J. Miller

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