New from NewSouth Books

Journey to the Wilderness: War, Memory, and a Southern Family’s Civil War Letters


On the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, Frye Gaillard reflects on the war--and the way we remember it--through the lens of letters written by his family, including great-great grandfather, Thomas Gaillard, and Thomas's sons, Franklin and Richebourg, both of whom were Confederate officers. As Frye Gaillard explains in his deeply felt introductory essay, he came of age in a Southern generation that viewed the war as a glorious lost cause. But as he read through letters collected and handed down by members his family, he confronted a far more sobering truth.
"Oh, this terrible war," wrote Thomas Gaillard. "Who can measure the troubles -- the affliction -- it has brought upon us all?"
To this real-time anguish in voices from the past, Gaillard offers a personal remembrance of the shadow of war and its place in the haunted identity of the South. "My own generation," he writes, "was, perhaps, the last that was raised on stories of gallantry and courage, an admiration of the dashing generals who led our fighting men into battle, and whose heroism was undiminished by defeat. Oddly, mine was also the one of the first generations to view the Civil War through the lens of civil rights--to see, often quite reluctantly, connections and flaws in southern history that earlier generations couldn’t bear to face…”
“The Gaillard family letters from the Civil War era and Frye Gaillard's contemporary introductory remarks provide a lens through which we can better see the inner lives of those who made a terrible choice in going to war to preserve the institution of slavery. How could the Confederate South have been so hot-headed, so wrong-hearted? many of us, their descendants, have wondered. More than a lens, Journey to the Wilderness is also a mirror, and we see people much like ourselves who loved their families, their homes, their way of life, and that question is partially answered. Nonetheless, this book serves as a cautionary tale that directs us to embrace the sacredness of all human life.”
--  Sena Jeter Naslund, Author of Ahab’s Wife