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John Dooley's Civil War: An Irish American's Journey in the First Virginia Infantry Regiment (Voices Of The Civil War) Hardcover – January 20, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

Book Description

Among the finer soldier-diarists of the Civil War, John Edward Dooley first came to the attention of readers when an edition of his wartime journal, edited by Joseph Durkin, was published in 1945. That book, John Dooley, Confederate Soldier, became a widely used resource for historians, who frequently tapped Dooley’s vivid accounts of Second Bull Run, Antietam, and Gettysburg, where he was wounded during Pickett’s Charge and subsequently captured.
    As it happens, the 1945 edition is actually a much-truncated version of Dooley’s original journal that fails to capture the full scope of his wartime experience—the oscillating rhythm of life on the campaign trail, in camp, in Union prisons, and on parole. Nor does it recognize how Dooley, the son of a successful Irish-born Richmond businessman, used his reminiscences as a testament to the Lost Cause. John Dooley’s Civil War gives us, for the first time, a comprehensive version of Dooley’s “war notes,” which editor Robert Emmett Curran has reassembled from seven different manuscripts and meticulously annotated. The notes were created as diaries that recorded Dooley’s service as an officer in the famed First Virginia Regiment along with his twenty months as a prisoner of war. After the war, they were expanded and recast years later as Dooley, then studying for the Catholic priesthood, reflected on the war and its aftermath. As Curran points out, Dooley’s reworking of his writings was shaped in large part by his ethnic heritage and the connections he drew between the aspirations of the Irish and those of the white South.
    In addition to the war notes, the book includes a prewar essay that Dooley wrote in defense of secession and an extended poem he penned in 1870 on what he perceived as the evils of Reconstruction. The result is a remarkable picture not only of how one articulate southerner endured the hardships of war and imprisonment, but also of how he positioned his own experience within the tragic myth of valor, sacrifice, and crushed dreams of independence that former Confederates fashioned in the postwar era.

About the Author


ROBERT EMMETT CURRAN is professor emeritus of history at Georgetown University. His books include Michael Augustine Corrigan and the Shaping of Conservative Catholicism in America, 1878–1902 and the three-volume History of Georgetown University.



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Product Details

  • Series: Voices Of The Civil War
  • Hardcover: 516 pages
  • Publisher: Univ Tennessee Press; 1 edition (January 20, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1572338229
  • ISBN-13: 978-1572338227
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,061,801 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
Editor Curran did yeoman work for this book. After reading and sifting through the massive (and massively disorganized) papers of Confederate veteran John Dooley, Curran has assembled Dooley's writings into a definitive work that improves upon a previously published, classic edition. As Curran discovered, that older edition incorrectly called Dooley's writings a wartime "journal" when they are actually a varied mass of postwar writings, some of them written in the form of a journal.

Dooley is a fine writer, and there is much of value here for the Civil War historian. His pride in serving the C.S. cause through thick and thin--and his contempt for Northerners--is quite evident. As Curran notes, however, Dooley very much identified with the Lost Cause school of thought, and this prompts him to downplay the importance of preserving slavery as a motive for Confederate soldiers. With that caveat aside, I recommend this work for devotees of Civil War soldier accounts.
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This is actually the second time John Dooley's Civil War journal has been published but this one goes well beyond the first version. Not only does it include more of John Dooley's text, it also has very helpful footnotes and introductions to each section. Although this editor did not get to meet John Dooley's sister (as the editor of the first one did), this version is far superior to the first one. It provides a great read, offering glimpses of John Dooley's life at home, in camp, in prison, and at Georgetown University. It is as much social history as military, with insight into both American and Irish politics.
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