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The Last Generation: Young Virginians in Peace, War, and Reunion (Civil War America) Paperback – September 1, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0807861851 ISBN-10: 0807861855 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Series: Civil War America
  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; 1 edition (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807861855
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807861851
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.5 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #927,704 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"A careful examination. . . . By stressing the economically based generational component of the Old Dominion's late antebellum political culture, Carmichael has added a new dimension to an old discussion."--Southern Quarterly

"Carmichael's book is an important vehicle for understanding the relationship between proslavery thought in higher education and the Civil War."--Reviews in American History

"[Carmichael] contributes significantly to ongoing debates about southern identity, secession, and social, cultural, and ideological continuity across the tumultuous years of Civil War and Reconstruction. . . . Carmichael's engaging study reminds us that

"Carmichael's look at Virginia's 'last generation'--men born between 1830 and 1842, who grew up with the institution of slavery and reached political maturity during the intra-party convulsions of the 1850s--offers a . . . complex and multifaceted underst

"Deeply researched and well-argued. . . . This well-written and sensitively argued study should be required reading for all scholars of Southern history and the Civil War."--Journal of Military History

"Peter S. Carmichael provides an important contribution to both subfields [social and military history] and in doing so enhances the reader's appreciation of the Civil War as the nation's seminal event."--American Historical Review

"Using a generational approach to study the motivations and actions of the South's most diehard defenders, Carmichael both enlightens and entertains."--North and South

"All readers will appreciate [Carmichael's] creative and often compelling re-reading of letters and diaries to find a common worldview within a generation."--Journal of Southern History

"This fascinating book creatively tackles a number of old chestnuts in the historiography of the Civil War era: the late-blooming Southern nationalism in the Upper South, the role of slavery in Southern ideology, and the postwar reunion between the North

"Carmichael reviews the experience of young Virginians, 'the last generation of white Southerners to grow up with . . . slavery.'"--Washington Times

"A well-researched and intriguing study. . . . An ambitious project."--Georgia Historical Quarterly

"This excellent study will confirm what teenagers have known forever; that parents are just not cool."--The NYMAS Review

"A significant book, a work of intellectual history that explores the beliefs of an important group of Confederates. The narrative moves well and is thought-provoking. Highly recommended."--The Virginian

"Carmichael should be congratulated for offering fresh insights and interpretations that will engage southern and Civil War historians for some time to come. . . . An important, insightful book. It does what a good work of Civil War history should do: it

"Peter Carmichael has written a useful, sometimes penetrating, account of Virginia males who came of age shortly before secession and the Civil War. . . . The Last Generation sheds new light on Virginia politics and society during the era of sectio

"An impressive study that illuminates the lost world of young Virginians. . . . This 'generational study' paints a fascinating social, political, and intellectual portrait of Virginia over the course of several decades. . . . The Last Generation is

"[An] engaging and original study. . . . Full of new insights."--Register of Kentucky Historical Society

Book Description

"This superb book tells a new story of the coming, fighting, and aftermath of the Civil War, revealing generational dimensions we have never seen before. Carmichael's remarkable research, subtle touch, and clear-eyed interpretation are gifts to everyone interested in understanding the war's larger meanings."--Edward L. Ayers, University of Virginia

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Customer Reviews

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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Robert Busko VINE VOICE on June 1, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Like most readers of history, the significant figures of the Civil War have taken on almost mythic proportions. Some times they seem almost to be gods stepped down from Mt. Olympus. In The Last Generation, Peter Carmichael manages to shed new light onto the lives, interests, and beliefs of many of the young Virginians that were so caught up in the cause of the day and in the process makes them human once more.

I found The Last Generation to be full of information that is new...at least to me. I've done my share of reading about the major characters involved in the Civil War, on both sides. Yet Carmichael seems to provide the reader with new insights on almost every page.

I also found the tables in the appendix to be full of useful and eye opening facts. Trust me, they're worth the time it takes to study them. Finally, I spent more time than usual studying the notes provided by Carmichael, a compliment of the first order.

For the casual or serious Civil War buff, The Last Generation will be a memorable read.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Nathan Marshburn on April 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover
In his book, "The Last Generation," Peter Carmichael explores the psyche, values, goals and visions of the young caucasian men of Virginia who came into adulthood just as our nation descended into the Civil War. Born to privilege in the 1830s and early 1840s, these men were in colleges and schools across Virginia and the nation when the crisis of secession reached its apex in 1860 and 1861. Once the war started, they served as junior officers in the Army of Northern Virginia, leading their peers into combat and fighting alongside them.

The book is a generational study and an examination of Confederate nationalism in the young Virginians. Carmichael first takes us through the 1850s, a time when young Virginians worried about the future of their state and their place in it. They watched as the North increasingly distanced itself from Virginia through industrialization and internal improvements. They feared that Virginia, the home state of four of the first five U.S. presidents, was becoming moribund under the leadership of its elders, "old fogies" who lived on past glories of events such as the American Revolution and who encouraged unthinking opposition to change even at the expense of educational and economic reform.

At the same time, the young Virginians had to find a way to reconcile slavery, the system upon which they depended for their wealth and social standing, with the free labor system of the North. Some of the strongest points in Carmichael's book delineate how these men did just this. Their belief that slavery was sanctioned by the Bible as necessary because God had created races to be inherently unequal, coupled with their belief that Southerners were God's chosen people, sustained many young soldiers throughout the war.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By gburgalum01 on July 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I owned this book for three years, and after only recently picking it up to read it, I realized what I was missing out on during that time. This is a fresh and descriptive analysis of the young Virginia generation before, during, and after the war. As one who has read dozens of books on the Civil War, it was this one more than any other that best explains how and why Virginians formed their fundamental opinions of their native state, the Southern region, and Northern industrialism during the antebellum period. Through their viewpoint that Virginia's reputation and standing in the Union was diminished during the period prior to the war, it becomes clear that the war gave these young Virginians an opportunity to improve the status of their commonwealth while cementing their place among men in their state. Though one often gets the perception through Carmichael's writing that these were overzealous, egotistical young men, their conduct in the war brings to fruition their importance in the New South.

Carmichael's writing is interesting and well-detailed with a wide variety of excellent material from both primary and secondary sources. His inclusion of statistics on the members of the last generation provides ample insight into the professions, religious affiliation, and other important data on the members of the last generation. Even more than "For Cause and Comrades" by James McPherson, this book will expose why a reluctant Virginia joined the Confederacy and explains clearly how the young Virginia generation almost pushed the South to ultimate victory.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Thomas P. Myers on July 1, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Decent collateral reading but not an essential book. I often found myself thinking, "get on with it!"

I would have liked to know more about this sample, probably in appendix. Who was in it? What was their family background? The 1850 and 1860 census would provide useful data about family wealth and position of child in family. How is the sample among colleges balanced?
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