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Gettysburg Requiem: The Life and Lost Causes of Confederate Colonel William C. Oates Hardcover – July 4, 2006

4.2 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Leading Alabama's 15th regiment in the final charge up Little Round Top on July 2, 1863, was the supreme moment for Confederate colonel Oates, though he retreated after meeting bloody resistance. LaFantasie (Twilight at Little Round Top) does not claim his subject is undeservedly neglected, but he finds enough other highlights to justify this biography of the hot-tempered, brave, sexist and implacably racist 19th-century Southern white male. Born poor, Oates managed to educate himself well enough to pass the bar. After secession, he recruited a company and went to war, fighting with great courage and perhaps too little judgment, returning home in 1864 when he lost an arm. Despite Alabama's struggling postwar economy, Oates's legal practice made him wealthy with suspicious rapidity. An ambitious politician, he spent seven terms in Congress, served as governor during the 1890s and as a general in the Spanish-American War. LaFantasie spends too much time reminding readers that abusing blacks, oppressing women and exploiting the poor were acceptable in Oates's circle, and he is positively clairvoyant in his ability to read Oates's thoughts and describe his emotional reactions. Though most readers will agree Oates deserves his obscurity, his life still makes for an engaging biography. (July)
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From Booklist

This excellent, scholarly biography deals with a man best known as Joshua Chamberlin's principal opponent on Little Round Top on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg. Like his famous opponent, the 15th Alabama Regiment's commander, William C. Oates, knew the art of the infantry officer. Born when much of his native Alabama was still frontier, he survived six wounds, including the loss of his right arm, at other times during the war. After the war, he was a distinguished and eventually wealthy lawyer and state politician as well as a thoroughly unreconstructed rebel with a notoriously hot temper. Yet he made a scandal at the end of his career when, at a state constitutional convention, he advocated no racial limitations on voting rights. LaFantasie's thorough scholarship and ability to marshal facts in readable prose means that the book will especially reward students of the Confederacy's "middle management"--the local entrepreneurs who became field-grade officers. A valuable addition to the Civil War shelves. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 456 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; First Edition edition (July 4, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195174585
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195174588
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 1.6 x 6.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,806,447 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By N. Langenbrunner on November 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
William C. Oates, the subject of Glenn LaFantassie's "Gettysburg Requiem" is a bundle of contradictions: born poor, died wealthy; apparently racist, secretly intimate with his black servant; a respected attorney and newspaper publisher but shot and killed a man; wounded six times in battle but rose no higher in rank than lieutenant colonel; saw Lincoln's election as a danger to the South, lamented Lincoln's assassination.

LaFantasie's research reveals a Confederate hero whose life was characterized by anger, violence, guilt,inconsistencies, weaknesses, and relentless struggle for success. Oates may well be described as one of those souls who can resist anything but temptation.

The book's bibliography is a compendium of excellent Civil War

sources, the research seems to be as complete as anyone could compile, and the presentation is as clear and easy to follow as the subject matter will allow.

Those who have climbed Little Round Top at Gettysburg, who are fascinated with the battle between the 20th Maine and the 15th Alabama, who want to know more about the post-war conflicts between General Joshua Chamberlain and "Colonel" Oates over the placement of monuments on the battlefield will find "Gettysburg Requiem" required reading.
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Format: Hardcover
Two men who have had a very significant impact on the Civil War as we know it today lived a century after it ended. Neither was a soldier; neither was a professional historian. Michael Shaara was a novelist. Ken Burns is a documentary filmmaker. As evidence of their influence, just take a look at that standard reference, Mark M. Boatner's Civil War Dictionary, first published in 1959. Look there to see what you can find out about William C. Oates, the colonel of the 15th Alabama who led the attack against the 20th Maine on Little Round Top. What will you find? Nothing. Oates isn't in the book. Now, however, nearly fifty years after Boatner compiled his dictionary, Oates is a very well known character to anyone who has read Shaara's book or seen Burns's Civil War series.

This past summer the first full-length biography of Oates appeared, more than 400 pages about a man who never actually attained the rank of colonel, a man who was replaced as commander of the 15th Alabama after leading it for nearly two years, a man who fifty years ago did not warrant a footnote in one of the Civil War's standard reference works. So, does he warrant being the subject of a full-blown biography?

You bet. Glenn W. Fantasie has done a terrific job of telling Oates's tale, and of using him as a tool to delve into the greater issues that filled Oates's own life and times. Oates's path through life was one that easily lends itself to the telling of a great story. He began as a hot-tempered brawler who frequented the small towns of pre-war Texas. He ended as a Southern politician who could actually entertain, and fight for, the idea of giving black men the vote.
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Format: Hardcover
On July 2, 1863, the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Confederate Lieutenant Colonel William C. Oates let his troops, the 15th Alabama, in the fateful and unsuccessful charge against Joshua Chamberlain and the 20th Maine on the far left of the Union line at Little Round Top. Chamberlain and the 20th Maine have become American heroes, but far less attention is given to Oates. In "Gettysburg Requiem" (2006) Glenn Lafantasie offers the first full-scale biography of Oates (1833 -- 1910). It is an intruiguing picture of a man and his times and of the changing South after the Civil War. LaFantasie is a professor of Civil War history and Director fo the Center for the Civil War in the West at Western Kentucky University. He is the author of "Twilight at Little Round Top", a book which focuses on the stuggle for this famous hill on the second day of Gettysburg.

Oates lived a long and eventful life. He was raised in poverty. In his mid-teens, he fled Alabama to avoid prosecution for incidents resulting from what would become his lifelong propensity to violence. For several years, he lived the life of a wanderer in Texas and Louisiana. Oates returned to Alabama, disciplined himself, and became a successful attorney. An ardent Confederate, he raised a company, served with Stonewall Jackson, and with Lee, and participated in many important battles of the Civil War. He was wounded six times and ultimately lost his right arm. After the Civil War, Oates returned to Abbeyville, Alabama where he became wealthy through his law practice and land speculations. He served seven terms in the United States House of Representatives and one term as the Governor of Alabama. Oates was named a Brigadier General in the Spanish-American War, but he never saw combat in that conflict.
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Format: Paperback
I didn't expect much out of this when I first picked it up. How much can you write about a relatively minor figure in the ACW? I was surprised and pleased to see how hard Professor Lafantasie worked to dig into the archives and flesh out this biography. It is very readable, flows well from cover to cover and seems quite balanced. I think he reaches a little in some of his summations about the actions of Oates being due to this or that event in his life, particularly his experience at Gettysburg, but the evidence is on his side and one can discount it or take it as he or she wishes. Lafantasie is not shy about expressing his opinion, and it makes for entertaining and thought provoking reading. It is an excellent book, and I recommend it to anyone interested in Gettysburg, the Reconstruction era or Confederate military history.
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